Canon RF 24-70 f/2.8L Review | The New Workhorse for Canon Mirrorless
The RF 24-70 f/2.8L is the new workhorse for Canon’s new full frame mirrorless system. For many photographers, the 24-70 2.8L is a boring but essential tool, especially for wedding photographers, photojournalists, and event photographers. With Canon’s release of the new RF 24-70 2.8L, there was hope that it would introduce marked improvements over its predecessor, the EF 24-70 f/2.8L II. With the introduction of image stabilization and increased image quality, I can confidently say that the RF 24-70 f/2.8 L is the best lens of its kind.
Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L Specs
- Focal Length: 24-70
- Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
- Maximum Magnification: 0.3x (at 33mm)
- Filter Size: 82mm
- Lens Elements/Groups: 21 Elements / 15 Groups, Aspherical lenses, 3 UD lenses
- Diaphragm Blades: 9 circular blades
- Dimensions: 3.48 x 4.95″ (88.50 x 125.7 mm)
- Weight: 1.98 lbs. / 900g
- Image Stabilization: 5 stops
- Cost: $2,299 (as of March 18, 2020)
The new Canon RF lenses are all beautifully designed and the RF 24-70 is no exception. It’s not a small lens, but it’s not gigantic either (see my review of the RF 28-70). Measuring 3.48 x 4.95″ and weighing 1.98 lbs., it’s nearly half the weight of the groundbreaking Canon RF 28-70 f/2.8. While it’s not a small lens by any means, it’s manageable and doesn’t weigh me down during a full day of shooting a wedding. And as with all of the new RF L glass so far, it’s weather sealed, so you won’t have to cancel your session if it drizzles.
The overall image quality of the RF 24-70 is off the charts. It’s extremely sharp at f/2.8 in the center and plenty sharp toward the edges of the glass. While I wouldn’t say this lens exudes extreme levels of character in its images in the same way that the RF 28-70 does, it doesn’t disappoint either. Simply stated, this lens is solid. It just gets the job done.
While you’ll notice some vignetting in the corners, especially at 24mm, it’s nothing that can’t be easily corrected. Further, distortion at the wider end of this lens is minimal. It’s there, but it doesn’t really cause any problems. It’s not really an issue at 35mm or higher. As for chromatic aberration, it’s just nonexistent. In fact, I don’t think I’ve noticed any chromatic aberration or significant color fringing on any of the RF L lenses so far. That’s a big deal in my book, because while most editing software makes it easy enough to fix in post, it takes time. And as for colors, they’re exactly what you’ve come to expect from Canon, sublime.
The Canon RF 24-70 f/2.8 is not exactly a bokeh beast, but its f/2.8 aperture and 9 rounded aperture blades are more than enough to render pleasing out of focus elements, especially at 70mm. This lens isn’t going to be my go to portrait lens, but it won’t make anyone sad either. The bokeh this guy produces is fine, it’s just fine. It’s smooth and buttery, but it’s not going to turn garbage cans behind your subject into blurs of undefinable color (see the image below). If you want a zoom lens that produces great bokeh, the RF 28-70 is going to be your dream lens, that is if you have the forearms of a gladiator. If you have average forearms like me, the 24-70 will do just fine.
The RF 24-70 f/2.8 focuses incredibly well. Paired with the EOS R, it grabs focus quickly and quietly with no prolonged hunting. Simply put, it nails focus almost every time. And if you work events where you need to be as silent as a ninja, the Nano USM focus system is as quiet as it gets.
Since the last few iterations of EF 24-70 lenses, professional photographers have been begging Canon to add image stabilization to it’s standard zoom L lens lineup. This time they’ve finally done it and they knocked it out of the park. With up to 5 stops of image stabilization, you’ll be handholding this sucker at 1/5th of a second with relative ease. Whether you need image stabilization for creative motion blurs, videography, or just to try to squeeze a bit more light into your glass, you’ll be thrilled with this lens. And paired with the upcoming Canon EOS R5’s in body image stabilization, you should get an insane 7 stops of image stabilization.
Who Should Buy This Lens?
This is a must have lens for event photographers, photojournalists, or anyone who needs versatility and unparalleled quality. For years as a wedding photographer I shot with prime lenses almost exclusively, but found that during part of the day, getting ready, cocktail hour, I need to be able to get closer or wider as quickly as possible. That’s when I realized that I really needed a 24-70. It’s a lens that you can keep on your camera 75% of the day and know that it’s going to work every time. If you use the Canon EOS R (or any of its future contemporaries) you’ll want to consider this lens.
[Related Reading: Canon RF 85 f/1.2L USM Review | The Best 85mm Ever?]
At $2299, the RF 24-70 f/2.8L isn’t the cheapest option. If you use the EOS R, you can pick up the EF 24-70 f/2.8L II for $1599 right now and attach it to your camera with the Canon Mount Adapter. So is the extra $700 worth it for the RF version? I’d say yes. In the long run, the image stabilization and overall quality compared to the EF version makes it a better purchase for professionals. The way I see it is, you’re buying the lens for the long term. Buy the one you want to keep in your bag for 5 years. You’ll thank yourself later.
In conclusion, the Canon RF 24-70 f/2.8 is a excellent lens and is probably the best all around standard zoom lens available. While the RF 28-70 f/2 is sexier, and certainly has the wow factor with it’s f/2 aperture, it’s too big and bulky for all day use. It’s a specialty lens in the way that an 85mm f/1.2 is. The RF 24-70 f/2.8 is the lens you’re going to want on your camera for hours on end. It’s light enough to carry all day, it delivers excellent image quality, and it has image stabilization, what more can you ask for?
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