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Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM Preview

November 2012 | By Andy Westlake

Preview based on a pre-production Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM

Back in September Canon introduced the EOS 6D, its entry into the nascent 'compact, lightweight' full frame SLR segment. With the launch of the EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM, Canon has now revealed what's destined to be its 'kit' lens. The newcomer is relatively compact in size to match the ethos of the 6D body design, but sports the company's premium 'L' series designation. However this comes with a price tag that's sure to make more than a few Canon users catch their breath - we've been told the the RRP will be $1499 / £1499.99 / €1459. What remains to be seen, though, is how much it will cost in a kit with the 6D body.

The 24-70mm f/4 includes one relatively unusual feature - a macro mode offering up to 0.7x magnification, which is accessed by pulling forward the zoom lock switch and rotating the zoom ring past the 70mm mark. This is complemented by Canon's 'Hybrid IS' that's specifically designed to give better performance for close-up work than conventional IS systems (which tend to be ineffective for macro work). Overall this should add useful extra capability compared to most other standard zooms.

Aside from that, the specification is much as we'd expect from a premium Canon optic. The lens is dust- and splash-resistant, including a rubber seal around the mount. It incorporates a ring-type ultrasonic motor for fast, silent autofocusing, and offers full-time manual focus. The aperture uses a nine-bladed circular iris for attractive rendition of blurred backgrounds, and the front element has a fingerprint-resistant 'fluorine' coating. On paper at least, this all looks like an attractive package.

Headline features

  • 24-70mm focal length; constant f/4 maximum aperture
  • Macro mode with 0.7x magnification
  • 'Hybrid IS' optical image stabilization - 4 stops for normal shooting, 2.5 stops for macro
  • Dust- and splash-proof design
  • EF mount for APS-C and full frame Canon SLRs (and EOS M via Mount adapter EF-EOS M)

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM specifications

 Maximum format size 35mm full frame
 Focal length  24-70mm
 35mm equivalent focal length (APS-C)  38-112mm
 Diagonal angle of view  84° - 34°
 Maximum aperture  F4
 Minimum aperture  F22
 Lens Construction  • 15 elements in 12 groups
 • 2 UD glass elements
 Number of diaphragm blades  9, rounded
 Minimum focus  • 0.38m / 1.2ft (normal)
 • 0.20m / 0.7ft (macro)
 Maximum magnification  • Approx. 0.7x
 AF motor type  • Ring-type Ultrasonic Motor
 Focus method  Internal
 Zoom method  Rotary, extending barrel
 Image stabilization  • Hybrid IS
 • 4 stops (normal shooting)
 • 2.5 stops (macro mode)
 Filter thread  • 77mm
 • Does not rotate on focus
 Supplied accessories*  • Front and rear caps
 • EW-83L Lens hood
 • LP1219 soft pouch
 Weight  600g (21.2 oz)
 Dimensions  83.4mm diameter x 93mm length
 (3.3 x 3.7 in)
 Lens Mount  Canon EF

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X, Y, and Z and ideally A, B, and C.

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Total comments: 129

The lens looks great as a 500-600 € item, equivalent in price to Zuiko 14-54mm. At such price it would make sense and I would probably go for it. But I look at Canon's recent prices and I'm honestly wondering what they're smoking.

Martin Datzinger

Hmm, how about MTF plots?


I love that macro feature.


"One big question here is why you'd choose the 24-70mm f/4 over the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, which may be 7 years old, but offers a more versatile zoom range at a current street price around £850 / €900."

One word: *corners*

I just bought and almost immediately returned a 24-105L because the corners were shockingly bad all the way from 24-50mm. In its defense it *was* sharp on center, even wide open, but got rather soft and "dreamy" at 105mm. If I want "soft and dreamy" I'll shoot a 50-year-old Russian RF lens. And yes, I did my research - I wasn't expecting miracles but I wasn't expecting total, illegible mush 1/3 of the way into the frame either. The 15-85IS on a 7D killed the 24-105/5DIII in every way.

If the new 24-70L IS is sharp into the corners wide open (and f/4 is not *really* very wide open...) it will be worth every cent. Ditto for the new 35/2 IS - I can't wait to get my hands on one of these - if it performs like the new 24 & 28 IS lenses it will be a winner, IMO.

The A-Team

Another word: macro.

1 upvote

i'd rather not flip lens constantly to save 250 over the 24-105L price.

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting

I've never seen a zoom lens (FF, APS or MFT) that's sharp edge to edge at any price. I've never even seen a wide angle prime lens (FF, APS or MFT) that's sharp edge to edge at any price. So, unless this lens is magic, it's overpriced by 500 %, since blurry, distorted edges will make it useless for any wide angle shooting I do. To sum it all up, all the wide angle zooms I've ever seen up to now are anywhere from poor to total garbage.

1 upvote

"I've never seen a zoom lens... that's sharp edge to edge at any price.... To sum it all up, all the wide angle zooms I've ever seen up to now are anywhere from poor to total garbage."

Well then you better catch up and start learning and seeing then...borrow a Nikkor 14-24 f2.8 for one, and start "seeing it".

Comment edited 39 seconds after posting

Though there are other warts with regular 4/3rds, the Zuiko zooms such as the 7-14mm f4, 14-35mm f2, 35-100mm f2, 90-250mm f2.8 defy your blanket statments. Even the standard grade 9-18mm, 11-22mm, 14-54mm, 12-60mm, 50-200mm rock corner to corner.


My Zuiko 14-54 II is sharp corner to corner, even wide open. Stopped down one stop it´s not just sharp, it´s very very sharp!

This goes also for the 12-60 & extremely well for the 14-35/2 Olympus makes.

That much for "no wa-zooms are sharp c to c at any price"


You all must have magic lenses then. But my eyes have not yet seen any wide angle image sample (or test chart) that's sharp edge to edge. For example, 3 months ago I saw samples of some wide angle prime (35 mm, I think) shot at f4!... and 20% of either side was blurred and distorted, and this was a $1000 lens! So if I took a group portrait, all the faces on the sides would have been blurred and unusable. Now remember, I'm NOT talking about 50mm and up... some of those are fine.


With sooo many canon zooms, what I need is a 14mmZomm f2.8 like the nikon, 85mm f1.4 and why so many primes with I.S 24mm, 28mm and the 35mm? I'd prefer a 50mm 1.8 with I.S.


SHEEEE! If canon will listen to you they will have an excuse to drop the 50mm f1.8 and make it with IS for some 450€ or more!!! o_O

If canon keeps like this i will be forced to CHANGE brand for real!!! ):(

(that said, an 50mm f1.8 with IS would be SOOO sweet!!! XD
But i'm still waiting for a 180-230€ EF-S 30mm f1.8 with a DECENT build quality! Since my 50mm f1.8 that i loved optically BROKE- 100% pure plastic!!! X(

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 7 minutes after posting

Hybrid IS on the 100mm F/2.8 L is highly regarded for its video performance, enabling steady handheld portrait shots.

This would be an amazing run and gun video performer on a 5dII/I, 6D. The 24-105 has one of Canons oldest IS systems, hybrid IS should be noticeably better for video.

With the macro function you could even do B roll pick up shots hand held, little 1 or 2 second pieces of video to cut up a standing interview you also did hand held. This could be used on assignment across the world, anywhere where you can bring ONE bag, no tripod.

Much lighter than the Tamron F/2.8 IS which honestly is what I consider to be in direct competition. I'd love to see a comparison between the two when it comes to hand held video performance

Comment edited 57 seconds after posting

What do people use these f/4 lenses for? Is there an inherent advantage with them for closer distance focusing? Is it something with the fact that its easier to put an image stabilizing system on the smaller glass? Are people only thinking of gaining stops from hand held motion? Or is it simply that they're less expensive and IS is considered a consumer feature? Having been schooled by a film photography pedagogy, I would never think to spend money on such a slow lens that (from my perspective) can only be used with studio strobes or in bright sunlight. I can't imagine the practicality of a lens with such a slow maximum aperture outside of large format photography. For reals, I wanna know.

1 upvote

Quite a bit lighter and smaller. If people made F/2.8 work when ISO 800 film was the norm surely we can make F/4.0 work with clean ISO 3200 raw.

This is the ultimate reporter lens in combination with the 6D. Extremely compact and tremendous video performance along with the stills.

That lens plus the 6d probably would be light enough and well balanced enough to shoot moving hand held video.

1 upvote

Thanks. In the context of Canon's superb high ISO performance, I guess it does makes sense.


I'm a pro who uses the 24-105 f/4L frequently. Sure, I'd prefer 2.8, but the 24-70 f/2.8L (which I also have) is a bit short on the long end as an all-in-one lens for events and such. I often do carry an extra body, sometimes longer glass, sometimes with a wider faster prime, depending on the nature of the work I'm doing. But the primary camera (often the one with the 24-105 f/4L) usually does 90% of the shooting.

The f/4 is sharp enough on my 5D2, and the bokeh-philes will complain that you can't isolate a subject enough. Cameras these days are fine at higher ISOs, and the IS certainly helps with handholding.

10 years ago, I was using ISO50 to ISO200 film (chromes), and even with primes, shutter speeds were well below what I'm getting with my 5d2. Hell, even 5 to 6 years ago, with my 5d1, I couldn't crank up the ISO as much as I can now.

I'm sure Canon's choice to go f/4 on the 24-70 has to do with keeping the size reasonably small (the 6D is more consumer oriented).


1) With quite useable ISO3200-6400 of modern FF sensors and 4 stop IS you can get nice shots in pretty dim natural light;
2) DoF at f/4 on a FF sensor is shallow enough for nice portraits if you choose background wisely.

So plenty of uses.


Yeah but surely if you're photographing people you really don't want to be going lower than 1/60th of a second unless you can get them to stand perfectly still. I can see the sense of it on an AoV greater than 60mm, but this isn't, practically.

If you're not keeping the camera steady at that maybe you should be asking if you're cut out for the photography lark.

I can't help feeling IS on short focal length cameras [even slow ones] is not much more than gimmick - and a pricey one at that [and I have a 24-105 F4L simply because I couldn't afford the 24-70 F2.8...]


Indeed, let's not forget that F/4 on full frame gives DOF similar to an F/2.8 lens on a crop body.

1 upvote

I think it makes sense to have a separate line of f/2.8 zooms without IS, and f/4 zooms with IS.

Why? Because you buy f/2.8 lenses for bokeh, and IS negatively affects the bokeh.

Keep in mind that apertures smaller than f/2.8 can be useful, and in those cases stabilization is very useful as well.


Chris2210, perhaps not everybody using <$2k L lenses is a professional photographer :). Wouldn't be too surprising to find out that Canon sold more say 24-105/4 lenses to amateurs than to professionals. IS in a wide angle lens would be very useful for an amateur. Think about say cityscape night shots, where lower ISO is very welcome but you don't have a tripod.

Debankur Mukherjee

No internal focusing for a f4 lens.......dont like.....


you mean zooming? all L lens are focuses internally.

1 upvote
Abhijith Kannankavil

center pinch cap??? great.

But, the price. :( Hope they dont update the 24-105 anytime near.


Re pinch-style lens cap - I guess they learned a trick from an old dog ;) It's been about time.

The price is high for this type of lens indeed. Hopefully its performance can back that up. Let's wait and see the full blown review/test.


Who cares about price. Look at these pinch caps!!!


They obviously have to recover the R&D costs that went into the pinch cap design!

1 upvote

Alright, typical Canon crap. I have the Tamron 28/75 2.8. Have been using it happily for about 8yrs! Canon finally comes out with a lens that can compete with it and now its a f4. For $1500! I dont think so. I think I paid about $350 for mine. Oh, and its macro as well!

Fazal Majid

Canon finally got the memo and includes a center-pinch lens cap.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting

"it's decently built" ?! That's the first time I hear such a statement about an L. Doesn't sound too good. Or maybe the perspective was skewed by the price. :)


At those prices it should be built out of duranium and tritanium in order not to be classified as so-so. :)

paul johe

I think lens 'size' matters in near future. Can be a good travel and all around lens. I do have 24-105 but its size is big for personal uses.


$1499 and £1499, why do we in the UK always get ripped off?

Gregory J McConville

VAT. It's what Obama is trying to do to us.

Total comments: 129