As of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens review date: Excluding the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM Fisheye Lens
, Canon has not released a non-IS zoom lens since the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
five years prior (2007). Aside from two cheap EF-S 18-55mm kit lenses, the only other non-IS Canon Zoom Lens released after 2003 was the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens. Canon omitted image stabilization to achieve the absolute ultimate image quality possible with the least-complex design. Obviously, I'm disappointed with Canon's decision to omit IS, but I am definitely not disappointed by the image quality this lens delivers - or by its AF speed.
Shooting with a full frame Canon EOS DSLR
? The 24-70 L II's focal length range falls squarely in therecommended general purpose lens focal length range. Shooting with an APS-H (1.3x) or APS-C (1.6x) DSLR? The 24-70mm range is still a great choice, with the realized angle of view shifted longer within the most commonly needed range. For a focal length range example from a 5D Mark III sensor's perspective, I take you to the Harrison Wrights Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park (Endless Mountain Region, Benton, PA).
The extremely useful 24-70mm focal length range is complemented by a constant-over-the-entire-focal-length-range, wide-as-it-gets-in-a-Canon-zoom-lens, f/2.8 max aperture. Combined, the real world uses for the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens are endless. The 24-70 L II will be the bread and butter wedding lens for a significant percentage of professional photographers. The 24-70mm focal length range allows a large group shot or a close-up picture of the bride without a lens change. And these shots will be accomplished in the typically dark-as-a-cave venues weddings typically occur in. The fixed f/2.8 max aperture allows wide open camera settings to remain constant with focal length change - allowing the photographer to focus on getting the job done.
As portraits are a staple of wedding photography, the 24-70 L II makes a great portrait lens. On a full frame body, group, environmental and moderately tight portraits work best. Since shooting a wedding is not too dissimilar from photojournalism in many regards (and many wedding photographers employ photojournalistic techniques), the 24-70 L II is also a great photojournalism lens choice. The 24-70 L is also a very good landscape lens (though it would be an even better choice if it had IS), especially on a full frame body. It will work fine on a crop body, but the full frame 38.4mm angle of view equivalent is a little long for the wide end of a dedicated landscape lens. Add a Canon EF-S 10-22mm USM Lens
to your 24-70 L II kit if landscapes are your goal. Or get the EF-S 17-55 or EF-S 15-85 instead.
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens was announced on February 7, 2012. For the next 7 months, all we had to look at other than the press release, product images and delay notices were the MTF charts
And the estimated retail price - but the MTF charts felt much better to look at. The price and MTF charts both indicated that we should expect great things from this lens. Full frame corners are especially impressively sharp at 24mm f/2.8. A trend I'm seeing with the many copies of this lens I've tested is that corners may be slightly less sharp in the middle of the focal length range (35-50), and if I had to pick a weakest focal length for overall image sharpness, it would be 70mm. Still, this lens delivers very impressive image quality. The "II" is considerably sharper than the "I" at f/2.8 and still noticeably sharper at f/4. The "II" retains better contrast at even narrower apertures, but the differences are not as exaggerated. APS-C/1.6x sensor format DSLR owners will not likely notice vignetting when using this lens - even at 24mm f/2.8.
The 24-70 L II turns in reasonable background blur quality (often referred to as bokeh). Following is a bokeh comparison (click on the image - opens in new window) between five 24-something lenses with a few additional L prime lenses thrown in the mix. All lenses and focal lengths were tested using a stationary (tripod-mounted) Canon EOS 5D Mark III. The same focus target was used for all test shots and manual focus was used to obtain ideal focus for each focal length tested. Focal length marks on the lenses were used for establishing the focal length setting for each shot. The relatively wide angle focal lengths found in these lenses need a close subject and relatively distant background to create a strong background blur. Perhaps the biggest difference you are going to see below is that the 24-70 L I acts as a longer focal length lens than most of the other lenses compared here at this relatively close focus distance. Again, click on the image below to see the full comparison.
The 24-70 L II's in-focus hit rate for fast-closing subjects at even close range is impressively high (when I do my part right of course). Cantering/jumping horses were the most challenging subject I threw at the 24-70 L II as of review time. Update: This lens has also worked very well for track and field events.
Here is a near-MFD sample picture. The swimming-pool-rescued Northern Red Salamander pictured here is just over 4" (100mm). I'll note that it was not a very cooperative subject.
Following is a table comparing MFD and MM specs for many similar lenses:
The 24-70 L II's MM specs with extension tubes are a healthy 0.63-0.18x with the Canon EF 12mm Extension Tube II mounted and 0.74-0.41x with the Canon EF 25mm Extension Tube II mounted. This lens is not compatible with Canon Extenders.
The 24-70 L II's front and rear lens elements are fluorine coated for easier cleaning.
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens' finish is less reflective than the I's (notice the deeper, richer black color in the product images), some of the shiny parts of the I are gone and also gone is the white lettering around the end of the lens. This results in a slightly different, more clean appearance - a better one in my opinion. The 24-70 L II extends (1.23"/31.3mm) with focal length increase - a behavior shared by nearly every other zoom lens in this general focal length range. This is a major change from the 24-70 L I and its predecessor, the 28-70 L, that extend as the focal length is decreased. Here is a comparison between these three lenses.
Once again we get an old-school side-pinch-only lens cap with the 24-70 L II. Does Canon have an incredible inventory of these old style caps to use up?
Though slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessors, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens is still a mid-sized and mid-weight lens. Here is how it stacks up:
||Dimensions w/o Hood
|Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens
||3.2 x 3.4"
||(81.6 x 87.5mm)
|Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
||3.5 x 4.4"
||(88.5 x 111.6mm)
|Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L USM Lens
||3.3 x 3.8"
||(84 x 97mm)
|Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens
||3.3 x 4.4"
||(83.5 x 110.6mm)
|Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens
||2.7 x 3.3"
||(68.5 x 84.5mm)
|Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
||3 x 3.8"
||(76.6 x 96mm)
|Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens
||3.1 x 4"
||(78.6 x 102mm)
|Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
||3.5 x 4.4"
||(88.5 x 113mm)
|Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Lens
||3.3 x 4.9"
||(83 x 124mm)
|Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens
||3.3 x 3.7"
||(83.4 x 93mm)
|Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens
||3.3 x 4.2"
||(83.5 x 107mm)
|Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8L USM Lens
||3.3 x 4.6"
||(83.2 x 117.6mm)
|Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens
||3.1 x 3.8"
||(78 x 97mm)
|Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM Lens
||3.6 x 7.6"
||(92 x 194mm)
|Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens
||3.4 x 3.7"
||(86.6 x 94.7mm)
|Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens
||3.5 x 4.3"
||(88.2 x 108.5mm)
|Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens
||3.5 x 4.2"
||(88.5 x 106.9mm)
|Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens
||2.7 x 2.2"
||(68.4 x 55.7mm)
|Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Tilt-Shift Lens
||3.5 x 4.2"
||(88.5 x 106.9mm)
|Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens
||2.7 x 2"
||(68.4 x 51.5mm)
|Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM Lens
||3.1 x 3.4"
||(79 x 86mm)
|Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Pancake Lens
||2.7 x 0.9"
||(68.2 x 22.8mm)
|Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens
||3.4 x 2.6"
||(85.4 x 65.5mm)
For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon EF 24-70
mm f/2.8L II USM Lens Specifications
using the site's Lens Spec tool. The weight-for-the-size of this lens combined with the quality build give it a solid feel - you know that there is something in your hand. The size and weight reduction this lens has over the I is welcome but I would not call the difference dramatic. Here is a look at the 24-70 L II beside four other lenses.
Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses in their fully retracted positions: Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
The same lenses are shown rearranged by height below in their fully extended states with their lens hoods in place.
As always, you can use the site's Lens Image Comparison tool to review many more comparisons. For most people, the primary full frame lens alternative to the 24-70 L II will be the also-great 24-105 L (or the later-released Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens). The 24-105 L has been my most-used lens since it was introduced in 2005. Here is a pair of on-camera comparison between these very-similarly-appearing lenses:
In general, the 24-105 L is better suited for travel and similar general purpose use when a tripod is not practical or desired, and the 24-70 L II is better for sports and indoor events including weddings and parties and for serious tripod-based photography (and for when the light is good enough for handholding without IS).
The 24-70 L II has better build quality than the EF-S lenses - and it has weather sealing. The 24-70mm focal length range is modestly better suited for APS-C portraiture than the 17-55mm range. Following is a visual comparison of the 24-70mm f/2.8L II and its at-review-time-primary third party 24-70mm lens competition.
Positioned above from left to right in height order are the following lenses in their fully retracted positions: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens The same lenses are shown rearranged below (retaining height order) in their fully extended states with their lens hoods in place.
These Canon EOS 5D Mark III RAW images were processing in DPP with the Standard Picture Style and sharpness set down to "1" (very low). Crops from 121 images 16-bit TIFF images were stacked and aligned in Photoshop and saved at a 70% jpg quality. The 24mm samples are cropped from the far lower left corner of the frame. Note that, to reduce page load time (especially for mobile users), the following comparisons are being hosted on a separate page. Click on the image below to open this comparison in a new window/tab. Use Alt-Tab/Ctrl-Tab to toggle back and forth.
Corner performance is a challenge for all lenses, especially at wide apertures and for zooms and especially for wider angle zooms. The 24-70 L II is really impressive in this regard. The 35mm crop compared below is taken from near the lower right corner of the frame. The 35mm mark on the lens barrel was used for all zoom lenses tested.
Once again, the 24-70mm f/2.8L II compares especially well against the matching-focal-length Canon L prime lens. The Sigma image quality performance deteriorates in the outer portion of the image circle as the focal length is increased. The Tamron is not as well represented by the right side of the frame. Update: After multiple lens purchases and two trips to Tamron service, I have a Tamron 24-70 VC with right-side image quality that matches the left. The 70mm crop is taken from the extreme bottom center of the frame. Again, click on the image to load the comparison. Click on the image to load the comparison.
Mid - frame