Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM First Impressions

My sister bought my beloved 24mm f/2.8 lens a couple of months ago (and is making some pretty impressive images with it, this one being my favorite). My good old 400mm f/5.6L USM also have a new owner, so I was thinking about what new equipment should all this money fund.

The first idea was to buy a Fuji X100S, but after trying it I decided that it would require me to accept far more compromises than I’m willing to, so turned back to get some good Canon glass. The 24/2.8’s successor to be exact.

The lens arrived yesterday and just put it through the initial tests and autofocus microadjustment calibration with FoCal. Here are my initial observations.

Image quality

It’s pretty damn good – as was the old 24. A little more resolution (+), a little more distortion (-), but very similar looking images. The center is crazy sharp (much better than my TS-E 24mm). Corners aren’t that sharp, but are still very good. No surprises here. Autofocus consistency is a bit down from 99.1% to 98.6% – they are practically the same in field conditions.

What surprised me pleasantly is the aperture sharpness profile of the new lens (after the AFMA calibration I usually do a focus consistency test as well as an aperture sharpness test).

as-24-old

Aperture sharpness of the old 24/2.8

Above is the old lens’ profile. Numbers from the vertical scale were removed intentionally, as they can’t be used outside of a single measurement (to compare lenses).

And here is the new lens’ profile.

as-24-new

Aperture sharpness of the new lens

Much better at f/2.8, and the sharpness is more consistent through the entire aperture range I routinely use (up to f/11).

Build quality

There’s a night and day difference between the 25 years old design and the contemporary one. The 24 IS’ build quality is on par with my 135/2L. Both utilize engineering plastic as the outer shell, and are tough, but still lightweight. The focusing ring is smooth and well dampened. The lens hood is, well…

Canon does not ship a lens hood with it by default. So it’s a separate purchase. With a lens in the L territory in many aspects (image quality, build quality and and also price), it would be nice to include the hood in the box. Heck, they can even put a red ring on this lens!

The hood itself is the best design I’ve seen from Canon yet. The only drawback is that you can’t remove the lens cap when it’s attached. You have to remove the hood to access the cap. Again, for this price I would expect to get the new center-pinch lens cap. So I might finally pull the trigger and buy a bunch of center-pinch Mark II lens caps.

Image stabilization

The lens belongs to my “travel trio“, so it will be used mostly handheld, sometimes in marginal light. I routinely do landscapes in those conditions and need larger depth of field, so a larger (f/1.4 for example) aperture isn’t a solution for me. But image stabilization is!

Did a couple of low light tests last evening: with a bit of patience I was able to handhold the lens up to half a second! 1/4 second exposures were a piece of cake (the test was done with a 650D, but I expect similar results on my 5D3).

I should also mention that the IS is so silent that I have to put my ears close to the lens to hear it. Also there’s no jump in the viewfinder image when IS is engaged. Light years ahead of the IS systems in my older lenses.

Conclusion

This lens is a winner. If you are into landscapes and want a lightweight and great lens, do yourself a favor and try one. I bet you’ll be immediately hooked.

Recently Canon refreshed their short non-L prime range (24/28/35) with great lenses. I can hardly wait for a similar refresh in the normal/short telephoto range (50/85/100). And may I ask for an image stabilized 135/2L?

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  1. […] This picture was taken with my 24mm f/2.8 lens (this is not the IS version, you can find a pretty comparison here). […]

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