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FORUMS Canon Cameras, Lenses & Accessories Canon EF and EF-S Lenses 
Thread started 17 Feb 2014 (Monday) 01:05
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My review of the 24-70mm II vs 24-105mm IS (and 35L)

 
VirtualRain
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Feb 17, 2014 01:05 |  #1

If you search the threads here for opinions on the 24-70 f/2.8L II, you’re going to find nuggets like these…

The contrast and color rendition is simply superb.

the 24-70II is at a different level in terms of optical performance

The sharpness wide open is superior to the 24-105L stopped down

amazed by it's sharpness and overall image quality

it is without peer in it's focal range and is quite superior to the 24-105

Best FF lens for color and edge to edge IQ.

the best performing lens I have ever used

it's [Image stabilization] not quite the killer feature it seems to be

So, based on these kinds of raving endorsements, I thought I would try it out. I rented a 24-70II for the weekend. Apparently the shop has only had these in their rental inventory for a couple of months so I don’t expect it’s suffered from excessive wear and tear yet. It certainly looks as good as new.

If you’re not interested in reading the whole review, let me summarize by saying that it’s simply not the right lens for me. It does have a few desirable characteristics such as less vignetting at f/4 (although it’s equally bad at f/2.8). Slightly less CA (but neither lens shows visible CA unless you pixel peep) The 24-70II also exhibits slightly less distortion at 24mm than the 24-105 although it’s still unsightly. However, as you’ll see, I couldn’t find any shot where the 24-70II was sharper than my 24-105, even in the corners. I could also not find a single shot where there was a difference in contrast or colours.

Most importantly, using it handheld in less than ideal light requires some awareness and compromise… you really need to watch your shutter speed which means higher ISO and the noise that comes with overcoming camera shake. You cannot simply walk around with this lens in Av mode and let the camera pick a shutter speed like you can with the 24-105 (as I learned). As you’ll see, that can result in an unacceptable keeper rate due to camera shake. And you’ll also see that f2.8 is no replacement for IS.

Since walking-around is not the 24-70II's forte, what is? If I had to guess at what this lens was really designed for, I’d have to say a studio… where lighting is controlled. I’m not a wedding photographer so I can’t speak to whether this lens meets their kind of requirements, but if I was tasked with shooting a beach wedding at mid-day… sure this lens (or any for that matter) would do just fine. However, in a dimly lit chapel or reception hall, I’d probably want an even wider aperture or IS otherwise the ISOs get unsightly trying to keep the shutter speed up.


Sharpness

Let’s start with sharpness. For these shots, I put the camera on a tripod, turned off IS on the 24-105 and shot the same scene in Manual (same exposure) with each lens at f4, f8, and f2.8 on the 24-70II.

Here’s the full scene at 24mm… (focal point on the right canopy at center frame and the other 100% crop is of the sign on the far right of center)

IMAGE: https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3694/13594749383_b72b0d9632_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjD​mK  (external link)
5DM34346 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

Here are the 100% crops (the description in the title bar of each tells you what you’re looking at)

IMAGE: https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3702/13595099914_0ffeb78a70_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHmr​yo  (external link)
Sharpness Comparison (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

I didn’t include f8 center because they were indistinguishable. Even these are generally too close to call. They all look pretty similar at 100%.

Here’s a more extreme example where the 100% crop is of smaller text closer to the corner…

The full scene… (focal point on the table umbrella in the middle)

IMAGE: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7274/13594725935_c0df5dd168_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjw​ot  (external link)
5DM34344 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

Here are the 100% crops of the menu board from the far right…

IMAGE: https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3755/13595103884_7169d2c216_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHms​JQ  (external link)
Sharpness Comparison 2 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

These are shot at 35mm and 33mm respectively and the 24-70II doesn’t look very good here and a second identical shot offered no improvement.

I looked at sharpness across the frame on all the photos I took, and there wasn’t a single one at any focal length or any aperture where the 24-70II was visibly better than the 24-105. Most of the time they look too close to call. I either have a sharp 24-105, a soft sample of the 24-70II, or a lot of the claims about this new zoom being sharper are questionable. It could be a bit of all three.


Distortion

A lot of people complain about the distortion in the 24-105, and perhaps rightly so, but it’s easily corrected so it has never bothered me much. The 24-70II has less distortion, but if you’re bothered by the distortion in the 24-105, then you’ll still be bothered by the distortion in this new lens. It has less distortion, but it’s still noticeable and requires correction all the same.

Here’s a comparison of the 24mm image I used earlier… look at the bow in the roof line. Both correct easily with a few clicks in your post program of choice.

Top row is 24-105, Bottom row is 24-70II (Out of camera on left, corrected on right)…

IMAGE: https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3688/13595105594_47fa81487e_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHmt​fj  (external link)
Distortion Comparison (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr


CA

CA is very well controlled on both lenses. I certainly wouldn’t consider this a problem of the 24-105 like it is on fast primes. CA is invisible in regular screen size photos from both lenses, but there is a tad bit more present if you pixel peep as I did here… (look along the vertical edge of the white pillar)… fortunately it’s easily corrected in the event you crop to such an extent it becomes visible. And if you can see it on the 24-105, you’ll also see it on the 24-70II even though it is less prominent… it’s still there and visible in extreme crops.

IMAGE: https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3725/13594759033_09713cbb6c_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjG​e8  (external link)
CA Comparison (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr


Vignetting

One well known issue with the 24-105L is that it displays some fairly significant vignetting in the corners at f4. The 24-70II is much better in this regard at f4 but has a similar problem as you might expect at f2.8. This is just a fact of life with zooms I think. Fortunately, it’s easily corrected in post in either case. See the next set of photos to see an example of the difference in vignetting at f4.


Colour and Contrast

I could not find any photos where there was any noticeable difference in contrast or colours between the 24-70II and the 24-105.

Here’s a typical couple of shots… the only way you can tell which is which in this case is the slightly darker corners of the 24-105 on the right since these were shot at f4. Both capture great dynamic range from the sky to the buildings and the orange “pops" just as much in both photos. These, like all the photos presented here are straight out of the camera without any post processing (unless otherwise noted).

IMAGE: https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3713/13594732865_fb86a870ac_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjy​rX  (external link)
Colours and Contrast (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

Sony a7rII / 24-240 / Zeiss 25, 55, 85

  
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VirtualRain
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Feb 17, 2014 01:06 |  #2

Auto Exposure and Camera Shake

The first 24 hours I spent with this lens, I just spent walking around downtown Vancouver and Lonsdale Quay taking snapshots of buildings and the urban landscape switching back and forth between each lens for any given shot to get a sample of all the different shots from both lenses… Like the one above of Harbour Center and this one on Granville Street…

IMAGE: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7044/13594740335_73f5594ec8_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjA​EK  (external link)
5DM34023 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

I shot in Av as usual at both f/4 and f/8 to get a feel for where the 24-105 might be weak and where the 24-70II might be strong. When I started looking at the photos closely, a lot of what I found surprised me…

I saw things like this…

IMAGE: https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2865/13594743465_49442da482_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjB​AH  (external link)
Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 6.40.15 PM (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

There’s two things wrong with this… (1) The 24-70 metered the scene with a slower shutter and (2) not surprisingly there’s camera shake ruining this shot. More on both of these below...

Here is a table of 20 shots taken with both lenses during my first 24 hours with the 24-70II. There’s a few interesting things to discuss here (focusing on the right-most two columns of the chart below).

IMAGE: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7171/13594745085_69b2c40e6a_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjC​5D  (external link)
Test Shot Table (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

1. The two lenses can often cause the meter to expose the scene differently. As you can see from the “Exposure Difference” column in the table, the 24-70II resulted in a higher auto exposure (noted by a
“+”) 8 out of 20 times, and a slightly shifted exposure (noted by a “s”) 3 out of 20 times. The other 9 times, the exposure settings were the same from both lenses. In the case where the 24-70II exposed the scene brighter, it was usually only one shutter speed setting slower (about 1/3rd stop). Looking at the histogram, it was never a bad decision, unless the shutter speed was dangerously close to 1/FL (Focal Length). And when we go to #2 below, you’ll see how this decision to use a slower shutter might have contributed to a few blurry shots.

2. The lack of IS resulted in discarding 7 out of 20 shots due to a lack of sharpness from camera shake. See the “Keeper” column in the table. I don’t have particularly shaky hands, but of course, YMMV.

Here’s a perfect example of a shot that was not a keeper… (#19)…

IMAGE: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7304/13594734495_72ea28e424_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjy​W4  (external link)
5DM34182 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

And crops of the center…

IMAGE: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7148/13594765613_69187ebe84_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjJ​bz  (external link)
Camera Shake (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

To address this issue, you’d have to set the Min. Shutter Speed under ISO settings on the 5D3 to something like 1/60th for wide angle shots, or even 1/125 for telephoto shots which would have been a safe setting for the kind of shooting I was doing where focal lengths were all over the map. However, you can see from the table that in many cases, that’s often two stops of added ISO you’re adding to each shot that was totally unnecessary on the 24-105 with IS. As an example, the photo that was shot at 200 ISO on the 24-105 with IS would have to be shot at 800 ISO with the 24-70II. So one way to think of IS is as automatic NR.

Alternatively, you might think you can shoot the same scene with the 24-70II at f/2.8. That would certainly give you a decent shutter speed, but f/2.8 is not a saviour in this situation. Here’s a crop of the yellow bin in the foreground corner from the f/2.8 shot and the original shot from the 24-105 at f/8 with IS. Unfortunately, the 24-70II shot is still a blurry discard… in this case, thanks to the limited depth of field f2.8 offers. The best strategy would be to boost the ISO to 400 at f8 and try again, or just use a lens with IS.

IMAGE: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7344/13594738445_51ef77f9be_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjA​7a  (external link)
Depth of Field Kills (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

And for those who think the 24-70II has superior sharpness at 2.8, that’s not what I found… (see the sharpness section above for another example)

Here’s a comparison of a 100% crop near the edge of the frame…

IMAGE: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7149/13594774323_3ed37cf3a8_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjL​LK  (external link)
Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 6.56.27 PM (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

Here’s the full scene for context…

IMAGE: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7401/13594747845_edda39a8f1_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjC​Ue  (external link)
5DM34338 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

Sony a7rII / 24-240 / Zeiss 25, 55, 85

  
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VirtualRain
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Feb 17, 2014 01:07 as a reply to  @ VirtualRain's post |  #3

Depth of Field

In case you’re wondering what the DOF looks like at 70mm and f/2.8 vs 105mm and f/4, well here you go. It’s clearly difficult to tell which is which… the DOF is similar in these two situations with 105mm requiring 5’ further distance to obtain the same composition. The focus point is on the front of the bowl.

IMAGE: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7173/13594795173_fc3e8d5652_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjS​Ye  (external link)
5DM34360 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2862/13594770625_7b6a368c48_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjK​EZ  (external link)
5DM34358 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr


Summary

The 24-70mm f/2.8L II compared to the 24-105mm f/4L IS…

Good:
- Less vignetting at f4
- Less CA
- Less distortion at 24mm

(Note how all of these things can be easily corrected in post with the 24-105 images)

Bad:
- Auto Exposure results in slightly slower shutter in several cases
- No IS - which means you need one to two stops added noise to compensate

No difference:
- Same sharpness (except f2.8 is noticably softer at the edges of the frame)
- Same colour and contrast

See also my next post for how the 24-70II compares to my 35L in dimly lit situations.

The bottom line of all this for me:

I’m keeping my current kit and won’t be buying a 24-70II any time soon. It’s simply not an upgrade for me (or for most people I suspect). Even if I was given one, I wouldn’t use it. There’s simply not a situation where I could see getting any value out of it compared to the lenses I have. The 24-105 is much better for a walk-around lens, especially in challenging light, and the 35L does as primes do, and kicks arse in very low light. Even under ideal conditions, the 24-70II offers no significant advantage. In my case, I’m definitely much better off spending $2K somewhere else.

Sony a7rII / 24-240 / Zeiss 25, 55, 85

  
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VirtualRain
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Feb 17, 2014 01:07 as a reply to  @ VirtualRain's post |  #4

Comparing the 24-70II to the 35L

I had originally theorized that if I could replace my 24-105L with the new 24-70II, I might also be able to consolidate my kit a bit and get rid of my 35L. Although it’s moot now based on the fact that the 24-70II is not a suitable replacement for my 24-105, I thought it still might be interesting to have a look at some comparisons with the 35L.

The value of a wide aperture can be two fold… (1) getting a required shutter speed at much lower ISO (2) gracefully blurring out backgrounds. Of course, the corollary to this is that the DOF can be razor thin which can either add to a photograph or ruin it.

So how does the 24-70II compare with it’s reasonably wide f/2.8 max aperture?

The answer is that it does reasonably well. You can be your own judge however…

Here’s a pair of shots in extremely low light from both that show how the depth of field can blur the background. More important to me than the background in this shot, is the fact that the f/1.4 image (shown first) only required ISO 6400 to pull this off at 1/160, whereas the f/2.8 shot required 20000 ISO. Of course at 800px you can't see much noise in either, but trust me, it's there.

IMAGE: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7316/13595132084_7cd4e7f45d_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHmB​83  (external link)
5DM34245 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3817/13594758215_e9943d0d9f_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjF​Z2  (external link)
5DM34244 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

Here’s another shot similar exposure (this one at 1/125). Both perform well here with the advantage in ISO going to the f/1.4 aperture.

IMAGE: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7420/13595126534_432d6bf7d4_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHmz​tm  (external link)
5DM34279 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2855/13594754165_1b7037bd4e_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjE​Mc  (external link)
5DM34285 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

This last series shows a comparison of sharpness between the 24-70II at 35mm at f/2.8 and the 35L at both f/2.8 and f/1.4. The subject, in this case, is the steam clock in Gastown (probably the most photographed object in the city).

IMAGE: https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5346/13595137464_820a4f9ff8_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHmC​HN  (external link)
5DM34122 (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

This first series compares the sharpness at the focal point. To my eyes, the 35L is sharpest at f/2.8 then f/1.4 followed by the 24-70 at f/2.8.

IMAGE: https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2883/13594792393_b553d4f646_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHjS​9i  (external link)
35L Sharpness Comparison FP (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

This second series moves up to the top of the clock face, which due to the angle, is a ways back from the focal plane. Here is a lesson in shallow depth of field at wide apertures, as the f/1.4 image is already getting blurry and the sharpness of the two f/2.8 lenses takes over (again with the 35L edging out the 24-70II in my eyes).

IMAGE: https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2899/13595141404_276718e620_o.png
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/mHmD​TJ  (external link)
35L Sharpness Comparison Clock Face (external link) by Virtual.Rain (external link), on Flickr

Sony a7rII / 24-240 / Zeiss 25, 55, 85

  
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kin2son
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Feb 17, 2014 01:20 |  #5
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Awaiting for the 24-70II army to come in and say that your rental copy is faulty.


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Ralph ­ III
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Feb 17, 2014 02:21 as a reply to  @ kin2son's post |  #6

But how does it compare to the Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 di VC?:)

Just kidding. I'm actually considering getting the Canon 24-105mm f4.0 and this was a nice comparison and helpful!

Can you post a few more DOF comparisons (indoor and outdoor)? Also, could I expect less vignetting or distortion on a crop camera (40d)?

Thanks,
Ralph


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JeremyKPhoto
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Feb 17, 2014 02:26 |  #7

Nice comparison.

I thought I recognized that wallace shipyard sign. We stayed at the Pinnacle at the Pier hotel right there last summer :). Love that area.


5D Mark III / 70-200 2.8L IS II / 24-105L / 50 1.8 stm / Tamron 70-300 VC / Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art

  
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Feb 17, 2014 03:02 |  #8

kin2son wrote in post #16695374 (external link)
Awaiting for the 24-70II army to come in and say that your rental copy is faulty.

bw!


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Rolex
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Feb 17, 2014 03:06 |  #9

many thank's for this review sir!
was thinking of adding one of these (24-70II) to my bag .. and moving my 24-105 on
think you saved me lots of ££££££££




  
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Feb 17, 2014 05:27 |  #10

Ralph III wrote in post #16695441 (external link)
...could I expect less vignetting or distortion on a crop camera (40d)?

Thanks,
Ralph


Yes, on a Crop Camere, you get less Vignetting, and less Disortion, BUT you gett also a less wide image.
If ouy look at it loke this, 24mm on a FF camera looks the same, as 15mm on the 40D.


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Nikon D850 | Nikon 70-200 f/2.8G VR II | Nikon 85mm f/1.8G | Nikon 35mm f/1.8G

  
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Feb 17, 2014 05:34 |  #11

Thank you VirtualRain, for the review.

This is exaclty what I was thinking, altough did not have the chance to try out the 24-70 II.

I had a 2870 f/2.8 and loved it, and was reasonably sharp, sadly it stopped working, so I was thinking for a replacement, the 24-70 Mk 1 was the lens I wanted for long, and now that the Mk 2 is out was really wondering if it is that better.

Now after this review, I am sure I will not spend that much money on the 24-70 II, as I always tought is inferior in design to the 24-70 Mk1, and it seems optically it has also no real advantages.

By inferior in design, I mean, no proper lens hood, thatis useful at 24 and 70mm (as in the Mk1), too much plastic for my liking. Also the lens gets longer with zooming, not so the Mk1, if you mount the hood on it.


Roland | Hobbyst Photographer
Nikon D850 | Nikon 70-200 f/2.8G VR II | Nikon 85mm f/1.8G | Nikon 35mm f/1.8G

  
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EOS5DC
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Feb 17, 2014 06:01 |  #12
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Interesting. I can't afford any of them, but interesting. Does it surprise anyone that the 35L is sharper at f/2.8 than the 24-70 II is at f/2.8? That is not even fair - a prime stopped down two full stops vs. a wide open zoom. Didn't need photos to know how that one was going to turn out!


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Eyal
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Feb 17, 2014 06:19 |  #13

Nice review.

I have a few complaints regarding your test and comparison (like comparing non IS vs IS with low shutter speeds and complaining about smearing while relaying on the body to decide things for you) but overall, the review is pretty nice.

And as most will say, the 24-70 and 24-105 are different tools (just to get on that bandwagon :p)

And the 35L, someone said it better than me just above :)


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Invertalon
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Feb 17, 2014 06:29 |  #14

Your experience is quite a bit different from mine.

I had the 24-105L and currently have the 35L and 24-70 II... The 24-70 II was sharper (when tested) across the frame at f/2.8 than my 24-105L stopped down, and certainly wide open. Side by side with my 35L, the 24-70 II is sharper at f/2.8 and 35mm *overall*... As well as compared to the 24L II I rented. By overall, the center sharpness may be similar but the 24-70 II clearly performs better near the edges/corners. Quite stunning for a zoom!

Judging by those shots you did post, that copy does seem off. The resolution of my 24-70 II all the way into the corners is amazing... Yours looks terrible in comparison (to be honest). I have never seen my 24-70 II perform that badly, resolution wise.

I am not "fanboying" the 24-70 II, but there *is* copy variation (the first I purchased was decentered badly on the right side at 24mm... Exchanged for my current copy that I have had since). I really loved the 24-105L but the 24-70 II is a superior lens optically, no doubt. It has been well documented through various review sites that the 24-70 II is a much sharper lens. If you are showing the complete opposite, I would think that something is messed up on that 24-70.


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ilumo
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Feb 17, 2014 06:49 |  #15

Invertalon wrote in post #16695673 (external link)
Your experience is quite a bit different from mine.

I had the 24-105L and currently have the 35L and 24-70 II... The 24-70 II was sharper (when tested) across the frame at f/2.8 than my 24-105L stopped down, and certainly wide open. Side by side with my 35L, the 24-70 II is sharper at f/2.8 and 35mm *overall*... As well as compared to the 24L II I rented. By overall, the center sharpness may be similar but the 24-70 II clearly performs better near the edges/corners. Quite stunning for a zoom!

Judging by those shots you did post, that copy does seem off. The resolution of my 24-70 II all the way into the corners is amazing... Yours looks terrible in comparison (to be honest). I have never seen my 24-70 II perform that badly, resolution wise.

I am not "fanboying" the 24-70 II, but there *is* copy variation (the first I purchased was decentered badly on the right side at 24mm... Exchanged for my current copy that I have had since). I really loved the 24-105L but the 24-70 II is a superior lens optically, no doubt. It has been well documented through various review sites that the 24-70 II is a much sharper lens. If you are showing the complete opposite, I would think that something is messed up on that 24-70.

agreed on this as well. I think the ops copy was a little off. I know in my comparisons of the 24105 vs 2470II the II was definitely better corner to corner. I thought my 24105 was an excellent performer. But the 2470 is superior. Maybe not to the level that some fan boys are saying but I am enjoying it. hiwever the extra stop of speed DOES help with my speedy crawling baby. Also the corner to corner sharpness allows me to crop less when my subjects are near the corner. I do miss IS soemtimes but I don't regret getting the new II at all.


Body: 5D Mark IV
Glass: 50mm f/1.8 | 35mm f/1.4L USM | 17-40 f/4.0L USM | 24-70 f/2.8L II USM | 24-105 f/4.0L IS USM | 70-200 f/2.8L II IS USM | 85mm f/1.2L USM | 100mm f/2.8L IS USM
Accessories: 430 EX II, 600 EX, tripods, umbrellas, and other goodies.

  
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My review of the 24-70mm II vs 24-105mm IS (and 35L)
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