The other day I bought the new Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L II USM lens. After using for only 3 days, I can honestly say that this is now my favorite canon lens. I had done my research and knew what I was buying, but still, it didn’t stop me from having a few niggling doubts in my mind. Doubts about the $2,300 price was my main concern. I knew it would be a great lens, but was it really worth that much money? I’ve been a photographer for a few years now but that does not stop me from questioning the price of camera gear.
When I got the lens home I placed it carefully on my desk. I looked at it for a minute almost as if I was letting the purchase sink in. I open the box and carefully pulled out the lens. It’s nothing amazing to look at. It’s just a lens. Okay, I will admit, I have the familiar “Red-Ring” fever. This is an affectionate way of describing a Canon shooters dedication to using nothing else but L series lenses. It describes me perfectly. Well, you can’t blame me really, they are exceptional quality.
So what’s so special about this lens that I simply must write a review about it? Firstly, the optical quality is nothing like Canon have ever done before. If you want sharpness then this is your lens. I found that apertures at around F11 offer more clarity and sharpness than other lenses at do at F11.
It will pick up the finer details of a subject in very low light. This is one of the benefits of using a fast lens. Fast lenses work well in low light. They do so because of the wide aperture. But wide apertures are not as sharp as smaller apertures, right? Right. So what do we do about focusing in low light? Does this lens still retain the sharpness of the image? Yes it does. To show you how sharp this lens is in low light I thought I’d take a couple of interior and low light shots to show you. I have also included some wider scenes to show you what the quality looks like at varying focal lengths. It’s always important to shoot at many different focal lengths and lighting conditions before you can confidently talk about a lens. So lets look at my first shot.
To demonstrate how this lens responds in low light I took a photo of our garden shed keys. This photo is straight out of the camera and into the ezine. In other words I have done no editing to it at all. I have simply used ambient window light without retouching or editing the photo. You can see the sharp detail at F2.8 even though the photo is clearly underexposed. Let’s look at the next photo:
Here is Daisy lounging about on the kitchen floor. Our kitchen has very little light, even to the naked eye. (I must put a skylight in one day). I have used no flash. I haven’t even turned the light on. What you see is ambient window light. The window light has been reflected from the tiles onto her chin and face. You can clearly see how (even at F2.8) sharpness is maintained on her face and nose from a couple of meters away.
I realise these photos are underexposed. I can easily repair that in Lightroom. But that’s not why I took them. I wanted to show you how sharp the lens is indoors at F2.8 without any extra lighting. You can see why I am extremely impressed.
Not only does the low light sharpness performance impress me, so does the responsiveness of the lens. I found that when I focused on an area of a subject it locked on and held sharp. I didn’t have to keep focusing all the time. Some lenses I have used in the past have had trouble focusing, especially when the subject was black or very dark grey. The lens held the focus quite sharply all the way to the edges. Admittedly I used a smaller aperture to maintain focus the entire scene, but it’s the speed and accuracy of how the lens handled this dark subject that impressed me the most.
I have not used a tripod in this photo. Neither have I used one in the shooting of these next few photos. Instead I wanted to see how the lens maintained focus and clarity. In a dark scene as this you would have definitely noticed camera shake. I would never have used 40th of a second to shot a dark scene such as this. I always use a tripod for slow shutters.
We have very dark tones against more dark tones. This can prove to be a problem as far as how the camera interprets the lighting. I could have used F2.8 to get more light in, but I wanted a long depth of field. The lens didn’t take long to find the focal point. I focused on the lock of the door. It was super fast time to find the focal point and it just stayed in focus. This is where you will hear the phrase “an intuitive lens”. Indeed it is.
I have been talking about focusing and sharpness in low light. What about responsiveness and other performance issues? Well, apart from being quick to focus, I am impressed by the lack of lens flare and no distortion at the edges. In some lenses you find some annoying distortion at the start or end of the focal length scale. For example some 24mm lenses can make the very edges of the image look like they were shot through a piece of glass. That’s because when the light hits the lens, it bends and creates a warping effect. Not with this lens. I have not noticed any distortion whatsoever. This applies to the 70mm end of the scale too.
It seems to pick up colours a lot better than any other lens I have used. So far all my colour adjustments have been very slight. This is great because it means you do not have to spend ages editing your photos. It just seems to pick up more accurate colour than my other lenses.
I have edited this in Lightroom, but not by much. The only thing I really did was deepen the blue and put a vignette around it. I only increased the colours very slightly. The building had a naturally rustic yet colourful look to it. I loved the how the texture and colour seemed to work together well. The colours you see are the way I saw them in real life. That’s the great thing about this lens; it “sees” everything clearly. When you make changes they are minor. In fact they are really only tweaks, rather than big edits. When you have a lens that does not respond as quick or as sharply you find that you spend more time editing photos.
Responsiveness, sharpness, better colour capture and optimum low light performance is what I love about this lens. It’s a little heavy in weight, but all the L series lenses are. I am used to weighty equipment now so it does not worry me in the slightest. I have yet to find out the science why this lens is so good. Canon have truly set precedent for the entire industry. I highly recommend this lens.