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The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens – How’s it working?

Richard Charpentier Canon Cameras, Digital Cameras, Photography, Tech Reviews 1 Comment


My 24-70mm L series lens

Disclaimer:  This post is a review of my personal experience with the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.  It is not a reproduction of technical specs or super in depth review.  You can find tons of those types of reviews all around the web via a simple Google Search.  Seriously, I don’t think you want me replicating the same article 5 other folks have written, do you?  They probably wrote it better anyways!  So, what you’re getting here is Rich’s gut reaction and response to using the 24-70 for more than a month now.  I hope it’s useful to you, and if you’re dying for some in depth multi-page reviews I link to them here and there in this post.  🙂

As I noted in my earlier post about my new 17-40mm lens for the 5D Mark II, the 5D has opened the door for my full frame desires.  With the open door I found a catch.  Better glass was in order, and a reduction in my old glass also followed.

For what I normally shoot I decided on 3 lenses that I’d keep with me at all times.  A wide angle, something medium range, and then a small zoom.  The mid-range choice was pretty easy actually.  I selected the 24-70mm f/2.8 L series lens from Canon.  I’d read around the web, got all the technical breakdowns, and decided that this lens would be the right choice for me (see, I read around the web too).

In the old days (my old days) my favorite lens was my 28-135mm EF IS lens.  Bought that quite a while ago.  I liked the flexibility I had with the lens.  Wider angle (not wide) up to a decent zoom.  Let’s not forget, I was working with a cropped sensor camera, so it was not actually a 28-135mm.  The zoom factor was larger, hence my need for the 10-22mm as well on my old cameras.  And just for your knowledge, the old cameras would be a 10D, 30D, and 40D.  The 40D is still with me as my backup.

My old 28-135 stayed on my camera almost exclusively.  There weren’t many moments when I needed more zoom, and I wasn’t worried about wider angle years ago as I was normally shooting along heavily forested trails, etc.  Once I moved to AZ I got the wide angle lust…..


70mm f/2.8, 200 ISO, 1/160th of a second. Notice the background

Knowing how useful the 28-135mm was in the old days I knew I’d want something similar for my new full frame camera.  And I knew, from prior experience, that this one had to be an L Series lens.  There is a difference.  After toying with my 70-200mm for months and seeing how freakishly sharp every image was there were no other options for the new camera.  All L series, period.

After reading around at length and seeing who else selected the 24-70 for their bag I made my pick.  Once again, another lens purchased through B&H Photo Video.  Really, what does anyone do without B&H?

Initial impressions on the 24-70mm f/2.8 L

My first “heavy use” (pun intended) of the 24-70 was at Zion the other week.  Day one of marching around Zion saw the 24-70 on the 5D for the majority of the day.  The impression that stuck with me regarding the 24-70mm and the 5D together was that they were really heavy.  Ah, now you get the pun. It was the heaviest camera and lens paring that I could recall.


70mm f/22 200 ISO at 1/2 second. Background blur gone!

Beyond the weight issue I was pretty please with the results.  Sitting in a tent off loading images to the Mac I was impressed with how sharp the images were.  I’d been shooting with the 40D that day as well, and the difference was noticeable.  I’d have to get used to the weight.

Over the course of the Zion trip I continued popping the 24-70mm out to use.  At 24mm with a full frame sensor you can really get some “wide” angle shots.  Not like the 17-40mm, but I was finding the 24-70 was in fact a better all around lens.  Just like my old 28-135.  Hmmmm….. sounds like I’ve got that 75% of the time lens once more.

Lens Performance

The 2.8 is also an interesting component to the lens.  My fastest lens is a prime, and also I’ve got a great little macro lens that’s speedy as well.  Most everything else I own is an f/4.  What can I say, I do try to save money here and there.  🙂

One of the fun features of faster lenses is of course selecting your points of focus and ensuring that elements outside of that zone are well out of focus, very soft, and nicely blurred.  The sample photos included in this post should show you the difference pretty clearly.  Each image was shot with the same focal point at different apertures and speeds.  I love playing with this stuff!

In addition to selective focus and background blur this lens is sharp.  What more can I say.  The two images posted here were shot spur of the moment.  No edits, no alterations.  Just a quickie set for you to follow along with.  Just look at the candle jar, the edges, the reflection of light.  For me it’s a zowie moment.  🙂

Overall impression with my newest lens

I’m a happy photographer / printer / hiker.  Definitely the right pick for the 5D Mark II.  And it’s restored my “all around lens” notion that I used to have with my 28-135mm.  This is a lens I can pop on and leave on for a host of shooting situations.  How good is that?

The big drawback of course is the weight.  Seriously, I feel like I’m shooting with a tank when the whole setup is in hand.  When hiking in Zion I’d break out the monopod, mount the camera, and still have issues with stability.  Something about me huffing and puffing  after ascending a steep section and then trying to shoot immediately.  Just not going to happen without a tripod.  Handheld with this bad boy isn’t a keen idea if you’re into HDR.  If you’re just shooting single shots in good light you might be okay.  But keep in mind, no Image Stabelization on this one.  And we all know, IS is the end all be all slimming and smarter lens…….

Bottom line.  The lens is heavy.  It helps you make great images.  For me, it was a worthwhile investment, and it’s most likely my new “all around” lens.  If you’re carrying a full frame Canon camera it’s probably worth investigating.  If nothing else, it could add to your workout routine each time you lift the camera to take a shot.

As a final note…’s photos for this post.  Notice the 10lb dumb bell in front of the candle?  Yeah?  Well, you’re going to need two of those on hand to work up to the camera and lens weight if you want to shine with the 24-70mm.  Seriously, I’ve been walking around my place in the mornings with one weight in each hand.  I figure down the road in good light I won’t have to lean on the tripod so much.  Just gotta work up to a steady hand with a heavy payload……so, I included the dumb bell just for kicks!  That’s how it works around here you know.  😉

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