Thoughts & Ideas

Lens Review: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Review


Quick Specs:
Focal Range: 24-70mm; 35mm equivalent for 1.6x crop sensors: 38-112mm
Maximum Aperture: f/2.8  •  Minimum Aperture: f/22  •  Diaphragm: 8 blades
Minimum Focusing Distance: 1 1/4 feet  •  Magnification: .29x (@70mm)
Weight: 2.1 pounds  •  Filter Size: 77mm  •  ✔FTM, ✔USM, ✘IS

First Impressions

This lens is simply gorgeous. It feels very well constructed and the focus and zoom rings turn smoothly. It presents a nice bright image in the viewfinder, being an f/2.8 lens, and is easy to get very attached to. It is a tad heavy (2.1 pounds), but when you see the results you forget about the weight. (Besides, after awhile, you’ll build up your muscles and won’t notice it anymore!)


This lens is an absolute joy to use. Focusing is internal, so the front element never rotates – important for filters. What isn’t internal is the zoom – at 70mm, the lens is at its most compact, but extends an additional 2-3 inches when zooming out to 24mm. A little odd, but it doesn’t affect me in practice. When the lens hood is attached, the reason for this becomes obvious – the hood is always the correct distance from the front elements, whereas on cheaper (or other) lenses, the hood is really just made for one focal length, and out-of-place (or in the way) for all other lengths.

Autofocus is generally accurate on a Rebel body, and if the camera misses, the full-time manual focus comes in very handy. Honestly, this is very nearly the most important feature of a lens to me anymore – whenever I switch to a lens that doesn’t support this, it always takes me a moment to realize that I can’t manually focus after the camera has attained what it thinks is a focused image. (And on some lenses, doing so could screw up the focusing motors…, not good!)

It is important to realize that this lens does not have image stabilization. At wide angles this is not as important, but when you get out to 70mm, it quickly becomes an issue if you are shooting handheld and in low light. And, to be honest, even though this lens is a fast f/2.8, it would be a nice addition to have IS at the wide angles as well. Of course, that would add to the price and weight. (If, however, you do want IS, you could consider the 24-105 f/4 L IS USM lens, but you will lose one stop of light.)

Image Quality

Image quality is exceptional, as it should be with any L series lens. Contrast and colors are captured very nicely, and light flare is well controlled. That this is also a fast lens means I can shoot at a lower ISO setting – reducing the noise in the image.

Bokeh is very nice, even when stopped down a bit, resulting in nice, creamy backgrounds. You’ll notice this the most when at the far end of the focal range, as telephoto focal ranges result in a shallower depth of field.

Color Fringing isn’t bad, but not totally absent, either. Here the 70-200mm L telephoto lens seems to outshine this lens, as it is next to impossible to cause very obvious fringing. Even so, the fringing that is present in this lens is manageable, and is no where near what the cheaper wide-angle lenses generate. (I’m talking to you, 18-55mm kit lens!)

There is a little vignetting evident on some images on a 1.6x crop sensor; light fall-off will be more evident on a full-frame sensor, but not at all bad. Stopping down helps alleviate this.

There is a little lens distortion at either end of the focal range, as is typical with any zoom lens. There are simply too many compromises that have to be made with a zoom lens versus a prime lens. While the distortion is evident in lab tests, I’ve yet to have the distortion be truly visible or worrisome in real life. For a zoom, this is fantastic, and while it isn’t quite as good as a prime lens, the ability to reframe without having to change lenses is a huge benefit.


This lens isn’t going to win any awards in the macro lens world. Even so, under the right conditions, you can get some decent closeups, but don’t expect anything like a 1:1 ratio. This lens is closer to 1:3.5, but if you need better, you can always add extension tubes. Even so, it makes for fantastic flower shots, so unless you need to get really close, this shouldn’t be too terrible a concern.


  • Nice maximum aperture of f/2.8
  • Good range of 24-70mm
  • Excellent image quality with minimal flare and only a little bit of fringing in very high contrast areas
  • Full-time Manual Focus
  • Good bokeh
  • Very well built


  • A tad on the heavy side (2.1 pounds)
  • No image stabilization (though this isn’t a deal-breaker at wider angles)
  • 70mm can be limiting at times – if you need more range in a single lens, try the 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM
  • Price – Amazon has this lens for just over $1,300


If you want great image quality, good zoom range, with excellent low-light capabilities, grab this lens. Yes, the credit card will wince a little when it sees $1,300 come across, but it is SO worth it. My only wish would be to have image stabilization on the lens, but that would add to both the price and the weight.

Side Note: On a 1.6x crop sensor this doesn’t give a tremendously wide angle of view – only equivalent to 38mm. If you need wider on the smaller sensor, you could consider the 17-40mm or the 16-35mm. You could also go after the EF-S 10-22mm, but this lens would not be usable on any non-1.6x crop camera.

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