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REVIEWS - SLR - Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

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Canon 1Ds Mark III and Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

CANON 24-105MM F4 L IS ZOOM LENS

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Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 105mm • F8 • 1/800 • ISO 800

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 105mm • F9 • 1/250 • ISO 100

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 58mm • F7.1 • 1/80 • ISO 100

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 105mm • F5.6 • 1/400 • ISO 800

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 47mm • F8 • 1/500 • ISO 100

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 105mm • F8 • 1/25 • ISO 400

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 105mm • F5.6 • 1/60 • ISO 400

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 105mm • F4 • 1/400 • ISO 100

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 105mm • F8 • 1/2500 • ISO 100

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 40mm • F8 • 1/10 • ISO 100

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds2 • 50mm • F5.6 • 1/50 • ISO 100

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds2 • 105mm • F10 • 1/50 • ISO 100

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 105mm • F8 • 1/200 • ISO 100

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 50mm • F8 • 1/50 • ISO 400

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS

1Ds3 • 24mm • F8 • 1/40 • ISO 100

Lens Composition 18 Elements / 13 Groups
Angular Field of View 84º to 23º at Infinity
Focus Type Internal Rear Auto Focus, Ring-Type USM
Minimum Focus .45 Meters / 1.48 Feet
F-Stop Scale F2 to F22
Aperture Blades 8, Non-circular
Filter Size 77mm, Front Thread, Non-rotating
Filter Connection Screw-in
Lens Cap Canon E-77 II 77mm Lens Cap
Lens Hood Canon EW-83H Lens Hood
Lens Pouch Canon LP1219 Soft Lens Case
Weight 1.47 Pounds
Lens Size 4.2” Long x 3.3” Wide (Excluding Hood)

OVERVIEW

The Canon 24-105mm L IS may not set any records in terms of resolution, but Canon packs an amazing amount of utility into the 24-105L with features like image stabilization (IS), fast auto-focus and weather sealing. The Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS has been my de-facto travel lens for 5-6 years and has captured many great pictures. Rather than nitpicking a 5X zoom, this review focuses on what the Canon 24-105L does well.

BACKGROUND

Many of our trips are to coastal or mountain areas; wind, rain, mist or dust often make a lens change a risky endeavor. During an Alaska trip the Leica 21-35mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH was mounted on the Canon 1Ds. I wanted to use a longer lens and despite the windy conditions I gambled on things working out okay. Unfortunately a large piece of lint got into the mirror box and eventually settled on the sensor, obscuring the center of the pictures. Around 200 images were lost that day.

Today the outcome may have been different since sensor cleaning systems are commonplace; though, dust-shakers are useless by the seashore with salt spray in the air. In settings such as this, or if just not wanting to hassle with lens changes, a 'walk-around' zoom such as the Canon 24-105mm L with its reach and zoom range are perfect for those occasions.

During that same 2005 Alaska trip there were many other lost images due to focus errors with the manual focus prime lenses (user error). Some pictures could have been better composed had a different focal length been used. We came back with some great pictures, but I knew many pictures were missed too. The results of the trip were mixed with many pictures taken, but there was a very low keeper rate.

I began to question the value of a 100% prime based lens kit - are zooms really so bad? Canon had not announced the 24-105L back in 2005-2006, so I bought a Canon 24-70mm F2.8 L (Mark I). Immediately I disliked the size, weight and massive hood. Optically, the Canon 24-70L showed an abrupt drop off in corner sharpness at 24mm which drew attention to itself. In day to day use the 24-70mm range did not have enough my reach for my typical pictures (note how many of the pictures along the right side were at 105mm).

HANDLING

Eventually Canon released the Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS. Compared to the 24-70L, the 24-105L is ~25% lighter, ~20% shorter and the 24-105L’s hood is much smaller. The Canon 24-105L also has better corner performance in the 24mm zone. The Canon 24-105L quickly became my default travel lens. While the 24-105L’s F4 aperture may not be sexiest option available, time and time again the lens has been my most used lens and has captured 1000’s of pictures. Having image stabilization, the 24-105mm range and weather sealing all in a compact single lens has proven invaluable.

The above image of the Canadian Rockies was taken at 32mm, F16, 1/30 - handheld with a circular polarizer. It was about a mile hike in 85º F temperatures with full sun. While the weather was comfortable, carrying a bag full of gear would have been a killjoy. We headed to the lookout point with the Canon 1Ds Mark II, the 24-105L and a couple lens filters. When arriving at the look-out point there were already 30-40 people there - everyone was waiting for their 30 seconds at the railing.

A tripod would have been inappropriate from a social etiquette standpoint. The Canon’s image stabilization (IS) on the 24-105L is equal to 3 or 4 stops in shutter speed, so I did not need a tripod anyways. Without image stabilization the picture would have been: 1) blurred, 2) or taken at a faster aperture, 3) possibly lacked depth of field if a faster aperture had been selected, or 4) taken without a polarizer. In my opinion IS made the image possible and made the hike more enjoyable since we were able to travel light.

PERFORMANCE

The corner performance at 24mm is much better than the Canon 24-70L (Mark I). The 24-105L produces sharp corners starting around F8 and is best at F11. Another common complaint is the 24-105L’s barrel distortion at the wide angle focal lengths. When testing the lens around the house the distortion is noticeable, but in real-world pictures distortion has been less noticeable. Nowadays, this distortion is easily rectified in Lightroom, Capture One, Canon DPP, Photoshop, etc. Other common 24-105L complaints include the light fall-off in the corners at F4-F5.6 and color fringing (chromatic aberrations). Again, I find these shortcomings easily fixed in the raw file editors.

The 24-105L’s performance at 35mm is a hidden secret - it is actually GOOD! At F5.6, F8 and F11 the 24-105L corners are sharper than the Canon 35mm L F1.4 (Mark I) and the resolving power is surprisingly similar. The 35L has a slight advantage in the center of the frame, but it really is a slight advantage. If shooting landscapes, frankly, I would rather use 24-105L over the 35L. Of course, the 35L offers F1.4 which has its upsides.

I like shooting at faster apertures to help separate subjects from the background. With the 24-105L this is not always possible, so creatively the 24-105L frustrates me at times. To get a nicely blurred background (ie - bokeh), the key is to shorten the distance between the lens and the subject. Bokeh is possible, but it takes extra effort and a keen eye for good opportunities with the right mix of a close subject and a distant background. Combining these two elements with F4 or F5.6 usually results in a nice bokeh. It will not be dramatic like a Canon 135mm F2 L USM, but workable.

CONCLUSION

Most photographers yearn for an ultra sharp primes with a fast aperture. The Canon 24-105L is the polar opposite - slow aperture, a zoom and not the smallest, stealthiest lens. The Canon 24-105L is a practical alternative to carrying three or four prime lenses. If someone is seeking the utmost in optical performance, the 24-105L will not compare well. If willing to make some trade-offs and having a light(er) set-up is one of the goals, then the Canon 24-105L begins to make sense. At the end day, the 24-105L gets the job done and brings home keepers.

The best thing about the 24-105L is the confidence it inspires - I never worry about missing a picture. With image stabilization, quick auto-focus and auto aperture - I know I will get a picture. Maybe not a keeper, but I will come home with many possible candidates. Whereas a bag full of primes can be questionable. Maybe the wrong lens is mounted when that perfect picture falls into place. Maybe the wind is blowing 20 MPH with ocean spray in the air and the sand is kicking up - so lens changes are a dicey proposition. And frankly sometimes carrying 2 or 3 lenses is just a hassle.

It is the 24-105L’s utility that makes it a great lens. The 24-105mm range on a full-frame dSLR covers alot of territory. The image stabilization will help anybody’s keeper rate. The weather sealing is a nice insurance policy for when the weather takes a turn. And with Canon’s DPP software (or Lightroom or Capture One), the lens corrections address the optical shortcomings. As a total package, the 24-105L is hard to beat.

end of review flourish