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Conclusion - Pros

  • Superb, almost flawless optics
  • Impressive flare resistance
  • Fast, silent, and accurate autofocus
  • Excellent build quality including weathersealing

Conclusion - Cons

  • Unpleasant vignetting in the 50-70mm region at F2.8 on full frame
  • Noticeably lower image quality at close focus distances
  • No image stabilisation
  • Very expensive

Overall conclusion

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is the kind of lens that's always going to be held up to high scrutiny - it's the company's flagship standard zoom for professional photographers, and is expected to deliver top-notch results under all conditions. Happily, that's exactly what it does.

In fact, the 24-70mm II follows its big brother, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, in being a lens that's so good we've found it difficult to pick out any significant flaws. It's superbly sharp, even wide open, but manages to combine this with lovely bokeh. Distortion is pretty well under control (and of course easily corrected in post processing), and chromatic aberration extremely low. Vignetting can be a problem towards the long end on full frame cameras, with a very abrupt falloff in brightness in the corners at F2.8. But again that's easy to correct, either in post-processing, or in-camera with recent EOS models.

The 24-70mm deals well with difficult lighting too, and handles shooting directly into the sun without much image degradation due to flare. Autofocus is fast and decisive, and we've found it to be impressively accurate on higher-end cameras such as the EOS 6D. The entry-level EOS 650D can struggle to hit perfect focus every time at F2.8, but that probably reflects more on the camera than the lens. The build quality is difficult to fault too, combining weathersealing with a welcome wieght reduction compared to its predecessor.

The lens does have one clear optical flaw, although it's a comparatively minor one in practice. It gets very soft when shot wide open towards its minimum focus distance, and autofocus accuracy can suffer as a result. This means it's not a good choice for selective focus close-ups, but we suspect most serious users will choose a proper macro lens for this purpose anyway. Users of the older version should also be aware of the larger 82mm filter thread - but many Canon users will have bought accessories this size to match the EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM already.

The Final Word

Let's be clear here - the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is a very expensive piece of kit. In typical recent Canon fashion its MSRP at launch added a huge premium (~$1000) over its predecessor, and while the price has inevitably fallen since, at the time of writing it's still the most expensive 24-70mm AF lens on the market. It also has to contend with two much cheaper third party rivals, the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG HSM and the image-stabilised Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD. Indeed the latter highlights another potential drawback of the 24-70mm f/2.8 II: its lack of stabilisation, which could be particularly troublesome to users who want to shoot hand-held video alongside stills. This all raises the key question - is the new Canon worth it?

The answer, as usual, isn't necessarily clear-cut, and depends on each individual photographers' needs and preferences. Compared to the previous version, it offers weathersealing and a welcome reduction in weight. The Sigma can't match it optically, especially on full frame, but is so much cheaper that many users may well be willing to overlook this, particularly if they use APS-C cameras. The Tamron looks like a very worthy competitor, offering impressive image quality, image stabilisation and weathersealing all in one package, and we aim to assess it fully in the near future. But quite simply the Canon offers such exceptionally good optics that, if you're after the very best, there's simply no other choice.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
Category: Normal Lens
Optical Quality
Build Quality
Autofocus
Ergonomics and Handling
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Professional and serious enthusiast photographers looking for the best possible optics in an 'everyday' standard zoom lens.
Not so good for
Photographers who shoot a lot at close focus distances.
Overall score
87%
The EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is a near-flawless lens with optics that come very close to matching a set of top-quality primes. With fast, accurate autofocus and weathersealed construction, it's difficult to find any really serious faults at all.

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Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM review samples

35 images • posted 6th March 2013 • View album
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Comments

Total comments: 7
Kirk Sunglieng
By Kirk Sunglieng (4 months ago)

I just bought the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II for my 5D MK II. I agreed with the comment about the price of this lens without the IS. I am disagree with Canon on the claim that IS will compromise the image quality and the size of the lens, but I am a dedicate Canon user so I spent the money. I think there is something else along the way Canon has plan in the future for this focal length.

0 upvotes
Miguel Rodríguez
By Miguel Rodríguez (4 months ago)

I've just got my new 24-70 f2.8L II USM and so far looks incredible, performs much better than my 17-40 and Siggy 35 f1.4 @f4. It is comparable to my 70-200 f2.8 at 70mm. So it is an impressive piece of glass. I upgraded from my 24-105 after more than a year hesitating to do it, the reason is the 24-105 at the end of the day was not a lens I trusted 100% of the time, in my experience sometimes I managed to get good results, something not so good.

0 upvotes
Traingineer
By Traingineer (5 months ago)

Hold on, the Canon 24-70mm F2.8 L USM is weather proof. :|

0 upvotes
E3BD38BCFE804D08BAF6E6775FF4C0F6

Just a hobbyist, I bought the 24-70 f2.8L ii usm abt a yr ago happy with the overall performance but man oh man the 70-200 ii is usm just acquired last wk was beyond my expectations! At 70mm the later lens is certainly way better! Honestly, both lenses are pricy hope canon could lower their overall pricing to enable more users to join the rank of satisfied customers.

0 upvotes
CanonForLyf
By CanonForLyf (9 months ago)

This is the go-to lens for those wanting flawless image quality, but with the price tag of around $2,000 one would expect IS as an option. If you don't have this kind of money, I recommend the Canon 24-105mm F4L IS USM as an alternative.

1 upvote
FRANK MABRY SR
By FRANK MABRY SR (11 months ago)

I was a little reluctant to dive in and make the switch to the new 24-70.I have the old version and I am pretty happy with it. But the reviews have been so good .And after talking to a couple of different photographers and I have upgraded to the new 70-200 IS ll and noticed the difference between the old version and the new version so I said I would give it a try . It was well worth the money . I am glad that I upgraded. The images are crisp and very sharp all across the frame.I am very impressed.

1 upvote
ckoffend
By ckoffend (7 months ago)

I just received the new 70-200 2.8 IS vII. Wow, what a lens. I was expecting some improvement, but the level of improvement was beyond any of my expectations. So much so, that I am now considering the 24-70 vII.

As just a hobbyist, I am reluctant to dish out this amount of money, just a week or so after buying the 70-200 II, but oh that performance of the 70-200 was beyond my expectations! I shot a volleyball tournament last weekend, shot a similar tournament two weeks prior with the version I. My keeper rate was so much higher - and I can attribute my non-keepers to my own errors vs. that of the lens.

Just a hobbyist, but man am I addicted!

0 upvotes
Total comments: 7