Canon 24-105mm f4 L lens review

This is a lens we’ve had for about two years now. A brilliant workhorse for photos with great sharpness and plenty of light for street photos and travel video. The image stabilization is great, but there are still some things we don’t like…

What we like about the Canon 24-105mm f4 L lens

First the good then… this is a really nice sharp zoom. It’s not super sharp like some of Canon’s primes, but it’s more than adequate, particularly we find if stopped down to f5.6 or thereabouts and you’re using flash. Our copy has superb auto-focus, which never seems to miss – no auto-focus micro-adjustment required here.

Focal length

The focal lengths you get with this lens are great. If you’re going travelling and don’t mind the weight (more on that later!) this is the only lens you need to take with a crop body – it’s great for everything from portraits to street photography at a push (24mm feels only just longer than 35mm on a crop). We’ve had it on our classic (21st birthday present!) 50D and more recently 70D and can’t imagine getting rid of it any time soon. Even as we migrate to full-frame sensor camera 5d mark III we will keep this lens for its new-found wideness – 24mm will finally be 24mm rather than feeling like almost 40mm!

Canon 24-105mm f4 L lens review

What we don’t like about the Canon 24-105mm f4 L lens

Do we use it for weddings? It’s a complicated answer. “Not always” is probably the honest answer.

24-105 for wedding videography

Don’t get us wrong – this a fantastic lens for video when you can live with f4. The image quality is great and the image stabilization works really well. It’s perfect for afternoons whilst the sun goes down – the colours are gorgeous. Trouble is, as good as the noise performance is on our cameras, having to settle for crazy ISOs once you’re in one of those dark village churches isn’t always an option. The extra stop (and length) we get from a 70-200 f2.8 or a couple of stops from a prime like the 35mm f1.4.

It’s heavy to hold

That being said, this thing is heavy. We’ve tried our fair share of lenses, and doing events we’ve hand-held the original 70-200 f2.8 and been quite happy. You expect that thing to be heavy though – it’s like an enormous light hoover. This 24-105 feels heavy once you’ve had it in your hand a while. It’s tricky to balance well on a monopod as well. With a crop body the setup is definitely front-heavy but without a tripod collar you have to sit the camera quite far back.

Distortion isn’t brilliant either. After about 40mm everything is fine. However, on a crop at 24mm you’re getting sort of wide but at the expense of it being really wide on a full-frame. This means you sometimes get some weird distortion. Sometimes this is fun! Although often when you’re using it at the wide end (group portraits or full-length shots) it can make for some weird elongated faces. I can understand that at 24mm you would expect some barrel distortion from this lens. However, sometimes it creates some uncomfortable facial bending.

Conclusion

So if we dropped this lens off a bridge and smashed a few elements would we buy this again? It’s definitely a tricky decision with the new sigma 24-105 f4 having ever so slightly less distortion and looking just as sharp throughout. We’d probably stick with the Canon though – the sigma is pretty ugly fully extended!

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