Canon EF24-105mm F4 IS II USM Lens

Canon EF24-105mm f4L IS II Lens Review (Podcast 548)

My new Canon EF24-105mm f4L IS II lens arrived last week, so I'm interrupting my Iceland travelogues again to bring you a review of this new offering from Canon! I've done a few tests to see how this new offering from Canon compares to my 24-70mm f/2.8L lens in terms...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
25 Comments
  • Jim Warthman
    Posted at 13:23h, 08 November Reply

    Hi Martin, Thanks for the great review, as always. The new 24-105 is certainly a compelling lens! I do have one question about your review. It’s clear that you are reviewing the EF24-105mm f4L IS II. But regarding the 24-70 you’re using for comparison, for the most part you do NOT identify it as the mark II version. I wonder if you could clarify, throughout this review, which version of the 24-70 you are referring to?

    Best Regards

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 13:31h, 08 November Reply

      Hi Jim,

      I’m pleased you found this useful.

      Yes, I’m comparing to the Mark II 24-70mm lens. I do actually state that a couple of times in the above text.

      Regards,
      Martin.

      • JP de Ruiter
        Posted at 00:04h, 12 November Reply

        Hi Martin,

        Thanks for the review. Yes, you indeed state this when you show the picture, but Jim is right that it was not clear which lens it was, because you didn’t mention the fact that it was the II version in the other places

        Best regards,

        JP.

        • Martin Bailey
          Posted at 00:15h, 12 November Reply

          Hi JP,

          I guess to a degree I may have assumed most people would know that I wouldn’t be using a Mark I lens when there is a Mark II version of the 24-70mm on the market. I recall mentioning those few times in case people didn’t know, but it was obviously not enough for you guys.

          Sorry about that.

          Regards,
          Martin.

          • Jim Warthman
            Posted at 00:25h, 12 November Reply

            Hi Martin,
            you’re right, I definitely expected you were comparing with the Mark II lens, but when I read these words I began to wonder:

            “To cut a long story short, both lenses perform pretty much the same in terms of distortion with the new 24-105mm perhaps just beating the old 24-70mm by a hair. ”

            And as JP mentioned, there were many places where it was not mentioned if the 24-70 was the original or the Mk II, hence the reason for my question. 🙂

            It’s now clear that, when you said “old”, you meant the 24-70 Mk II is old compared with the 24-105 Mk II…

            Anyway, I do appreciate your clarification on this fine review!

            V/R

            Jim

  • Rich Ball
    Posted at 02:09h, 09 November Reply

    Martin – Thank you for review of this lens. It is one of the first. You stated you got rid of your original 24-105 10years ago because you found it to be too soft for your work. This would put it clear back in the original 5D era. I find this a little surprising. Given that the 5D was a 12mega pixel camera.

    People seem to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this lens. Some find it to be very good to great others not so good. I have often wondered if it is calibration issue with the lens. Have you ever tried the micro focus adjustment on your Canon arsenal of lenses? As i contemplate the purchase of new 5D mark IV I wonder how much more money I’ll end up spending on lenses. My photography is not nearly as sophisticated as yours but i do take it seriously.

    Best Regards – Rich Ball

    P.S. What version of RawDigger are you using? It seems like it could be a very useful program..

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:05h, 09 November Reply

      Hi Rich,

      The ten years statement was a rough guess. For me, it was actually the 1Ds Mark III that started to show issues with the original 24-105mm. I just checked, and that was 9 years ago now, not ten.

      I have tried calibrating my lenses, and have always gone back to turning off any micro-adjustments, because my lenses seem to focus more accurately without it.

      Anyway, it wasn’t calibration, it was soft, as we reached 21 megapixels. I have heard the same thing about this lens. My friend Tim Vollmer has continued to use his original 24-105mm to this day, and swears by it, but he says he shoots in bursts and there is always a difference between the images, and he just picks the sharpest. 🙂

      We all have different experiences with gear, and mine forced me to move away from the original lens some nine years ago (not ten) and I have never regretted it, because for most of that time, I was using the 70-200mm after my 24-70mm. No gaps, until the last few years.

      I’m using the professional edition of RawDigger. I don’t use it a lot, but when I need it, it is very useful.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

      • Rich Ball
        Posted at 03:00h, 13 November Reply

        Thank you for your response Martin. It only raises more questions in my over analytical engineers mind. I’ll let the sharpness issue rest. Not mentioned in your review is the increase of one stop in image stabilization capability. For a lens that many folks will use as a walking around lens this is significant. Plus in the 10 years between versions Canon’s lens design and fabrication capabilities have improved. I probably will upgrade in the future. Right now though I need to work with the new 5D mark IV I purchased yesterday and pay for it.

        As an aside. In this weeks TWIP Podcast there was some discussion about supporting local camera stores. I made the long drive from Seattle to Portland Oregon and purchased the EOS 5D IV from Pro Photo supply. A fine all around camera store. To any in that area they are worthy of your support.

        All the best – Rich Ball

        • Martin Bailey
          Posted at 09:23h, 13 November Reply

          Hi Rich,

          As I’ve shown, there is no sharpness issue with the Mark II version of this lens, so I wouldn’t even worry about the Mark I version any more. The main issue is that it was out-resolved by 21MP and higher sensors.

          I didn’t mention the IS because I didn’t really test it. I shot some of the images at 105mm at 1/40 of a second, but that’s only testing down to 1.5 stops slower than the recommended shutter speed for this focal length. Unlike other reviewers that simply regurgitate Canon’s marketing material, I like to talk from experience, and I personally don’t really rely on IS very much, so it wouldn’t make sense.

          That’s great that you bought your 5D IV from a bricks and mortar store. I may not be doing that myself if I had to drive as far as you did, but for bodies and lenses I always buy from from a local store here in Tokyo.

          Cheers,
          Martin.

  • Shane O'Brien
    Posted at 03:45h, 12 November Reply

    Thanks for the review. Are the distortion gifs correctly labelled? The 24mm and 50mm examples seem to be wider for the 24-105 than for the 24-70. And the 24-105 seems to have a wider view at 105mm than at 50mm. Or are they shot from different distances from the chart?
    Regards
    Shane

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 10:48h, 12 November Reply

      Hi Shane,

      Yes, they are correct. As I mentioned above, the 24-70mm lens actually is wider than the 24-105mm at 24mm. They were both shot with the lens at its widest setting of 24mm with the camera on a tripod and it was not moved between shots. The target was not moved either.

      There is always a bit of variance, but Canon seem to be stretching their reporting standards a little on this one.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

  • Wolfgang Jaekel
    Posted at 03:17h, 17 November Reply

    Hi Martin,

    thank you for the detailled review. I’m struggling with the decision of replacing my 24-105 ver 1 with the new version II. I also have the 24-70mm/f 2.8 II, though, which is excellent. But it’s a bit short at the long end, so the 24-105 is a good alrounder for travelling if you don’t want to switch lenses all the time.
    However, given your positive experience with the new lens there seems to be a considerable copy-to-copy variation. Correct me if I’m wrong but according to the TDP comparison tool the difference in sharpness between v1 and v2 doesn’t really look overwhelming to me (of course the color fringing is reduced in the new version), see.
    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=355&Camera=979&Sample=0&FLI=0&API=2&LensComp=1072&CameraComp=979&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=0&APIComp=2
    This seems to be true for for 24mm, 50mm, 70mm, 105mm
    So it remains to be seen, if they got a bad copy compared to yours or you’ve got a very good performing sample. I know that Canon doesn’t recommend v1 of that zoom for the 5dsR, though Nevertheless, maybe it’s smart to wait a bit until the dust has settled. unless you have a chance to test several copies prior to the purchase ?

    Best regards

    Wolfgang

    .

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:31h, 17 November Reply

      Hi Wolfgang,

      They’re interesting results. As I mentioned, I don’t have an original 24-105 any more, so I can’t check for myself, but on the 5Ds R I wouldn’t have expected the Mark I to hold us that well. Having said that, my 70-200mm was starting to look a little soft on my 5D Mark III, but it sharpened up again on the 5Ds R, probably because of the lack of antialiasing filter, and maybe reduced mirror vibration in the 5Ds R.

      Either way, there does seem to be a difference between lenses, but I don’t think it’s a matter of waiting for things to settle down. I always get my lenses from the first batch, and I have never had a bad lens. I actually have never had a bad lens so much that I personally doubt the theory that there are good and bad copies to a degree, but I have heard from people that have received duds (of other lenses) so we won’t go there.

      My advice would be to buy the lens if you want one, and test it yourself as soon as it arrives. Most stores will allow you to exchange a lens within a certain period, usually two weeks, if there is anything wrong with it. Because you still have an original model, you could also do direct comparisons to see if you are happy with the difference.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

  • Rob
    Posted at 09:27h, 18 November Reply

    Hi Martin!

    I love your review for this new 24-105 II!

    On my old version of the Canon 24-105 L when I zoom in while in live view filming video I loose about a stop of light when going from 24mm to 105mm when it is stopped down to say f5.6. If I leave it at f4.0 there is no loss of light when zooming in. My question for you is on the new version (24-105L II) is there any loss of light when zooming in while the lens is stopped down to say f5.6? Can you also check to make sure it doesn’t loose light at f4.0 as well? Thanks in advance!

    Rob

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 11:04h, 18 November Reply

      Thanks Rob!

      The Mark I lens had a variable aperture, whereas the Mark II is a constant f/4, so this should no longer happen.

      However, I just did a quick test, and the video does get slightly darker as I zoom in. I wouldn’t have thought this would happen with a constant aperture, but I don’t shoot much video while zooming.

      Either way, I hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

  • Chris Palacios
    Posted at 15:05h, 09 December Reply

    Thanks for your review Martin. I’m a little confused, did you own the 24-105L version or the non “L” version. In your statement above you stated that the original 24-105 lens has a variable f stop. That’s true for the non “L” version but the “L” version of the original 24-105L is a fixed f/4 lens. Which version did you own. Also I’m wondering if the 24-70 that you own is sharper than your original 24-105 lens. I’m trying to get a comparison between the original 24-105L and the mark ii version. I’m trying to decide if I’m willing to pay the $1100 for the new lens. I have the original 24-105L. In your opinion is it worth the money for the new version. Thanks in advance.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 18:48h, 09 December Reply

      Hi Chris,

      That’s my mistake. I owned the original L version, which was f4. I forget why I was thinking it was a variable, but I probably checked the specs and looked at the wrong lens. I didn’t even realize that there was a non-L lens in this range, so it would have been easy to mix up.

      The 24-70mm II that I own is much sharper than the original 24-105mm. That’s why there is only a marginal improvement in sharpness over the 24-70mm. If I had been able to directly compare to the original 24-105mm there would have been more visible improvement.

      Personally I think it’s worth the upgrade, as I don’t think the original 24-105mm can cope with 50 megapixels. I know a lot of people that still use the 24-105mm and have been happy with the results, but I found it too soft after the upgrade to the 5D Mark II, at 21 megapixels. The original 24-105mm was also not on that list of cameras that Canon released as being compatible with the 5Ds R, so we can assume that they also think it doesn’t have high enough resolution to work at 50 megapixels.

      Of course, $1,100 has different perceived value to different people, but I thought it was worth buying, so I’ve already voted with my dollars. In fact, I bought mine in Japan, and paid the equivalent of around $1,400, so I paid even more.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Kevin Smith
    Posted at 07:30h, 10 December Reply

    Hi Martin. Thanks for the review. I am interested in this lens, and your pragmatic discussion lends more credibility to it. We agree that the 5DS R images shine with the best glass…

    Your discussion here of manual lens corrections for post processing software that has not yet provided profiles for new lenses begged a question. Given that you have moved to Capture One Pro (COP), and several of your go-to lenses you mention in articles do not have profiles yet (e.g., Canon 100-400 II, 16-35 F4, and this new iteration of the 24-105), what is your impression of the added workflow effort, ease of use, and results of the lens correction tools for the COP? Phase One is noted for being pretty slow in providing lens profiles, so how burdensome is this effort?

    Regards,

    Kevin Smith

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 10:34h, 10 December Reply

      Hi Kevin,

      There really isn’t a lot of extra effort required. For the most part, I don’t need to correct the image, because there isn’t a straight line to make the distortion obvious. When it is necessary, i.e. for a few of my seascape shots from Iceland, where there is a horizon to straighten, it’s a few minute job, and I honestly don’t mind this because the benefits of using Capture One Pro still outweigh the extra effort. I’m coming up to six months after my switch, and I still have absolutely no regrets.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Paulo Silva
    Posted at 06:41h, 07 March Reply

    Hi Martin, I’d appreciate very much your review. I Wonder if you have any experience with the 24-105f4 L ii in a APS body (say the 7d Miki or the 80d) . I’ve read some reviews the sharpness drops to ridiculous values. Wy’s that I really don’t no
    Kind regards
    Paulo

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 08:19h, 07 March Reply

      Hi Paulo,

      I have not used the 24-105mm on an APS body, although the pixel pitch would be around the same if not a little bit larger than that of my 50-megapixel full-frame bodies, and the lens performs very well on these cameras.

      Maybe you could share a link to a review that you’ve seen, and I can take a guess as to whether or not there is anything to worry about. My guess at this point would be that the reviewer either made a mistake or two while testing or has a duff copy of the lens, which sometimes happens, although I’ve never had a duff copy of a lens myself.

      Another possibility would be that the 5Ds R is doing well with the lens because it doesn’t do any antialiasing, like other bodies, and that could theoretically cause softer images on similar pixel pitch cameras. I’d be surprised if this was the case but I can’t rule it out.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Paulo Silva
    Posted at 19:52h, 07 March Reply

    Hi Martin,
    The reviews that I’ve pickup (there aren’t to many!) were about the 24-105 F4 L IS II in a body of a 7D mkII and all of those mentioned or were based on the DXO testing marks. I’ve also send this questions to Canons but all I’ve got was that all canon lens are very good and they can’t give opinions that could give some kind of a limitation for my choices.

    Note: I tried to put here the DXO links but I got a spam reponse so I cut it out

    As for comparison, i’d pick up some EF lens and looked for the DXO metrics the for 24-105 F4 L IS II, 24-104 F4 (sigmas) and 24-70 F2.8:

    Sharpeness in the 5D mkIV body:
    Canons 24-105 F4 L IS II USM L IS II: 15 P-Mpix
    Sigmas 24-105 F4 DG OS HSM Art: 20 P-Mpix
    Canons 24-70 F2.8 L II USM: 21 P-Mpix

    In the 7D mkII body:
    Canons 24-105 F4 L IS II USM L IS II: 5 P-Mpix
    Sigmas 24-105 F4 DG OS HSM Art: 9 P-Mpix
    Canons 24-70 F2.8 L II USM: 12 P-Mpix

    The results in the 5DmkII are well aligned with all others reviews, including yours

    The results in the 7DmkII (sharpeness) take a big down step but specialy for canons 24-105

    As odd as it is, it gets odder when you compare this L lens with the “regular” EF-S lens, say the 18-135 and the 15-85 in the 7D Mkii.:
    Canons 24-105 F4 L IS II USM L IS II: 5 P-Mpix
    Canon EF-S 15-85 F3.5-5.6 IS USM: 8 P-Mpix
    Canons EF-S 18-135 F3.5-5.6 IS: 7 P-Mpix

    I know that a lens quality isn’t all about sharpeness but yould you buy it?
    Best regards
    Paulo

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:01h, 07 March Reply

      Hi Paulo,

      Sorry I have to limit the number of URLs in posts. You are allowed up to three, as more than that is often a sign of spam.

      I checked the DXO scores, and think they may have had a dud and just ran with it. There is no way that the Mark II 24-105mm f/4 lens is worse than the original version, but their scores would have you believe that this is the case. I owned the original 24-105mm and sold it when the 5D Mark II came out (if I recall) because it was starting to get soft.

      You ask if I would buy the new 24-105mm Mark II, I did. This review is based on my experience with my own lens, and I have been incredibly happy with it since I bought it in November 2016.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Paulo Silva
    Posted at 21:12h, 07 March Reply

    Hi Martin

    Thanks for your reply. That score is really something one can’t believe. If you trie the 24-105 F4 in a APS body please let me know your opinion
    All the best
    Paulo

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:17h, 07 March Reply

      Hi Paulo,

      I will be sure to reply here if I ever do try the lens on a crop sensor camera.

      All the best to you too.

      Regards,
      Martin.

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