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This lens is a brilliant all rounder, with great build and ergonomics, a very useful range of focal lengths (more on this below) and a good list of features like IS and USM to complete the package as a super kit lens - i.e one that you can use in a variety of situations but which delivers top notch image quality and control over aberrations and flare.
There may be lenses that offer greater maximum aperture, or have a greater range, or are wider, more telephoto, etc, but there really is nothing that can compare with the 24-105mm f4 in general multipurpose usage, a huge bonus for areas such as event shooting.
This is an L series lens, designed for professional use, and it is solid and tightly built from metal and high quality rubber on the zoom and focal rings. It feels like it's built like a tank, and although I wouldn't want to give it a knock, it feels robust enough that it could take it. Nothing flimsy about this lens.
Focal length and optics:
24 to 105mm is a brilliant wide-to-telephoto range, but you really get the best out of it on one of Canon's full frame models, the 5D series or some of the 1D series. On other camera bodies the wider end is much less impressive, and it's this availability of wide angle that really gives the lens such general utility. Perhaps look to the 17-85 f4-5.6 for a cheaper option for APS-C cameras.
The maximum aperture of f4 is reasonably modest, but sufficient and actually the perfect choice. f2.8 would make the lens far too big (and expensive) and actually with the image stabilisation built in and the excellent low-light performance on Canon's full frame cameras it's really not necessary to go wider than f4 - and the image quality is still great with the aperture wide open.
Image quality is professional spec - from f4 and throughout the whole zoom range the lens is a class act, with slight distortion at 24mm.
It also focuses reasonably close to the front element, so while true macro isn't possible you can capture close-up details nicely too - a good addition to an all purporse lens that does everything well and nothing spectacularly.
The lens has an ultrasonic motor, which means fast, accurate focusing is all done internally and can be manually overridden at any time. The focus really is blisteringly fast, it feels instant and really demonstrates Canon's particular mastery in this area - autofocus speed has always been a big draw to their camera and lens line-up.
The lens has a 77mm filter thread - the same as Canon's 17-40 and 24-70 lenses which may also make up part of a pro-kit, and means a saving in filters for ND, Polarisation, UV and so on. This is a nice touch.
One of Canon's greats, a true all-rounder that when paired with a full frame camera such as the Canon 5d mkII or mkIII, delivers amazing quality for a working professional or seriously demanding amateur.
I'll open this review by saying that I've worked as a professional photographer for a few years and I write my reviews from that point of view. Most magazine reviews I read of gear contain things that aren't too relevant to me: sharpness charts, aberation etc. What I ask my self though is:
- is it reliable?
- do the images it produce match my vision?
- are the outputs sharp enough etc for me and for my clients?
- does it do what I need it to do?
So when I write a review on something like this it is based on my "real world" experience of using the lens - no bench tests, no lab tests, just use in real life situations.
The 24-105mm gives a good all round focal length on a full frame camera like the 5dmk2 - 24mm is wide enough for most situations and 105mm is lovely for portraits or just when you need to get a little closer to the action. It'd probably be possible to shoot an entire wedding or portrait session using just this lens. I wouldn't want to, but you could!
On a crop frame camera the wide end is going to be less (e.g on 1.3x it'll be 34mm to 140mm) which is far less versatile for journalistic style coverage, weighted towards the longer end that'd make it more suitable for "shoot from a distance".
The F4 aperture is quite slow too - there's an argument these days that with such good high ISO performance on cameras you don't necessarily need fast lenses but for that shallow depth of field look you're going to struggle at anything above 75mm with only f4 to play with.
This lens comes with the IS affix which is Image Stabilisation. This allows you to shoot at a slower shutter speed and still get a sharp image...providing the subject is static. Personally I've never found a need for it, probably because any event I shoot where I'm at a slow shutter speed the subject is normally moving which makes IS pointless. I can see where IS might be useful on a longer focal length where hand-holding the camera at a slower shutter speed is problematic (e.g a 400mm lens taking a photo at 1/80th) but I honestly don't see a use with this kind of length. That might just be the kind of things I shoot though.
Like all Canon L lenses this one comes with decent weather sealing. I've used it in all sorts of conditions and knowing it's not going to let you down makes it one less thing to worry about.
This is the all important question...what are the images like? Well...it's an L lens, meaning it's expensive but the image quality is very very good. Canon do have some non-L lenses in their line up that have similar image quality (the 85mm f1.8 and the 100mm macro spring to mind) but there's something about the L's that stands out. For a lot of situations this lens is great. Colour rendition and sharpness leave nothing to be desired.
Where it lets me down though is at 24mm with anything close to you. For example, taking photographs from the back of a church at 24mm and all the columns bend in towards the middle - that kind of distortion is to be expected with a zoom, especially one of this range, but to me the distortion is just too much.
It might not be fair to compare it to other lenses that don't have the same range but the distortion of the 24-70mm f2.8L for example has far less distortion than this lens. Even at 35mm I found some distortion creeping in and while it's definitely not fair to compare it to the 35mm f1.4L prime (one of the Canon "Holy Trinity" of near perfect lenses) it is nonetheless so obvious when comparing shots side by side which lens is better that it makes me nervous about handing over some of those shot with the 24-105mm. I shot a wedding where I switched over between this lens and the 35mm f1.4 for some formal groups because of the distortion and the difference between the two lenses was night-and-day.
The images aren't bad, in fact by most standards they are very very good...but if your standards are better than most I'd opt for less range in the lens.
So what is this lens useful for? Well, for my wedding coverage I use a 24-70mm on one camera and a 70-200mm on the other and that covers more range than the 24-105mm, the lenses are faster, and the distortion much less. If I'm using a crop camera then I use the 16-35mm on full frame and the 24-70 on the crop and that covers a 16-94mm range with again much less distortion and faster lenses.
For video though, where you want to travel light and will stick around the 70-105mm range then this is a good choice...or if you want a travel lens to go away without much baggage, distorition isn't going to be a problem for you and neither is F4 then again, this is a great choice.
This lens still makes great images, even on an unforgiving camera like the 5D MkII. And it works really well on the crop cameras too, though 24mm isn't really wide angle at 1.6x.
Sure, there's some corner darkening at wide angle settings and the wider apertures on the 5D, and it does get sharper stopped down a bit, and it doesn't feel like it's made of solid granite either.
But as a working standard zoom it is excellent: lovely colour, excellent sharpness and very little distortion. The IS is good too. And it doesn't weigh a ton either. Handling is as you'd expect, and although the lens is plastic it doesn't feel slack.
But the best bit is that this lens goes from seriously wide - and 24mm does make for genuinely wide looking shots - to a really nice portrait telephoto. The 24-70 (which I don't own) may well be better optically (and should be I guess, because the range is smaller) but I like the extra reach of the 24-105mm.
Meanwhile the IS does help with the relatively modest light capturing abilities of the F4 max aperture - and if I want shallow depth-of-field I just switch to a prime.
A terrific all-rounder and relatively good value - especially when bought as part of a kit, when it can be a bargain.
Kit lenses in the past haven't been all that great. In fact the words, when used by some imply a derogatory sentiment. Adequate , acceptable etc. This really doesn't apply to the 24-105mm at all. It preferred use of lens among a few professional photographers I know and I myself use it a lot.
One of its best features is obviously image quality. Contrast and colour are two really features of this lens. It's not quite as sharp as other lenses when stopped down all the way, and for low light situations I can't recommend this lens over the 24-70mm or a good prime. However I've taken some great landscape shots with this lens and like-wise some great zoomed in shots of people and animals etc. There is some distortion when at F/4 which is its widest setting but this can be corrected in post/ with Photoshop. I personally don't mind. This is an L len so quality coated glass and features are expected.
It's very lightweight compared to its size, which is an attractive feature. It has IS which works really well to properly stabilize the image at maximum focal length. This also comes handy when using the video features on the 5D as it eliminates the need for a tripod or shoulder rig. Saying that the IS function will add to the quick heat up the camera under go while on live mode. It also creates noise so you may get interference.
To engage the IS function simply half press the camera's shutter trigger.
As a kit lens with the 5D you can save up to £200 pounds when bought in combination. I would highly recommend this standard zoom lens for wide to mid-range zoom length, image quality and usability.
Features: Professional quality standard zoom with a constant f4 maximum aperture. Image stabilisation gives around 3 stops leeway from camera shake. Front element does not rotate during focusing so easy use of filters. 77mm front element common across many L lenses allowing easy interchangeability of UV filters and polarisers. Compatible with EF and EF-S lens mounts. Comes with a nice soft lens pouch and the petal shaped hood is included.
Build Quality: Excellent. Typical L lens build. Very solid metal construction, weather sealed and both the zoom and focus rings have a lovely slick action making precision adjustments easy. I haven't had this lens long enough to test longevity but I've never had a failure with an L lens, and I've been using several for the best part of a decade (hence the 5 stars for reliability, but this is expected rather than confirmed).
Optical Performance: Contrast and colour reproduction are superb. Sharpness is very good for a zoom lens in this focal range but cannot match a good prime. On par with the 24-70 f2.8 L stopped down to f 8, but probably around half a stop behind in terms of sharpness at larger apertures. Vignetting is present at 24mm wide open, but not annoyingly so (for me, anyway). This disappears when stopped down and at longer focal lengths.My biggest issue with this lens is distortion, as there is very pronounced barrel distortion at 24mm. Canon DPP software will fix this completely, but images processed in other RAW converters might need a little Photoshop adjustment depending on the subject matter. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled.
Value: Okay, not the cheapest standard zoom lens but can be had for around £800 online and works out around £500 if bought as a kit with the 5D MkII. Only competition is the more expensive 24-70 L, which gives a faster f2.8 maximum aperture but lacks the IS. As far as L lenses go, it's very good value, especially if you get it as part of a kit.
Handling: Solid but not overly heavy, and reasonably short so easy to hand hold and doesn't upset camera balance. IS works beautifully. Focus and zoom rings are a joy to use and allow full time focus over-ride when in AF.
Conclusion: For people shooting weddings and other potentially low-light scenarios you may prefer the 24-70 2.8 L for it's superior light gathering if you're shooting with older camera bodies (the latest gen Canons have mid-ISO performance that makes a 1 stop advantage in glass redundant). That said, if you're shooting weddings you'll almost certainly have a fast 50 or similar in your kitbag anyway. As a standard zoom, the zoom range is more suited to full frame sensors unless you also own an ultra-wide. For shooting versatility though, this lens is pretty much peerless. Exceptionally high build quality and generally excellent optical performance (even wide open), coupled with superb handling and 3-stop IS. Highly recommended.
NOTE: battery life a bit N/A for lenses but I've given it a low score as IS lenses will drain batteries quicker than none-IS ones. This isn't a fault.
Great walkabout lens, would recommend it to people who cant stretch as far as the 24-70 2.8 by canon, but want to get into the Canon L Series of Lenses!! Nice smooth focus, IS and Great Colour Reproduction as well, not too heavy either. Downsides is the f4 aperture, that being it really - Average price is going to be approx £600 not the £1054 at Gasatu shown on this site!! Reccomended for Amateur or Semi Pro Photographers!!