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

 

I've just tried the new Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM for a few days and want to share my impressions and some sample images here. My impressions are very positive. The lens feels as a professional photographer's tool from the first time you touch it and mount on the camera, and it handles like a professional tool. I have no intention to shoot test charts, because nobody shoots test charts, print them and hang the pictures of test charts on the wall in real life, and there are lots of places over the internet, where you can check out formal lens tests. I will supply a link or two at the bottom of this review page where you can check all these formal test results if desired. I want to share some real life experience here.

Meeting the ever-increasing demands on image quality that digital photography brings, the redesigned EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is the latest update to the acclaimed L-Series of EF optics, re-establishing a new standard for superb optics, high-end durable construction and performance in professional zoom lenses. A standard focal length zoom lens, it features a large aperture throughout its focal length. Featuring the latest advances in optical lens design, it utilizes 1 Super UD lens element and 2 UD lens elements that help minimize chromatic aberration in the periphery at wide-angle as well as reduced color blurring around the edges of the subject. In addition, 2 types of aspherical lenses are combined to help reduce spherical aberration over the entire image area as well as through the full zoom range. Optimized lens coatings also help ensure exceptional color balance while minimizing ghosting. The lens is also equipped with a circular 9-blade diaphragm for beautiful, soft backgrounds. A ring-type USM and high-speed CPU with optimized AF algorithms enable silent and fast autofocusing. Built for the rigors of professional use as well as to meet the increased number of shots available with digital photography, it's constructed with improved dust sealing and water resistance while fluorine coatings on the front and rear lens surfaces help reduce soiling, smears and fingerprints. A zoom lock lever locks the zoom position at the wide end for safe transporting while attached to an EOS DSLR camera over the shoulder. – this is a short description from official Canon web site.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens was designed as a replacement for the professional photographer's workhorse - Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM. The new lens is noticeably lighter and slightly smaller than the old one, however its diameter has slightly increased. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens body is made from high quality construction plastic, while old lens has metal barrel. I don't know yet how it will affect durability with heavy duty everyday use, time will tell. Now I can point out two positive moments of this engineering decision. Firstly, the lens is 150 gramms lighter than its predecessor. Secondly, your hands don't freeze badly when you shoot in cold weather. The lens has very good construction. It is well built, and it feels like a professional tool, what it is. Zoom and focus rings are wide and with a good grip, there are placed conveniently with the zoom ring near the camera body. Both rings operate smoothly, without any play or wobble. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens extends when zooming to the telephoto end, but it remains rigid when extended. Lens hood construction changed too, now it has convenient button lock, but it is very small and nearly useless, especially at the long end. Old lens has a much clever construction, the hood is mounted to the lens barrel and doesn't move as the lens extends. The old lens changed its size in reverse while zooming (extends to the wide end), so the hood was always efficient, and served better for protection.

AF performance of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is impressive, it makes the lens a joy to use. The lens utilizes latest ring USM autofocus drive, that makes focusing very fast, sm ooth and nearly silent. Focusing speed is exceptionally fast, it is nearly instant in good light. Definitely, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is one of the fastest focusing lenses on the market. AF precision was very good too on both Canon 5D mark III and Canon 7D. I beleive that Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM has one of the best, or probably even the best AF implementation on current lenses. Even in a very poor light, (I was shooting at f/2.8 aperture and ISO 12800, with shutter speeds of 1/30-1/40s) Canon 5D mark III AF was focusing reasonably good. It's performance was much worse when I was shooting Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM in a similar lighting conditions. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM has internal focusing, as many other Canon L lenses. Filter thread is made of metal and doesn’t rotate, so it accepts polarizing and gradient filters well.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM has very large 82mm filter thread, what make filters expensive. I recommend using high quality UV or protection filter, that doesn't degrade image quality, to protect the front element from accidential fingerprints, dust, waterdrips and scratches. Good examples are B+W UV MRC filter or the new one B+W XS-Pro UV MRC filter. B+W UV MRC filters are probably the best, as they don't degrade image quality at all, and cleans very easily, thanks to special coating. I fill much more comfortable cleaning dust and fingerprints from filter than from an expensive lens, sure one shouldn't expose lens to these, but unfortunately it happens sometimes. All new Canon lenses, at least pro grade ones, have a special fluorine coating that makes cleaning easier.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is weather sealed, like many other Canon L lenses. All moving parts and lens mount are protected with gaskets. One can shoot Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM almost in any weather, especially when paired with professional DSLRs like Canon 1D series.

 

Workers at the street, Canon 5D mark III, 63mm, f/2.8, 1/2000s.

Shooting in a bad light, Canon 5d mark III, 24mm, f/3.2, 1/40s, ISO 12800.

Moscow State Univercity, Canon 5d mark III, 38mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s.

Moscow State Univercity, 100% crop, Canon 5d mark III, 38mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s.

 

Having great mechanical qualities is an important characteristic of any lens, but not the most one. Optical quality is what we seek in any lens. Optically Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM doesn't give a lot to criticize. It is very sharp even wide open, especially in the center and in the middle of a frame. Sharpness in the frame corners is not excellent at f/2.8 but it is not bad either. This is true for all focal lengths from 24 to 70mm. Sharpness increases when stopped down, by f/5.6 it is sharp in entire frame. In the 60-70mm range the lens is not as sharp as it is at the rest of it's focal lengths range, but it is very good, worthy of professional use level. Maximum sharpness is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is sharp enough for almost any real life shots even wide open. It is usually intended to separate a subject from background with a shallow DoF, when shooting at wide apertures, and nobody puts main subject in a corner of a frame in such a case. So when you use Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens, you need to adjust aperture for DoF only. Color reproduction is very accurate, skin tones on portraits are nearly perfect, much better than with Canon 50mm f/1.8 II. Saturation, contrast and micro-contrast are all excellent. It captures almost all the tiniest and finest details, look at the sample images below. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM successfully competes with Canon primes at the respective focal lengths and apertures. That is a big achievent for a zoom lens.

Minin and Pozharsky monument, Moscow, Canon 5D mark III, 41mm, f/5.6, 1/400s.

Minin and Pozharsky monument, crop 100%, Canon 5D mark III, 41mm, f/5.6, 1/400s.

Portrait, Canon 5d mark III, 70mm, f/3.2, 1/400s.

Portrait, 100% crop, Canon 5d mark III, 70mm, f/3.2, 1/400s.

 

 

Chromatic aberration on Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM may be noticeable only in extreme conditions, but in real life shots there is nothing to worry about. It has only small traces of chromatic aberrations that can be corrected easily in software. On the sample shots it is not corrected, so you can see that it is negligeable. Longitude chromatic aberrations (color cast in out of focus zones) are not prominent too, that confirms very good optical properties of this lens.

Vignetting is visible when you shoot with Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM wide open on a full frame body, and it is rather prominent, but it disappears stopped down, by f/5.6 it is almost completely gone. When you shoot at f/2.8 aperture vignetting emphisizes visually perceived depth.

Some geometric distortions are present. There are barrel distortions at the wide end and pincussion distortion at 70mm are visible, when straight lines are present in a frame. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is virtually free from geometric distortions in 35mm to 50mm range. Distortions at the zoom ends are moderate, however they are not distracting at usual images and are easily correctable in software, if you shoot architecture or similar subjects. Distortion correction in software is not free, as you will loose some image details in a process.

Oka river, Nizhny Novgorod, Canon 5D mark III, 24mm, f/7.1, 1/160s.

Oka river, Nizhny Novgorod, 100% crop, Canon 5D mark III, 24mm, f/7.1, 1/160s.

Monument, Nizhny Novgorod, Canon 5D mark III, 70mm, f/7.1, 1/200s.

Portrait, Canon 5d mark III, 70mm, f/5, 1/30s.

 

 

Bokeh, or how the lens renders of out of focus areas, is a very important characteristic of any lens. This is a subjective property, that is difficult to measure, but very easy to see. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM bokeh is very good, thanks to 9-blade circular aperture. Background is rendered very smooth and nice, however the amount of blur is noticably less than with fast telehoto primes...

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is flare resistant, it doesn't loose contract with the bright lightsource in a frame. There may be some color artefacts, but there are not severe, see the birchwood sample. Bright light sources will appear as 18 point stars, When shooting at small apertures.

Березовая роща, Canon 5d mark III, 55mm, f/5.6, 1/60s.

Blagovezhensky monastery, Nizhny Novgorod, Canon 5D mark III, 70mm, f/8, 2.5s.

Winter evening, Nizhny Novgorod, Canon 5D mark III, 70mm, f/8, 6s.

Bridge Kanavinsky, Nizhny Novgorod, Canon 5D mark III, 53mm, f/11, 5s.

Bridge Kanavinsky, Nizhny Novgorod, 100% crop, Canon 5D mark III, 53mm, f/11, 5s.

 

Conclusion. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM - is an excellent general purpose lense for Canon full frame cameras. It is probably the best general purpose lens at the moment of writing this review. It perfectly fits for any photographic task, including photojournalism, landscapes, candids, interiors, etc... The lens has excellent image quality at all focal lengths, superior AF high quality professional construction with environmet sealing. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM performance is so high, that it successfully competes with Canon primes at the respective focal lengths and apertures. Prime lenses often have wider aperture, but you will need a bag of primes to replace Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM at all focal length with similar image quality, and this bag will cost and weight even more. It is the best performing zoom lens I ever tried with the exception of extraordinary Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM, that is the best zoom lens ever made. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM has only two weaknesses. Firstly, it doesn't focus close at the wide end, and we all know that more closer you get to the subject with the wide angle lens more dramatic shot you will get. Secondly, it is the price, that is not very affordable, however you get what you paid for. You can buy Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM here (use these links to support this site) :

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens at Amazon.com

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens at Adorama

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens at B&H Photo

Thanks for reading!

 

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