Gear Reviews

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Review

Photo of author
Written By Nate Torres

In this review guide, I’ll be reviewing the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS, a versatile powerhouse and a highly regarded member of Canon’s L-series lineup.

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS has earned its reputation as a Swiss Army knife of photography, offering both wide-angle, short telephoto, and even macro focal lengths, along with a constant f/4 maximum aperture.

I’ll be diving into the construction, performance, and real-world applications of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS, exploring how it performs in various photographic genres and what it offers to both professionals and enthusiasts.

Whether you’re into portrait photography, landscapes, macro work, or videography, this lens is built to impress.

I’m here to help you decide whether or not you will find it helpful in your photography scenarios.

To see my full video review of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS, you can watch it here:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Review - A Versatile Powerhouse?
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Review – A Versatile Powerhouse?

Let’s dive in!

Quick Summary

In a hurry? Here’s the quick summary, I believe the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS is a versatile zoom lens that has high-quality optics and construction.

With a focal length range spanning from wide-angle to short telephoto and a constant f/4 maximum aperture, it’s an excellent choice for photographers seeking flexibility in their creative work.

While I believe this lens particularly shines in street photography and landscape photography, it can also perform well for portraits, product shots, and even macro work.

This lens is ideal for enthusiasts and professionals alike!

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM

Here are my pros and cons of this lens:

Pros and Cons of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS

ProsCons
Versatile focal rangef/4 maximum aperture
Image stabilizationWeight
Weather sealing
Silent autofocus
Macro mode

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Build Details

Let’s dive into the build details of this lens.

1. Focal Length

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS is a standard zoom lens that is very versatile.

I’ve found that the zoom ring is very easy to use to adjust different focal lengths.

There are a few sticking points that I will mention later in this guide.

Full-Frame Cameras

While it is primarily designed for full-frame DSLR cameras, it can be used on an APS-C camera.

The 24-70mm focal length of this lens makes it a classic choice for many photographers due to its ability to perform well in various situations.

Wide-Angle (24mm):

At 24mm, this is the widest focal length you can use on this lens.

This focal length is excellent for capturing landscapes, architecture, group shots, or interior shots.

If you need to capture a wide field of view or are in a tight space, then this is the focal length you’ll want to use.

Standard (around 50mm):

At around the 50mm focal length, you’ll be in the standard focal length range.

This focal length is ideal for everyday photography, such as portraits, street photography, or general walk-around use.

The maximum aperture of f/4 on this lens is adequate for achieving some background blur (bokeh) while maintaining good sharpness.

Short Telephoto (70mm):

At 70mm, this lens enters short telephoto territory.

This focal length is suitable for portraits, close-up details, or any situation where you must isolate your subject.

At this focal length, you can also create some pleasing background blur and it will allow you to get a close shot of subjects that may be scared of your presence, such as wildlife or animals.

Here’s a few images showing the same scene I captured at the different focal lengths on this lens:

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM at Different Focal Lengths
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM at Different Focal Lengths

APS-Cameras

When using the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS on a crop-sensor (APS-C) camera, there will be a “crop factor.”

The crop factor is typically 1.6x, so instead of having a focal length of 24-70mm, it will be 38-112mm.

With this new focal length, it will lead to some new implications.

Increased Telephoto Reach

First, the 38-112mm will become more telephoto-oriented, allowing you to capture more distant subjects such as wildlife, and it will also allow you to capture tighter framing in your photos.

Narrower Field of View

Second, the wide-angle capabilities of this lens at its lowest focal length will be somewhat diminished since you can no longer reach a 24mm focal length.

With this being said, you may find it less suitable for capturing wide shots or shooting in tight-spaces.

Background Blur

Third, while you can still achieve some nice background blur with the f/4 aperture, it may not be as pronounced as using this lens on a full-frame camera.

Here’s a visual example of a scene I captured on both a full-frame camera and an APS-C sensor camera.

You can see the difference and how the lens changes focal range on an APS-C sensor camera:

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM on APS-C Camera vs. Full-Frame Camera
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM on APS-C Camera vs. Full-Frame Camera

2. Aperture

Aperture Range

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS has a fixed maximum aperture of f/4.

Some zoom lenses offer variable aperture, which will change the maximum aperture as you zoom; however, this lens does not.

The f/4 aperture remains constant regardless of the zoom position.

I’ve found this makes it more convenient and allows consistency when you’re shooting because you don’t need to keep adjusting your exposure settings as you change the focal length.

Usually, lenses with wider apertures, such as f/2.8 are also typically larger, heavier, and more expensive.

By sticking with the f/4 maximum aperture, you can have a lens that is more compact, lightweight, and portable.

One drawback with having a maximum aperture of f/4 is that you are a bit limited with low-light performance.

This lens is not as effective as lenses with wider apertures such as f/2.8 or wider.

For example:

In this image you can tell the difference in background blur when using the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM vs the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L ISM on their maximum apertures:

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM vs Canon EF 50mm f1.8
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM vs Canon EF 50mm f1.8

Outside of low-light conditions, you might also find yourself struggling a bit when you need a shallow depth of field, such as a portrait or headshot photo, and you’re trying to capture bokeh.

The minimum aperture of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS is f/22.

This is a very narrow aperture opening, and you’ll typically want to use this when you want a deep depth of field to allow your foreground and background to be in focus.

Just note that at very small apertures like f/22, you may notice some diffraction with this lens, which may slightly reduce image sharpness, due to the way the light interacts with the smaller aperture.

Here’s an image I took at f/22, you’ll notice a nice deep depth of field:

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM at f22
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM at f22

All-in-all, the aperture of this lens offers a balance of versatility, portability, and image quality.

I’ve found that it works best for photography landscapes, travel, events, street, and some portrait work.

Aperture Blades

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS features a circular, 9-blade diaphragm.

The number and shape of the aperture blades play a significant role in the quality of the bokeh.

More aperture blades tend to create a smoother and more pleasing background blur.

This lens can’t achieve the bokeh quality of a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or wider.

But the background blur it does offer produces attractive, round highlights.

3. Focus Mechanism

Here are some details regarding the focus mechanism, motor, autofocus, manual focus, minimum focusing distance, and focus ring operation:

Ultrasonic Motor (USM)

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS uses Canon’s Ultrasonic MOtor (USM) for autofocus.

The USM technology provides a fast, accurate, and near-silent focusing performance.

I tested the noise in my video review, so be sure to check out that section.

The USM motor is also known for its quick and responsive autofocus.

Smooth Autofocus

The autofocus on this lens is fast and accurate, making it suitable for capturing changing scenes quickly.

This lens benefits from Canon’s advanced AF technology, which is known for its tracking capabilities across moving subjects.

Manual Focus

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS has a manual focus mode, which can be engaged by switching the focus mode on the lens barrel.

I found that manual focusing is smooth and precise as well.

If you want to quickly use manual focus while in autofocus mode, this lens also supports manual focus override.

This allows you to make manual adjustments to focus when in autofocus mode.

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Autofocus and Manual Focus Switch
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Autofocus and Manual Focus Switch

Minimum Focusing Distance

The minimum focusing distance of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS lens is approximately 0.38 meters (1.25 feet) throughout the zoom range.

This means you can get fairly close to your subject for close-up shots, such as small objects or detailed macro photography.

Smooth Focus Ring Operation

When using manual focus control, the focus ring on this lens is very well-designed and provides a smooth and precise experience.

The focus ring is also wide enough and has a textured surface, making it a very comfortable and easy experience when making quick adjustments.

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Focus Ring
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Focus Ring

4. Optical Design

The optical design of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS is a key component in its overall performance and image quality:

Lens Elements and Groups

This lens consists of 15 lens elements arranged in 12 groups that work together to correct various optical aberrations.

Aspherical Element

This lens features two aspherical elements.

Each is designed to correct spherical aberrations and reduce distortion, leading to improved image sharpness and clarity, particularly at the edges of the frame.

Lens Coating

The coating on the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS is Super Spectra Coating, which is the propriety lens coating by Canon.

This coating is crucial for reducing lens flare and ghosting and ensuring color accuracy is maintained, even in challenging lighting conditions.

I tested for lens flares throughout its focal ranges in my video review and found that there were not any major lens flares created with this lens.

Only some minor ones, but nothing too interfering as you can see here:

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Lens Flare
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Lens Flare

Chromatic Aberration Correction

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS is also equipped with Ultra-low Dispersion (UD) glass elements which help control chromatic aberration.

The UD elements help minimize the aberration and this results in better image quality with reduced color fringing.

Distortion Control

The optical design of the lens is optimized for minimal distortion.

Some wide-angle zoom lenses can exhibit barrel distortion at the wide end and pincushion distortion at the telephoto end.

But I did not notice any crazy distortion when testing out the lens.

I noticed some barrel distortion at its widest focal range of 24mm, but in most photo editing software, you have the ability to enable “Profile Corrections.”

This will eliminate any distortion caused by the lens, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much:

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Barrel Distortion at 24mm
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Barrel Distortion at 24mm

5. Construction Materials

Now, let’s look at the construction materials of this lens.

Lens Barrel

The lens barrel of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS is primarily made from a combination of metal and high-quality plastic, making it both durable and lightweight.

It also has a sleek matte-black finish, making the lens look aesthetic.

Mount

The lens mount is made of metal, which is fairly common in L-series lenses.

The metal allows the lens and the camera body to connect sturdy and ensure a secure fit, so there are no complaints here:

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Metal Lens Mount
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Metal Lens Mount

Focus Ring

The focus ring on this lens is very precise and smooth when manually focusing.

It’s located on the front of the lens barrel and just like other L-series lenses, it’s rubberized and ribbed.

This means the grip and tactile feedback you get from rotating it is a satisfying experience.

Zoom Ring

In addition to the focus ring, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS also has a zoom ring since it is a zoom lens.

The zoom ring also has a rubberized grip that feels nice to the touch.

The only caveat I noticed was that turning the focus ring from 70mm to 24mm was smoother than turning it from 24mm to 70mm.

It wasn’t anything crazy, but it seemed to “stick” a little more when turning from 24mm to 70mm; not a deal-breaker though.

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Zoom Ring
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Zoom Ring

Filter Thread

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS has a filter thread size of 77mm.

This is a standard size for many professional lenses, which means you can easily attach various filters, such as UV, polarizers, or ND filters, to enhance your creative options and protect the lens.

6. Weather Sealing

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS does feature weather-sealing gaskets, so if you are an adventurous photographer, you will be happy to see this:

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Weather Sealing Gasket
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Weather Sealing Gasket

The gasket protects against moisture and dust, but just know that it’s not fully waterproof.

I took this lens to the beach, and it was a windy day, so there was a lot of sand blowing around near the water.

Luckily, thanks to the weather sealing, this lens was not damaged.

7. Weight

The weight of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS is approximately 600 grams, which is about 1.32 pounds.

This lens is on the lighter side of zoom lenses, making it more manageable than other zoom lenses.

This makes the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS particularly well-suited from travel, events, and long days of shooting where mobility and comfort are important considerations.

After photographing with this lens all day, although it is on the lighter side of zoom lenses, it is still almost a pound and a half.

Wearing a neck strap, my neck was sore afterward.

Just be aware of this and make sure to bring a camera bag or hold it up with your hands for a little while.

Especially if you are going to be photographing with it for an extended period of time.

8. Image Stabilization (IS)

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS does feature image stabilization, which is what the “IS” stands for in this lens name.

To turn on image stabilization, there is a dedicated switch on the lens barrel, and you just toggle it on or off.

In my opinion, it should always be on.

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Image Stabilization Switch
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Image Stabilization Switch

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Image Quality

Now, let’s take a look at the image quality of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS.

With its varied focal length, this lens is known for its versatility in different shooting scenarios.

Portrait Photography

When it comes to portrait photography, this lens produces sharp, high-contrast images with good color reproduction.

While this lens does have a maximum aperture of f/4, it can still create some decent background blur (bokeh), especially at the middle-to-end of its focal range 50mm-70mm.

Of course, it’s not going to produce an amazing background blur like a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, but it’s still good.

Also, with the built-in image stabilization, there is a reduced risk of camera shake when trying to take a portrait handheld.

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Portrait Photo Example
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Portrait Photo Example

Street Photography

Street photography is one of the areas that this lens thrives in.

The 24-70mm focal range covers various typical street photography compositions, from wide urban scenes and streets to close shots of people and details.

With this one lens, you can confidently head out into the street and know that you’ll be able to capture any scene.

Pairing its focal range with the lens’s sharpness, it’s a combo for street photography greatness.

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Street Photo Example
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Street Photo Example

Low-Light Environments

For low-light environments, this lens performs well, but is not exceptional.

The image stabilization on this lens allows you to use slower shutter speeds and shoot at lower ISO settings without risking significant motion blur.

But the maximum aperture of f/4 is not the widest aperture out there.

With that being said, the image stabilization and high-quality optics help compensate for its lack of wide aperture, but it’s a tradeoff!

It’s hard to find variety in focal range like this lens while also having great low-light performance unless you’re will to spend the big bucks.

I tested this lens at low-light conditions and have a photo at each f-stop later in this guide and in my video review so be sure to check out those images.

And don’t get me wrong, it performs well, but not exceptional.

Product Photography

Regarding product photography, this lens can produce some quality, sharp shots.

This makes it suitable for the fine details and textures needed to be captured in product shots.

I’ve also noticed this lens does a good job of reproducing colors accurately.

This is important for product photography where color fidelity is essential.

Landscape Photography

Landscape photography, along with street photography, is another area where the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS shines.

You can capture wide-angle expansive landscapes with its 24mm range and also mild telephoto distant scenes with its 70mm range.

Pairing the focal length variety with its ability to capture sharp, high-contrast images makes this a great lens for landscape photography.

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Landscape Photo Example
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Landscape Photo Example

Macro Photography

While the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS is not a dedicated macro lens, it features a close focusing distance.

It also has a feature called “Macro Mode” that allows you to focus on subjects at very close distances.

In macro mode, the lens can achieve a maximum magnification of approximately 0.7x.

This means you can capture subjects at a relatively close range while maintaining a clear and detailed image.

This magnification is quite respectable for a zoom lens not specifically designed for macro work.

The minimum focusing distance in macro mode is about 0.2 meters (20cm).

This enables you to get quite close to your subject for detailed shots.

The short distance allows you to capture small objects or details effectively.

I was able to produce some good macro shots while in macro mode.

With the inclusion of macro mode, it really makes the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS a versatile powerhouse.

Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Macro Photo Example
Canon EF 24-70mm f4L ISM Macro Photo Example

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS F-Stop Ranges

To fully explore how this lens performs, I tested the image quality at different f-stop ranges, let’s check it out:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Video Quality

The video quality of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS is solid and is on par with its image quality.

The image stabilization of the lens makes it very beneficial for video shooting.

I found that even when my hands were shaking a bit, the effects of camera shake were reduced heavily in the footage.

When I turned off image stabilization, I could also really see the benefit that it was providing.

To see the difference, be sure to watch that section in my video review.

The constant aperture of this lens also provides excellent, consistent exposure and depth of field even when zooming in and out.

As mentioned earlier, some lenses change maximum aperture at different focal lengths, but not the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS.

The Ultrasonic Motor (USM) within the lens also produces a very quiet and rapid focus performance which is ideal for video because you don’t want to hear the motor when zooming in and out.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Low-Light Performance

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS lens, with its maximum aperture of f/4, is not typically considered a low-light specialist.

Especially when compared to lenses with wider apertures, such as f/2.8 or prime lenses with even larger apertures.

However, it still offers some notable features and capabilities for low-light photography such as image stabilization and high-quality optics.

I tested the image quality during low-light at different f-stop ranges, let’s check it out:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Compatible Cameras

Looking for a camera to use with the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS? Check out the compatible cameras with this lens:

Full-Frame (EF) Canon DSLR Cameras:

  1. Canon EOS 1D X Mark II
  2. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
  3. Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  4. Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  5. Canon EOS 6D
  6. Canon EOS 5DS R
  7. Canon EOS 5DS
  8. Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  9. Canon EOS 1D X
  10. Canon EOS 1D Mark IV
  11. Canon EOS 1D Mark III
  12. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  13. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II
  14. Canon EOS-1Ds
  15. Canon EOS-1D C
  16. Canon EOS-1D Mark II N
  17. Canon EOS-1D Mark II
  18. Canon EOS-1D Mark IIn
  19. Canon EOS-1D
  20. Canon EOS-1V

Canon APS-C (Crop Sensor) DSLR Cameras:

  1. Canon EOS 90D
  2. Canon EOS 80D
  3. Canon EOS 77D
  4. Canon EOS 70D
  5. Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  6. Canon EOS 7D
  7. Canon EOS 60D
  8. Canon EOS 50D
  9. Canon EOS 40D
  10. Canon EOS 30D
  11. Canon EOS 20D
  12. Canon EOS 10D
  13. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T8i / EOS 850D
  14. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T7i / EOS 800D
  15. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T6s / EOS 760D
  16. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T6i / EOS 750D
  17. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D
  18. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T6 / EOS 1300D
  19. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T5i / EOS 700D
  20. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T5 / EOS 1200D
  21. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T4i / EOS 650D
  22. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T3i / EOS 600D
  23. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T3 / EOS 1100D
  24. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T2i / EOS 550D
  25. Canon EOS Digital Rebel T1i / EOS 500D
  26. Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi / EOS 450D
  27. Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS / EOS 1000D

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Accessories

Looking for some accessories to pair with this lens? There are several accessories that can complement your photography or videography setup. Here are some commonly used accessories:

  1. Lens Hood: The lens typically comes with a lens hood, but having a spare or replacement is always a good idea. A lens hood helps reduce lens flare and protects the front element of the lens.
  2. Filters: Consider adding filters to your kit, such as UV filters for protection, circular polarizers for controlling reflections and enhancing colors, and neutral density (ND) filters for long exposure photography or video.
  3. Tripod: A sturdy tripod is essential for stable shots, especially in low-light conditions. It’s valuable for landscape photography, long exposures, and video work where stability is crucial.
  4. Camera Bag: Invest in a quality camera bag or backpack to carry and protect your camera and lens. Make sure it has ample space to accommodate your Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS and other equipment.
  5. Remote Shutter Release: For long exposures or time-lapse photography, a remote shutter release can help you avoid camera shake when pressing the shutter button.
  6. Lens Cleaning Kit: Keep your lens clean and free from dust and smudges with a lens cleaning kit that includes a microfiber cloth, lens cleaning solution, and lens blower.
  7. Lens Pouch or Case: Protect your lens when not in use with a dedicated lens pouch or case. This safeguards it from potential scratches and dust.
  8. Lens Cap Keeper: A lens cap keeper attaches to your lens barrel and prevents you from misplacing or losing your lens cap during shooting sessions.
  9. External Flash: For portrait and event photography, an external flash can provide additional lighting options. It’s a valuable accessory for improving the quality of your images in low-light situations.
  10. Gimbal Stabilizer: If you use the lens for video work, especially on a mirrorless or DSLR camera, a gimbal stabilizer can help you achieve smooth and steady footage while shooting on the move.
  11. Lens Cleaning Pen: A lens cleaning pen is a convenient tool for quick touch-ups and removing fingerprints from the lens surface.
  12. Lens Adapters: If you’re using this lens on a camera system with a different mount, you may need lens adapters to ensure compatibility.
  13. Lens Collar or Support Bracket: If you frequently use the lens on a tripod, a lens collar or support bracket can help distribute the weight and prevent strain on the camera’s mount.
  14. Lens Filters Case: If you use multiple filters, a case for organizing and protecting your filters can be handy.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, I believe the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS stands as a remarkable and versatile lens within the esteemed L-series lineup.

Its ability to seamlessly transition from wide-angle to short telephoto, combined with a constant f/4 aperture, makes it an attractive choice for photographers who value flexibility without compromising on image quality.

The lens’s robust construction, optical performance, image stabilization, and macro capability further solidify its position as a compelling all-rounder, catering to enthusiasts and professionals alike.

While it may not be the ideal choice for ultra-low-light scenarios, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS excels in various photographic genres and continues to be a valuable asset in the arsenal of those seeking a single, high-quality lens for a wide range of creative pursuits.

Leave a Comment