Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 USM L IS - Full Format Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published March 2013

Special thanks to Keith Bannett for providing this lens for testing purposes!


The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 USM L II is the undisputed flagship among the standard zoom lenses in the current full format lineup made by Canon. However, such dreadnoughts are not only expensive they are also heavy so Canon obviously saw the need to introduce a leaner battlecruiser - the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 USM L IS. This follows the tradition of offering professional grade f/4 variants besides the f/2.8 models - admittedly, Canon released the EF 24-105mm f/4 USM L IS quite a while ago already so this is no news anymore here. Unfortunately Canon didn't manage to keep the pricing down to a sane level. At around 1350EUR/1500US$ it is a bit less expensive than its faster cousin but it remains in the same (high-end) league actually. Admittedly the statement isn't totally fair since this new lens offers an image stabilizer. This results in the ironic situation that the "lower spec" model may actually outperform the flagship itself in certain low light scenes although the f/2.8 remains untouched in terms of depth-of-field potential, of course.

The build quality of this lens is exceptional thanks to a tightly assembled combination of metal and high quality plastic parts. Both zoom and focus ring operate smoothly. The lens is designed to survive in harsh conditions due to sealings against dust and moisture. Typical for most standard zoom lenses, it extends when zooming towards the long end of the range. The front element doesn't rotate, of course. The slower max. aperture allows a more compact design - the EF 24-70mm f/4 USM L IS is about 25% smaller and more light-weight than its f/2.8 cousin. However, it's still a fairly big lens when thinking of the old (discontinued), consumer grade Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM for instance.

Typical for a professional grade Canon lens, the AF is based on a ring-type USM (ultrasonic) with FTM (full-time manual focusing). The AF is both speedy as well as virtually silent. The Live View AF performance is about average (thus slowish). The AF accuracy of the tested sample was fine at fully open aperture but not that hot beyond - more on this later.

Canon image stabilizers are very mature by now so it's no surprise that it achieves at least 3 f-stops in standard situations whereas the efficiency deteriorates towards very close focus distance (which is normal). "Very close" is also a serious statement here because the lens has a max. magnification ratio of 1:1.4 which rivals macro lenses - on paper at least.

Here’s how the specs compare against its two in-house mates:

Canon EF
24-70mm f/4 USM L IS
Canon EF
24-70mm f/2.8 USM L II
Canin EF
24-105mm f/4 USM L IS
Elements/Groups 15/12 23/18 18/13
Special Elements 2x aspherical, 2x UD 3x aspherical, 2x UD, 1x SUD 3x aspherical, 1x UD
Image Stabilizer Efficiency 4 f-stops, 2.5 f-stops in macro mode none 3 f-stops
Aperture blades 9 (circular) 9 (circular) 8 (circular)
Min. focus (magnification) 0.2m (1:1.4) 0.38m (1:4.75) 0.45m (1:4)
AF motor ultrasonic with FTM ultrasonic with FTM ultrasonic with FTM
Size 83.4x93mm 88x113mm 84x107mm
Weight 600g 805g 670g
Filter size 77mm 82mm 77mm
water/dust protection yes yes yes
approx. Price (EUR) ~1350€ ~2000€ ~800€

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