120studio.com
January 3, 2015

Canon recently introduced a new 24-105mm zoom lens.  It is their "standard" counterpart to the 24-105 f/4L. 

Is this new lens from Canon worth getting? 

Could it become the "best value in a Canon zoom", a title once reserved for the 28-135 IS?

Let's see.


A Quick Note


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In This Article


Some Specs

Form Factor

Basic Use

Autofocus

Image Quality

Corner Sharpness

Corner Darkening (Vignetting)

Indoor Use

24-105 vs. 28-135

Summary




Some Specs

Aperture (Maximum):  f/3.5-5.6
Aperture (Minimum):   f/
Aperture Blades / Diaphragm:   7-bladed circular
Aperture Ring:  No
Autofocus:  Yes
Coated Optics:  Yes
Country of Manufacture:  Taiwan
Diameter (Max.):  3.3 inches (83.4mm)
Distance Scale:  No
Filter Size:  77mm
Full-Frame Compatible?  Yes!
Image Stabilizer:  Yes
Inner Focusing:  Yes (I checked, and the front doesn't move when you focus).
Length: 4.1 inches (104 mm)
Lens Elements:  17 elements in 13 groups
Lens Hood:  Not included
Manual Focus:  Yes
Minimum Focus Distance:  1.31 feet (0.4 meter)  ("Macro", sort of)
Mount:  Canon EOS
Price:  $599 list  (Buy yours through this link and it helps me keep this site going)
Rotating Front Element:   Nope!   You can use circular polarizers.  
Weight:  18.5 ounces (525 grams)



Buy your 24-105mm lens through this link and help support my website!



Form Factor

This is an EF lens (as opposed to EF-S).  That means it will work on full-frame and 35mm EOS film cameras.  Yay film!




Basic Use

The manual focus ring is a lot wider than the one on the 28-135, which the new lens will be replacing in the Canon line.

The 24-105 has a Lock switch to keep the zoom at 24mm when you're carrying it around.  This could be good or bad;  I wonder if Canon might have put this here because of the notorious "gravity zoom" problems with the old 28-135.

The Lock switch would be extremely cool if you could lock it in position at any chosen focal length;  but alas, it works only at 24mm.  I could see this being a nuisance anyway, because you'll have it locked when you go to make that once-in-a-lifetime zoom shot.  Be that as it may, I can see the utility of having this feature on a lens that will be facing downward while you're walking around.

By the way, the front lens element does NOT rotate. This lens would be a good candidate for use with a circular polarizer, a Cokin varicolor, or what have you.




Autofocus

This lens has the quietest AF that I have ever tried. 

The 40mm pancake also has the STM (stepper motor) focusing, but the new 24-105 is so quiet that you'll think it's not even working.  You'll know that it is, though, when you see the focus points lock on your subject.

AF is fast and smooth.   This lens was actually designed for use with movie servo AF, so you could use it with your 70D for shooting video.  (There, it would behave like a 38-168mm zoom, still a very handy focal length range.  )






Image Quality

This is a very good lens, and I don't think the intended audience will have anything to complain about. 

Like the 28-135mm, it's very sharp if you're willing to stop down to f/8 or f/11.   Even at one stop in from the widest aperture, I can see the image sharpens up considerably from wide-open. 

That's the corners.  I should clarify (no pun intended) that in the center, this lens is actually just as sharp at f/3.5 as it is at f/8.0.  If you've ever used lenses from the Seventies or Eighties, you'll know the significance of this.  Even some of the old prime lenses were quite soft at the widest apertures. 

Actually, this lens is very sharp wide-open at the highest telephoto (105mm).   That's f/5.6 at that focal length.




Corner Sharpness

So far, it looks like there is only a bit of softness in the corners, and only at wide-angle. 

First, here's a 100% crop showing center sharpness at 24mm, f/3.5:



Here's a 100% crop showing the extreme lower right-hand corner:


This is 24mm, f/3.5, which is pretty much the worst it's going to get in terms of corner blurring.  And as you can see, it's really not bad at all.

Here's the picture from which these were cropped.  The yellow rectangle shows the size of the area.  The red triangle shows the approximate extent of the corner blurring at 24mm and f/3.5:



The corners sharpen up a bit by f/4.5, and by f/5.6 they're almost as sharp as the center.   By the time you're at f/8 or f/11, I don't think anyone but the most dedicated nitpicker will have anything to complain about.  At f/8 I can't see any difference between the center and the corners;  that's at 24mm.

At 35mm, the situation is much the same.  By f/7.1, there's very little corner blurring.  By f/8 the difference between center and corners is almost completely gone.

At 70mm, the widest aperture is f/5.6, and here the corners start out almost as sharp as the center.  By f/7.1, sharpness at the corners is almost identical to the center.

At 105mm the corner sharpness improves even more, with f/5.6 being almost perfectly sharp from the get-go.   More info in the 24-105 vs. 28-135 comparison.

This is shaping up to be a solid choice for the money, which I think is what Canon was aiming for here.



Corner Darkening (Vignetting)

These are uncorrected shots on a full-frame DSLR.   Realize that almost every lens is like this without the correction. 

If you enable the "peripheral illumination correction" for this lens (camera menu), you would not see this.  To do so, you'll need the latest version of Canon "Digital Photo Professional".

You would have this much corner darkening if using an earlier firmware version, or a film camera.   (In that case, use f/8 unless you prefer some light fall-off.)

It always looks a lot worse in test shots than it does in a sunny landscape photo;  this is true for every lens.  It takes fairly severe vignetting (see Holga) to have actual black corners in your photos.

Also, realize that an APS-C DSLR will not show as much corner darkening, because of the crop factor.

At 24mm:



By f/8, corner darkening is very mild.   At f/11 (not shown here) it's pretty much gone. 

At 35mm:



I skipped over f/5.6 in the 35mm test, but you can see the corners are clear by f/7.1.

Whether you have a Canon DSLR or an EOS film camera, I would already say just get this lens.  As EF lenses go, this is a lot of performance for the money.

At 70mm:



At 70mm there is mild light fall-off at f/5.6, virtually none at f/8.   Actually, it's mostly gone by f/7.1 (not shown). 


This lens is going to be excellent for landscapes;  just stop it down to f/8 or more, and you'll have almost no light falloff in the corners.  Or, enable the "peripheral illumination correction" and it's a non-issue at any aperture.




Indoor Use

At its widest focal length, the 24-105 non-L is actually a faster lens than the 24-105 f/4 L zoom.  Then again, as soon as you start zooming in further, you're at f/4 through f/5.6.    Does that one extra stop really matter?   Well, not unless you're doing critical low-light work and you can't use a tripod.

In very dim light, it's probably better to use a fast prime anyway.    The 24-105 STM is an all-purpose lens at a moderate price, so of course there are going to be some trade-offs.  There's not a whole lot that was traded away, though;  this is a pretty sweet lens, from what I'm seeing so far

I'm no bokeh snob, but it's nice to have a lens that doesn't make the background look tense and wiry.

Even at 50mm, you can get nice background blurring:


Christmas Tree Lights

Canon EF 24-105mm IS STM @ 50mm
f/5.0 @ 1/30th sec.
ISO 6400
on Canon EOS 6D

The bokeh is smooth, even on thin elements like the artificial pine needles.  (Or whatever kind of tree that's supposed to be.)

The 24-105 STM has at least three full stops of image stabilization, and it may be closer to four.


 


24-105mm IS STM vs. 28-135mm IS

New comparison here.    I added photos to compare the corner darkening and corner sharpness.

To summarize, there isn't much difference in the image quality, except in corner sharpness.   This new 24-105mm STM has the better corner sharpness wide-open.  

What you're also getting in the new lens is wider-angle (24mm), silent focusing, and no more of the dreaded "gravity zoom".

On the other hand, the 28-135 seems to have ever-so-slightly better color in certain lighting conditions.  I didn't notice it except in a very dreary setting (icy, drab day in January).  I don't think it's a major thing, though.   Just look at that photo of the tree lights above;  it's hard to get colors better than that.

Either of these are pro-quality lenses in a consumer-grade exterior.   That's my favorite kind of lens.




Summary

The new 24-105 has very good image quality for the money.  

There's still a place for the 24-105 f/4L, because it is a faster lens at telephoto ranges.  It is also dust- and drip-sealed, unlike the  new 24-105 STM.

Canon EF zoom lenses can get very expensive, but the non-L 24-105 was designed to keep the cost at least somewhat affordable.  At the same time, it was made to offer performance that would be good enough for "almost" anyone.   Did Canon succeed?  I think they did, and then some. 

To me, this is a very exciting lens.  It might just be the ideal walkaround lens for anyone who doesn't want to spend $800 and up on an L zoom.

Get your 24-105 lens via this link and it helps me keep this site going.  Much appreciated!

Thanks for visiting my website!





         


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