Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Review: Tiny Lens on a Tiny Budget
The Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM is an extremely compact pancake lens designed to be used with Canon’s APS-C (crop) sensor DSLR cameras.
Why this lens?
I’ve been using the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM lens for a little over two years now. The price is what initially caught my eye but after using it for just a short time I quickly realized I had underestimated its size, weight, focal length, and quality. For starters, this lens is the slimmest and lightest of the EF-S lenses. It’s incredibly tiny! In addition to being small and light, it also has a low price. And being an EF-S lens, it logically has a very useful focal length of 24mm. As far as quality goes, between optics, aperture, focusing, and build quality, this lens doesn’t leave much to be desired.
Features and specs
Size. The Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM measures 2.7in (68m) in diameter and its depth measures 0.9in (22mm), which means it will protrude from your camera less than an inch. In fact, on my Canon 80D it only protrudes past the grip about a half inch (about 12 or 13mm). It’s by far the smallest lens I’ve ever owned. It accepts 52mm filters.
Weight. Weighing in at only 4.41 oz. (125g), it’s definitely no fatty. How much is 4.41 oz.? For comparison reasons, according to my scale, it weighs only 0.18 oz. (5g) more than the standard Canon LP-E6 charger for our beloved LP-E6 batteries. In other words – it weighs almost nothing.
Focal length. This is a prime lens, which means it has a fixed focal length of (in this case) 24mm. It does not zoom. Twenty-four millimeters is considered a wide-angle lens on an APS-C (crop) sensor camera and is equivalent to 38mm on a full-frame camera. We’ll talk more about the focal length later on.
Focusing system. This lens has manual and autofocusing abilities. It’s best active feature is definitely its autofocus “stepping motor”, which Canon simply calls “STM”. Although “stepping” isn’t exactly a synonym for “smooth”, make no mistake, the Canon’s STM autofocusing system is smooth as butter and quiet as a mouse. Its true qualities come to life while shooting autofocus in movie mode. A minimum focusing distance of 0.5 ft. (0.16m) and a maximum magnification of x0.27 means you can get pretty close to your subject. (See example images) A few photographers may be happy to know that it has full-time manual focus, which allows manual focus adjustments to be made while in One Shot AF Mode.
Aperture. The Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 which lets in quite a bit of light. Its minimum aperture is f/22. Canon says that its “aperture mechanism uses micro-stepping drive control for quieter drive”, which should benefit videographers who use auto exposure modes while shooting video.
Build quality and optics. This lightweight lens has a durable plastic body and boasts a metal mount. Its “aspheric lens element” helps achieve a high level of image quality and its “optimized lens arrangement and coating” helps minimize ghosting and flare, according to Canon.
Price. MSRP for the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM is $149.99 USD, but this lens can almost always be found for much less. The price definitely doesn’t disappoint.
What I like
Simply put, I love the compact size of this lens. In the real world sometimes you just want to travel light. Heading downtown? Hiking up a mountain? Slap the 24mm f/2.8 STM lens on the APS-C sensor Canon DSLR of your choice and throw it in your backpack. They don’t call it a pancake lens for no reason. It’s thin! In fact, my Canon 80D with the Canon 24mm f/2.8 STM lens, lens cap, and QR plate, weigh less than 2 pounds (around 903g). That’s less than the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM lens by itself and about the same weight as a Canon RF 24-70 f/2.8 L IS USM lens.
I also really enjoy the fixed 24mm focal length. I find I take better photos when I use a prime lens. Maybe it makes me concentrate more on framing the shot. Or maybe it’s in my head? Either way, if you haven’t tried shooting with a prime lens, check out my article on the two prime lenses I recommend trying first. It’s wide enough to shoot landscapes or in a busy airport. But make no mistake, this is not an ultra-wide angle lens. It’s very close to what is considered a “standard” field-of-view.
Another thing I really love is the STM focusing system. Like I mentioned earlier in the Features and specs section, this lens focuses very smoothly! Smooth focusing is very important in video work. This lens doesn’t make a lot of noisy clicking sounds while focusing like many other lenses do. Which means even the in-camera mic doesn’t pick up loud autofocusing sounds. It also focuses quickly and accurately, as it should.
This lens has very good image quality. If you’ve ever had a lens that wasn’t sharp or had some other outstanding optical flaw, you know how frustrating it can be. But I haven’t experienced any sharpness issues with this lens when shooting video or photos in the real world. Sharpness is pretty good on the edges. It does lose some sharpness in the corners but in my opinion it’s minimal. And besides, even some very expensive lenses lose sharpness in the corners at similar focal lengths.
Fortunately, lens flare has never been an issue with this lens. Even when shooting into the sun, I’ve just managed to get beautiful sun rays instead of strange or ugly lens flare.
Lens flare example. Exposure: f/4, 1/320th, ISO 100
The last thing I love about this lens is its price. There aren’t very many good, useful lenses that can be purchased in the sub-$130 price range.
What’s neither here nor there
The maximum aperture of f/2.8 is good but not great. Prime lenses often have maximum apertures of f/1.4 to f/2, which would make this lens almost perfect. But considering the compact size and price point of this lens, I don’t think a maximum aperture of f/2.8 is that bad. You can still get some decent bokeh if your subject is relatively close to the camera. If you’re used to an f/1.4 aperture and often shoot in poorly lit areas, you might be disappointed. On the other hand, if you’re used to a kit lens, you’ll probably be happy about the extra light this lets in. In fact, at f/2.8 this Canon 24mm lens lets in double the light than the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens lets in at the 24mm focal length.
The build quality is plenty adequate. Yes, it’s plastic. No, it doesn’t feel like a Canon L lens. But that’s a trade-off I’m willing to accept in order to have a lightweight lens. That having been said, I don’t want to sell it short – plastic is strong these days and I think this lens would be pretty difficult to break.
What I’m not fond of
I’m really not fond of the lack of lens Image Stabilization. In a perfect world all lenses would have IS, but again, I just don’t think it’s a real possibility considering the size. For me, it’s a want and not a need. But if you need a similar lens with IS, you might consider the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM or the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM, but unfortunately neither of these are STM lenses.
Another thing I’m not so fond of is that the “Canon” letters have worn off the lens cap. As a travel lens, this lens spends a lot of time in a backpack instead of a camera case, but still, I wish Canon had made the lettering a little higher quality.
I bought this lens because it was affordable and I missed shooting with prime lenses. But honestly, when I bought it, I sort of assumed it was some sort of gimmick and I didn’t take it seriously. After a short time however, I realized how good of a lens it really is.
To find out how it does with vignetting, chromatic aberration, and a few other things, read the full review at RWCameraReviews.com (not a store)