This one goes to 11... The new Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
|The new Canon EF 24-70 F/2.8L II USM|
Today I wanted to share some feedback on one exciting lens to arrive, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM.
First off, the 10 year old Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM mark I isn't something that should be forgotten or overlooked. It was considered by many, a fantastic lens in its own right. A staple by many journalists and wedding photographers, it was considered by many to be the perfect zoom for up close and personal. However I personally never liked it for a few reasons.
First off the Mark I had strong vignetting wide open and the edge performance was weak to me. Ironically I love vignette, but when a lens has too much of it, it can be distracting. However I found the edges to be soft and suffered from some really bad chromatic aberrations. Now to be fair, the copy I had might have been a bad one. One of the things I've heard about that lens is that the front element can be easily decentered (from bumps, or drops). I'm willing to admit that my original copy was a lemon and that I never did try another copy after that poor experience. Also I didn't like the background blur (bokeh). I found it was a bit jittery and it's possible this is related to the non-rounded 8 blades while the new mark II now has 9 rounded blades. Other things I didn't like about it was the weight distribution, the backwards zoom where the element extended forwards for wide angle, and the oversized lens hood (although I've been pointed out that it's actually a clever design that helps with both tele and wide variable hood lengths).
Although I feel I'm in the minority with my feelings of the Mark I, Canon decided it was time to update this lens. Several things were updated from the old such as the 9 rounded aperture blades, but also the addition of 2 more elements over the older design. 1 Super UD and 2 UD elements. No change on the closest focus of .38m
|Zoom lock and locking lenshood|
Canon EF 24-70mm F/2.8 Mark I and Mark II Specifications
|Mark I||Mark II|
|Lens Construction||16 elements in 13 groups||18 elements in 13 groups|
|Special Lens Elements||3 aspherical and 1 UD element||3 aspherical, 2 UD Elements and 1 S-UD element|
|Number of Diaphragm Blades||8||9 (rounded)|
|Diagonal Angle of View (image circle)||74° – 29°||84° – 34°|
|Diagonal Angle of View (sensor)||84° – 34°||84° – 34°|
|Closest Focusing Distance||0.38m/1.25 ft.||0.38m/1.25 ft.|
|Magnification Ratio||0.28x / 1:3.45 (at 70mm)||0.21x / 1:4.76 (at 70mm)|
|Focus System||Full Time Manual - USM/Front-Focus||Full Time Manual - USM/Inner Rear-Focus|
|Zoom System||Rotating||Rotating with Zoom Lock|
|Measurements (at maxiumum size)||83.2mm x 123.5mm||88.5 x 113mm|
|Accesories||Lenshood, pouch||Locking Lenshood, pouch|
|Envrionmental Seals||Dust and Moisture resistant||Dust and Moisture resistant|
|Misc.||Hood does not extend||Fluorine coated front and rear elements for easier cleaning (also keeps dust and fingerprints off)|
It still has that crappy side pinch lens cap. Seriously, what is the deal with this lousy cap? Did they manufacture enough to equip 200 million L lenses or something? The other feature that some might take issue with is the new lens filter size of 82mm. Generally speaking, this size is very specialized and expensive, but more and more lenses are showing up with the larger filter sizes. Do I welcome it, not willingly, but do I appreciate this to improve the design of the lens - absolutely. Fortunately for me I do have some 82mm filters from my 16-35mm F/2.8L mark II.
|No issues handholding this and getting sharp crisp images. |
F2.8 1/40 sec, ISO 3200
The build quality of the new 24-70 is going to surprise a few people. The exterior shell is all polycarbonate which is very similar to the 100mm L macro build. I've seen a tear down of the lens and it's a nice balance of metal and plastic, but much of the improvements in the lens are very welcome for more rugged use. Before people get all up in arms about the exterior build material I will add my own anecdotal evidence about why this is better. High impact plastics like polycarbonate are designed to withstand all sorts of abuse. Certainly it's softer than steel, magnesium, aluminum and rocks, but personally I don't drag my cameras through gravel or get stoned on a regular basis, but on not one occasion, but three occasions I've dropped my similar build 100mm L macro onto concrete. All times they had lens hoods, rear cap and front cap. Twice it has rolled down my concrete driveway of 20 feet (after a drop of 5 feet), another time it tumbled end over end across a parking lot. Had this been the original 24-70 I can guarantee it would be toast. The metal would have deformed, and chances the helicoid cams would have been misaligned or out of calibration. All three times my 100mm macro survived, and the real kicker - NOT A SINGLE SCRATCH!
|Polycarbonate shell increases on durability but also reduce weight.|
feedback from Roger Cicala of Lens Rentals. He measure 5 copies of the lens and found them to be so good, that he was bold enough to say they outperformed the very best prime lenses of Canon's. I trust in Roger because he sees hundreds of copies of lenses and probably has far better results of consistency than any other user out there. I'd even be bold enough to say that his results may be far more accurate than all the top review sites who generally only test anywhere from a single copy to maybe three. Regardless, his assertion that this lens is better than almost all the lenses out there got me considering it was time for a change.
Now I know some people might think I'm impulsive and that I go through a lot of gear changeovers. I don't do this lightly and much of it I consider well before I do so. I enjoy trying out everything I can get my hands on, and I also like to give everything a fighting chance. I'm a trained designer and part of that is trying to understand the original intent of the creators of any device or product. Regardless of my rationale, I was not disappointed when I got my hands on this lens. It is all they claimed it would do and then more.
Huge improvements in edge sharpness. Shooting this lens wide open was a bit of a surprise just how well it worked. But also with the 5Dmk3 and its superior auto focus, it is amazing how fast and well it locks on. I've been struggling to get my F/1.4 lenses to be this good. I will admit that those issues are my fault, but with this lens, I have yet to use it wrong. It's bomb proof, but it's also depth of field proof. When I say that, I mean that in the lightest remarks in that the shallower the depth of field, the more likely a person will make focusing errors (and blame the camera for it).
|50% crop - AF is very fast and accurate.|
I can say without any apprehension that this lens is fantastic for wide angle landscape. There's a tiny bit of CA at the edges in high contrast scenes but nothing that software can't correct but I also compared it to my images from the 24mm F/1.4 and found it to be almost identical (.03%). There's a little more barrel distortion with this lens over the 24mm prime, about 1.5% more for a total of around 2.4%. Considering that this is a zoom, these numbers are excellent. The images do appear sharper than my 24mm prime which would match the Imatest results that Roger Cicala found over the 24mm T-SE which has similar properties and considered the sharpest prime. This certainly has made me happy with my decision.
Focus speed seems faster than the older 24-70, however I have no way to confirm that at this moment (I'll revisit this when I can). But I am going to assume that it is likely faster with the 5Dmk3 as the current generation of lenses that use the new AF technology in the 2012 generation of cameras. Focusing in low light is easy. I tested some focus acquisitions in .3 EV of light and it hunted for a little, but nailed the focus after a couple of seconds which is very impressive. For event shooting where you want to freeze the action or capture the moment, this lens will not disappoint.
I self admittedly was a victim of bokehitis and it seems the hunt for the best and blurriest background became quite an obsession for myself (as I'm sure other photographers can confirm within themselves). I guess what snapped me out of this was the fact that I assessed the majority of my commercial work and most of it was stopped down from F/2 to F/8 for most portrait applications (in many cases I shot at F/5.6). In the cases where I shot wide open at F/1.2 or F/1.4 I was lucky to get a successful shot, but subjectively wasn't all that great because my subjects were mostly blurry with exception of the single plane (don't get me wrong... I love the look, but many times I hear from clients if I have images that have more in 'focus'). For those that might consider this as a first fast lens, I would say yes. It really is the more forgiving of fast lenses that gives you great subject isolation when you need it without making 60% of your subject's face out of focus. The trend for blurry blurry backgrounds is a fantastic arty applications, but when you need to ensure your shot, this lens does not disappoint. Another benefit of having a standard zoom like this is being able to go from a full body to a close head shot with a turn of the zoom ring.
Regardless of whether you think you need shallow depth of field, the subjective point I'll make is that this lens does the job. No fuss, no failures, it just works. Although I've only had this a short while. The shots that I have taken have not disappointed me. Even in a quick from the hip shot, to a speedy, without thought, composition moment, it seems this lens is up to the challenge. I am uncertain of the AF improvements made in the lenses of the past year, but certainly this lens is very fun to use, but also very practical for the working professional.
|An absolutely fantastic lens for landscape. This one shot handheld too.|
I believe this lens will be great for landscape photographers, event, portrait and product. It really is that flexible, and that good. I'll continue to test this lens out, and intend on setting up a few special shoots where I can share the results with my readers. For now, I'm going to be bold and give an early score for this lens which I say is worth an 11 out of 10.
It really is that good. I highly recommend this lens if you can afford it. I know this question will come up, so I will answer it before I receive it. Should you replace your mark I lens with this lens? Generally speaking I would say no. The mark I is still a fabulous lens, and if you've been an owner of that lens for some time and love it, then there's no reason to change. The upgrades in the mark II probably won't make a difference to how people perceive your images in the long run. I recommend holding onto that lens and using the extra money towards something more exotic, perhaps something like a 135mm F/2L lens. For those like me with a range of primes that covers this zoom range and wants to reduce lens changes, this is the lens that seems to do it all. If you're not fixated on lenses below F/2.8 and looking for prime lens image quality, then this is the zoom standard that does it all.
To see my growing image samples from this lens, visit this link at my flickr site.