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Canon EF 24-70/2.8L USM Lens Review

by Philip Greenspun, April 2007

The Canon 24-70/2.8L lens is Canon's fastest and highest quality midrange zoom lens. It is designed for full-frame digital SLRs such as the Canon EOS 5D, (buy from Amazon) (review). If you want a lens for covering wedding receptions, buy one right now from amazon.com, (buy from Amazon).

Producing a high quality high speed zoom lens that goes as wide as 24mm is challenging, but the "L" in "Canon 24-70L" assures you of professional quality images, rugged construction, and substantial weather-proofing. The 24mm wide end is wide enough to be dramatic, but the 70mm long end is not long enough for flattering portraits. The bulk and weight of this lens make it a poor choice for travel; we recommend the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, (buy from Amazon) (review) as an alternative.

Image stabilization as close as the nearest door frame...

Canon doesn't put sensor-based image stabilization in its bodies and they didn't put an optical image stabilizer in this lens. The f/2.8 aperture helps by enabling the photographer to select higher shutter speeds, but to minimize camera shake you'll find yourself leaning up against door frames or using electronic flash (which wedding reception photographers are doing anyway). If you can't find a door frame, remember that you need at least 1/70th of a second at 70mm or 1/25th of a second at the wide limit of the zoom.

[Image at right stabilized thanks to a bright sunny day, ISO 200, and 1/1000th of a second, f/5. EOS 5D. Downtown Chicago from a Robinson R44 helicopter on its ferry flight from the factory in Los Angeles back to Boston. There are faster ways to travel...]


The Canon 24-70/2.8L incorporates a ring-type ultrasonic motor, for instant autofocus and the option of touching up the focus manually even in autofocus mode. Focus is internal, so the lens does not extend or contract as the focus is adjusted. Nor does the front element rotate as you focus or zoom, making it easy to use this lens with polarizing filters.

Mechanical Construction

The L in Canon 24-70/2.8L guarantees you tough mechanical construction and a substantial degree of weather-proofing. If you've got a weather-sealed EOS body, notably the EOS 1 series, you can take pictures in a reasonably heavy rain.

The lens barrel incorporates 16 elements of glass in 13 groups. Two of those 16 glass elements are aspherical and one is an ultra-low dispersion (UD) element.

The diaphragm is an 8-blade design for nearly circular appearance in out-of-focus highlights. Filter size is 77mm and the bayonet-mount EW-83F hood is included.

The penalty for all of this quality is a shoulder-crushing weight of 950g, more than 2 lbs. and nearly twice as much as a Canon Digital Rebel body.


If you don't need the zoom and love to take photos in dim light, consider the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, (buy from Amazon) (review). It is two f-stops faster than the 24-70/2.8 and therefore more useful in low light.

For lighter weight, comparable image quality, and image stabilization, choose the newer design Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, (buy from Amazon) (review).

How well does it work with the Digital Rebel?

This is an EF lens, illuminating an image circle large enough to cover a 24x36mm piece of film or the sensor in Canon's more expensive "full-frame" digital SLRs. The camera will work fine on a small-sensor body, but you will be carrying around more lens than you need and the focal length will be a "slighty-wide-to-portrait" range.

Where to Buy

We're impatient, so we buy everything from amazon.com, (buy from Amazon).



A scorching summer day; f/8 and ISO 100. Note to pilots: it may be unwise to expect a two-person airplane of yesteryear to carry two modern American adults.

ISO 800 and f/2.8 at 1/30th; camera held over head. It might have been better to use a flash, but it is tough to think of a flash position that would have uniformly illuminated all of the people in the scene. It would be nice if this phase of the wedding had been in a better-lit environment...

f/3.5 at 1/100th; ugly hazy white sky in the background.

f/5.6 and 70mm; the 24-70 can substitute for a portrait lens if you're not trying a very tight composition.

40mm at f/6.3.


Boring Technical Details

Focal length 24 - 70 mm
Maximum aperture F2.80
Minimum aperture F22
Angle of view • Horizontal: 84° - 34
• Vertical: 53° - 19°
• Diagonal: 74° - 29
Lens construction 16 elements in 13 groups
Diaphragm blades 8
Closest focusing distance 38 cm (15 in)
Maximum magnification 0.29x (at 70 mm)
Distance information Yes
Image stabilizer none
AF actuator Ring USM (full-time manual focus built-in)
Filter diameter 77 mm
Dimensions (dia x len) 83 x 123 mm
Weight 950 g (2.1 lb)
Magnification with extension tubes EF 12 II: 0.63 - 0.18
EF 25 II: 1.25 - 0.4
Lens hood EW-83F
Soft case LP1219
Extenders EF 1.4x II: Not compatible
EF 2.0x II: Not compatible

Text and pictures copyright 2006-2007 Philip Greenspun

Article created April 2007

Readers' Comments

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James Colwell , April 06, 2007; 04:57 P.M.

Thanks for the information. I hope you will have a chance to provide your comments on image quality. In my opinion, it's second to none for zooms, and better than many primes in the same range of focal lengths (including many "alternatives"). I agree that IS isn't required for this lens, although I often take a steadying door frame with me in the form of a monopod.

Paulo Bizarro , April 07, 2007; 12:59 A.M.

After using the lens for over one year, I have a few comments about this "review":

1. First of all, the term "review" is misleading. It is more of a opinion, perhaps;

2. The lens is heavy, yes, but that is the price to pay for a top quality, highly versatile, zoom lens. I have used this lens extensively in deserts (Wahiba sands of Oman, Arabian Empty Quarter), mountains (Oman mountains); it is heavy indeed, but I soon forget the weight when I look at my Velvia 100 slides;

3. I wish people would stop writing "whole truth" sentences about flattering or unflattering focal lenghts for portraits. 70mm is quite adequate even full-frame, and much more so in cropped sensor DSLRs! You just have to be more flexible!

4. The lens does not have IS, granted, but it also does not have the strong corner light fall-off of the 24-105 IS lens.

4. In the end, I would strongly recommend this lens.

Dokyun Lee , April 08, 2007; 11:35 A.M.

i just got this lens... OMG this is the best lens ever. i like the feel of it much betterr than 24-105. compare to 24-70, 24-105 feels like a toy. and the optics is FANTABULOUS

Doug Peck , April 08, 2007; 03:12 P.M.

I have used this lens on a Canon 20D for portraits. Works great, with an equivalent focal length of about 40-110mm, I can do everything from head shots to groups. Image quality is outstanding, I would even say stunning considering it is a zoom. From what I have read, among Canon-weilding wedding and photo-journalists for 35mm or full-frame sensor digital it is a very popular lens. Do a Google and/or Google Groups search, you will be hard pressed to find a single negative comment about the performance of this lens.

Paul Sauer , April 10, 2007; 08:44 A.M.

The review is correct that the lens is a poor choice for travel because of its size and weight. It is also a poor choice for discretion.

But the quality of the images I get from this lens make it all worth it. I believe the 70mm will do in a pinch for portraits.

Giampi . , April 13, 2007; 11:28 P.M.

Canon 10D, 24-70 f/2.8L

If I were forced to use only one lens the 24-70L would be it. An excellent lens in every respect. IMO, the best zoom in that range. Its close focusing min. distance allows for pseudo-macro as well.

Nathan Everett , April 14, 2007; 04:09 A.M.

I was just wondering how the lens would compare on a 'bang for your buck' style review against the Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 DG MACRO and whatever the corresponding Tamron is... I understand that the Canon is superior, but is the extra cost really worth it?

Paulo Bizarro , April 14, 2007; 07:45 A.M.

"The review is correct that the lens is a poor choice for travel because of its size and weight. It is also a poor choice for discretion."

After using the lens extensively in Oman, travelling through mountains, wadis, deserts, and remote villages, I have to disagree on the above. Granted, the lens is heavy, but I can carry it during treks without any problem. It does require a comfortable backpack; I have the Lowepro Minitreker, and it suits me fine. For other occasions, I use the Lowepro Slingshot 300, it is also very comfortable in distributing the weight.

So, for travel, I would say there is no better high-quality zoom lens; what are the options, carrying 3-4 prime lenses? As I said before, the 24-105 IS could be it, as it is lighter. But the poor light-fall off performance does not suit me.

As far as discretion is concerned, I have had no problems whatsoever; I have found out that the human rapport is much more important than the size or colour of the lens.

Chris W , April 16, 2007; 05:03 P.M.

I've been using mine for two years now and I can't imagine not having it. I have many other lenses, some of which are much lighter and serve the same focal range...but none compare to the quality of the 24-70 2.8L. I do miss the added depth when I was using a 20D, but getting back the wide angles and just moving my lazy butt still make it a perfect companion for my 5D. If I had to choose one lens for the rest of my life this would be it!

Tao Lu , April 18, 2007; 09:15 P.M.

How about distortion? Many lenses of this range are very poor in distortion, no comparison to primes. Anyone has any idea?

Tao Lu , April 18, 2007; 09:19 P.M.

Agree with Paulo, this is not a review rather an introduction. How about distortion for this lens? Many lenses of this range give strong distortions at both ends and in between, no comparison to primes.

Kenneth Armstrong , May 02, 2007; 10:20 P.M.

I just want to add that the review seems geared towards shooters who are using it on full-frame, so when the reviewer says that the tele end isn't long enought for portraits they are not necessarily taking the crop into account.

I like this lens best on my 1D, it's still wide enough to give me a wow and long enough for effective portraits. On my Rebel XT it is great on the tele end, but not wide enough in my opinion.

Doug Landrum , May 04, 2007; 05:33 P.M.

I bought the 24-70 f/2.8 L as my first lens to use with my EOS 20D. I have never been disappointed by my results. The color transmission and contrast are very good and the sharpness is too. I have never seen noticeable distortion on a 1.6 crop factor. Before Canon digital I shot film with Leica R's. I initially believed the 24-70 to give results rivaling Leica lenses. Recently, I bought a Novoflex adaptor that allows me to mount my Leica R lenses on the 20D. My Leica 100mm f/2.8 APO Macro Elmarit R shows incrementally better performance. Keep in mind that the Leica APO 100mm is probably one of the best prime lenses ever made and sacrifices autofocus and full aperture metering when mounted on the Canon. The Canon 24-70 is a zoom of a shorter focal length and is not far off the performance of this legendary Leica optic. The autofocus with the 24-70 is fast, silent and accurate. It can use the center cross type autofocus sensor on the 20D. The 24-105 f/4.0 L cannot use the more accurate cross type sensor due to the smaller aperture.

Belinda Strodder , May 09, 2007; 09:34 A.M.

I dont care what anyone says. I tried this lense at a show on the weekend and I WANT ONE! (Any second hand ones out there?)

William Hennan , May 19, 2007; 01:10 P.M.

I agonized over the 24-70 vs. the 24-105. I ended up with the 24-70 and couldn't be happier with it mounted on my Canon 5D. The 24-105 just didn't feel as good in my hands and the zoom ring seem to hug the camera body a little closer than I liked.

The 24-70mm's quality build and great performance make it worth investing in a good carry system in order to make carry easier. A Domke J-3 (I own one)or a Thinktank ChangeUp (plan to buy) should make carrying the 24-70mm and another lens a good walk about system. The LowePro Slingbag 200 is also another bag that I checked out with my equipment.

The 24-105 has lower size/weight and more zoom of course, and someday that might be a purchase for me. But in the meantime I'm enjoying this very high quality lens. I think the 70-200mm f/2.8 dovetail well with the 24-70, so I've got no regrets buying the 24-70 over the 24-105.

There is no wrong choice of course. Your own requirements and tastes will guide you better than individual opinion. Dive in!

Anthony Peterson , May 28, 2007; 02:18 P.M.

I really don't see this as a review either. More of an Op-Ed piece. I have had this lens for going on one year. To me the weight is nominal. It's the size that is absolutely annoying. And especially the fact that it is at its largest when it is at 24mm. You want to get up close and personal and your lens is 6.5" without the hood (7" with). I hate that. Unfortunately, there isn't a wide zoom that is environmentally seal that compares.

I look at my friend's Nikkor 17-55mm with pure envy.

Rocco de Wet , June 10, 2007; 12:40 P.M.

As good as it is, I would have liked it to have IS. Even if it adds a few bucks, I am spoiled with IS on my 70-200. The thing that kept me from getting the 24-105 was it's f4 - I love the f2.8!

Dean Williams , July 24, 2007; 12:58 P.M.

I've had this lens (24-70mm 2.8L USM) since February, and it has been back to the Canon repair center twice -- without success. Zooming from 24mm to 28 or 30mm it very tight, as though something is sticking -- it binds and jerks. This happens only when the lens is in horizontal (landscape) orientation; it zooms relatively smoothly when rotated to portrait orientation, bottom-side-up, or aimed at the ceiling. And it's smooth when zooming from roughly 30mm to 70mm. The repair center first replaced a collar, which didn't help, then replaced a zoom key, which didn't help either.

Has anyone else observed this problem? It doesn't seem as though an "L" lens should work this way.

Phil Trites , August 06, 2007; 03:18 P.M.

Anyone have the Hood Mounting ring (w/red band) separate from the barrel? Talk about a true hassle with it getting in the way locking up the barrel.

ross mcross , November 09, 2007; 10:58 A.M.

Welcome to the 24-70 L.

L is for Lottery.

My shiny new 24-70 2.8L is extremely soft. it's been back to the very helpful Canon repair agent in London and they've spent hours on it. They can now say that there's something wrong with the lens, but they don't know exactly what as it's a perculiar problem. They're now sending it back to Canon for even closer analysis.

Almost every shot i take with it at the wide end with 2.8-8.0ish or more is soft. Nothing in the image is in focus. At the 70mm end is exceptional!

Compared to the plasticy 18-55mm that came with my 350D (Rebel XT), this $1100 Pro L lens fails miserably!

So we'll see... (just so you know you're not the only one!)

Alessandro Della Casa , February 23, 2008; 02:38 P.M.

It's almost like shooting in 3D at wide aperture with this lens. I'm really enthusuastic about it and I feel confident in warmly reccomending it! ciao Alessandro

Robert Kincaid , June 12, 2008; 07:05 P.M.

I'm a 20-year veteran photojournalist and just bought, and today used for the first time, a Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L. I wish I could give it the high praise so many others have. I find the lens only reasonably sharp and the edges at the 70mm end of the zoom are distinctly soft. Edge performance at 24mm was much closer to center performance than it was at 70mm. I did my test in daylight conditions at f/2.8 ISO 100 and 1/3200. It's a terrific focal length zoom, but edge performance is very troubling. Haven't decided yet whether to return or send to Canon. Thoughts? Similar experiences?

Richard Crowe , June 18, 2008; 07:48 P.M.

Hi Robert Kincaid;

I have been a professional photographer for longer than I like to remember and am now retired.

I suggest that you do send or take your lens back to a Canon Service Center because it is definitely not performing up to expectations. Unfortunately, although Canon does make some great equipment; the quality control at the assembly line leaves a lot to be desired.

My 24-70L is razor sharp. My only problem with this lens is that it is relatively heavy. I have replaced it for walk-around and travel photography with the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens which is not only lighter but, allows me to dispense with a third camera and wide angle lens and use a two camera setup with the 17-55mm and the 70-200mm f/4L lenses.

I mostly use the 24-70L in my home studio where IMO it is superior to the 17-55mm IS lens because of the longer focal length is better for portraits than the 55mm and the fact that it focuses closer than the 17-55mm allowing me to shoot some closeup images without switching to a macro lens. The extra weight doesn't bother me for studio use since I don't have this camera hanging around my neck for a full day. The longer focal length on the wide end doesn't bother me because my home studio is very large (1/2 of my RV garage).

One additional perk of the 24-70L is that it is reasonably weatherproofed. Unfortunately the 17-55mm IS lens is not. The "L" lens on a 40D body should be just the ticket for a drizzly day in Alaska this July.

Andy Hamon , April 01, 2009; 03:21 P.M.

I love the 24-70 but it is on its way back to the service centre, having the "tight" problem between 24-30 as experienced by others. I await their comment?? Not good for a lens that I have had for less than 6 weeks!

Kathleen Noble , April 07, 2009; 11:45 P.M.

I just took shots of a wall that is a flat cream color, using the 24mm end of my Canon 24-70 2.8L on a Rebel XTi, with the on-camera flash. A defect, almost like a shadow, shaped like the top half of a circle appears at the bottom of the photo. Turning the camera sideways causes the defect to appear on the side of the photo. I'm not obstructing the lens with a finger. Zooming out (away from full wide angle) allows the defect to disappear. Same problem taking photos of different walls; however, suppressing the flash will avoid this defect. Please try this on your 24-70 and tell me if you get the same defect!

Darrell Cleboski , June 09, 2009; 10:16 P.M.

I've just started taking some shots with my new Canon 24-70 and found I have the same problem with shadowing when using the built-in flash. I initially thought it was doing it because of the size of the lens blocking some of the flash. Maybe I was wrong, and it could be a defect in the lens. I'll start trying to duplicate the problem and see what I come up with. Otherwise I love the lens. It's been producing some great shots with great contrast and color. I usually have to adjust contrast and color in Photoshop with my cheaper lenses, but not with this one.

Peng Hui Cheng , July 16, 2009; 05:48 A.M.

Kathleen & Darrell, the problem you guys having are due to the length of the lens and pop-up flash. To use the 24-70 with a flash, you'll need at least an external flashgun like Speedlite 430EX II. This will ensure that the flash output is high enough to not eclipse the lens front.

Otto Haring , August 24, 2009; 01:22 A.M.

Excellent Lens!

The 24-70 I mostly use it for real estate photography on a 5D. I also use it for aerial pictures although it is a bit heavy for it.

For interior shots it is not the best, I use my 17-40.

Image quality is also good. It is a little bit bulky though.

I mainly use it for real estate photography and wedding photography. www.usafromabove.com If you want to see samples.

Look for the interior pictures.

I would recommend it.

Sarunas Gr , September 02, 2009; 08:09 P.M.

Just bought this lens following up several years of positive feedbacks etc. I used 17-85 IS for a few years as a keen beginner on my 400D (rebel) and bought 24-70 expecting to get more crisp images including most desired 2.8 throughout zoom range. All my shots are in RAW and I can say that probably my camera or my lens is giving me a headache at this point as most of my photos look like out of the focus, and even with a high shutter speeds where I would blame hand shake my photos are really soft. I use autofocus, and most of the time use one focus point. Once you review photos on the computer, I am not even mentioning 100% zoom here it is far from what I would expect . Have anyone had this problem ? I am thinking of sending it to calibrate but not sure if this is my poor technique , lens or camera...

Will Michael , September 03, 2009; 08:39 P.M.

I wanted to love this lens. Horrible focus issues, especially at 24mm - the further the distance to subject, the worse it gets (goes from back-focus to no-focus). Tested it on three camera bodies and against a handful of other lenses. The worst lens I've ever used.

I know there is a great copy out there, but I couldn't find it. I tried two. The first copy went back and the second went to Canon to come back worse. Now, the second copy is going back. I'd try a third copy but they're on back-order.

Sarunas Gr , September 04, 2009; 05:13 A.M.

Will, I just did a focusing test and that is exactly the problem. Issue is back focusing at wide open.. If my thoughts would not spin around FF in the future I would easily give up it for 17-55 2.8 right now..

CJ Mac , September 04, 2009; 05:57 A.M.

i am thinking of getting the 24-70 2.8L but am doing comparisons right now. The one i have been thinking of is the Sigma 24-70 2.8 DG. Is it even in the same league to compare. I am after image quality and am ready to spend on the canon if need be. Just wondering if it is worth the double the price.


Sarunas Gr , September 04, 2009; 06:36 A.M.

CJ, one of my friends just posted a picture for me taken with sigma. Sharp as hell and had no problems what so ever... I would think again if I were in the situation before I got my canon

Will Michael , September 04, 2009; 09:47 A.M.

Update - Canon 24-70 going back to service center for the second time. B&H won't accept a return once it has been "serviced". Guess I'm stuck with this copy.

Regarding the Sigma 24-70 - I have one (in fact bought the Canon 24-70L to replace it. Thought the Canon L would be a step up). Great walk-around lens. Not awesome for wedding photography. Soft at F2.8 all focal lengths. Has a little lens creep. The two-stage auto focus to manual focus is odd (button and clutch to change from AF to MF and back) as well as the backward zoom ring. However, I'm using the Sigma and not the Canon and I own both.

bob stenning , November 02, 2009; 02:17 P.M.

This lens in unbelievably sharp. I must have an excellent copy because at 50mm it is almost indistinguishable from my 50mm f/1.4 prime! This is hard to believe but true -- this zoom is so super sharp I just can't believe it. I have read about bad copies of this lens but let me tell you, it is TACK SHARP. I have never seen a zoom perform so well. I am astounded.

Will Michael , November 04, 2009; 02:28 P.M.

I am happy to report that my third copy is also "tack sharp".

Rumen Kocev , December 25, 2009; 07:08 P.M.

24/105 lens and I sold it because I was not happy with it.maybe because I was shot by CARL ZEISS not know. I bought a 24/70 and from one year to shoot .This zoom lens is almost the same as ryazkos CARL ZEISS

Dominique Pajanacci , June 21, 2011; 04:27 A.M.

I have been using quite a lot's of different equipment in my time (Starting with a MINOLTA STR100b in 1976)  and for the last 11 years I had a succession of Canon bodies and "L" lenses. As always some lenses get more used than others. I currently own a 24-70 F2.8L AND a 24-105 F4.0L so I thought I could give some insights on those two Canon lenses.

I have a 24-105mm f4.0L lens for more than 2 years and it stayed most of the time on my Canon EOS-1Ds Mk3. I recently purchased a 24-70mm lens, I was hesitating at first but went for it. It actually complement the 24-105mmm lens very well.

On reception of the 24-70mm I did a straight compare with my 24-105mm. This is pure visual result comparison, no laboratory test. Results were displayed on a 27 inch MAC Display with the same lighting conditions, straight out of the camera without post processing.

- First Impressions: The 24-70 f2.8l is brighter (Obviously) and seem to be a better balanced lens for the 1Ds. I had to push the exposure a bit when I was mounting the 24-105 to achieve the same results.

- Sharpness is pretty good, I would say a little bit better than the 24-105 lens (Everything is relative within the limits of the 35mm format, obviously medium and large format is better).

- Weight? what can I say, 2.5 Kg with the EOS-1Ds body, pretty heavy but I suppose it's worth it, providing you don't  have to walk all day with it, this is what you have to pay for a 2.8 zoom. I don't think the 24-70mm will be comfortable to handle on a small camera body such as a D20 or D50, you might find the tendency to "Noise dive" annoying and the risk of blurred pictures very high especially without a tripod. On my 1Ds, the weight of the lens is counter balanced by the weight of the body, it's actually pretty easy with the right technique to get sharp shots.

- Feel? I personally prefer that lens to the 24-105 on my EOS-1Ds Mk3 body, I use to have a 28-70mm F2.8L lens before and they just feel "right", the 24-105 is not the same for me. Everybody is different so it's a very subjective point of view.

Color, contrast, saturation: To my eyes the 24-70mmm is the winner, the 24-105 does not generate the same impact, again it's my personal opinion.

- My conclusion: If you can GET BOTH LENSES, they will serve different purposes.

For Family pictures, functions, weddings, etc... use the 24-70mm, you can use it for Travel as well but it is NOT the forte of that lens due to it's inherent weight .

For Travel and if you can only afford 1 lens or carry 1 lens... get the 24-105mm, keep in mind that it will be nicely balanced on a smaller camera body.

I think it's fair to say to conclude that potentially with post processing, the same shot from a RAW file can look the same with both lenses. So it really come down to personal preferences...

Happy Shooting...!


Paul Schpak , November 25, 2011; 06:01 P.M.

Here is a little video made with the canon 24-70mm 2.8L on a 7D to be added to the review.



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