Review of Canon RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM Z

Review of Canon RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM Z

The zoom range of 24-105mm is perhaps one of the most versatile options available. Typically, lenses within this range maintain a constant f/4 aperture throughout. While this is adequate, having an aperture one stop larger would be ideal. Now we have the Canon RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM.

When faced with the decision of selecting just one lens, I delved into this question and found that a 24-105mm zoom lens offered the most comprehensive flexibility. However, there's a caveat. Most 24-105mm lenses come with a maximum aperture of f/4.

Up until now, a 24-105mm lens with the desired f/2.8 aperture didn’t exist. Such a lens would naturally be larger and heavier compared to its f/4 counterpart, but it would have double the light sensitivity. Although a 24-70mm f/2.8 is an alternative, it lacks the necessary zoom range. Hence, when Canon unveiled the f/2.8 version of the 24-105mm lens, my anticipation was high. However, upon receiving the lens for review, it wasn't quite the lens I had hoped for.

The RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM Z is large and heavy.

Specifications Overview

  • Zoom range: 24-105mm with a fixed f/2.8 aperture
  • Length: 199 mm, Diameter: 88.5 mm
  • Weight: 1,430 grams
  • Lens composition: 23 elements in 18 groups, including 4x US, 2x GMo aspherical, and 1x replica aspherical lenses
  • Aperture ring for video with lock in the A setting
  • Two programmable lens buttons
  • Minimum focus distance: 45 centimeters with 0.08x magnification at 24mm and 0.29x at 105mm
  • Up to 5.5 stops image stabilization, and up to 8 stops in combination with IBIS system
  • Dual Nano USM autofocus motor
  • Detachable tripod foot
  • Compatible with Power Zoom-adapter PZ-E2/ PZ-E2B and LH-E1 lens holder

The lens has a couple of buttons that can be programmed with a lot of different functions.

My First Impressions

The lens' specifications only paint half the picture. Upon unpacking, its substantial size and weight became evident, weighing almost 400 grams more than the RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens and nearly as heavy as the RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM lens.

In contrast, the RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens is merely half its weight, indicating that the RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM Z isn’t the daily walkaround lens compared to its f/4 counterpart.

Compared to the f/4 version, the f/2.8 is almost twice as large and twice the weight. It doesn't change length when zooming, though.

The lens features a wide zoom ring with a smooth 90-degree rotation from 24mm to 105mm, maintaining a consistent length. The focus ring, located just behind the control ring, offers excellent manual focus control with optimal damping.

Four switches are available, two for image stabilization and two for the focus system. Notably, the lens offers a step-less aperture ring, ideal for videographers. It can be locked in the A (auto) position, transferring aperture control to the camera.

It has the whole range of buttons available, both for autofocus and for image stabilization.

The aperture ring is step-less and can be locked with the spring loaded Iris-lock switch. Unfortunately the aperture ring doesn't work for photography. It's video only.

Unfortunately, the aperture ring doesn’t function if you are using the lens for photography. It is only usable for video. As I understand, for photography, the ring will only work on the EOS R models that will be released from 2024 and forward. For any other EOS R model that predates 2024, the aperture ring doesn’t function.

The tripod collar deviates from the traditional Canon design. It now has a removable foot which can be unlocked by a dedicated knob. If the camera needs to be rotated, you have to use a different knob.

The tripod collar design is different from many other Canon lenses. 

Image Quality

The f/2.8 aperture delivers a pleasing shallow depth of field at 105mm. The bokeh rings have some cat-eye distortion in the corners. This distortion is gone when stopping down to f/5.6. Overall sharpness is impressive, particularly in the center. There is a small improvement in corner sharpness when stopped down.

The f/2.8 aperture is ideal for a shallow depth of field. This is how the bokeh looks. The cat-eye shape in the corners at 105mm is gone at f/5.6.

The distortion of this lens is quite extreme, especially at 24mm. You have to rely on the in-camera lens correction.

At 24mm, the lens exhibits extreme barrel distortion. This is severe enough that Canon forces in-camera correction regardless of lens correction settings. This results in a small decrease in image quality in the extreme corners at f/2.8.

The lens does not change focus if the focal length is changed. This parfocal-like behavior is ideal for video. On the other hand, the subject does change in size while focusing. It’s only a small amount, but it can be noticeable on some occasions.

There is some focus breathing present, but it will only be visible when there is an extreme change in focus. 

It’s worth noting this lens is targeted for video. Therefore, it will mostly be used with the 16:9 aspect ratio. This will keep the weakest parts of the image out of the frame.

The lens does show flares, but it isn't that distracted. For video, this can add to the atmosphere. For photography, it's often undesired.

The Power Zoom Adapter

The lens is compatible with the new Power Zoom-adapter PZ-E2 and PZ-E2B. It allows constant, smooth, and precise focal length adjustments with adjustable speed.

The contacts and connection points for the Power Zoom adapters and the lens holder.

The Power Zoom adapter can be powered by the camera or through a USB-PD connector. The geared zoom ring minimizes power consumption. It is possible to control the Power Zoom-adapter remotely through the EOS Utility app.

Additionally, the LH-E1 Lens Holder provides supplemental support when mounting the lens on a video rig. It's obvious that these accessories are designed for video. Although it resembles a cinema lens when combined with these accessories, it isn't quite the same.

The lens is designed with video in mind. The picture doesn't show a video rig, but if you use one, it has to be able to support a heavy lens.

In Conclusion

At first, I was excited about this lens. But then I realized how large and heavy it was, and I got second thoughts. However, the lens is a quality product that offers smooth and pleasant use despite its size and weight. Especially the zoom ring is a delight to use.

I don't think this lens is suitable for daily use. It's too large and heavy. It doesn't add a lot of image quality over the f/4 version. 

However, besides the wider aperture, for the photographer, the RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM offers limited advantages over its f/4 counterpart. It relies heavily on in-camera distortion correction without substantial performance enhancements.

The benefit of this lens is the compatibility with the Power Zoom-adapters, which can have great use for video. It’s too bad the aperture ring doesn’t function for the current EOS R models when used for photography.

I used the RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM Z mainly for photography. The f/2.8 doesn't offer any benefit for this kind of shooting. 

Should you buy it? I think not. Although the RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM Z offers a lot of features that are not available with the f/4, it’s also much larger, heavier, and more expensive. Unless you want internal zoom, lens function buttons, the whole range of switches for focus and stabilization, and a tripod ring, the f/4 version is probably the better choice for many.

Compared to f/4, the f/2.8 allows twice the amount of light to pass through. It allows you to use a faster shutter speed while keeping the ISO as low as possible. The real benefit is for low-light shooting.

What I Like

  • f/2.8 over the whole zoom range
  • Geared zoom ring
  • Smooth and dampened focus ring
  • Focus doesn’t change when zooming
  • Nice bokeh with f/2.8 and 105mm
  • Lens function buttons
  • Complete range of autofocus and image stabilization switches
  • Tripod ring with removable foot
  • Aperture ring
  • Overall image sharpness
  • Compatibility with Power Zoom adapters
  • 5.5 stop image stabilization, up to 8 stops when combined with IBIS

What I Didn’t Like

  • Size and weight
  • Aperture ring doesn’t function for photography
  • Slight focus breathing in extreme focus change
  • Amount of distortion (although most is removed with lens correction)
  • Strong chromatic aberration at 105mm focal length
  • Completely different design for the lens collar
  • Black matte finish is sensitive to surface marks
  • Expensive, especially with the Power Zoom-adapter included
Nando Harmsen's picture

Nando Harmsen is a Dutch photographer that is specialized in wedding and landscape photography. With his roots in the analog photo age he gained an extensive knowledge about photography techniques and equipment, and shares this through his personal blog and many workshops.

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Seriously I think most professionals understand that a lens like this is going to be heavy. I've been using this lens for several months now and never once considered the weight to be a problem. I also have a Canon 28-70 f/2 & a 70-200 2.8 and the 24-105 has become my go to lens for most of my studio work. The zoom range is a real time saver in the studio.

I agree, the weight doesn't have to be a problem, especially for studio work. It can be different if it's used in the field. Still I wonder, it should be possible to decrease its size and weight. Probably the video capabilities that are added to the lens make it the way it is.
Thank you for your valuable comment.

It would be interesting to see what the buy recommendation would be if this were a Nikon or Sony lens.

That would make no difference for me. It's about the lens, not about the brand