Canon's new 24-70mm f/4 Lens is Perplexing

Canon's new 24-70mm f/4 Lens is Perplexing

When Canon released the upgraded 24-70mm f/2.8 II lens earlier this year, it was met with a serious mix of emotions. Why was it so expensive, and where the HECK was the image stabilization? And sure, the lens performs magnificently, but it left a lot to be desired. Last night, Canon announced a new member to the lens family, and many of us are confused as to where a 24-70mm f/4 IS fits into the picture between the 24-105 f/4 IS and the 24-70mm f/2.8 II.

I love Canon. I've shot on Canon nearly exclusively (except for one year where the studio I was in had an Olympus E-5 and when I was shooting film on my Nikon FTN) over the past twelve years. Up to this point, I've been the first person to stand up for Canon when I'm surrounded by a hoard of Nikon fanboys and girls. But this is one decision that I am just at a loss to defend. Sure, I can probably think of the strategy that went into this decision, but that doesn't mean the strategy makes any sense.

Canon's Strategy: Money. Sure, this is kind of everyone's strategy, but if you make it obvious that's all you're about, then you start to turn people off. I don't like it when companies make decisions based only on profitability. Customers notice, business dips, the company then tries to overcompensate and then things just end up getting worse. If you make a quality product, people will buy it. But if it looks like you're just trying to take people's money, then you run into issues. We all understand that these companies need to make money, but at least TRY and make it look like you care about us or the product a little bit. Aiming at the 24-70mm focal length was a direct strike at where the money is. 24-70mm f/2.8 is the most popular lens out there. We all should own one, because when you need one lens on your camera body, this one can do it all. But Canon's recent decisions with this focal length just baffle me. Why do we need two options at this focal length? Both L glass? It's especially perplexing given that the 24-105mm L lens, a really fantastic lens, costs less than this new 24-70mm f/4.

These two lenses appear to be a misshapen attempt to meet all the desires of photographers while actually attaining none. Yes we wanted IS in our 24-70mm focal length, but we didn't want to give up a stop to get there. We wanted the 24-70mm f/2.8 to be cheaper, but again we didn't want to give up a stop to have that either. It's like watching someone purposely try and infuriate a customer. Rather than just giving us what we want and have asked for, Canon has offered two less satisfying options. I don't want to have to pick- none of us do!

Here is what really gets me. I like the 24-105mm f/4 lens. It's actually really great for video. There are those who complain about it's sharpness for stills, but I never really saw it as an issue. It performs fine. In releasing this new 24-70 f/4 lens, Canon is telling us that the 24-105mm might not be around for much longer. Well that sucks. I like having that extra 35mm if I want it. Now to get what I want, I'll have to buy one lens for photo and one for video and spend three times as much and end up with less versatility. The only one who wins here is Canon, who gets to take my money. Speaking of cost...

Canon seems to be really pushing their pricing. They recently cracked down on MAP pricing on their camera bodies, and this new lens is not cheap either. The 24-70mm f/2.8 II is quite expensive, especially compared to the competition. Heck, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 with VC is only $1300 and it's awesome. The IS is far and away better than anything else on the market. So why would I buy this new Canon lens when it isn't as fast, and the IS is outperformed by Tamron's?

More expensive. Segmented features. Disregard for their core clients. Canon, slow down and think for a minute before you make another decision like this one. Tamron and Sigma are only getting better with their glass and unlike you are keeping their prices affordable. If you keep on this path, you're not going to end up making up for that loss of profit you experienced last quarter. You're going to end up like Sony: desperately trying to cling to dwindling profits. Sit down, take a deep breath, and just go back to what made you successful in the digital space originally: great product that we all loved.

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Jr Miller's picture

Kinda confused by your OP isn't the exclusive domain of professionals. With the so-called high ISO of new camera bodies, lens speed isn't so huge an issue anymore. This lens will appeal to a very different segment of the photo market. I have owned the 24-105, 70-200 F4 and stand by the usefulness of both. This is extra gravy...right along with the updated 35 IS.

Canon still makes some of the best glass in the world but nobody is stopping you from switching ;-)

Timothy Linn's picture

Don't know what is confusing.  Canon is offering less lens for more money.  Instead of value added it is value removed.  You have a 24-105.  Unless you hate the IQ, would you pay more for this new lens?  Would you recommend this new lens to anyone over the 24-105?  The image quality better be out-of-this-world.

Eight years ago Canon was besting the competition at every turn.  Not anymore.  It is as though Canon feels like, based on its prior dominance, it can kind of coast along without really competing.  Like Jaron, I believe this is a recipe for failure in the long term even if it boosts profits in the short term.

Norm C's picture

Think of it like the iPad Mini - expensive, fewer features, just smaller

Kyle Sanders's picture

I think they did it to flesh out the f/4 lineup. If the lens really can deliver "four stops" of IS performance, it could be a great lens. A few days ago I saw this lens was rumored to be $800~ish, at which point I was ready to buy on the spot. $1,500, however, is another matter - stick with the 24-105.

I do not think that f/2.8 is really all that fast, as I prefer fast primes in my work. I am very reluctant to admit how nice IS really is, even though it does not stop subject motion. I am also aware that carrying around 2.8 glass gets a bit heavy, and this lens may have a lot of appeal to landscape people who want low distortion (no 24-105) and shoot at ~F/8 (negating primes, 2.8 zooms) and have to hike out to the destinations (negating multiple primes, 2.8 zooms). 

Is it for everyone? No, and certainly not for $1500!

Alex Zaramenskikh's picture

Omg, 24-70mm f/4's place in the trash 'cuz too high price.

Kyle Sanders's picture

not so much the trash but the shopping cart maybe. If price is important to you, then this lens is priced at the same point as a very very nice, used 24-70 f/2.8.

Alex Zaramenskikh's picture

So I think will be better to buy used 24-40/2.8 instead new/4.

Philip Davis's picture

I feel your pain and agree with your rant.  But not sure what you mean about giving up two stops. f/2.8 => f/4 is one stop. Can you elaborate?

Jaron Schneider's picture

Sorry, wrote that late last night. One stop. 

And rant? I dunno... I feel like I kept it from being too ranty. Tried to stay away from mindless yelling ;)

Driever Photography's picture

When I see this I had the same reaction ! I am a Nikon shooter and got my 24-70 Nikkor at the same price new !
All my buddys shooting with Canon rather keep their 24-105 which is a great lens !!

Tomek Dersu Aaron Whitfield's picture

The price of Canon lenses these days is too damn high!

Miguel Arango's picture

at least canon makes products that you dont have to buy i you dont want to, like XQD cards.

apollo's picture

Well, you don't have to use XQD, there's another card slot you know? Well, atleast Canon fools people with high prices...

Felipe_Paredes's picture

miguel arango.... doooooooooh!

Ryan Scherding's picture

i own both the 24-70 2.8 and the 24-105(came with my 5dmk2) and they both are awesome lenses! this is as the author wrote, complete crap. i use the 24-70 for professional shoots when i need the extra stop, but when im on vacation or just grabbing some photos that extra reach of the 24-105 makes it the ideal lens. the great thing about the 24-105 is that when im on vacation i bring just one lens, for landscapes and tight shots. for close tight shots it gives great blur and is in my mind sharper than the 24-70. canon's prices have already driven me to sigma for my telephoto, the 70-200 version 2 macro is one of the most accurate and sharpest lenses i own, and it was a thousand dollars less than the canon. this lens is a gimmick, one that no pro will ever fall for.

damn you canon...

24-70 f/4 IS

and $850 for the 35 f/2 IS....

My $500 Sigma 35 1.4 MIGHT not be as sharp w/ no IS, but for the price difference, I'll stick with Sigma 

Gary Coronado's picture

i'm thinking that this is aimed for those who want to upgrade their kit lens for something smaller and lighter. however, with the existence of the 25-105, i think this is superfluous. maybe canon should've release a, say, 17-70 L lens for those APS-C owners who want to upgrade their 18-55.

my first lens purchase after the dslr (with kit) was the 17-85 f/4-5.6. then i upgraded to the 24-105 though i always wish that it could have been wider. it would have made more sense if the new lens is wider.

oh, and it could've been cheaper also...

Kyle Sanders's picture

Canon will never make an EF-S L lens, they would prefer you to spend more on a new and shiny full frame body!

garybc's picture

no, i didn't mean an EF-S lens, just something wider for APS-C users. maybe an upgraded 17-40, but instead longer. That's why I said 17-70.

Kyle Sanders's picture

I use the 17-40L on my T2i... and it's interesting for sure - obviously not terribly wide in the long end, but 17 is not _that_ wide when it comes to EF-S either. What kind of shooting do you do that you wish you could have 17-70 for? general travel? If you run the numbers, 17-70 x 1.6 comes very close to the 24-105L, so in a way they do indeed make your lens.

garybc's picture

it sure does. but i'm not speaking for myself but for someone who only has an 18-55 and who wants to upgrade to an L lens and wants IS... 

well, 10-22 is EF-S. and the 8-15L fisheye and 16-35 are almost the same price as the new 24-70. so those are your only choices if you want to go wider. though as you said, 16 is almost 24 for APS-C...

Kyle Sanders's picture

I would recommend the 16-85 EF-S IS long before any L lens for someone looking to upgrade from an 18-55. I don't mean that in an elitest way at all, but I consider L lenses to be somewhat specialized, and a general purpose EF-S lens is not what they offer. I briefly had the 28-105 3.5-4.5 and it was a much better "walk around lens" for someone looking to upgrade.

garybc's picture

that's exactly the path i took.

but you'll never know... i have seen people with a 5D mark III and a nikon D3 in full auto. no matter how we go back and forth here, people would still buy what they want regardless of what they'll use it for nor their level of expertise.

Timothy Linn's picture

 A 17-70 that's a lens I would be interested in, assuming Canon could overcome the not insignificant design hurdles.  I'm not holding my breath...

garybc's picture

i know! right? with IS, EF, L. can be used for both an EF-S and full frame.

Lenn Long's picture

The perplexing part is the price point. Canon 24-70L (non-IS) f2.8 $2299, 24-70L w/IS f4.0 $1499, 24-105L w/IS f4.0 $1149.... Which lens would you be buying if you were looking at the last two?

Michael Fowler's picture

Your point, while buried in entertaining rant, is: There was NO need to build an 24-70 F4 IS when you have 24-104 F4 IS.  Especially, when what we all want and are begging for is a 24-70, 2.8 II IS L that looks just like the 70-200 2.8 II IS L.  Darn it!   This same stunt was pulled with the 17-55 2.8 IS (non L) lens, and great lens, but in cheap plastic case.

Therefore: I submit the following.

 A) 17-55, 2.8 IS is proof that Canon can build a 24-70 IS and yet refuse to do so.
 B) The 24-70 F4 is proof that Canon is aware that customer want and need and updated 24-70 2.8 IS.  

Know the forgoing to be true! We can then assert the following statement on good ground.  Canon is able to build a 24-70 2.8, they are able to build (IS), they are aware of market demand, and yet refuse to produce the one lens necessary.  And we ask why?  WHY?!  We the people are only left with one possible answer: Willful, yes Willful!  intent to milk the market for meager profits rather than service the loyal customer!  There can be no other answer ladies and gentlemen! NO!

We are being abused by the very company we champion with our sweat, toil, and creative talents! Shameful I say....Shameful!!

Andrew Fishkin's picture

Why? Because an f/2.8 lens with the quality of the mk II 24-70/2.8, with the IS of the 24-70/4 would be even larger and heavier than the already large and heavy f/2.8 lens, and more expensive than the already extremely expensive f/2.8 lens.

Most likely Canon figured people prefer the choice. I personally value small size and light weight above the extra stop, especially with IS this good. To me, the new lens is a real winner.

John Lindroth's picture

I read that this might become the new FF 'kit' lens - which boosts the price of camera + lens up from the 24-105 lens. That does feel like they are just going for more money...

This lens is meant to be an upgrade, if you actually look at the specs there are actually some potential improvements:

-Macro Capabilities: you can see that the minimum focusing distance can reach 0.2m in the macro mode which looks like it might be at the 24mm end (to get the specified 0.7x maximum magnification ratio which is listed), and 0.38m on the 70mm end compared to 0.45m on the 24-105L. Its not the first lens to do this, I have a old Vivitar lens which macro focuses at the 24mm end and wide angle macros have a very distinct look which i quite like!

-Image Stabilizer: the 24-105L only claims to provide 3 stops of IS, while the new 24-70 f4L claims to provide 4, this could be a updated version of the IS which allow better stabilization capabilities
-Less Range, Less Glass : theres 3 less elements in the 24-70 f4L which leads to a 10% in weight saving and less distortion to compensate for-more UD elements : so theres potential to have less CA and sharper imagesand of course theres always inflation to consider, as more people have more cash the price of things will keep going up, I wouldn't count this lens out of the running yet, $1500 might just be the retail price, it might come cheaper as a kit lens, just saying you shouldn't really count this lens out until you've actually seen how it performs just yet instead of starting to complain about the price for the range

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