First Impressions: Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS

 

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Not too long ago, Canon released what many considered to be a redundant lens in their lineup, the EF 24-70mm f4L IS. Given that they already have the 24-70mm f2.8L II and even the 24-105mm f4L IS, where was this lens supposed to fit? My initial reaction was the same as many when I first heard of it, but I wanted to give it a chance anyways to see if it was a worthwhile lens. Adorama Camera was kind enough to loan one to me, and the following is a summary of my first impressions of my time so far with the 24-70mm f4L IS.

Tech Specs

Copied from Adorama’s Product Page (link)

Construction 12 groups /15 elements
Angle of view 84° – 34°
Closest Focusing Distance 0.38m / 1.25 ft.
Filter Size 77mm
Focus Adjustment Inner focusing system
Dimensions (Diameter x Length) 3.3 x 3.7 in. / 83.4 x 93mm
Weight 21 oz. / 600g

 

  • L-Series standard zoom lens delivers superb image quality in a compact, lightweight design.
  • 2 aspheric and 2 UD lens elements for high image quality throughout the entire zoom range.
  • Full macro shooting mode with up to 0.7x magnification, easily accessible with aone touch switch at the extreme telephoto end.
  • Image stabilization effective up to 4 shutter speed stops and Hybrid IS compensates for both angular and shift types of camera shake for macro shooting.
  • Resistant to dust and water, enabling shooting even in harsh and rigorous conditions.
  • Circular diaphragm (9 blades) delivers beautiful, soft backgrounds.
  • Inner focusing and ring USM for silent, fast autofocusing.
  • Fluorine coating on front and rear lens surfaces reduces smears and fingerprints.
  • Minimum focusing distance of 1.25 ft. / 0.38m across the entire zoom range (excluding macro).

Ergonomics

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The Canon EF 24-70mm f4L IS lens is a really nice size for a professional zoom, it is shorter than both the 24-70mm f2.8L and the 24-105mm f4L IS, it fits perfectly on full frame bodies like the 5D or 6D.

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Like both of the other zoom lenses in this range, as you zoom through the focal range (24mm through 70mm) the lens will extend outwards, reaching full extension at 70mm. The included lens hood will attach to the front of the lens and extend with the barrel.

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The lens hood also has a locking release button which is a recent addition by Canon that is most welcome in my opinion. I’ve found that with my older lenses, the hoods can eventually work there way loose and become a bit wobbly, I imagine this will alleviate that problem.

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On the side of the lens barrel are two toggle switches, one  is to enable or disable autofocus (note: this lens has the FTM or Full-Time Manual feature which means you don’t have to disable autofocus to be able to manually focus the lens, it is available at all times.) The other is to enable or disable the image stabilizer.

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On the other side of the lens you will see the Macro / Lock switch, when you have the lens set to 24mm, you can lock the zoom so the lens cannot extend on its own, this is to eliminate the possibility of zoom-creep and likely to also preserve the autofocus motor inside the lens from excessive wear while in transit. The second function of this switch is to allow you to go into the macro mode of this lens by rotating the zoom ring to 70mm, pressing the switch up, and then rotating past 70mm and into the macro range.

Build Quality

Canon’s L lenses are to be considered “Professional-Grade”, they are signified by the bright red ring encircling the front of the lens barrel. As such, these lenses are built very well and will withstand all but the harshest conditions (within reason of course). Over the years I have owned and used many different L lenses and they were all superbly built and confidence-inspiring, this lens is no-different and feels just as solid as any L lens I’ve used up to this point. Canon uses high quality materials for these lenses and it shows, it is also weather / dust sealed which means it can stand up to some pretty unfortunate weather conditions. Additionally, they used two Aspherical elements in its construction which helps correct some issues which can pop up in zoom lens designs. Overall, this lens is built as well as I would expect an L lens to be, and I see no reason why it wouldn’t hold up just as well as my other L lenses have over the years.

Autofocus

Canon lenses that are equipped with the ring-type USM motors are fast to focus, simple as that. This lens utilizes an internal-focusing mechanism which means the elements do not extend or rotate during focusing meaning circular polarizer use is quite easy. I’ve had a chance to try the lens out in both “typical” and “low” light conditions, both of which seemed to be no trouble. I have a tendency to stick to center-point AF on my 5DmkII because it is the most reliable one, and I had an easy time locking onto subjects. On the 6D (which I’m currently reviewing) the experience was largely the same, with the notable exception that the outer focusing points were a bit more reliable than the 5DmkII seemed to be. When in macro mode on this lens I did find that there would be some hunting trying to lock focus. I attribute this mostly to my being hand-held rather than on a tripod which meant even the slightest movement on my part would change the plane of focus (which is quite small when you’re in macro mode); given that fact, I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a fault. This lens is also equipped with a 4-stop Hybrid IS system which I can say works wonderfully! I need to do more testing still, but so far, so good with regards to autofocus and stabilization.

Ease of Use

With my own personal equipment, I have made the decision to use only fixed focal length (prime) lenses for my work, so for me, using a zoom lens again has been a little strange, but that’s only because I keep forgetting I have focal length flexibility with that handy zoom ring ;). In all seriousness, this lens is very simple to use and I believe the only usability hiccup I’ve faced has been switching into the macro mode. It’s not “difficult” to do, but somewhat awkward if you’re trying to do it quickly without looking at the lens. There is a small zoom lock switch on the side of the lens and when you press it up you can rotate the lens past the 70mm mark and into the “macro” range (indicated by a yellow line and lettering). Overall it’s easy enough, it just helps to look at it the first couple times you do it so you remember the orientation it needs to be in.

Image Quality

Not on speaking terms

Most of Canon’s L lenses are truly exceptional (I say most, and not all because I have had some unpleasant ones) with regard to image quality and while I do prefer primes (as mentioned earlier) I have to say, so far the quality from this lens is really quite nice! There is some vignetting present at f4, but it is largely gone by f5.6 (which is only 1 stop difference) center image quality is excellent in my opinion and the corners are pretty good wide open, and really nice from f5.6 onwards (though more testing needs to be done to confirm this). I haven’t really found a weak-point through the zoom range yet, but it may be there and I just haven’t noticed yet. I’ll report back in the full review.

First Impressions

My first reaction on hearing about this lens was one of confusion, I didn’t get the point of another midrange zoom. Especially since the range fell right within the 24-105mm f4L IS and it was more expensive. Regardless of this initially negative opinion, I thought I’d give it a change and see how well it performed. When it arrived and I put it on my camera for the first time, two specific things stuck out to me that I liked, it was a great size/weight for a professional zoom, and the IS works really, really well. Part of the reason I gave up my zoom lenses, was that I hated the bulk and weight of them after so many years of lugging them around, this new 24-70mm f4L IS is a great size and not too heavy which means it could be a fantastic travel lens. It handles well, focuses fast, and so far, has impressive image quality. I’m going to dive further into the qualities in my full review, but so far, I think it is a nice lens. I will leave you with a few more image samples for now including a couple shots at full macro.

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