Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
Note: this lens has a successor - the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
The EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM is considered THE standard general purpose lens for professional photographers. It offers a great maximum aperture and a very useable focal range. Together with a 70-200 mm lens like the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM it makes the standard kit for wedding photographers and other professional uses. But is this lens really right for you and does it have its fame for good reasons? Let's find that out.
The EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM has a typical general purpose focal range that's good for a variety of different shots like events, landscapes, groups of people or travel. The focal range is excellent at the wide end but limited at the tele end so if you take only this lens on a holiday chances are that your are missing a couple of shots. That's why this lens is often teamed up with a 70-200 mm or even a 70-300 mm lens.
The focal range is great for indoor events as it is wide enough to work for crowded places and long enough to offer some versatility. The maximum aperture of f/2.8 ensures that you can still shoot in low light conditions but the lack of an image stabilizer is a downer (at least when using the longer focal lengths).
With 70 mm at the long end and a good maximum aperture the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM is a good companion for portrait photography. I personally prefer lenses with even better maximum apertures for portrait photography (such as the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM or the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM) but if you are looking for a zoom lens then f/2.8 is as good as it gets.
Weight and Dimensionstop
You will feel the weight the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM puts onto your camera (or bag). At 32 oz the lens is a lot heavier than e.g. the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM (which has a mere 23 oz). I guess the glass that gives you f/2.8 is just a lot bigger and heavier than what's needed for f/4 lenses...
|Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM||32|
Compare with the weight of other lenses:
Handling and Build Qualitytop
The EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM has a solid build quality and features a metal lens mount that is a lot less prone to wear than the more conventional plastic mounts. It's large size and heavy weight add to the impression that you've got a solid peace of glass in your hands. While some will enjoy the looks they get for having a large size pro lens in front of their camera others will dislike the additional attention caused by it. Since it's an L series lens it comes with the red ring close to the top of the lens.
The lens is sealed against dust and moisture (when used with a filter and the right body) so using it in light rain or other harsh conditions is not an issue. Especially for wedding photography a weather seal is really important because you can't decide not to take that shot just because you have to shoot in the rain. The one knob the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM has (AF/MF switch) is nice and firm and the two rings are well positioned and nicely sized as well. The focus ring has just a tiny bit of play but it doesn't prevent precise operation of the focus. The zoom ring has no play but could use a zoom lock because (maybe due to the overall heavyness of the lens) gravity can extract the zoom where you don't want it.
Canon ship a large lens hood with the lens which makes it even bigger. It's not of the modern rough surface type and thus will show scratches fairly easy. It's kept in the same position regardless of the zoom setting because it doesn't connect to the front-most element. This means that for some focal lengths the front element is deep down the hood (making it really hard to access filters) while for others it's close to the top. That's bad news for the use of circular polarizers and graded filters that need to be rotated individually for each shot. Without the lens hood the use of these filters is hassle-free because the front element of the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM neither rotates while focusing nor while zooming. The lens has a 77 mm filter thread which is common among Canon's high end lenses and thus filters can be shared for several lenses.
Note that unlike many other lenses the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM extends the most when set to the shortest focal length. This takes a little time to get used to but if the hood is attached (and you are not trying to access a filter) you will hardly notice it.
Canon has equipped the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM with a ring-type ultra sound focusing motor which is great because focusing is precise, fast and silent. Moreover you can always manually override the autofocus operation (in One-Shot AF mode) without the need to switch to MF mode first. Unfortunately the lens lacks an image stabilizer which is a big selling point for the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM. Of course image stabilizers are especially useful for telephoto lenses but even in the 24-70 mm zoom range image stabilization would be nice to have. Note that the successor lens (the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM) comes without IS as well.
The EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM has a pretty good maximum magnification of 0.29 x which allows some close-up work such as face portraits or pictures of plants. It's good compared with similar general purpose lenses but of course it's far from the maximum magnification of 1.00 x offered by real macro lenses.