Canon EF 24-105mm f4 L IS Lens Review
1/15 sec, f5.6

In June of 2006 I purchased the Canon EF 24-105 f4 L IS lens for use in my faire and festival photography. I posted a mini review of the lens on the Photography-on-the-Net (POTN) forums, and I wanted to follow up with a more comprehensive review of the lens after shooting with it for several more weeks. The POTN thread can be found here: Photography on the Net

Hereís what I said in the thread: There's not really a question here, but I wanted share a few observations about this lens. I just purchased it last week and I have used it thus far for a glamour shoot with a new model and for photographing a large festival. I have the option of returning it within 30 days, but after these two shoots I'm definitely keeping the lens. Here's what I like about it:

1. It's much lighter than my 28-70 f/2.8L and although I haven't done any critical testing, it seems to be as sharp as, if not sharper than that lens as well.

2. The 28-70 always left me feeling short of reach at fairs/festivals, but using the 70-200 f/2.8L was just too large and heavy of a lens to carry for hours on end, plus I couldn't go wide at all. The 24-105 focal length was perfect for the crowds, the festive groups of people, and for reaching out a isolating an individual. I've always liked that focal range, but I never cared for the quality of my 28-105 USM lens when compared to my L lenses.

3. The lens quite sharp, even wide open. The IS is almost silent, and there's very little vibration. It's sometimes tough to tell that it has kicked in. But, I can tell that it makes a significant difference.

4. The color quality of the lens is consistent with my other L's, and the bokeh at f/4 is better than I expected.

What I didn't like:

Actually, I can't think of anything right now.

If this lens hadn't performed to meet my needs/expectations I was fully prepared to return it for a refund. I had read quite a lot of good reviews about the lens on this forum and others, and I'm pleased to say that the lens lives up to its well deserved reputation.

1/320 sec, f5.6

So, after using the lens for several weeks hereís a more complete review.

As stated above, I bought this lens for use at faires and festivals. These events are held outside, so the f4 aperture is perfectly adequate for these types of venues. The smaller maximum aperture does make for a slightly dimmer viewfinder image than my faster lenses, but on the 20D, 1DMarkIIN and 5D, the image brightness is perfectly acceptable even when shooting indoors. It would probably be an issue if trying to manually focus in dim light, but thatís not a typical situation in which I would use this lens.

The IS in the name of this lens stands for Image Stabilization. This is Canon's method of providing compensation for "camera shake" which is the minute movements that occur when hand holding the camera and lens. At longer shutter speeds this shake can cause blurring of the image, and is more perceptible with longer focal lengths. Canon's IS technology is quite good and allows hand holding the lens to significantly lower speeds than I would be willing to risk with a non-IS lens.

This is also an EF lens, which means it can be used on all Canon SLRs, both film and digital, unlike the EF-S lenses which can only be used on certain Canon Digital SLRs with the 1.6 crop factor APS-C size sensors. This makes the lens more versatile and valuable to me since it will work on all my camera bodies and not just those that will take the EF-S mount. This may not be as important to other users, but itís a huge plus in my book.

The lens is quite rugged. It took a short fall, a couple of wicked smacks, and has continued to work magnificently during the few months that Iíve owned it. Iím quite careful with all my gear, but this lens just seemed to be on my cameras at the wrong time this summer.

The lens is sharp. I donít shoot resolution charts, batteries, or newspapers to try to ďpixel peepĒ a lens's sharpness. Instead, I rely on real world photography of people, places and things. This is one of the sharpest zoom lenses in my arsenal, and I have some very nice zooms. The color and contrast are great, and Iíve noted very little distortion or chromatic aberrations in any of my photographs. The lens exhibited very nice bokeh at f4 rendering the background pleasantly out-of-focus with nice round specularities.

1/80 sec, f4

The IS is quiet and quite effective. When in operation the IS hum is barely noticeable. When shooting waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge I was able to handhold and shoot at 1/2 second with very acceptable results. I normally use a tripod for those types of shots, but I was deliberately trying to determine the capability of the IS system and I was surprised at the results.

The lens uses a 77mm filter size, which conveniently matches most of my other L lenses. At 1.5 pounds, the lens still has heft but is still over 1/2 pound lighter than the 24-70 f/2.8 L. The build is excellent and on consistent with the best of Canon's L zooms. The USM autofocus is fast, quiet and accurate. The zoom ring is wide and operates smoothly and firmly.  I noticed no zoom creep when using the lens pointed toward the ground.

Like most Lís, the lens comes with a hood and a soft pouch. The EW-83H hood works well, fits snugly, and is made of high impact plastic.

Iím quite pleased with the lens and I intend to keep my copy for a long time to come. Iím sure it will get more use in the late spring, summer and fall as the Pacific Northwest tends toward the dim and rainy in the cooler months, but I wonít hesitate to use it indoors in crowded situations provided it paired with an external flash such as the 580 EX.

©2006 Mark Cohran, All Rights Reserved
Latest Revision: September 6, 2006