Review Canon 24-70 mm 2.8 L USM (C FF)

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Awaiting the introduction of the Canon 24-70 mm MK2, we provide you with a review of the Canon 24-70 mm. This lens is very popular with professional photographers and is relatively old: the Canon 24-70 mm 2.8 was introduced in 2002. In this review we set the goal for the Canon 24-70 mm MK2, because we expect that lens to be even better than the Canon 24-70 mm.Canon-24-70-usm-l-180groothoekportret

The Canon 24-70 mm and a camera with a full frame sensor, like the Canon 5D MK2, offer you a 3x zoom from a wide angle lens, almost up to a portrait lens. At a focal length of 70 mm your model very likely will become a too large nose in the portrait. The zoom range of the Canon 24-105 mm is more suitable for portrait photography.

Construction and autofocus

The Canon 24-70 mm is built like a tank and is extra sealed against dust and moisture. This lens weighs almost one kilogram. It focusses reasonably fast in combination with the Canon 5D MK2. They’re like two people in their sixties: still OK, but not as fast as the younger. For both camera and lens, a successor has been announced at the beginning of 2012.

Image Stabilization

This lens has no Image Stabilization. Not everyone will find that disturbing, but it remains a disadvantage.

Vignetting

At a focal length of 24 mm, vignetting will often be visible. At the other focal lengths, you will not see vignetting above aperture 5.6. You can easily correct for vignetting using software, like we show here using the standard lens profile in Lightroom.

vignet-Canon-24-70

Distortion

Distortion is both at 24 mm (barrel) and at 70 mm (pincushion) clearly visible. Software, like DPP which is provided for free when you buy a Canon SLR, is able to correct for distortion. Pity that the Canon 5D MK2 doesn’t have in-camera correction for distortion.Distortion Canon-24-70

Bokeh

The bokeh generated by the Canon 24-70 mm is beautifully round and fairly soft. This image was made at aperture 2.8 and a focal length of 70 mm. The flower in front is very sharp and the background nice and soft.

bokeh Canon-24-70

Flare

With 16 elements and a large 77 mm front lens, you may expect some flare and ghosting. In comparison with a telelens, the Canon 24-70 mm indeed does show more ghosting, but for a 24 mm zoom lens it’s not bad at all.
Here you see a sample of ghosting in an image made with the Canon 24-70 mm.flare Canon-24-70

Resolution

Resolution is high at almost all focal lengths and apertures. Only at f/2.8 and 4 at a focal length of 24 mm, the resolution performance is weaker. Sharpness in the corners often is less than in the centre. Nevertheless, resolution in the corners will often be higher than 1500 LW/PH. Which is a performance shown by many lenses in the centre.

Resolution Canon-24-70

Chromatic aberration

Apart from 24 mm, chromatic aberration of the Canon 24-70 mm is low at all focal lengths. At 24 mm you may encounter visible chromatic aberration in practice. But this is not unusual for a wide angle lens. And chromatic aberration can be corrected afterwards using software like DPP or Lightroom. The Canon 5D MK3 offers the possibility to correct for chromatic aberration in the camera.

CA Canon-24-70

Conclusion Canon 24-70 mm 2.8 L USM review

Pro

  • High resolution
  • Large, constant aperture
  • Well built
  • Extra sealed against dust and moisture

Con

  • Heavy and a high price
  • No image stabilization
  • Visible vignetting
  • Visible distortion at 24 mm and 70 mm
  • Lower resolution at 24 mm, aperture 2.8 to 5.6

The Canon 24-70 mm is built like a tank: large and heavy. In combination with the Canon 5D MK2 the Canon 24-70 mm yields a very high resolution. It’s weaknesses are vignetting, distortion at  24 mm and 70 mm and chromatic aberration at 24 mm. They all can be corrected with software afterwards. In our final score, distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration weigh less than resolution. That’s why the overall score for the Canon 24-70 mm is very high. Nevertheless, many amateur photographers probably will prefer the cheaper, lighter and more compact Canon 24-105 mm, which also offers a larger zoom range.