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.

Jaron Schneider's picture

Jaron Schneider is an Fstoppers Contributor and an internationally published writer and cinematographer from San Francisco, California. His clients include Maurice Lacroix, HD Supply, SmugMug, the USAF Thunderbirds and a host of industry professionals.

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[Excuse me if this is a double-post; the website seems to have eaten up my first post]
I agree with vc_scorpion.  The 24-70mm's lower zoom ratio (than the 24-105) will likely result in quicker AF.  And those of us who like to shoot landscapes with lots of DOF will benefit from the f/4's sweet spot (around f/8-11) over the faster lens' sweet spot of around f/5.6-8.  That, plus half a pound lighter, plus macro.  And I'm guessing it's waaay finer glass than the 24-105.  We'll see.  Yes, the price sucks; I'm thinking of waiting till someone returns their near-new lens so I can pick it up "refurbished".  

I WILL admit that Canon got the whole IS thing backasswards...... those of us who'll be using the f/4 lens on a FF body on a tripod will have to turn off the IS anyway.....LOL......those who shoot weddings or other events handheld at f/2.8 are the ones who would've benefitted more from the IS, especially at 70mm.

Better image quality, improved IS, lighter, macro abilities. Apart from lacking one f-stop this looks like the perfect walk-around lens.

My EXACT thought when comparing the 6D with the 5D Mark III. Only ONE cross-type AF point vs the M3 having 41. Even the less expensive 7D has 19. But of course, for those making the move to full frame, they want consumers to buy the more expensive 5DM3.

This is an excellent lens. Yes, it was too expensive when originally released, but lately it is just a little bit cheaper than the old 24-104, and is a bit cheaper still than the upcoming 24-105 mk II.'

The way I see it Canon is offering different lenses for different needs, and you are free to choose the best one for your needs.

I've used the old 24-105 for three years and never loved it. It was adequately sharp on my 6D and 5D3 cameras, extremely versatile, but heavy for an f/4, and had too much distortion at the wide end to replace a 24mm prime.

The 24-70 mk II is simply outstanding in every way, but is heavier still, lacks IS, and is even more expensive, though it can and does easily replace a 24mm prime.

The upcoming 24-105 mk II looks to be a real winner, bringing all of the advantages of Canon's new generation IS and improved 24mm performance from this lens, with the longer reach of the old 24-105, though again with a penalty in weight and slightly higher cost.

What do you want in a standard zoom?

For me, I had a pre-order in on the updated 24-105, but decided to cancel it and buy this 24-70 f/4. I doubt the new 24-105 will be enough sharper or better corrected for distortion to justify the added cost ($400 over the $700 I paid for my brand-new 24-70/4) and the weight savings is significant for my primary use for a standard zoom, which is as a family travel (non-photography trips) lens and as a replacement for a dedicated 24mm prime. Sure, I like the added zoom range on the 24-105mm lenses, but for the family travel photos and books I make (never larger than 11X14") I have plenty of cropping potential from my 20 and 22 MP files to make do with 70mm. Such outings are always just two lens trips, with a fast prime (50/1.2 or 35/1.4) that stays in the hotel unless I'm going out at night, in which case I leave the zoom behind.

For photography-specific trips, I carry a four lens kit, with the zoom covering 24mm, and then 35mm, 50mm and 100mm (macro) primes. I find for serious photography that I use a 35mm lens more than any other, and no zoom lens comes close to Canon's new 35mm f/1.4 mk II at any aperture or distance. For family travel, I tend to again stay at 35mm on the zoom, but use the zoom ring when the location forces me step back or forward more than the environment allows. I'm just a 35mm prime kind of guy, and will often leave my entire Canon kit at home and just take my Leica with a 35mm lens and not feel in any way under-equipped.

So for my usage pattern, the 24-70/4 is the best option. Cheaper than the other two "modern" Canon 24-xxx zooms, and much better at the wide end than the old 24-105, while smaller and significantly lighter than any of them. Not perfect, but definitely the Goldilocks choice for my needs.