The EF 24-70mm F2.8L II USM features a design that's absolutely typical of Canon's current L-series normal or wide zooms. It has a generously-sized manual focus ring at the front, with the zoom ring placed close to the camera body. Between them you'll find a focus mode switch on the left of the barrel, a simple focus distance scale on top, and a zoom lock switch on the right. The focus ring in particular feels very smooth; on our review sample the zoom ring was slightly stiffer in action.

Construction is noticeably lighter in weight than the older tank-like 24-70mm F2.8, but it still feels very solid and there's no obvious reason to doubt its durability. There's a rubber O-ring seal around the mount, in keeping with Canon's description of the lens as a water- and dust-proof. One notable difference compared to the previous version is a more conventional zoom operation, with the lens physically shortest at the 24mm position. But this results in the loss of its predecessor's clever lens hood design, which provided deep shading at the telephoto end; instead you just get a shallow petal-type hood.

Compared to EF 24-105mm F4 and 24-70mm F4 lenses

Left to Right - Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS USM, Canon EF 24-70mm F4L IS USM, Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8L II USM

Here's the 24-70mm F2.8 II on the right, side-by-side with Canon's other current 'L' series standard zooms for full frame. It's the largest of the three, although not by much, and the additional glass needed to achieve the F2.8 aperture means it's noticeably heavier. Both of the F4 lenses feature image stabilization, which to degree makes up for the smaller maximum aperture, and the 24-70mm F4 has a macro function offering 0.7x magnification.

The table below compares the lens's key specifications to both its predecessor and the main alternatives available for Canon users, including the lenses shown above and 24-70mm F2.8 zooms from Tamron and Sigma. The new 24-70mm F2.8 is notably smaller and lighter than the previous version (and its Nikon and Sony equivalents too), indeed it's very similar in size to the image-stabilized Tamron model. The Sigma, meanwhile, is unusually compact.

 Focal length  24-70mm  24-70mm  24-70mm  24-105mm  24-70mm  24-70mm
 Aperture  F2.8  F2.8   F4   F4  F2.8  F2.8
 • No  • No  • Yes  • Yes  • Yes  • No
 0.21x  0.29x  0.7x  0.23x  0.21x  0.19x
 AF motor  Ring-type
 Filter thread  82mm  77mm  77mm  77mm  82mm  82mm
 Weight  805g
 (1.77 lb)
 (2.09 lb)
 (1.32 lb)
 (1.48 lb)
 (1.82 lb)
 (1.74 lb)
 Diameter  89mm
 Length  113mm
 • Yes  • No  • Yes  • Yes  • Yes  • No

Click here for a detailed specification comparison between these lenses

Click here for a detailed specification comparison between current 24-70mm F2.8 lenses, including those from Sony and Nikon

On the camera

The 24-70mm is a fairly sizeable beast, and handles best on bodies with a decent-sized handgrip such as the EOS 6D shown left. On the smaller entry-level bodies such as the EOS 650D it becomes more a case of holding the body by the lens than vice versa. The zoom ring is perfectly placed towards the centre of the overall combination, and the focus ring is within easy reach too.

If we have a criticism, it would be that the zoom lock switch is a little awkwardly-placed if you find yourself suddenly needing to unlock the lens to grab a shot. But this also means that you're unlikely to lock the zoom accidentally; of course it won't matter at all if you choose not to lock the lens when putting it into your bag.


The 24-70mm is designed as Canon's 'go to' lens for photojournalists, and as we'd expect its autofocus performance is excellent. Focusing is fast and silent, and on higher-end bodies we've found it to be consistently accurate. This isn't necessarily the case on the EOS 650D, though, on which we've seen inconsistent focusing when shooting wide open. But to be fair we wouldn't expect many owners of this camera to buy such an expensive lens. As always, though, it must be noted that focus speed and accuracy is dependent upon a number of variables, including the camera body used, subject contrast, and light levels.

Switch from the optical viewfinder to live view, though, and the story changes. Focusing slows down considerably, although the exact speed will be highly dependent on the camera used. It's still pretty quiet, but if you refocus during movie recording, the clicking of the AF motor as it fine-tunes focus might be audible on your soundtrack in quieter conditions.

Lens body elements

The 24-70mm features Canon's standard EF lens mount, and will work on all its digital SLRs regardless of sensor size.

A rubber 'O'-ring around the mount helps prevent dust or moisture from getting into the camera.
The filter thread is 82mm, larger than the previous version's 77mm, but the same size as used by the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM.

Due to the lens's internal focus design, the filter thread doesn't rotate on focusing. This means filters such as polarisers and neutral density gradients are much easier to use.
The bayonet-mount petal-type hood is provided as standard, and clicks positively into place on the front of the lens. There's a locking button on the side to prevent it from coming off accidentally.

The hood is made from thick plastic, and lined with black felt to minimize reflections of stray light into the lens.

The zoom ring has a grip that's 21mm wide, and rotates 70 degrees anticlockwise from wideangle to telephoto with a smooth, if slightly stiff action. It's marked at the 24, 28, 35, 50 and 70mm positions.
The focus ring has a 23mm-wide ridged rubber grip, and rotates 100 degrees clockwise from infinity to 0.38m. Its action is nice and smooth, and it doesn't rotate on autofocus.
The lens has a basic distance scale, with markings in metres and feet, but no depth-of-field indicators or IR focus index.
The small focus mode switch is placed on the upper left of the lens barrel. As usual with a Canon ring-type USM lens, you can manually tweak the focus in AF mode.
There's a switch on the other side of the barrel that locks the zoom in its fully retracted position (i.e. 24mm). Canon says that using this reduces the risk of damaging the lens when taking it in and out of a camera bag.

Reported aperture vs focal length

The 24-70mm II offers an aperture range from F2.8 - F22 at all focal lengths.