Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II vs. 24-70mm f/4L IS vs. 24-105mm f/4 L IS (and more?)

Anyone who spends any time in photography forums discussing Canon lenses has seen this topic come up regularly: the comparisons between the 24-70 and 24-105mm L zoom options. If you follow this subject you are familiar with posts asking which of these lenses is “best” or claiming that one or another is great and the others are poor, and with the ensuing debates. Rather than re-writing what I have to say about this every time the subject comes up, I thought I would post once here and then link back to this article.

(Update 1/4/13: Things have changed in significant ways since I first posted this review back in 2011 – primarily with the introduction of two newer Canon 24-70mm L zooms. I have made a few updates to this post to reflect those changes. I have now had the opportunity to use the updated Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens. It is also a very fine lens and a great performer. In addition, there is now a Canon EF 24-70mm f/4.0L IS USM lens as well, and the Canon 24-105mm f/4L F/4.0L IS lens is still available. Canon shooters have an over-abundance of good lenses that cover the 24mm to whatever-mm focal length range at this point. All three of these current lenses are excellent options and the functional differences among them now are the primary basis for selecting one over the others. If you need f/2.8 and are OK with a smaller focal length range and not having IS, the 24-70mm f/2.8 could well be your choice. If you can get along without f/2.8, are OK with the smaller focal length range, would like IS, can make use of semi-macro capabilities and want a smaller lens, then the 24-70mm f/4 IS lens can be a great option. If you don’t need f/2.8,  but do value image stabilization and a significantly larger focal length range, the 24-105 is a wonderful choice. )

(Update 1/8/15: And now there is yet another lens in this general category from Canon, the EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens. I have incorporated some information about this option below.)

(A disclaimer: I own and use the 24-70mm f/2.8L II and the 24-105mm f/4L IS, but do not own the older 24-70 f/2.8 nor the new 24-70 f/4 IS  and therefore only know the latter lenses by reputation, specifications, test results, reviews, and reports from fellow photographers.)

To begin with, a few general thoughts about comparing lenses and other gear:

  1. Best” and “better” are relative rather than absolute concepts – what is “best” must be considered relative to each photographer’s particular needs. Rather than asking “Which is the best lens?” it makes more sense to ask, “Which is the best lens for me?
  2. Too many people overstate the differences, suggesting not only that one option is God’s Own Perfect Lens, but that some alternative is Optical Awfulness Embodied. In reality, both options lie much closer together along the spectrum of quality.
  3. In many cases both (or all) of the compared lenses are excellent. When your personal comparison results in a decision that one thing is better than the other for you, it does not necessarily follow that “the other thing” is no good or even deficient in a general way or for other photographers.
  4. When comparing lenses, sharpness is not only a more complex topic than it might seem… but it is also not the only or even necessarily the most important factor. Flexibility, size and weight, cost, functional features, suitability to intended use, and much more can be more significant than small differences in image quality.
  5. It is risky to take online forum reports too seriously. For one thing, people are far more likely to post about a perceived problem than about something that works fine, and when they do post about a problem they can become quite emotional about it. For another, depending upon the particular people who get involved in the discussion, a single incident – sometimes misinterpreted or of questionable context – can become inflated into scores or hundreds of posts and become a negative online meme. One the other hand, confirmation bias can often color the viewpoints of those who own particular pieces of equipment, causing them to speak/write it ways that reinforce the wisdom of their own choices. (Forums are useful and interesting — just maintain healthy skepticism regarding what you read in them.)
  6. Considering a lens on its own is useful, but photographers also need to consider how a lens fits into the overall set of lenses they use on their camera body or bodies. If you identity a weakness in the performance of one lens, this weakness may be less important if you have another lens that is strong in that area.
  7. No lens is perfect. Each has strengths and weaknesses, comprising what I like to call its personality. While lens A might have a weakness in some aspect of its performance, lens B probably has a weakness in some other area. The strengths of the two lenses may also be somewhat different.

The Lenses

I start with the premise that all of these lenses are quite good and that excellent photographs can be produced with any of them. In many cases, other reviewers hold essentially the same point of view. While you can certainly find reviewers who will state that one or the other is “better” in a specific or general way (or, in photographic hyperbole-speak, “It blows the other lens away!”), the overall trend is to recognize all of them as being basically very fine lenses.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II Lens

In late 2012 Canon released an updated version of their 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, adding the “II” to its name to differentiate it from the previous version described briefly below. This new lens produces excellent image quality throughout its focal length range and at all apertures including f/2.8. The f/2.8 maximum aperture slightly extends its ability to shoot in low light, especially when subject motion may be the limiting factor, and provides a bit more control of depth of field than the f/4 alternatives. Canon changed the design of the newer lens to one that extends the front element at longer focal lengths. (The older version extended at shorter focal lengths.) This is not a small or light lens – in fact it is relatively heavy for the focal length range it covers, from decently wide at 24 mm to only slightly telephoto at 70mm. (Note that the effect on a cropped sensor camera would be to barely cover wide angles at all, but to extend further into what is generally thought of as the “portrait” telephoto range.) One other change in the newer lens is the use of a larger 82mm filter thread. This is bigger than the somewhat standard 77mm diameter used in a number previous L zooms, though it shares this diameter with the 16-35mm f/2.8L II. This is the most expensive of the lenses in this category.

EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L (no longer current but available used)

(This lens has been replaced by the newer version II described above. I have left the description here for those who might be considering a used lens.) This lens has a strong reputation as a solid “normal” zoom on full frame Canon cameras. It can reportedly produce fine image quality throughout its focal length range, and the f/2.8 aperture slightly extends its ability to shoot in low light, to deal with moving subjects, and to minimize depth of field (DOF). Resolution is very good for a zoom, though it should be no surprise that the image softens some, especially in the corners, wide open — this is normal. Some report that it is a bit softer than the 24-105, but consider this in the context of both lenses being good performers. It has an interesting “backwards” design in which the lens extends as it goes wider, which has an effect on lens hood function that many regard as positive. The lens is not small nor is it light. The 24mm wide focal length gets to the start of the ultra wide range on a full frame camera, though it isn’t particularly wide on a cropped sensor body. The 70mm focal length begins to get into the short end of the portrait focal length range on full frame, and certainly does “go there” on crop.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4.0L IS Lens

This new lens design was released near the very end of 2012. It reportedly provides excellent image quality in roughly the same general category as the other current 24-70 and the 24-105. It shares the smaller f/4 maximum aperture and image-stabilization with the 24-105mm lens, and the smaller focal length range with the f/2.8 24-70mm lenses. It has a relatively compact form factor and it adds a semi-macro capability that may be very useful to some photographers – it is not a true macro lens but it does allow very close focusing. It reportedly is less subject to barrel distortion at 24mm than the 24-105. Pricing is roughly midway between the f/2.8 24-70mm lens and the f/4 24-105mm lens, though expect some variability after this lens has been out for a while – in other words, expect its price to decrease. (Update: Since the introduction it has been possible to purchase this lens at prices significantly lower than the introductory pricing.)

Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS Lens

This lens also has a strong reputation as a solid “standard” zoom on full frame Canon bodies. It also produces generally excellent image quality across its range. The addition of image-stabilization (IS) extends the use of the lens by several stops in low light shooting as long as the limiting factor would otherwise be camera stability rather than subject motion. (When it comes to dealing with camera stability in low light, while f/2.8 gets you a one-stop improvement over f/4, IS gets you perhaps three stops or so.) Resolution is quite good for a zoom, being best in the middle of the range and perhaps being a bit less sharp at 105mm, where it is still quite good. As with all of these lenses, the 24mm wide focal length borders on ultra wide with a full frame camera, though it is not really very wide at all on cropped sensor bodies. The 105mm focal length at the long end provides more “reach” and goes will into the “portrait” focal length range on full frame, and well beyond on cropped sensor bodies. For its focal length range the lens has a reasonable weight and bulk. Given its larger focal length range, it isn’t surprising that it exhibits more barrel distortion at 24mm and light fall-off (“vignetting”) at f/4 – in some cases you’ll want to correct for this in post.

EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

(Added 1/8/15) This lens was released by Canon 2014. I have not used it, so the following description comes from reading specs, reviews, and discussions about the lens, and not from first-hand experience. The lens initially might seem like a less expensive version of the 24-105mm f/4L IS lens mentioned above, but it isn’t quite that simple — in some ways it might seem like a less-capable lens, but it also offers some attractions for certain photographers. It is less expensive (by almost half, if we check list prices) that the other Canon 24-105, mostly because it seems to be intended as a sort of “kit lens.” It does have full frame coverage (unlike the EFS lenses) and image stabilization, and the image quality is reportedly quite good. It is lighter and said to have a less solid-feeling construction. It has a variable aperture system with the full f/3.5 available at 24mm but a maximum aperture of f/5.6 at 105mm. It uses a different sort of focusing motor —  a design that is less capable in some ways (not as fast and it uses a “fly by wire” manual focus system) and more capable in others (the STM motor is more suitable for AF while shooting video.) Given the list price cost differential this lens seems quite appealing for many users. However, the 24-105mm f/4L IS is often available at prices much below its list price. That lens is ubiquitous because it has been offered as part of a “kit” on some full frame cameras. This lowers the cost in several ways, including when some buyers purchase the kit and then immediately sell the lens. And, for this reason and others, the cost of good quality used f/4 L lenses of this type is frequently about the same as that of the STM lens.

Choosing a Lens

So, how to decide? Rather than thinking first about the lenses themselves think first about your photography. After all, you aren’t looking for The World’s Best Lens – you are looking for the lens that works best for your photography. How do you shoot? What subjects do you shoot? In what conditions do you shoot? What do you do with your photographs? How would any of these lenses fit into your current collection of equipment or the setup you are gradually acquiring? Here are some sample hypothetical cases – though they represent real photographic situations:

Scenario 1

This photographer often works indoors in low light and may or may not be able to use flash, often shooting at larger apertures and working handheld. The need here might be to expand the functionality around the “normal” 50mm focal length with a more flexible zoom that still has as large an aperture as possible. The larger aperture permits photography of moving subjects in slightly lower light without a flash, the 24mm wide end lets the photographer work in tight interior situations (among other things), and 70mm is enough to get a bit more reach. This photographer might also use one of the 70-200mm L zooms, and might even have two bodies, one with each lens, making overlapping focal lengths somewhat redundant. While IS might be “nice” on such a lens, expanding its usefulness a bit in some low light situations, this photographer might simply add a flash. It may also be the case that this photographer isn’t too concerned about the weight and bulk of the equipment. The 24-70 f/2.8 sounds like it might be a great choice here.

Scenario 2

This photographer most often works in good light, or with static subjects in lower light, and tends toward using smaller apertures – perhaps this person is an outdoor photographer. The photographer may shoot handheld on occasion, but may also frequently work from a tripod. This photographer’s issue in low light is perhaps more the ability to hand hold the camera than it is to stop action. Or perhaps this photographer pairs large aperture primes with the smaller aperture zoom. The 24mm wide end is useful for some shots here, too, but the 105mm focal length reduces the need to switch lenses as often when a longer focal length is needed – and some photographers might get along with just this lens in some situations. This photographer may pair the lens with one of the 70-200mm zooms, too, but perhaps likes overlapping focal lengths, which also can reduce the need to make lens changes or use lenses at the extremes of their focal length range. Or our shooter might entirely bypass the 70-200 zooms, and instead work with a 100-400. If our photographer is an outdoor shooter, the smaller/lighter lens with larger focal length coverage may appeal in terms of lightening the load of equipment. The subjects that this photographer shoots rarely reveal the increased vignetting/barrel distortion at 24mm, and when this is an issue a post-processing fix can work. The 24-105 f/4 IS sounds like it might be a great choice here.

Scenario 3

This photographer has similar preferences and shooting approaches to those described in “scenario 2,” but perhaps with a few differences. Perhaps this photographer also uses one of the 70-200mm zooms, values light weight and smaller size, shoots handheld enough to benefit from IS but also shoots from the tripod and can benefit from excellent image quality, and wants to do some near-macro photography. Possibly this shooter also owns a 50mm f/1.4 prime – or other comparable primes – which could stand in for this lens when a larger aperture is necessary. This photographer might well find that the 24-70mm f/4L IS provides the best balance of features.

These aren’t the only possible scenarios and these aren’t the only issues to consider. But do notice that once you let go of the sometimes-distracting question concerning which of several excellent lenses is slightly better in optical terms (e.g. “the sharpest”), you can see more clearly the other important functional differences between the lenses and consider how they are or are not important to your shooting.

In the end, one talented and skillful photographer might choose the f/2.8 24-70 as the better lens for his/her work, another might find that the f/4 24-70 makes the most sense, and a third equally talented and skillful photographer might choose the 24-105.

Note for cropped sensor camera photographers

I often see photographers who shoot Canon cropped sensor cameras (and other photographers, too) falling victim to what might be termed “L lust” or “L-caholism.” They assume that a lens must have a red ring and an embossed letter “L” in order to be good, and they frequently simply dismiss all non-L lenses from consideration. And photographers who are shopping for lenses are often overwhelmed by the “advice” from some “L-caholics” who can’t say anything good about non-L lenses. (Be a bit cautious about folks who are unalterably wedded to any particular lens choice—the “primes only” crowd, the landscape-requires tilt/shift crowd, the expensive-third-party-lenses-are-always-better gang, the f/2.8-L-zooms-only platoon, and so forth.)

L lenses generally are quite fine lenses, both in optical terms and in terms of their robust construction or “build quality.” But this doesn’t mean that L lenses are the only good lenses, nor that the L lens is always preferable to a non-L alternative. One place where this is very true is with several of the Canon EFS lenses that are designed specifically to work on Canon 1.6x cropped sensor cameras. Among these lenses is the EFS 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens. I mention this because this could well be a better choice than the L lenses discussed above if you are a cropped sensor shooter looking for a very high quality lens that covers the range around the normal focal length range on a cropped sensor body.  It has the IS of the 24-105 and the 24-70 f/4 lenses and the f/2.8 aperture of the 24-70 len in one package, and its focal length range is ideal for many cropped sensor shooters, extending from what might be termed “normal wide” to “portrait length” short telephoto.

The lenses in this article are available from site sponsor B&H Photo:

A postscript: This is superficially just an article about photography gear, but here at the end it may become clearer to some of you that I have a hidden agenda. Photography is about seeing. Photography is not about equipmentIndeed, we must use equipment to make photographs, but when we look at the photographs we really don’t think about the equipment used to make it much at all. No one wins a prize for having the highest resolution or the least distortion.

It is easy these days to become obsessed with choosing and acquiring The Best Thingand people acquiring good equipment for the first time are even more susceptible than (most) experienced photographers. Your photography is not your lens. The lens is a tool that is only valuable to the extent that it supports your ability to make the photographs that you will actually produce.

Resist the call of The Very Best Thingthe lure of “Rated Number One!,” “Lens Scores Highest in Our Test!,” and “Lens Blows Everything Else Out of the Water!” The real questions are about what you will do in your photography, and not about the distractions of acquiring a more expensive thing than the other guy or gal. Get a lens that works for you, head out and make some photographs!

G Dan Mitchell Photography | Flickr | Twitter | Facebook | Email
Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

54 thoughts on “Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II vs. 24-70mm f/4L IS vs. 24-105mm f/4 L IS (and more?)”

  1. Hi G Dan,

    It is refreshing to see a photographer offering genuine, reasoned and useful advice rather than ranting about minor deficiencies or slight superiority of equipment (as if they matter much). Unlike many other writers on the Web (some children never grow up!) you are quite clear that your own needs and likes are not necessarily shared by everyone. It is also very nice to see how you go to the trouble of giving thoughtful and helpful responses top everyone that comments. If only the rest of the Internet had such high standards.


  2. It is a great review, and definitely the right way to think about choosing lenses … but all the same I am just as confused and unable to make up my mind as ever. I thought the 24-70 f/4 IS USM II was my “best” choice, but now I am not so sure. All three are weather-sealed, which is essential for me, and all have IS, so no problem there. But Weight, Maximum Aperture, Speed, Macro-capability, Price … how do you weigh incommensurable attributes one against the other?

    1. Tom:

      Glad you enjoyed the review… and I sympathize with your dilemma!

      The “best” answer is not always clear, and sometimes there is no single best choice. I like to say that all photographic equipment choices involve compromises, and in all cases you (or at least I) end up making a choice about what compromise seems best for your (my) particular photographic needs.

      For each aspect that can be quantified (image quality, maximum aperture, price, IS, zoom range, weight, bulk, integration with other lenses you own, and so forth) you might be able to easily determine which has the “best” measurement in a purely objective and isolated fashion. It is obvious that a f/2.8 lens has a larger aperture than a f/4 lens, or that the bigger lens is heavier and bulkier, or that the more expensive lens costs more. The challenge is to weigh the value of these things to you and to decide whether the “price” of each (as measured in functional terms or financial terms) makes sense.

      For example, the price of the f/2.8 lens is both financial and physical — the darned thing is really big and it is heavier. The value is clear, too — it provides one additional stop of aperture for a bit better low light performance and slightly smaller depth of field. Here is where each of us needs to do a self-check. How important is the added stop to me? Is it something I’ll use all the time or something that might occasionally be nice to have? What happens if I’m in a low light situations? Will I be unable to make the shot, or will I have to occasionally up the ISO a bit? How important are weight and bulk to me? (Do I work from a vehicle, for example, or do I backpack with the equipment? Will I travel with it and have to concern myself with luggage restrictions?)

      In the end, you still may well see the attractions of more than one option — and among these lenses each has its appeal. But eventually you have to decide. The good news is that all of them are fine lenses, and while no choice will cover all imaginable circumstances perfectly, any of them can work well in a wide variety of situations.

      Good luck!


      1. Decision made a few months back. 24-70 f/4. The IS won it for me over the 24-70 f/2.8 (never mind weight and price) and the vastly better corner sharpness has it over the 24-105. I did not know lenses could be this good. I Often carried a 35mm f/2 or 50mm f/1.8 for better IQ and faster speed, but I no longer need to. The macro has also come in useful. Not as good as a genuine macro with a longer FL, but it beats carrying an extra Macro lens on the off chance that it might be needed. I hardly miss the extra reach of my old 28-105 (now passed on to a young enthusiast). It is worth giving up for the many benefits of the 24-70 f/4 IS Macro USM.

        This lens now takes 90%+ of my photos, and if it were my only lens and responsible for 100% of them that would still be fine.

        I am really happy.

    1. Hello:

      I cannot offer a personal comparison between the two lenses, since I have not owned the older model of the 24-70mm f/2.8 L zoom. I do know that my copy of the newer model is a great performer.

      It is hard to say whether you should or should not upgrade. If you are happy with the version you have, you can keep it and avoid the added cost. If there is some problem with the current lens that affects your photography you will want to consider whether the newer lens will help resolve that and whether the change is worth the cost.


    2. I did not use the first version of the 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens, so I cannot offer a comparison based on my own experience. If the original version of the lens is working well for you it probably makes sense to keep using that one since the new lens is not cheap! I will say my copy of the newer lens is a great performer.


  3. Dear G Dan,

    Thanks a lot for your informative article. specially for your description based on scenario.

    I am a 550d user. I own kit lens i.e 18-55mm and a 50mm 1.8. But now i want to upgrade my kit lens. I use my camera for general purpose. Love to take pictures of my family and also love to take landscape and animal photos.

    At first i wanted to buy 70-200 mm f/4l non IS or IS version. But with this lens I will not be able to take wide angle pictures. Now I wanted to buy 24-105 mm. But one of my known shopkeeper suggested me to buy 24-70 mm F/4. Now I m confused.

    I love sharp pictures with color. Can u please suggest me about the lens that will be perfectly ok for my kit lens upgrade …..>

    With best regards Rashel from Bangladesh.

    1. It sounds like you want to be able to do several rather different things: make photographs of landscape, family, and animals. It also sounds like you prefer zoom lenses over primes. (For most photographers, zoom lenses make a lot more sense than primes these days.) You also want to “upgrade” your 18-55mm lens, if I understand you correctly. There is a lot to think about there!

      Regarding the upgrade to your current lens, I wonder if you find it deficient in some way when you make photographs that call for the 18-55mm focal length range. I ask this because that is actually a decent lens for most purposes. Some people feel obligated to “upgrade” it simply because it is a so-called “kit lens” – but if it works well for you, perhaps you don’t really need to upgrade it. There is a more expensive Canon lens covering the same focal length range that provides a bit better build quality, a fixed f/2.8 maximum aperture – this is the EFS 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens. But it is expensive, and if your current lens works well for you it may not be necessary to spend the additional money.

      It is true that the 70-200mm lens will not take wide angle photographs – but that is what you have the 18-55 lens for! With an interchangeable lens camera you have the flexibility to change lenses to suit the photo you are making at the present time, so use the 18-55 when you need wider coverage and then replace it with a telephoto lens when you are photographing animals or other subjects that may require a smaller angle of view. The non-IS 70-200mm lens is a very good one and is also a very good deal.

      Regarding sharpness… if you are mostly viewing your photographs in emails or on the web or perhaps making smaller prints… any of these lenses should produce very sharp photographs for you. (I like say that “if you aren’t getting sharp photos with your 18-55 kit lens, you probably won’t get them with a more expensive lens either.” The point is that sharpness is not just about the lens but also about care to avoid subject and camera-motion blur, selecting the right shutter speed, and so forth.)

      Good luck,


  4. Hello to All

    G Dan, as I understand it, at the time you wrote the updated review of these lenses, you did not own the new 24 – 70 F4 IS.
    I believe this has now changed and wonder if you have formed an even more up to date opinion of this lens in comparison to the 24 -105 F4 in particular. I have read that its weak point is right at the 50mm FL region. Have you found this to be true?

    Regards, Derek.

    1. Hi Derek:

      You are correct that I noted that I have not used the 24-70mm f/4 L IS lens (nor have I used the older 24-70mm f/2.8 L v.I) and, as I wrote, I based what I wrote about those lenses on reports, reviews, reports from others who have used them, and my knowledge of their overall feature sets. Since I have both the 24-105mm f/4 L IS and the 24-70mm f/2.8 L II, I doubt that I’ll be acquiring additional zooms in that range! ;-)

      I’ve read some of the same reports about the performance of the f/4 version of the 24-70mm lens. Since many of those comments have come from photography forums – which, while useful, are not the most reliable sources of information – I’m not sure how seriously to take them. I hear similar and worse comments, for example, about the 24-105… yet my own experience is that it is a fine lens that performs quite well, though with its own “personality,” as I mentioned in my article.

      So, I can’t give you anything more concrete than that. Quite frankly, when it comes to the 24-70 f/4 I can only make judgments based on the feature set of the lens (inclusion of IS, close-focusing capabilities, smaller size, lower weight, etc.) and various reports. My hunch is that it will produce fine results for those who use it, and that much of the concern is about things that are perhaps measurable but likely not visible. If I needed a lens with its particular feature set, I wouldn’t hesitate to get a copy – though it seems to me that with the 24-70mm f/2.8 L and the 24-105mm f/4 L IS available this new lens is going to have a somewhat limited market potential. We’ll see whether or not I’m right!

      Take care,


  5. My EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 hasn’t worked from day one out of the box. Unfortunately I had just got married and was moving country so was unable to return it during warranty period. I originally had it on a 40D and the store blamed it on the body. I now have a 7D and the same error occurs (it doesn’t work on 350D or 400D either).

    It has however been in for repair twice now and within 100 shots of coming out repeats the same old Err01 / Err99. As such I am considering the EF 24-70 f/4.

    I cannot bring myself to buy another copy of the 17-55mm out of fear this error may happen again, apart from which I’m just plain annoyed about it. I have the mediocre EF-S 10-22mm and the EF 70-200mm f/4 IS USM so most of the range covered.

    But having nothing in the middle has made the last few holidays quite hard to photograph although it has forced me to take some slightly more interesting photos with the 70-200mm. And I find myself reaching for the compact to take photos at home out of frustration with not having a walkabout lens for the SLR.

    1. Ruth:

      That is not a happy story – sorry to hear about your lens problems. I would not give up on getting that lens repaired unless Canon tells you that it is unrepairable. I would escalate the repair request. Contact the Canon repair center and ask to speak to a person in charge instead of just the same telephone person you normally get, and explain that this lens has already been in several times for this problem and that it has not been fixed correctly.

      (Don’t just deal with a store. From what I’ve heard, their inclination or ability to deal with such problems is very limited. You need to deal directly with Canon repair centers. Once you purchase the lens – e.g. it is “out of the box” – you are dealing with a Canon warranty issue. Some stores might try to work with you to replace the lens if you bring it back immediately, but others will direct you to Canon for warranty service.)

      I have not heard of any tendency for the 17-55mm lens to have any such problem like this, so I suspect that the issue is with your particular copy. I doubt that you would have the same problem with a second copy… though if you do get a replacement and encounter a problem you should make sure that you can discover this during the warranty period.

      I’m surprised to hear you describe the Canon EFS 10-22 as “mediocre.” While I have not used the lens myself, I’ve heard almost nothing but good words from those who have.

      I used the 24-105 on a cropped sensor body at one point. It works fine, but it isn’t for everyone. If you need more or less a normal to long lens, it can serve in that capacity quite well. It provides almost no wide angle coverage, since it goes only to 24mm – and 30mm is considered the “normal” focal length on your camera. If you don’t need wide angle coverage it can work OK, but many would want to pair it with a wide or ultra-wide cropped sensor zoom… like the EFS 10-22.

      Good luck getting all of this sorted out!


  6. Hello everyone,
    I need some opinions since I’m new to the hobby. Im debating between the 24-104 f/4 and the new 24-70 f/4 for my 6D and really care about the weight and size. On the other hand, I really enjoy taking pics of animals and would like to have extra zoom. If I got the 24-70 f/4 and cropped the image in order to get closer to the subject? How much image quality would i loose? Is that a good solutions for me? Thank you.

    1. In my view, neither of these lenses are likely to be a great choice for photographing animals, at least in the case of most wild animals. I suppose that the slightly greater reach of the 105mm focal length would be a bit more useful than the 70mm of the other lens. However, in most cases it is very useful to have longer lenses for animal/wildlife photography. Just how long depends upon what animals you are shooting and the conditions of the photography.

      You certainly can crop a photograph made with a shorter lens so that your subject fills a larger portion of the remaining image. As to whether or not this would be satisfactory, the answer is “it depends.” If you are likely to mostly share small jpg images on web sites or in email, this could work OK and you might not notice the image degradation all that much. On the other hand, if you are thinking about making larger prints, too much cropping can degrade the image quality noticeably.


  7. Hello G Dan. Following you now. Great write up and thanks for taking the time to answer many of the posts. I lost my 60d over Christmas with a new 17-55 2.8 that I got with a 50d to become a two camera guy. I now have just the 50d and the 18-200 Canon kit lens. So, I’m trying to buy the new 6d and am torn between these two lens. I rent the big lens when I need them, this week is Swamp Buggy weekend here in Naples, FL so I rented the 100-400 Canon.

    So the lens I get with the 6d will go on the 6d and the 18-200 will land on the 50d. Right now the cost is $800 more for the 2.8 24-70 and I’m leaning toward the 105 f4 because of reach and cost. I know I have all that on the 18-200 but I’m thinking/hoping the 6d will have better IQ and I know it will in lower light with the enhanced ISO.

    Thanks again and looking forward to reading your other posts.


    1. You lost a camera – I’m sorry to hear that!

      About your lens decisions… That is an interesting combination, putting the 18-200mm lens on the 50D and then a shorter range lens on a 6D. The idea has a lot of utility, in that the cropped body can quickly cover a wide range of subjects with that lens, while the 6D might allow you more quality with a more limited focal length range.

      Having shot both the 24-70 f/2.8 II and the 24-105 f/4 IS, I tend to think that more photographers will like the flexibility of the 24-105. The chief potential advantages of the 24-70 are the somewhat better image quality and the one-stop larger aperture. Frankly, most people will never really notice the image quality difference, and both lenses are are actually good in this regard. The extra stop is an advantage in some situations, but the IS on the 24-105 is at least as advantageous in others. The additional focal length of the 24-105 is also quite useful. During the past few weeks I’ve been doing some shooting with the 24-70 where I would have used the 24-105 in the past, and I do often find myself wishing for a bit more “long end” on the 24-70.

      At least we are fortunate to have so many fine options to choose among!


  8. Hi,
    Just read your “review” on the Canon 24-70 vs 24-105 debate. I’m a little on the fence over these two and your article and common sense might have just given me my answer. I’m basically a landscape shooter , with a 5DM2, but will shoot any occasion that comes up, as most photogs do. I just sold a 17-40L because I need a bit more reach sometimes ; I shoot from a tripod 75% of the time and at smaller aperatures. I’m close to going for the 24-105 ( I need IS when I hand hold telelphotos a lot) but my main concern is how do these two lenses compare on image quality shot at smaller aperatures , on a tripod ? I’ve read so many articles on these comparisons that I’m drunk with them. Is the 24-70 sharper at say f/11-16 than the 24-105? Thanks!

    1. Hi Terry:

      I’m going to come at this from a slightly different angle. As you point our, you’ve seen so many comparisons of “image quality” that you are starting to reel! And you have probably seen “evidence” of a wide range of outcomes: lens A is better, lens B is better, A is better in one way while B is better in another, they aren’t significantly different, etc.

      This alone tells you something, namely that when it comes to image quality both are actually fine lenses. Most of the criticisms you’ll read of the optical performance of either lens will come down to (to generalize) obsessions with very tiny differences or, in some cases, determinations that reinforce the owner’s feeling that he/she made the right choice. In the end, there are excellent photographers who choose either of these lenses and use either one to produce excellent work. So, trying to decide which one has the best “image quality” may not be the most important thing to focus on.

      Indeed, neither lens is perfect – but no lens is. But both are excellent. I think you may be on the right track when you think more about the functional differences and how these line up with your needs. For example, you mention that you most often shoot from the tripod at smaller apertures, but that you need IS when you hand hold lenses at longer focal lengths. The 24-105 gives you fine performance in those areas along with a bit more focal length. To some extent, when you handhold the camera, the IS can compensate and then some for the slightly smaller maximum aperture. My hunch, based on what you write, is that you would find the 24-105 to be a fine performer for you.


  9. yaa i know there is a NO PERFECT LENS in this world which can do every photography…
    i wish there was one lens like this (i hope canon or nikon some how does it in future haha)

    yaa i am not that much into landscape photography..i mainly concern on portaits and i love itt..

    yaa..after reading so many articles and videos i am learning more n more things about photography..and the most important thing is i am using it in my day to day life.
    and improving..

    thank u for your suggestion..will get 24-105mm l lens only..
    actually my main concern was whether it would properly suit my camera or not..
    like some great lens dont work properly in a very entry level cameras properly so i thought of confirming with you.

    and if in any worst case i really really required a 18mm lens then i always have my kit lens of 18-55mm which i can use whenever i feel like..:) :)

    it would only cause me one problem of changing my lens at that time..but its ok, rather than i regret of not getting close to sports shot or that extra focal length whch can be helpful in portaits and some of the wild life shots which i doo :)

    1. “actually my main concern was whether it would properly suit my camera or not..
      like some great lens dont work properly in a very entry level cameras properly so i thought of confirming with you.”

      Basically, all Canon EF DSLR lenses will work on any current Canon DSLR, whether it is cropped sensor or full frame, “pro” or “entry-level.”

      There is one important exception that does not affect you, but might affect others. The EFS lenses are designed to work only on cropped sensor bodies like your camera. Your 18-55mm kit lens is one of these – it will work on any current Canon cropped sensor body, but it won’t work on full frame bodies.

      I used the 24-105 on a cropped sensor body for a few years, so as long as the lens is otherwise right for you it will work fine on your camera.


  10. hey great article on the two lens. I am using a canon 600d, and i have read in many of forums which dont suggest above two lenses for a crop sensor body. I still dont understand why is it so?
    i find 24-105mm lens a best for a walk around purpose. I am thinking of buying it. I know 17-55mm lens is a superb lens but still i have a greed for those extra mm and also as i have a 50mm 1.8 prime lens. so for low light photography i use it.

    so what do you suggest should i go and buy canon 17-55mm lens or may be even 17-50mm f2.8 of simga or should i consider 24-105mm ???

    waiting for your reply??

    1. Glad you enjoyed the article!

      I can’t really tell yo which lens to buy, since there is no universal “best” choice for all photographers. The selection of the right lens for you depends on a number of factors, some of which you have mentioned and some of which you didn’t’: what other lenses you own, whether you want to cover a wide range of focal lengths with one lens or use more than one, the importance (or not) of larger apertures, your personal preferences for shooting at wider or longer focal lengths, your budget and more.

      Some people do like lenses like the 24-105mm f/4 L IS on cropped sensor cameras, either along with a wider zoom or, in a few cases, by itself. One concern is that 24mm is not very wide at all on cropped sensor bodies. In fact, 24mm is equivalent to something close to 38mm on a full frame or 35mm camera, and that is sometimes regarded as being almost in the “normal” range. So, while this lens does give you a bit more “reach,” you lose the ability to shoot at wide angles. (I shot this lens on a cropped sensor camera many years ago, and I had to complement it with a wider zoom.)

      The EFS 17-55mm f/2.8 IS is also a very fine lens, and it was designed for cropped sensor cameras. It overs a focal length range that is more “typical” of what most people might want in a typical zoom – it covers the range from wide angle to short telephoto. It provides an additional stop and includes IS and its optical performance is excellent. What you give up compared to the 24-105 is the somewhat wider focal length range. With this in mind, some cropped sensor shooters like using lenses like the 15-85mm zoom.

      Regarding your 50mm f/1.8, note that all of these options include that short telephoto focal length, so owning that lens probably won’t play into your choices.


      (If you find this useful, consider buying from site-sponsor B&H by clicking on one of the links at this site – Doing so helps support this blog. Thanks!)

      1. will buy from your given link for sure..thanks for the reply..

        yaa i know if i brought a 24-105mm lens it would be as good as a 38mm-168mm lens which we cant generally use for a landscape shoot..
        but i am more into portraits, a bit of sports photography, and i hardly go and shoot for landscapes..of course landscapes are indeed, infact one of the best things to capture in photography but with this lens i cant get a 10 on 10 perfect picture but still i can capture a bit of nature and landscape photography.

        my main concern for a 17-55mm lens is that it doesnt give me those extra mm..which in some situations very useful like portraits, sports day in my college or some event..

        and find switching between the lens quiet a tough job specially when u are shooting continuously for such events..

        yaa 15-85mm lens is superb..heard a great review about it too.
        and ya those extra 20mm of 105mm lens wont be that helpful..
        then it comes down to the f stop..

        24-105mm lens is continuous of f4 while 15-85mm lens switches itself between 3.5 to 5.6 its same as we get from the kit lens so its kinda difficult to chose..

        i know u dont recommend any lens.. but among the two lens which lens u would prefer??

        1. These decisions can often be difficult. Rather than by trying to guess what the right lens is for you, let me share a few principles about lens selection that might help you figure out the right choice in your circumstances:

          1. There is no “best lens” in the general sense, though there can be a best lens of you and your needs.

          2. All lens choices end up being compromises. While we’d like an inexpensive, optically perfect, f/1.4, image-stabilized, 14-400mm, small and light lens… we have to decide which among the possible feature combinations are best of our needs.

          3. It is important to keep in mind how you will actually use the lens. (And I think that you are doing this – not everyone does!)

          4. It is also important to think about how any individual lens fits into your overall set of lenses.

          In this case, you sound like the additional focal length is pretty important to you and you also recognize (and aren’t worried about) the lack of wide angle coverage. For this reason, it seems to me like you are leaning toward the 24-105 – and it is a fine lens, indeed! :-)


  11. I heard rumour about new canon 24 – 70. is there any difference between the new one and the old version?, im thinking about getting one but now i seriously dont know whether i should wait or buy the old version.
    By the way, this is my first time visit your forum,, would like to say “hi” and thank you so much for posting informations


    1. Thanks for visiting, Harry. I only know a bit about the new lens versus the old, and that is based entirely on what I’ve read in announcements and discussions around the web. The basis specifications of the new lens appear to be largely similar to the old one, in that both cover the same focal length range and have the same maximum aperture. The physical design has reportedly been changed a bit, but I don’t know all the details. For on thing the new lens will require a larger 82mm thread filter. The reports are that the new lens may provide quite excellent image quality in terms of resolution and various types of distortion. The cost of the new lens looks like it will be significantly higher – being somewhere above $2000, if I recall correctly.

      As to the “version” question, that is always a matter of trade-offs. Lots of people like the existing 24-70 a lot, and it has been a solid, work-horse lens for a long time. In other words, it is regarded as a very good lens – and it won’t get any worse when the new one comes out. But if the “word on the street” turns out to be true, the newer version will offer even more performance… at a significantly higher price. One thing you always need to do is consider how these differences will – or will not – affect your own photography. For example, while one lens may offer better resolution than another, is your photography such that the difference will even be visible? (If you work carefully from the tripod and regularly make large, detailed, high quality prints, the answer will be quite different than if you mostly work handheld and share electronic versions of your photographs online.) And it matters whether you use a full frame or a cropped sensor body DSLR – on a cropped sensor camera a lens like the EFS 17-55mm f/2.8 IS could provide both excellent image quality and possibly greater utility.


  12. I just got the 24-70 and used it for a high school senior shoot outdoors in half clouds/sun this weekend and really liked it, a lot. I used it on my 7D and even outdoors i find myself shooting wide open at 2.8 for that cool “bokeh” background. I shoot Weddings, models and HS Seniors mostly. Anyway as you said Dan, it’s all about the photographers needs and even though i don’t shoot much sports any more (wish i had this stuff back in the 80’s)I actually need the fast lens. I am going to start shooting barrel races,it looks like.I’m sure this lens with the speed of the 7D will work real fine.


  13. I would like to take this time to thank you for the scenario. I’ve been racking my brain over which over and over again. Tax return time frame is coming and I’m snagging one of the two, but I’ll be heading toward the f/4 24-105 L. I’m pretty steady handed and if I need the little bit extra I’ll just increase my shutter speed.

    I thank you, and I thank you. You helped me out greatly.

    1. Glad I could help! I’ve been using the 24-105 since about the time it was released and it has been a fine performer for me – I think you’ll like it.


      (When you do make your purchase, consider making it through that links on this page since that helps support this blog. :-)

  14. This 24-105mm f/4 L IS is a good reason to choose Canon vs. Nikon when you buy a first camera. I don’t know as good standard lens alternative on Nikon.

  15. Dan,

    I know what you are talking about but to me since i see sky scrapers and tall buildings all the time so now to me it is kind of boring but your right city scape is a really nice thing to do but for me it is kinda over my league. of course i will still do it but i need a lot of practice for me to get better. I have been into a lot of hobbies and this is my favorite one. I hope i could get better and get my composition in order. To me photography is a mysterious thing there are rules but the rules but it almost never apply. I am currently just looking at photos by other professionals or people just to get some ideas on how to make something boring into something interesting or how i should compose my pictures. This is really neat my father was into this when i was a kid and i have always thought that tie that it was stupid and boring. Come to think of it now i was just an ignorant kid since i love photography and i don’t think i would stop.

    Arthur Sun

  16. Dan,

    Oh by the way i really like your photos in the gallery, Your lucky to be living in such a nice place, I live in hong kong a busy city so if i ever go out most of the time i will be doing street photography or looking hard for nice quite place to shoot. I would love to one day go to a place that has a great scenic place to shoot. I am a guy that loves landscaping but can’t seem to find any good landscape to my liking in hong kong… oh well still love photography

    Arthur Sun

    1. Arthur, I’ll bet you have some great street photography opportunities in Hong Kong. I’ve seen some great work from there! Have you thought of “urban landscapes” – treating the cityscape as a form of landscape?


  17. Dan and Richard,

    Thanks a lot for the advice that helped me come to my final conclusion, Since i have the 18-55 hoya lense i would get the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens since that is the most useful range at the moment and when i really need a close range lense i could use my 18-55mm lens. I then Will collect enough money to get the 17-55mm lens since that could replace my 18-55mm and would be of great asset since it is such a great lens (i have done my home work :) ) What you guys said is very helpful and yes i won’t be changing to the 5d Mk2 any time soon and by the time i get the full frame it would be the 5d Mk3 if money allows. but i will keep my 7d since this is my first 1.6 DSLR crop and i love this camera!

    Arthur Sun

  18. Dan,

    Thanks for the suggestion that really helped but since i am also considering one day to get a 5dmk2 it would be nice for me to have a an ef lens. What you said is very true since I usually most of the time shoot pictures for my youth group and work events although I also like to when i have time is to go out and shoot pictures outside, but since most of the time i am shooting indoors what you suggested is actually a better lens for my purpose. There is lots for me to learn in this field for i did not take any courses i don’t know a lot of technical term. i am learning by experience and also reading in the internet. I thank you on your suggestion and will take a serious consideration on the EFS 17-55mm lens but i want a lens that is sharp with good bokeh too. so now my choices is between the EFS 17-55 or the EF 24-70mm. I will do some research on which one will be right for me.

    Thanks A Bunch

    Arthur Sun

    1. Hi:

      These are always tough issues to balance. One thing to think about regarding the EFS lens… While you might get a full frame camera at some unknown point in the future, you will very definitely be shooting with the cropped sensor camera now and for some time to come. With this in mind, there is an argument for getting the lens that is best for the camera you have (this goes for the EFS choice and the focal length range issue) rather than sacrificing the functionality of your camera for a possible but uncertain future acquisition.

      If you are worried about losing value, if you do get that full frame camera you will either sell the cropped sensor body and lens and recoup a good part of your expense that way, or you will keep both as back up. In either case, the value of the camera and lens are considerably more than zero.


    2. Hi Arthur…I’m Dan’s brother so I get to chime in here too!

      I have to add to what Dan said about retaining your crop sensor camera when you get the 5DMKII. I currently own both a crop sensor (7D) camera and the full-frame 5DMKII. Even though I have the 5DMKII, I still use both. The 7D crop factor is helpful when I’m trying to shoot extreme telephoto images – it is better to shoot them with the crop sensor that to shoot them on the 5D MKII and then crop the resulting image in Photoshop. Of course, the 7D is a terrific camera by itself, and is faster focusing and shooting than the 5DMKII, and so it is used a lot for wildlife and sports imagery. I almost exclusively use my 5DMKII for landscape work.

      If you can manage to hang onto both, you’ll likely be glad you did. The EF-S lens will still be used on your crop sensor camera (when I don’t want to worry about having the right lens, I take my 7D and an 18-200mm Canon lens with me…perhaps not the optical horsepower of some of my gear, but great for a grab and go outfit! (better than not having my camera!)

  19. Hi Arthur:

    Thanks for stopping by! There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to choosing a lens for a cropped sensor camera. You are right to phrase this question as “which is right for me?” rather than as “which is best?” since both are excellent lenses with somewhat different strengths and weaknesses.

    The most important questions are those about your own photography and how that determines what you will ask a lens to do. In the end, almost any lens choice comes down to deciding which compromises make the most sense for your photographic needs – and not to the inherent “betterness” or one or the other lens.

    You more or less point this out in your post when you note that you see some value in the larger aperture but you also see value in the larger focal length range and IS – and, perhaps unfortunately, you cannot get all three of these in one Canon lens that covers this focal length range. So, between these two lenses you need to analyze your shooting needs to decide whether the one stop larger aperture is or is not more critical to your work than the larger focal length range and IS.

    I used the 24-105 on a cropped sensor camera at one point and in many ways it worked quite well… and I think that in many ways the 24-70 would, too. However, 24mm is not very wide at all on a cropped sensor camera being equivalent in angle-of-view terms to something close to 40mm. Your photography may be very different from mine, but I felt handicapped by having nothing wider than 24mm on a cropped sensor body, and I quickly realized I needed to augment this lens with a wide angle zoom.

    There is another option that is a good one, if you are considering Canon lenses. Since you already have the 70-200mm lens, you have that 70-105mm range covered there – which might suggest that the larger focal length range of the 24-105 could be a bit less important to you. There is a really excellent Canon EFS 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens that you should consider. This lens, like the 24-70, gives you the f/2.8 aperture you are thinking about. However, like the 24-105, it also gives you image stabilization. You would not have as long of a maximum focal length… but you would also cover the wide angle range that most people want.


  20. Dan,
    I am using a Canon 7d and is quite new to photography i just want to know between the 24-70mm and the 24-105mm which one is right for me.
    I have the 70-200mm 1:4 (my only lens) and the 450d Stock lens from my first camera.)
    I shoot in doors and out doors and i am looking to get at least one of these and should i have to i will then get the other. I would prefer to stick with one of these lenses for i want to get the sigma 30mm F1.2 afterwards for i have tested my friend’s and i loved it but first i need one that at least covers from 24-70mm. I like the 24-70 for it has better aperture and actually the only thing i am interested in with the 24-105mm is it’s IS. but also the fact that it covers to 105 which i don’t have to switch lenses that often.


  21. I appreciate this very rational discussion of these two lenses. Based on the way I shoot, the 24-70 seems more like the right choice for me. But I’m not going to get it, because I already have the 17-55 you mention, and I LOVE it. So much that I basically bought a crop frame camera just to continue to use it. If I get into the right position and I hold my breath, i can often hand-hold it for a second or longer.

    Anyway, nicely said. Lenses are not magic, and the photographer makes the most difference in the quality of the images.

  22. Richard, it may seem odd but it some situations I’ve been less inclined to need the 70-105mm range than in the past… though only in some! Since I’ve moved more and more towards using the 70-200 for covering the 70mm+ range, I’m a bit less likely to keep the 24-105 on the camera for those shots nearer its longer end. On the other hand, on those occasions when I want to go with only one zoom lens, I do like having that extra bit of reach.


  23. Thanks for the comparison, and especially for providing the comparative scenarios. As you know, I have the 24-70 f/2.8, and I will admit that I have found the focal length range to be a bit limiting, so I probably change lenses more often than I’d prefer. I have thought many times that the 24-105 would be a great lens for the subjects I most commonly photograph. It is rare indeed for me to need f/2.8 in that focal length range.

    Interestingly, I have wished for a larger aperture at times in the extreme wide-angle range, where it could be useful for photos of stars/Milky Way above an interesting landscape. I figure it is only a matter of time before the sensors will improve sufficiently to make this issue go away (currently, my 17-40 f/4 is not quite as bright as I’d like on my 5D MKII to get clean star images with pinpoint stars – it is fine for star trails, but not great for an image of a starfield above the mountains).

  24. Bret, I think you provide a perfect example of a photographer whose use pattern benefits from the 24-105 – you can probably shoot a wider range of your subjects with this lens than with the 24-70 focal length range, you don’t need the larger aperture since you typically shoot stopped down, since you carry it in the Topload bag on your chest the size and weight issues are not unimportant to you, and you are fine dealing with the bit of additional barrel distortion at 24mm in post on those occasions when you notice it.

    (Ben, I think you were posting your message while I was typing my reply to Bret – but it sounds like you are in a similar situation.)


  25. Not much I can add to this post as you covered the subject quite well Dan. However, I did have to choose between the two lenses last year when I finally took my 5DII out of its box and needed a lens for it. I think it took me a whole micro second to decide it was the 24-105mm L lens. Why you ask, well, because I can’t remember ever using f/2.8 on any lens I have ever owned for the last 30+ years. My type of shooting doesn’t require a fast lens so never really went down that road. I like the further reach that the 24-105mm has over the 24-70mm and this was the deciding factor for me. The 24-70mm L is a great lens and glad Canon has it in the line-up but not for me at this point.

  26. Fantastic post and comparison of the two lenses, Dan. I have the 24-105 and briefly considered trading it for the 24-70 before coming to my senses. For my needs, the 24-105 is a better lens. I carry it attached to my 5D MKII at all times in a Lowepro Topload chest pack. As an adventure photographer, having that extra 35mm of telephoto reach is HUGE. I need the longer focal length far more often than I’d need nicely blurred backgrounds thanks to the f/2.8 aperture of the 24-70. When I use the lens for landscapes, I’m usually stopped down to f/11 or f/16, which negates the whole vignetting issue. Barrel distortion is such an easy fix in Lightroom that it’s a non-issue for me.

    Thanks again for a great comparison and for setting the record straight on what makes one lens “better” than another.

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