Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens Review

by admin on January 29, 2012

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens

The Canon EF 24-105 f4 “L Series” lens incorporates an impressive range of focal lengths, high quality optical elements and image stabilization technology to produce a standard zoom lens that is sought after by professional and amateur photographers alike. Additionally, the lens features advanced weatherproofing measures that will hold out dust and water, Canon USM ring-type auto-focus and an attractive full-time manual focus setting.

On top of sturdy construction quality, Canon designed the 24-105 for a maximum aperture of f/4 rather than f/2.8, making the lens exceptionally light. Moreover, with image stabilization it is still capable of producing sharp images of non-moving objects in low light conditions that rival those of similar lenses that offer f/2.8 as a maximum aperture. When combined, all of these features make the 24-105 “L series” standard zoom lens one of the most attractive all-purpose lenses in Canon’s lineup.

The Canon 24-105L is one of Canon’s most popular and versatile lenses. It has long been offered as a “kit” lens with the 5D Mark II, and compliments it very nicely. It’s wide coverage of focal lengths and a constant maximum aperture of f/4 make in an excellent choice for those looking for a great quality general purpose lens. On a full frame sensor, 24mm is very wide, and 105mm is moderately long, whereas on a 1.6x crop sensor, 24mm becomes the equivalent field of view as a 38mm lens, so it isn’t quite as versatile, but it is still an excellent choice for either.

Canon 24- 105mm f/4L Lens Specifications

  • 24-105mm standard zoom lens with f/4 maximum aperture for Canon EOS SLR cameras
  • 1 Super UD glass element and 3 aspherical lenses minimize chromatic aberration and distortion
  • Ring-type USM system delivers silent but quick autofocus (AF); full-time manual focus
  • Image Stabilizer technology steadies camera shake at up to 3 stops; weighs 23.6 ounces
  • Dust- and moisture-resistant; measures 3.3 inches in diameter and 4.2 inches long; 1-year warranty.

Physical Attributes

The 24-105 is not the largest nor the smallest lens in the “general purpose” category. It weighs just under 1.5 lbs, so it’s fairly manageable when carrying around for a long period of time. It has a very good build quality, and feels solid. It has dust and moisture sealing, so it can be used in more demanding environments, although I don’t particularly recommend testing the effectiveness of the weather sealing. Canon recommends a filter to complete the sealing. Like all L lenses, it is equipped with Canon’s EF mount, which is compatible with all of Canon’s EOS SLRs. Two rings adjust the zoom and focus; zoom ring towards the base of the lens, and the focus ring closer to the top. Both have a very good, positive feel to them and rotate smoothly. They are somewhat damped to give a little resistance as well. Along the side of the lens barrel a distance scale window and two switches; one for manual/auto focus, and one for image stabilizer on/off. This lens accepts 77mm filters, which is nice because it’s a very popular filter size, so sharing filters between lenses is more of a possibility than with other filter sizes. Zooming the lens extends the front objective lens. It is longest at 105mm, and shortest at 24mm; unlike the reverse zoom extending of the 24-70L. The barrel does not extend while focusing, nor does it rotate, so using gradient or circular polarizing filters causes no issues.

Performance and Image Quality

The 24-105L features Canon’s ring USM (Ultrasonic Motor), which means focusing is fast, accurate, and mostly silent. All focusing takes place internally, so there are no moving parts while focusing, and full time manual focusing is also available. This lens is considered to be “parfocal,” which means that the focus point does not change as your focal length changes, which can come in handy, although I recommend composing your shot then focusing. This lens has a three stop image stabilizer system, which can come in very handy when shooting in low light at slow shutter speeds. Basically, for a photo that you would typically need a shutter speed of 1/100th, you can now shoot at 1/10th, 1/15th or thereabouts. The IS motor is a little noisier than some of other Canon’s IS lenses I’ve noticed, but it’s not a big difference, and hardly worth mentioning to be honest. Note that while IS is very helpful for compensating for camera shake, it will only be helpful if your subject is stationary. Moving subjects will require a faster shutter speed.

Image quality with the 24-105 is very good. Color, contrast, and bokeh are all very nice with this lens. It has an eight-blade circular aperture design, which renders smooth, pleasing out of focus regions. While a maximum aperture of f/4 isn’t the best for throwing the background out of focus, closer subjects shot at longer focal lengths can produce very nicely blurred backgrounds. It is sharp wide open, and shows marginal improvement when stopped down. If using this lens on a full frame, edge softness is somewhat apparent at wider focal lengths until stopped down. A small amount of vignetting is also apparent when using a full frame – stopping down and/or zooming in lessens the effect. Using a filter of standard thickness may increase the vignetting at wider focal lengths, so I recommend using a slim filter. Barrel distortion is apparent at the wide end between 24mm and 40mm, and a pincushion effect is apparent between 80mm and 105mm. Neither distortion types are out of the ordinary or unmanageable though, and can be easily corrected with many photo editing programs. Both lens flare and chromatic aberration are handled very well with the 24-105. Flare is mildly apparent if a bright source of light is either within the frame, or just outside of it, which will result in a slight loss of contrast. Note that earlier models of this lens suffered from a flare problem, but it has since been fixed. CA is barely noticeable with the 24-105, and only in the corners when using a full frame SLR.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Focal Length Perspective

Canon EF 24-105mm Perspective

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Distortion

Canon EF 24-105mm Distortion

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Chromatic Aberration

Canon EF 24-105mm Chromatic Aberration

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Depth of Field

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L Depth of Field

Compared to Other Lenses

A widely discussed argument among Canon shooters is which lens to get: the 24-105 f/4L IS or the 24-70 f/2.8L. Each lens has their pros and cons, and depending on what you’re after in a lens, one will likely be better for you than another. Starting with the obvious difference of focal length, the 24-105 has the clear advantage with its extra 35mm of reach over the 24-70, bringing far away subjects closer, and covering 176% of the range of the 24-70. Next up is aperture – in this category, the 24-70 wins with one full stop of aperture over the 24-105’s f/4, allowing for twice the shutter speed given identical ISO, freezing motion easier and allowing for a thinner depth of field. Build quality is comparable, although the 24-105 is smaller and about a half pound lighter. The 24-70’s hood is also very large, which takes up much space, although the reverse zoom of the 24-70 is a nice feature that the 24-105 lacks, allowing to take full advantage of the large hood. The image stabilization in the 24-105 is definitely a welcome feature that the 24-70 lacks. Great for low light and stationary subjects, the 24-70 is forced to open its aperture to compensate for less light. Personally, if I had to choose between a wide aperture and IS, I would choose the faster glass (although having both would be nice). You can attain slow shutter speeds without IS by bracing yourself against something solid or using a tripod, but there’s no “fix” for slower glass. Image quality with both lenses is very good. I would give the slight advantage to the 24-70 in this category though, mostly because at f/4, the 24-70 is already stopped down, and thus is sharper and suffers less vignetting than the 24-105 shot wide open. So if image quality is paramount, you need the speed of f/2.8, and don’t mind the extra weight, I recommend the 24-70. If you’re looking for something smaller, lighter, and with more reach, I recommend the 24-105. They’re both wonderful lenses though, and either is a fine choice.

Canon 24-105mm f/4 Pro’s and Con’s

Pros Cons
AF is fast, accurate, and silent f/4 aperture can be too slow in some situations
Optics and image quality are both very good No zoom lock
IS is useful for slow shutter speeds Avoid earlier models due to flare problem

See More Reviews

Conclusion

The 24-105L is an excellent choice for a general purpose walkaround lens. If you can only have one lens on your SLR, I would certainly recommend it. From landscapes to portraits, the wide range of focal lengths covers a great deal. Great image quality, and moderately fast at f/4. Fast, silent autofocus, three stop image stabilizer, and an excellent build quality make this lens a great choice for serious hobbyists and professionals alike.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens

Canon 24-105mm f/4 Sample Photos

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Sample Photo

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