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Canon EF 24-85/3.5-4.5 Lens

by Philip Greenspun, 1996

Though its image circle will cover a 35mm negative, this is the lens Canon introduced with its EOS IX APS SLR. When used with the smaller APS format, it yields angles of view equivalent to that of 30-106mm lens on a 35mm camera. Aperture ranges from a reasonable f/3.5 at 24mm to a still-reasonable f/4.5 at 85mm.

Admirably small and compact for a 35mm format zoom, the lens is huge and heavy compared to the (slower) 22-80 Minolta introduced with the Vectis S-1. Like the Minolta lens, the Canon zoom takes a bayonet plastic lens hood; unlike Minolta, Canon does not include the hood with the lens. That's a shame because a lot of amateurs won't know how to order the accessory part EW-73 and will never know how much contrast they are losing by not hooding this 12 group, 15 element lens.

On the plus side, the lens has a ring USM motor so you get full-time simultaneous AF/MF.

Oh yes, the image quality... I've only exposed a couple rolls film with it and they look reasonably good. The word from Canon is that it is performs about as well as the 28-105. It won't deliver the punch of the 28-70/2.8 or the prime lenses, but it won't leave a $1500 hole in your wallet or carve a notch in your shoulder either. I'd rather have the 24-85 than the 28-105 because I think the extra 4mm on the wide end are more useful than the extra 20mm on the long end.

Nit: The 24-85 uses a filter size of 67mm. All other Canon EOS lenses use 52, 58, 72, or 77mm filters. So this lens really doesn't fit that well in an existing EOS system.

Bottom Line: I've owned this lens for more than six months. It sits in my cabinet. For some reason, it simply isn't useful if you already have a full complement of higher-grade EOS lenses.

A little trip

Chinatown. San Francisco, California I had to go to San Francisco to meet with my publisher (see my book behind the book story for what that is typically like) and the Environmental Defense Fund (some planning for www.scorecard.org). I started packing at 6 am for an 8 am flight. I knew that I'd only have a few spare hours in which to take pictures. I didn't want to take a P&S camera because I'm growing less fond of them. The camera that I could easily grab was the Rebel G plus the 24-85 lens. I walked around the city for an afternoon and exposed 85 pictures on Kodak Royal Gold 400, with the intention of adding them to my California exhibit. I mostly used aperture priority autoexposure and left the camera to autofocus (and pick its AF sensor) all of the time.

I sent the undeveloped film directly to Advanced Digital Imaging where they were scanned to a single Kodak PhotoCD (check it out if you want to see my yield). I converted them using the software that I describe in my book. Here are the best (IMHO) of the 85 images:

Near the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets in San Francisco, California. Haight-Ashbury District. San Francisco, California Chinatown. San Francisco, California Painted wall on the border between Chinatown and North Beach. San Francisco, California Chinatown. San Francisco, California The Painted Ladies Victorian houses of Alamo Square, sometimes referred to as Postcard Row because of the backdrop of downtown skyscrapers. The Painted Ladies Victorian houses of Alamo Square, sometimes referred to as Postcard Row because of the backdrop of downtown skyscrapers. Chinatown. San Francisco, California Ben and Jerry's store at the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets in San Francisco, California. Sic transit gloria hippie. Golden Gate Park. San Francisco, California Golden Gate Park. San Francisco, California

The dark side of the lens

Maybe it is the B+W UV filter that I keep on the lens, but I had a little flare problem taking pictures of the Transamerica Tower:

The bottom line? I found the combination very practical for this photojournalism-type assignment.


Siemens is an ArsDigita client so I find myself in Bavaria from time to time. In order to save weight, I end up taking just the Rebel G and this lens. Here are some results:

The painted town of Oberammergau

Oberammergau. Bavaria. Oberammergau. Bavaria. Oberammergau. Bavaria.

Mad King Ludwig's castles

People waiting to get into Linderhof. Where Bavaria's King Ludwig II lived. Front yard of Linderhof. Where Bavaria's King Ludwig II lived. Front door of Linderhof. Where Bavaria's King Ludwig II lived. Church at Linderhof. Where Bavaria's King Ludwig II lived. Waterfall in back of Linderhof. Where Bavaria's King Ludwig II lived. Horse Carriages taking tourists up to Neuschwanstein (King Ludwig II's great castle in Bavaria). People waiting to get into Neuschwanstein, Bavaria. In the summer, these lines can be 3 hours long. People die in the heat. Marienbruecke above Neuschwanstein, Bavaria. Neuschwanstein from Marienbruecke. Neuschwanstein from Marienbruecke.


Downtown Munich. Chinese Pagoda beer garden. English Garden. Munich. English Garden. Munich. Downtown Munich. English Garden. Munich. Airplanes. Deutsches Museum. Sign at front door of Deutsches Museum. Deutsches Museum.

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Text and pictures copyright 1996 Philip Greenspun

Article created 1996

Readers' Comments

Add a comment

Javier Henderson , August 15, 1997; 01:17 A.M.

Regarding the odd filter size, I've taken to buy filters for the lens with the largest filter thread that I own(72mm in my case), and step-up rings for the other lenses. So far, I haven't noticed any vignetting problems.

Piaw Na , September 27, 1997; 03:38 P.M.

In the tradition of the web, here are some highly compressed JPGs of my trips to Rocky Mountain National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park with this lens.

Mark A. Brown , March 26, 1998; 11:25 P.M.

Another advantage of this lens: the front element doesn't rotate when the lens is being focused. Very handy when using a polarising filter.

Kar Yan Mak , May 14, 1998; 11:28 A.M.

This has been the most used lens I've ever bought. I went into a dilemma of either choosing the Canon 28-105 or the 24-85. Gladly, I bought the 24-85. I noticed that the 24mm is more useful than the 105mm as other people have stated on this page. I think the filter thread is not a problem for me at all.

You'll see more pictures from this lens at: http:/ /www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Rapids/3867/index.html

John Leemon , May 31, 1998; 07:49 P.M.

After a great amount of deliberation, I purchased the Cannon EOS 24-84 lens in November 1997 instead of the more typically offered 28-105 lens. I have an old Cannon 24mm manual focus lens that I have found very useful in a number a situations, and this probably swayed my decision. I concur with the recommendation in this review for this lens over the 28-105. The extra width on the wide angle has allowed me to capture all of many more scenes than I could have otherwise. I use this lens with my Cannon Elan IIe, not with the Cannon EOS IX APS SLR that it was introduced with. Overall, I have obtained very satisfying results with this lens and have used it on trips to Spain, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, and Nassau. At the wide angle setting there is occasionally a slight barreling effect usually with the lower f-stops, although it would likely not be noticed by the average person. Zoomed to 85 it is sharp enough to capture the individual blond hair strands on a child's head from across the room. I have enlarged several frames to 11x14, and the resulting picture remains reasonable sharp. Overall, I would rate this lens on the high end for a consumer grade lens. John Leemon

Leif Pigott , June 08, 1998; 11:58 P.M.

I have had the 24 to 85 for about 4 months, and I love it. I purchased a 28-80mm USM IV with a EOS 50 (Elan II), and I was missing out on some great landscape shots, so I traded up. The 24-85 photos looks sharper than the 28-80, but still doesn't compete with my 50mm f1.8 Mk2 lens- cheap enough to have both.

I was running a cheap wind angle rubber lens hood- that cost all of $12 (New Zealand). My advice is don't bother with imitations, after I went out an got the real cannon product ($45) my photos improved.

You can't run more than one filter on the front (I need a UV filter because of very high uv levels), Coken P filter system works fine, although it gets away from having a take anywhere lens.

Over all if you want a lens to take a wide range of photos this is a good choice (with lens hood).

Michael Engelen , September 11, 1998; 10:22 A.M.

I own this lens for a year or so and I really love it; it's much better than a 28-80 zoom lens and the image quality is ok for me. BUT I had the same flare experience with a brandnew B+W UV- Filter PhilG had in San Francisco - so I will only use the filter if I really need it.

Ivan Leung , September 20, 1998; 03:46 A.M.

I'm a new user of the Cannon EF24-85mm Lens, I just took about 15 rolls of frlms with this Lens. By the way, I founded the performance of this lens is satisfactory, the color retention is good, the perspective of this lens is also good. However, flare appear in the photos while there is sunlight, and the lens hood block the flesh when it zoom to 85mm.

John Pease , November 16, 1998; 04:22 A.M.

Well there was a lot of evaluating being done before purchasing a 28-105 or the 24-85,the latter ending up the winner simply on having more punch.The 28-105 gave nice images but just didn't have the contrast or maybe even the sharpness of the 24-85.Is it sharper?This is a great lens ,the images jump out at you.What more can you say.My only gripe - slight light falloff at the corners, even without a filter.

Paulo Bizarro , March 17, 1999; 09:08 A.M.

I just want to say that this lens and my EOS 50 are now my travel combo, together with ISO 200 slide film. Yes, there is visible distorsion at 24 and 85 focal lenghts, but that is meaningless for me when I need to travel light and have only one day in Paris, for instance. Really, the difference compared to the 28-70L, which I also have, is a mere 1 stop push to E200, if needed.

Also, I bought this lens mail order from Germany (I live in Portugal), a lot chepaer than at home, so for the price it is unbeatable. Do use the hood, it makes a difference.

I don't use filters, except Canon's Protect, or UVs, so for me different filter sizes are not an issue at all.

Frank Pettit , June 25, 1999; 11:07 P.M.

I've not had big enlargements made from my 24-85 shots, but I've examined many slides with 4x & 8x loupes and I'm satisfied with the sharpness. But I'm impressed with how very contrasty the pictures are, esp. with hood. Also, the 24-85 set to 24mm has less linear distortion than the 28-105 at 28mm. The 67mm filter size is a pain; you can't use 72mm filter +step-up ring if you use the lens hood at the same time.

Arjun Bhuyan , July 02, 1999; 03:34 A.M.

I just purchased the 24-85 lens in its silver version and it looks quite nice with the silver body of my EOS 50. I now know I've made the right decision for this lens over the 28-105 as I seem to be using the 24mm end for a majority of my shots (I wasn't sure as I'd never been at 24mm before) I like the USM and focusing a lot and I'll come to know of the quality soon when my first prints come out today.

But I've had problems finding the UV 67mm filter I wanted to protect the lens form the dust. I just using the lens cap after every shot now. But it seems I won't be able to fit the cap after putting the filter, so I'm still in a dilemma. Can anyone recommend the best UV filters for this lens ? (not too expensive I hope)

Overall I found the range excellent for candid photography, landscapes and travel.

Arjun Bhuyan

Curio Allocchio , August 17, 1999; 11:36 A.M.

I just bought a Canon 50e with this 24-85 lens and i found the kenko 67 uv a good protective filter (Arjun Bhuyan).It doesn't change the good quality of these lens and slightly protects your pics from the blue light.I 'll add later , after more shoots , my personal comments about this 24-85.

Curio Allocchio

Ari Gerentes , August 27, 1999; 12:37 A.M.

I can't understand why so may people are praising this lens. I find its performanse below average. Yes the 24-85 is very convinient and easy to travel but its quality .... Maybe I am spoiled by my EF 28-70L USM and my EF 20mm USM. In quest for amature exchellense ( without the profesional know-how) I would stick to prime lenses and yes because the zoom feature is convenient maybe the EF 28-70L for travels and the EF 70-200L to capture your childrens precious activities.

Boris Bachraty , October 13, 1999; 07:55 A.M.

You are right that EF 28-70 L has better quality, but for 5x more price than 24-85. 24-85 is the best choose in its quality/feature/price range!

Regards Boris

Tim Helps , November 06, 1999; 04:08 A.M.

I purchased the 24-85 new when I got back into the Canon system a few years back. It has been the sole lens on my EOS50. I find the image quality generally good but always want more sharpness, contrast or whatever, so I'll be supplementing this optic with some primes. The lens has never faulted but I tend to be careful with my gear. My dealer sold me a Leica UV filter at the time I bought the lens and I find no change in image quality with or with out the filter so the filter stays. All in all a more useful zoom range than the 28-100 I think.

Tim Helps

I S , December 12, 1999; 01:50 P.M.

I bought this lens to replace my 35-80 USM (the ultra-cheap one) for my EOS 5 body. I love the lens and have had many good results from it. The only competition that it faced was from the Canon 28-105, but since my father had one, I thought that I should get the other. This has its advantages in that I can steal his when required, but I have never found that necessary. The best thing about this lens though is, since I use a 70-300, I only need to carry two zooms and my fast telephoto, rather than have to carry a short zoom as well, like the 20-35 which my father has. Great lens, although I do now hanker after the 28-70 f2.8L.

Hubert Figuiere , October 05, 2001; 08:37 A.M.

I bought the 24-85 along with my EOS 33 (Elan 7 in USA). I found it really useful and versatile. I took a couple of dozen of roll an rarely found the need for another lens but sometimes a telephoto (I have a 100-300 USM for that). It suited well for building pictures in Boston, MA (even if I got some flares with a really sunny lighning) as well as for french castles...

In short this is the lens I would recommend for anyone willing to have a good ratio of weight/versatility. I only wished it would have a constant f3.5 or f2.8 aperture...

Leif Pigott , March 18, 2002; 03:05 A.M.

Be very careful when you select a uv/skylight filter for this lens. I have had the front element damaged by pressing onto the filter. There is little clearance, as the first element come out a long way.

Daniel Atudorei , June 01, 2002; 01:33 P.M.

To the person looking for an UV filter for the 24-85. Look for the Hoya brand. They make a 67mm which replicates the lens' screw-mount in front of the filter. This way you don't lose the ability to clip on your original lens cap over the filter or you can even add another filter onto the UV one (if for some reason you need to).

Markus Fagervik , December 11, 2002; 10:40 A.M.

This lens has a nice focal range, since the extra 4 mm at the wide end compared to the 28-105 really makes a big difference. The ring-USM focusing is also a nice extra, although the FTM is wasted on cheap bodies like my Rebel.

The build is actually not that good. There is considerable play between barrel sections and the focusing ring also feels a bit wobbly. People often praise the build quality of this lens, but as it is worse in this respect than cheaper Sigma lenses I don't quite agree. There is also some zoom creep around 35-50 mm. But the build quality is however superior to Canon's kit lenses.

There is however one major drawback with this lens and that is its optical quality or - to be more precise - a certain aspect of it. The lens is quite sharp and contrasty for a zoom, especially when stopped down to f8. It does however suffer from excessive vignetting at all focal lengths when shooting at larger apertures. You could check out my posting on photo.net for more on the subject. I sent my lens back to Canon, but according to them there was nothing wrong with it. There are also reports on the 28-105/3.5-4.5 suffering from these same vignetting problems. The lens also dispays some distortion at the wide end, but unless shooting architechture or similar I don't think it's that annoying.

All in all, I'm disappointed with this lens. At this price I think one shouldn't have to be concerned about vignetting.

Roger B. Clark , January 02, 2003; 01:20 P.M.

"The lens is quite sharp and contrasty for a zoom, especially when stopped down to f8. It does however suffer from excessive vignetting at all focal lengths when shooting at larger apertures."

Well, yours does maybe, but I haven't seen one other person owning the lens say they are seeing the problem. I have the lens and have seen no vignetting, period.

Regardless of what Canon told you, something is either wrong with your lens, or there is something wrong with your camera's lens mount (have you shot another wide angle lens to test this?).

I shot two rolls with my lens at our Halloween party, many wide open at the 24mm setting, no vignetting, period.

Look at all the test images posted as part of this review, not one image has any vignetting, yet all of yours do to some extent. I say again, you either have a bad example of the lens or your camera's mount is out of alignment (based on another posters comments about your shots being out of focus, this might be a place to start).

The first thing I'd do if I were you is try the lens on another body, even if I had to shoot a roll in a camera shop. At least that would prove if it's the lens or the body. If that works without vignetting, I'd have the body serviced. If the vignetting still shows, I'd demand (showing proof of course) a new lens from Canon.

Vishal Chatrath , May 29, 2003; 04:14 A.M.

Since I am planning to buy a new lens soon I have been following the discussion closely and have done some research on vignetting.

Here is a link to a very scientific study on the subject.


The author also discusses the physics behind the phenomena.

Firstly, vignetting is a phenomena that will happen even on prime lenses like the 50mm f1.4. If people are not talking about, they are simply using smaller apertures. So I guess we have to live with a certain amount of it. It's great that some Markus and Minh have shown some definitive proof of the phenomena.

For the lucky ones like Roger who have never seen vignetting could you please post some pictures to show this?

I will spend a few day rummaging through my old photographs (shot with an Canon EOS IX body, 22-55mm lens, since stolen in Greece).

In the end I am still confused about what lens to buy for my new Canon EOS 30 body. 24-85mm or 28-105mm?? Any pointers?

Jon Austin , March 24, 2004; 04:16 P.M.

I had to chuckle at the author's Bottom Line: "I've owned this lens for more than six months. It sits in my cabinet. For some reason, it simply isn't useful if you already have a full complement of higher-grade EOS lenses."

Why would anyone use any lesser lens, if he has access to a higher-grade lens covering the same focal length range? (For that matter, why doesn't he sell it?)

Jon Reades , October 29, 2004; 12:34 P.M.

I just picked up a brand new 24-85 from B&H and am so far very happy with the purchase (it's been a little more than three weeks and I've shot 3 rolls -- 2 Sensia, 1 Tri-X -- with is so far).

First off, be warned that I have seen obvious vignetting on some of my photos -- it seems worst at 24mm/f3.5 and falls off rapidly as you stop down, or more slowly as you zoom out to 85mm. Clearly,I find this slightly irritating but since I a) knew what I was getting in to, and b) have recently purchased a tripod, I think that I can get around this without too much trouble.

On the lighter side, my girlfriend was looking over my shoulder at some photos of Hyde Park and when I pulled up the one with the worst vignetting she said: "Oh, I like that, how did you get that effect?" Since she's knowledgeable about art in general (but not photography in particular) this only goes to show that sometimes all of our preoccupations with perfect photographs are entirely beside the point.

In terms of the rest of the lens, I'm finding a tiny bit of looseness in the barrel but no more than I'd expect from a lens of this quality (if I wanted 'L'... ok, I do want 'L', but I can't afford it) and it certainly doesn't lead me to think that the build quality is bad or that the front is about to fall off. The ring USM is, as always, quick and the zoom seems to hold position well even when the camera is held lens-down.

I'm really liking the way that the Sensia is coming out using this lens -- colour is very good (IMHO) and the photos seem nice and crisp. I've only just scanned the positives in so I may find some issues as I dig in a little bit more over the next few weeks, but so far nothing has led me to believe that my $300 was mis-spent.

I also find the zoom range to be quite versatile -- good for architecture and landscapes, good for people, and even a usable as a short zoom for the fairly tame wildlife that loiters in Hyde Park (which is where my morning commute/walk takes me).

So, while I have caveats, the fact is that this lens ran me $300 while the comparable 'L' lens would apparently run me $1,150. My next purchase is going to be the 70-200/f4 with a TC, so I'll still have spent less than for the comparable 'L' and will have a good range of focal lengths with quality that far exceeds my demands. I don't suppose that this is really a professional's lens, but then I'm not a professional so I'm quite happy with my purchase.

Ryan Joseph , February 24, 2005; 02:42 P.M.

Sharp and flare resistant

Having used this lens for a little over a year on a 300D (APS-C sensor), all I have is praise for this lens. It is just a good lens, period. Maybe my sample is exceptional, I don't know. Flare is extremely well controled for a consumer zoom(the lens hood is still a must have). It is sharp, contrasty, and usable wide open. I own a 24-70 F2.8L as well. Is the 24-70 better in every way? Yes, but not 900 dollars better in every way. It also weighs three times as much as this lens. This lens is most surely staying in my collection. BTW Thats the sun at noon that I am shooting directly into in the picture posted.

Olli Vainio , November 26, 2005; 08:11 P.M.

Decent lens for it's price. Soft from f/3.5 to f/5.6, sharpness increases considerably when stopped down to f/6.3. From f/7.1 -> no real increase in sharpness. This with 1,6x crop body. Color & contrast ok.

nenad ralic , June 28, 2006; 07:33 P.M.

I would exsplain my problem in a few steps

1. Im beginner in photography 2. i have used canon a95, and now canon s 80 camera

3. because of money, i decided to bue Rebel XT

...now problems

4. i think to buy canon 24-85 3.5-4.5 lens, but in a few reviews read that is no sharp enough

5. what that means comparing with my s80, would be visualy drastic better picutures

6. i belive that Canon 28-135 is, is too big, heavy, x1.6 tele, for a user like me

7. how does it behave on digital camera

8. Sorry for stupid questions but I have tio ASK!!!

6. Thank You

Chris Berthod , October 17, 2006; 05:11 P.M.


24-85 super sharp on cropped Dslr. But chromatic aberrations and distortion at 24mm are problems.

Eric Tastad , January 15, 2009; 11:46 A.M.

Sorry to bring back this old thread, but I wanted to comment on the vignetting of this lens. This lens was clearly designed for an APS camera, as the image circle is not really large enough for full frame. It does cover a full frame 135 format sensor/film, but suffers vignetting at all focal lengths, and at wider and longer focal lengths at all apertures. It isn't terrible, but could be field relevant to some people. This vignetting is actually bad enough to be visible in the viewfinder. There is also softness at the extreme edges. It still makes a good full frame kit lens, but don't expect it to be a 24-105mm f/4 L.

dee tox , February 08, 2010; 11:18 A.M.

I owned this lens for a while and had some back-focus issues with it. While doing some testing for my lens review website I found that changing the focus point(s) affected focus accuracy. On both of my digital bodies, selecting all focus points instead of only the center point improved focus performance substantially. Just my 2 cents.

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