An honest review of a versatile lensCanon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 - The best and sharpest lens you can ever have
As a professional lens from the wonderful L-series standard zoom, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM is a bit heavier, bulkier and bigger than my normal Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG. And I must confess than while traveling, any extra weight is annoying, specially if you’re stuck with low-cost airlines. On this matter, the point will do to Sigma unfortunately.
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM is at least 1000€ more expensive than the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG here in Germany. And as I would expect from such an expansive lens, the quality you get from it makes this 1000€ disappear from your mind. From the first landscape shot I got with this Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM, I knew that it was time to upgrade. Keep in mind also that if you’re not working professionally was a photographer, you will not be able to see the difference that I’m talking about. I strongly believe that you should only invest that much money, if you can get something in return. Even though I’m 100% in love with the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM, I still recommend the cheaper Sigma lens as your first f/2.8.
Even though some photographers criticizes Canon for not adding image stabilization on the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM, something that the cheaper but slower version EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM has, Canon did a excellent job on Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM sharpness. I think it is unnecessary because I choose sharpness over stabilization usually. But I will discuss this in a few moments.
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM is one of the sharpest lenses Canon has produced and by far THE sharpest lens I ever tested. Like I said before, while it is criticized by many for not including image stabilization, its elimination allowed Canon to produce super sharp results that are rather abnormal in a zoom lens. But I think this matter is better discussed with examples, right? I’ll show you some examples of images taken with Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM + Canon 5D Mark III and images with Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG + Canon 5D Mark III. Sadly I have no examples of neither lenses on my other camera, the Canon 7D. My bad. The first 2 photos (mountains) are with the Canon and the 2 others (lake) are with my Sigma, pay attention to the details on the corners, the sharpness on the mountains and the fuzziness on the top of the trees. If you need to see those photos in full resolution, please go to my 500px profile and check them out or just click on the images.
Like I said earlier, this lens delivers exactly what you paid for when we’re talking about quality. The build quality is just wonderful! For sure this “L” moniker that denotes Canon’s premium lenses are there for a reason. The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM felt super solid in my hands even with the plastic elements like the outer barrel and the filter thread. The focusing ring has the perfect size, it s just as wide as it needs to be, no more and no less. Plus, the ring has a ridged, “rubberised” grip band giving you an extra safety point when you need to be precise. Good to say that this lens also features a clear distance scale, that I find it super cool – but maybe this is just me.
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM lens has a perfect wide-enough focus ring, like I mentioned before. On this lens you’ll find hard stops at both ends of the range, making it super easier to set focus at infinity. And if you use a polariser filter, sit down for this: the 82mm filter thread doesn’t rotate on focus. I myself don’t have a filter like this, but previous experiences using one year ago, it was a super annoying problem this rotation. When we’re talking about auto-focusing, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM zoom is maybe the fastest lens I ever had in my hands. We’re taking about 0.15 seconds to lock onto the subject when mounted on my Canon 5D Mark III!!! For music and nature photographers this is basically heaven. Another spectacular thing I need to add to this section is how silent this lens is, thanks to the USM – that means Ultra Sonic Motor in case you haven’t made the connection yet. I know that I didn’t for years LOL. I haven’t tested this lens extensively with video, but just for the feel I had while I was photographing the Austrian Alps in complete silence, I can guarantee that the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM is amazing for videographers too.
If you’re quite new with photography and you have no idea of what the hell chromatic aberration is, let me explain: Chromatic Aberration, known as “color fringing” or “purple fringing”, is a very common optical problem that happens when a lens is either unable to bring all wavelengths of color to the same focal plane, and/or when wavelengths of color are focused at different positions in the focal plane. It is super normal, most lens experience this but to fix this on Lightroom or Photoshop, sometimes can mean that you’ll lose a bit of sharpness. Lens dispersion is the main cause of Chromatic aberration, with different wavelengths of colors inside the light traveling at different speeds while passing through a lens. As a result, the image can look blurred or evident colored edges can appear around objects, especially in high-contrast situations. On the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM the chromatic aberrations are almost unnoticeable. They are impressively well controlled with this amazing lens. In other hand, my Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG shows a fair amount of chromatic aberrations specially when you’re using at 70mm and the f/stop 2.8 or 5.6. Nothing that 1 click on Lightroom cannot fix it, I never saw it as a major issue, just saying that the Canon is far superior – another thing that makes the lens 1000€ more expansive.
Canon advertises this lens as NOT a macro lens, but I have to say that it delivers a fantastic performance even if you zoom all the way to 70mm, where the close-focus point is at 38cm from the film/sensor plane and Canon quotes a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.21x. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject and how good food photography can be with this versatile lens here. My Sigma wasn’t the best at this job but I could still do magic with it. The main difference I see between both options is clearly the sharpness but also how easier is to photograph with the Canon lens. You can get closer to the subject without much problems, the Sigma sometimes I had to be a bit far and then zoom in. Again, nothing major but worth to mention. Click on the image to see it full-res.
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM is by far the sharpest, fastest and best 24-70mm lens I’ve ever tried. No question, no doubt about it. But, it is one of the most expansive options in the market. If you’re serious with your photography, if you have already some years of experience and specially if you’re in need of an upgrade for work issues, I strongly recommend this lens. It is like a dream coming true the quality you will get on your images. Amazing! If you’re a photographer for just a few years, never had a f/2.8 lens or just need a cool, moderately cheap, easy lens to use during your travels or day-by-day, go with the Sigma. The Sigma, as I told you earlier, was my best friend for more than 7 years, and I’ve bought it used. In total I think my Sigma is working without a problem for 9 or 10 years straight! My Sigma was an incredible upgrade from my f/4 lens and it will be for you too.