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Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II Lens Review

We ran a sharpness test between the new Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens vs the original Canon 24-70mm using the Edmund Optics Resolving Power chart.

Canon 24-70mm lenses against black backdrop

The much-anticipated release of the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II lens has been the source of much discussion and debate. While the lens has some notable differences over the original 24-70mm f/2.8L lens, the #1 attribute of note is its sharpness.

How Much Sharper is the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II Lens?

We ran tests to gauge image sharpness for each lens here at BorrowLenses and we were blown away by what we saw. The original 24-70mm f/2.8L was considered to be a very sharp lens and what we found in our tests was that Canon made significant improvements in sharpness and chromatic aberation reduction in the 24-70mm f/2.8L II. Seeing is believing, so check out the comparison images below to see for yourself how much sharper the lens is compared to the older model.

Our Testing Methodology

We placed the optical axis of the lens perpendicular to our Edmund Optics Resolving Power chart. This alignment neutralizes any sign of tilt that would misalign the plane of focus and exaggerate any softness in focus in the outer corners. Each lens was tested on a Canon 1D X with center point focus, mirror lockup, and triggered after a 2 second delay to minimize any vibration that would add motion blur. Camera and lenses were positioned on a tripod to provide stability and consistency in placement in relation to the resolution chart.

Why f/2.8 and f/8?

Lenses when wide open at f/2.8 exhibit the lowest amount of depth of field and often produce softer images when compared to smaller aperture settings. More importantly, since our testing places our resolving chart in the sweet spot for focus across the focal plane, you’re more apt to see softness resulting from any optical aberrations at this aperture setting. And f/8 is a standard aperture setting used in manufacturer tests to create lens MTF charts that show degree of sharpness over a range of aperture settings from a sensor’s center to edge. Since f/8 is a mid-range setting, you’re more apt to fall closer to a lens’ optical sharpness sweet spot.

Sharpness Testing of the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II vs Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM compared at 24mm at f2.8

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L compared at 24mm at f/2.8.

Overall the 24-70mm f/2.8L II is considerably sharper in the corners and center of the lens. The Mark II also has less vignetting. The older generation 24-70 has a noticeable increase in chromatic aberration in the corners.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM compared at 70mm at f2.8

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L compared at 70mm at f/2.8.

At f/2.8 we see considerable improvement in sharpness in the corners and center of the lens. The 24-70mm f/2.8L II has far less vignetting and pincushioning. One ding is that the Mark II at this focal length and aperture setting doesn’t seem to be any better in regards to chromatic aberration in the corners.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM compared 24mm at f/8

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L compared 24mm at f/8.

There is slight improvement in sharpness in the center and corners, but not nearly as drastic as at f/2.8. What is improved is the reduction in chromatic aberration in the corners and center.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM compared 70mm at f/8

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L compared 70mm at f/8.

Once again there is slight improvement in sharpness in the center and corners, but not nearly as drastic as at f/2.8. We also see an improvement in reduction of chromatic aberration in the corners and center.

Additional Observations

  1. Benefits of use are less notable on a cropped sensor camera, as the most dramatic resolving improvement are present in the outer corners of the image. Nonetheless, the previous model’s shortcomings in chromatic aberrations and resolution have been corrected.
  2. The 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens extends as it moves toward 70mm (telephoto end, as it should), rather than the reversed mechanism of the 1st generation lens.
  3. The build of the 24-70mm f/2.8L II looks to be similar to the Canon 24-105mm f/4L USM in terms of shape but with materials that resemble the Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye.
  4. The 24-70mm f/2.8L II has less play in the zoom barrel, which was all too common in the first generation model and likely a contributor to the tilted resolution and chromatic aberrations.
  5. The hood mount has been moved from the barrel to the end of the lens allowing for a shorter lens hood.
  6. The filter size of the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II has been changed to 82mm versus the 77mm of the 1st generation lens.
  7. The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II now has a zoom lock.
Tags: Last modified: June 10, 2020
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