Fstoppers Review of the Canon 24-70mm F/2.8 L II

Fstoppers Review of the Canon 24-70mm F/2.8 L II

Reviewing this lens has not been a simple task. As is the case with, say, a new Apple product, many can argue that the original 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens is so good that any improvement would or should simply be a minor enhancement or fix. A new version should just address what little quibbles we all have had over the past several years. Little things. And with little changes should come minor price adjustments, if at all. This did not happen with the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L II, and thus I am hit with the daunting task of wrangling in this new piece of hardware.

I’m going to start by saying this is not going to be what my friends affectionately call a “measurebate.” I’m not going to stack this lens side by side with the original. I’m not going to post high-resolution test images of the lens’ sharpness next to the original's. If you want to see sharpness tests, see our post here. I’m going to do my best to stay away from comments such as “compared to” or “varies from” when talking about the highs and lows of this lens.


Because comparing this lens to the original isn’t going to get us anywhere. If it’s better or worse, the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter. We all know it's going to be a great lens already, and it’s not like you can really select one over the other anyway. The original is no longer available for purchase as new stock from Canon. It’s been retired. Sure, you might be able to find one or two still hanging around in your local camera shop or on some obscure site online, but that’s semantics. The original lens is never coming back, so let’s get over it. If you want a Canon 24-70, you are going to have to get this new one. For those of you who already own the original and have decided to hold off due to cost, I agree with that decision about 70%. Let’s discuss that disagreeing 30% that really digs this new lens.


When I first held this lens, I instantly loved it. It’s light, small, and just feels right attached to a 5D MKIII. It’s a fact that I can’t easily express in words, like a perfect bite of your favorite meal or the way your dream girl’s hand feels wrapped in yours. It simply is right, and that’s all there is to it. A bit of an exaggeration? Maybe. But I won’t back off on what I’ve said. This lens just feels good. After shooting with the II, going back to the original (which I did on several occasions just because I needed a second camera and lens) felt odd, bulky, slow and bloated. I’m not saying the original lens is odd, bulky, slow or bloated. What I am saying is that the feeling of the tools in my hand and the way that I worked felt that way. There isn’t really any better way to explain it, and I urge you to try it for yourself. You can rent the new 24-70 II here, and I really recommend it. Once you try it, you will smile and nod at this rather verbose description of the experience.


From a more technical aspect, this lens is fast. I’m not referring to fast in terms of aperture (which of course it is), but fast in terms of use. The AF is beautifully snappy, no matter the lighting conditions. I’ll let myself do a comparison here, as much as it pains me: the low light performance of the original isn’t great, but you probably didn’t notice it. But if you were to shoot one and directly follow with the other, it’s absolutely a noticeably different experience. The original struggles to find a subject where the new version focuses immediately. It is silent, fast and most of all, accurate. If there was one aspect of this lens that I lean on as a reason to buy it, it’s for that reason right there. I find myself in low light situations a lot, and when the most recent iterations of the camera bodies shoot so well in low light, it’s undeniably important that your glass can keep up. This glass keeps up.


Canon reversed the focus ring so that it is most compact at 24mm and stretches outward at 70mm. To me, this is a more logical setup than the original. If I want to get closer, I should physically get closer. If I want to back up, should I not physically back up? It doesn’t affect the performance of the lens at all, but it does just feel more natural. The lens now has a lock on it, so if you like to use those holsters or straps that result in your camera facing lens down, you don’t have to worry about the telephoto popping out and getting caught on things. Small addition that can be argued as being unnecessary, but I dig it.


While still on the note of the telephoto, I do have to admit I would really prefer that Canon have made the telephoto fully housed within the body of the lens. Something about the zoom changing the length of the lens seems cheaper and amateur. Is this just me being nitpicky? Probably, but I’ll bet that there are many of you pro shooters reading this that agree. What Sigma and Nikon have done with their new lenses is simply more appealing, quality of image aside.

No, there is no IS. Do I wish it was included? Hell yes I do. For what I am paying for this lens, I want it to have absolutely everything possible. I’m certain that many of you will agree that the exclusion of IS from this lens will make you balk, and I don’t blame you. A good IS would have made this lens unbeatable. For now, it will have to remain simply extraordinary (but still pricey).

As expected, this lens performs beautifully in regards to sharpness- really quite consistent across all focal lengths and apertures. But honestly, did you expect any less?

Minor vignette issues between f/2.8 and f/5.6 will likely upset some of you, but it doesn’t really bother me that much. Like Lee Morris has said in the past, he often adds a vignette later because his clients dig it. However, the fact that they exist at all is another reason to hesitate on the purchase.

What I liked:
Size and feel
Ridiculously snappy and accurate auto focus in all light conditions
Tack sharp across all apertures and focal lengths
No serious chromatic aberration issues

What I didn’t like:
Lack of IS
Minor vignette issues
The Price

So let’s get down to brass tacks: should you buy this lens? Do you shoot on Canon professionally as your primary source of income? If your answer is no, then you don’t need this lens. There are other options that are pretty darn awesome and will suit you just fine. If you answered yes, then you should consider it. This focal length has always been the “workhorse” lens. It does a lot, and you can expect a lot from it. However, unless you plan to shoot with it considerably over the next two to five years, then I find it hard to rationalize the expense. The original was pricey, but manageable. This new price point really makes you think, and I wonder if Canon specifically priced it out of the amateur market.

If you currently love your 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens, you probably won’t be considering the upgrade. That’s fine, no hard feelings. But don’t shut yourself off completely. Flirt with this lens a little. Rent it and give it a shot. I promise, one or two sessions with the new one on your camera body and you’ll be hard pressed to not want the upgrade. It’s not really about what the lens does differently, as we all know the original works great. It’s more about how this lens feels, and its ability to instill a confidence in you that will make a difference in the quality of your work. The question is, are you willing to shell out $2300 for confidence and a slightly more efficient workflow? That’s up to you to decide.

Rent it from BorrowLenses | Buy from B&H

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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Just a note. Nikkor 24-40 f2.8 also extends while zooming. Sigma i do not know. It may be fixed as you say.
I liked the review. Not as technical, but i like the feeling of it.

All 24-70 lenses extend while zooming.. just that some are reverse zoom

For the Nikon, I was referring to the variable length occurring within the lens hood. For the Sigma comment, I was referring to their new lens line, not necessarily specifically the 24-70 focal length. 

I think infinityphotogr was talking about this line:

"While still on the note of the telephoto, I do have to admit I would really prefer that Canon have made the telephoto fully housed within the body of the lens. Something about the zoom changing the length of the lens seems cheaper and amateur. Is this just me being nitpicky? Probably, but I’ll bet that there are many of you pro shooters reading this that agree. What Sigma and Nikon have done with their new lenses is simply more appealing, quality of image aside."

I never really thought about the extension until I bought my EwaMarine underwater bag and found that I couldn't use the Original 24-70 in it. The bag pressure always pushed the 24-70 zoom back in which made it a 70mm underwater lens.  I needed wide, not zoom, so I always use my 17-40L underwater now. 

I have one question for Jaron Schneider can u compare the AF "snappiness" of the Tamron and Canon II especially in low light situation or you haven't shoot with the Tamron? I prefer the Tamron just because the IS as there is demand to shoot video as well on the events and the 24-105 price is same as Tamron 24-70 while is it slower lens and not as sharp. But if the Canon 24-70II is realy as good as everyone says I would consider selling my kidney XD
And BTW first thing i think of when i saw the lens for first time was why it isn´t fully housed ^^ like anyone would mind two more inches in the bag >_< thats why i also love 70-200 so much because it doesnt extend...

I didn't really compare it to the Tamron, but to the Canon I it was a slightly better in normal light conditions, exceptionally better in low light conditions. For video, I'm going go go ahead and always recommend that Tamron. You just can't beat their VR. 

Sorry to disagree, but not all Canon 24-105 are "not as sharp" as the Tammy. I've shot numerous copies of the Tamron and not one has been as sharp as my first copy of the Canon 24-105. I may have gotten lucky, but it's worth noting there are very good copies to be had.

Holy Christ.   More than my 85 1.2 L in price?  I actually sold my original 24-70L because I didn't use it and have primes to cover my focal lengths.  I'm not about to pay more than  the 85 for this lens.

As an owner of the original 24-70, I don't think it's worth the price to upgrade. If Canon lowered the price to $1600-ish then maybe I'll consider the upgrade. I even considered to purchase the Tamron, just because it had IS.

I don't think Canon purposely set the price higher or anything silly like that. My guess is that the costs of materials and manufacturing and quality control are higher these days than in 2002 (when the first 24-70 became available). This lens is by far optically better than the old version, while being smaller and lighter. Read LensRentals blog post about the Mk II 24-70, they claim it's sharpness copy to copy is much closer and that it out-resolves Canon's 70-200 Mk II and 24 TS-E, which are both hella sharp.

I think that is why all the new (L) lenses from the last year or two are so much more money. Someday when the 85 Mk III comes out it will probably be $5000.

Reply to Wirehead regarding their statement: "I don't think Canon purposely set the price higher or anything silly like that."  I am guessing that you do not work in an industry that makes and market products.  Everything Canon do is by purpose to achieve the lowest cost and get highest price.  When a new product is introduced on the market they price it higher, if the market will bear.  They initially sell to those who are willing to pay the high price.  Then they gradually reduce price and viola! increase market share.  They get the most profit per unit from each demographic of customer.  The price finally comes down to a level that they can no longer to reduce the price and there are no more customers.  Then they discontinue production.  They watch sales numbers and decide when to change the price based on a formula that trades off sales volume with profit per unit.  This practice is called skimming and it is done by all consumer goods manufacturers who put out new and/or improved models of anything.  

Nice article. Can you please tell if this lens is sharper than 24-70 Nikon? I am considering changing to Canon for quite some time due to my dismal performance with Nikon but havent made a decision yet. 

Don't do it! All jokes aside, what gear are you using that is so dismal? what are you trying to do? I think Canon will always have one-up on video, if that is your thing. I went from Nikon to Canon a year ago and have been really frustrated by some of the "little things" like AF performance.

AF performance has been the loudest complaint I've heard from Nikon converts. I personally don't notice anything that bothers me, but it's likely I just don't shoot the stuff that I would notice it on. 

What are you shooting?try a 5D mk3 or 1DX.. AF is superb on those camera's..

Those are quite beyond my hobby allowance! In all fairness to canon, I was shooting a D70, F100, & F5 and switched to a T2i and an EOS 1N.

You forgot to mention the change in filter size from from Mk1 to Mk2....buying a whole new range of filters is pricy aswell....sigh.

I brought this up in the lens preview i wrote a few weeks ago. Sorry I didn't mention it here.

This lens is awesome and the price will drop in a few months...

Another good point is the new lens is 150grams lighter 

I used to have the older 24-70 and sold it as soon as it hit my 5D Mark III. It just didn't perform well with the Mark III. The Mark II.. Well, we'll see.

Anybody know if Canon plans to update this lens in the near future? I'm considering buying one, but I'd hate to make the purchase now, only to have a 24-70mm f2.8L III come out two months later with IS and internal zoom.