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Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS
Full-Frame (2005-)
© 2012 KenRockwell.com

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM (77mm filters, 23.4 oz./664g, 1.5'/0.45m close-focus, about $1,100). enlarge. Trick photo: roll mouse over to see it zoom! This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to it at Adorama, directly to it at Amazon, or at Ritz when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thank you! Ken

 

October 2012, 7 July 2007    Canon Reviews    Canon Lenses    All Reviews

 

Introduction     top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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This is Canon's highest performance professional midrange zoom for film, full-frame and 1.3x digital cameras. The Canon 24-105mm f/4L has great optics and works extremely well. My biggest whine is that the zoom ring takes a lot of effort and that the wide end of the zoom range is cramped, making it difficult to set wide focal lengths precisely.

It's silly to use this on a 1.6x sensor camera like the Rebels and 30D because 1.) you're paying a premium for large-sensor performance but using only the center of the image, and 2.) 24mm isn't wide on a 1.6x camera: 24mm on a 1.6x camera gives the same angle of view as a 39mm lens does on a 35mm camera. For 1.6x cameras, the excellent 17-55mm f/2.8 IS makes more sense because it weighs less, is one stop faster, has much less distortion and covers what I find to be a more useful range of focal lengths. Heck, for 1.6x cameras, also check out the excellent 17-85mm IS.

 

Good News:

1.) Excellent optical performance at every focal length and distance. I wasn't able to make an unsharp shot.

2.) Excellent Image Stabilization: I got four real stops of improvement at 105mm.

3.) Unusually accurate, fast and consistent autofocus.

 

Bad News:

1.) Cramped zoom ring, especially at the wide end.

2.) Lots of distortion (easily fixed with DxO)

3.) Big, heavy and expensive.

 

Specifications     top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

 

Name

Canon calls this the Canon Zoom Lens EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM.

   EF: Electronic Focus. All modern Canon lenses do this: a motor in the lens does the focusing.

   L: Expensive as L. No technical meaning other than being Canon's lingo for lenses with extra durability and weather sealing. L lenses work on all cameras including film and full-frame digital. Canon puts a red band around the front of these.

   IS: Image Stabilization, which means no tripod needed except for time exposures. See Why IS Matters.

   USM: Ultra-Sonic Motor: The focus motor operates silently.

 

Focal Length

24-105mm.

Used on a 1.3x camera it gives angles of view similar to what a 30-132mm lens would give on a 35mm film camera.

On a 1.6x camera it gives angles of view similar to what a 39-170mm lens would give on a 35mm film camera.

See also Crop Factor.

 

Optics

18 elements in 13 groups, including one glass molded aspherical, two plastic-resin-on-glass (replica) asphericals and an element of Super-UD glass.

UD glass is the same as Nikon's ED glass, which helps reduce color fringing.

Five-group zooming.

 

Diaphragm

8 blades

Stops down to f/22.

 

Filter Size

77mm, the pro standard.

Plastic threads.

 

Close Focus

1.5' (0.45m) from the image plane (the back of the camera), rated.

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio

1:4.3.

 

Size

3.286" diameter x 4.218" extension from flange (83.45 x 107.15mm) at 24mm setting; 5.474" (139.06mm) extension at 105mm setting.

 

Weight

23.45 oz. (664.5 g), measured.

 

Hood

EW-83H plastic bayonet, included.

 

Case

$33 LP1219 sack, included.

 

Introduced

August, 2005.

 

Available

Since September 2005.

 

Price, USA

2011 October: $1,120.

 

PERFORMANCE     top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Autofocus   Bokeh   Color   Color Fringes   Construction

Distortion   Falloff   Filters   Flare   Macro   Serial #   

Sharpness   Sound   Sunstars   IS   Zooming

 

OVERALL

The Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS is among the worlds' best lenses, but difficult to use over extended periods. My fingertips actually hurt after using this lens for a while because of the stiff zoom ring and its cramped wide-angle end.

 

FOCUSING   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Autofocus is unusually good. It has no weak spots.

Speed

AF speed is almost instantaneous. It's faster than my own eyes can focus on both my XTi and my 5D.

 

Sound and Noise

It's almost silent.

Manual Focus: Plastic on plastic.

Autofocus: About the same.

 

Ease of Manual Focusing

Very good. Just grab the ring at any time, no switches needed.

Look for the AF-area LEDs to blink as you turn the ring. Being an f/4 lens, it doesn't pop that obviously on the ground glass.

 

Autofocus Accuracy

Excellent.

I get perfect results at f/4 on my 5D all of the time. This is much better than average for other Canon lenses.

On my XTi I get perfect results 97% of the time. The other one out of thirty shots may be slightly off-focus, at f/4. You'd never see this in real shots of three-dimensional objects. I only saw it testing for it deliberately.

 

Focus Breathing

Breathing is a motion picture term which refers to what happens as you pull (change) focus from near to far. This might be of interest to cinematographers, but not to still photographers.

The 24-105mm changes magnification slightly as one pulls focus.

 

BOKEH   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Bokeh is mediocre. Highlights behind the subject can have a somewhat rolled-condom look, especially wide open at the long end where you'd most worry about bokeh.

Here are crops from various images shot at about 5 feet (1.5m) to show you the look of the blur circles.

These were shot on my 5D at 4,300 pixels wide and cropped and rescaled depending one the focal length. The 24mm shot was cropped from a 400 pixel wide area, the 50mm shot cropped from an 800 pixel wide area, and the 105mm images cropped from a 1,100 pixel wide area. All these images were rescaled to 296 pixels wide and not sharpened.

canon 16-35mm

canon 16-35mm

at 24mm at f/4

at 50mm at f/4

 

canon 16-35mm
canon 16-35mm
at 105mm at f/4
at 105mm at f/5.6

 

COLOR FRINGES
(Lateral Chromatic Aberration or LCA)

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

This lens is approved by the PPLFPA, Professional Patio and Lawn Furniture Photographers' Association, with a grade of "B." Color fringes aren't a problem unless you're looking for them.

On a full-frame 5D, it has some color fringes at each end of the zoom range and none around 50mm. If you're shooting patio furniture, shoot around 50mm.

Here are the full guide images from which the crops are taken:

Canon 17-40mm LCA Canon 17-40mm LCA

Full image, full frame, 24mm

(That's a hawk circling, not dust.)

Full image, full frame, 105mm

 

 

Canon 17-40mm LCA

Canon 17-40mm LCA at 21mm
100% crop from 5D at 24mm
100% crop from 5D at 28mm

 

Canon 17-40mm LCA
Canon 17-40mm LCA
100% crop from 5D at 35mm
100% crop from 5D at 50mm

 

Canon 17-40mm LCA
Canon 17-40mm LCA
100% crop from 5D at 70mm
100% crop from 5D at 105mm

 

COLOR RENDITION

I see no differences from my other Canon lenses.

 

CONSTRUCTION QUALITY

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

It has a rubber gasket on the lens mount to keep crud out of your camera.

Exterior

Plastic.

 

Filter Threads

Plastic.

 

Focus Ring

Metal with a rubber ring.

You some pressure against the rubber to get traction since its not that sticky.

 

Markings

Paint.

 

Switches

Plastic.

 

Mount

Metal.

 

Internals

Mostly metal.

 

Noises when shaken

Moderately light klunking. This is normal.

 

Quality

Made in Japan.

 

DISTORTION   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Unlike the superb 24-70mm f/2.8 L or the low-distortion 17-55mm f/2.8 IS EF-S (which only works on 1.6x digital cameras), this 24-105mm f/4 has loads of distortion.

Luckily DxO makes a module for it, which rectifies it perfectly. If you worry about this, buy the DxO program, since the distortion is so wild at 24mm that Photoshop can't correct it well.

Full-frame distortion at 24mm. Roll mouse over to see after -5.5 correction in Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter.

Full-frame distortion at 24mm. Roll mouse over to see after correction in DxO. DxO also corrects everything else, like color fringing and light falloff.

Here is the Wall of Shame at each setting:

Canon 17-35mm distortion at 17mm
Canon 17-35mm distortion at 20mm
At 24mm, full-frame 5D
At 28mm, full-frame 5D

 

Canon 17-35mm distortion at 17mm
Canon 17-35mm distortion at 20mm
At 35mm, full-frame 5D
At 50mm, full-frame 5D

 

Canon 17-35mm distortion at 17mm
Canon 17-35mm distortion at 20mm
At 70mm, full-frame 5D
At 105mm, full-frame 5D

If you're too cheap for DxO, plug these figures into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter to correct the distortion. These figures are for you to enjoy in your photography. These took me hours to calculate and are all © and registered, so you'll need permission to use these figures for anything else. Thanks! Ken.

at 50' (15m)
24 mm
+5.5**
28 mm
+0.5*
35 mm
-1.25
50 mm
-2.0
70 mm
-2.4
105 mm
-2.5

* Some waviness remains if you're looking for it.
** A lot of waviness remains if you're looking for it.

 

FALLOFF (Darkened Corners)

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

The corners get darker at the wide end, even stopped down. They also get darker at f/4, regardless of focal length. Stick to longer focal lengths and smaller apertures if it concerns you, or use DxO which corrects it.

The 24-105mm is worst at f/4 and 24mm; see the version of this shot before and after DxO correction below.

Here are shots of an Expodisc on my full-frame 5D. This is a tough test which shows even the slightest falloff. You'll almost never see this in normal photography. This also would be almost invisible on a 1.3x or 1.6x camera (see crop factor).

 

Examples from my full-frame Canon 5D. This falloff would be almost invisible on a 1.3x or 1.6x camera (see crop factor).

 
f/4
f/5.6
f/8
f/11
24mm
28mm
50mm
70mm
105mm

 

dxo
at 24mm at f/4
same file after DxO.

 

 

 

USE WITH FILTERS   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

I had no problems, even with thick rotating filters on my full-frame 5D.

If I pushed my luck with two fat rotating filters (my Hoya 77mm Circular Polarizer and Tiffen 0.6 ND rotating grad,13.7mm thick combined, excluding threads), I'd have to zoom to 35 - 50mm to eliminate any falloff on full-frame. You'd be fine on a smaller format camera.

Like most modern lenses, there's no need for expensive extra-thin filters.

 

FLARE AND GHOSTS  back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Flare is fine. I had to do silly things to see flare or ghosts.

135mm
135mm

This is really pushing it: I'm shooting directly into blinding mid-afternoon California sun and contrasting it against very dark foregrounds. I never saw ghosts in real shooting.

 

MACRO   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Canon 24-105mm

at closest focus at 105mm, full image, full-frame 5D

Canon 24-105mm

100% crop from above, no extra sharpening.

It works great, and gets as close as most other multipurpose lenses today.

On smaller format cameras it would have more magnification (see Crop Factor).

 

SERIAL NUMBER  back to Performance or back to Introduction.

The serial number is engraved and filled with black paint on the mating flange of the lens mount.

 

SHARPNESS  back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Sharpness is uniformly excellent, at any aperture and any focal length, even into the far corners on full-frame.

I'll skip you my usual sharpness chart, since I'm too lazy to type E - E - E a zillion times.

Distortion and falloff are trivial to correct with software today, so the reason I speak so highly of the Canon 24-105mm's optical performance is because I wasn't able to make an unsharp picture with it. Not only is it sharp itself, but its focus is uncannily perfect and IS makes it very hard to make an unsharp photo. We still can't properly fix unsharp photos electronically.

Your technique will be your biggest barrier to sharp photos. I have a page on How to Get Sharp Photos.

Diffraction is the sharpness-limiting factor for all lenses, especially digital SLRs, at about f/11 and above. See also How Sharpness Varies with Aperture.

 

SOUND and NOISE   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

IS is supposed to make noise; there are things vibrating around inside the lens if you listen closely. When IS is active, you'll hear a slight hissing if you put your ear to the lens or are in a quiet location.

Auto and manual focusing sounds like plastic sliding on plastic.

Zooming sounds like plastic sliding on plastic.

 

SUNSTARS   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Sunstars have eight points, caused by reflections off the edges of the eight-bladed diaphragm.

Canon 24-105mm sunstar

Sunstar and Pool, Orange County, California. Canon 24-105mm at 24mm and f/16.

 

IS (Image Stabilization)

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

IS works great! I get perfectly sharp shots 50% of the time at 1/4 second at any focal length. That means, on average, if I make about two shots for each shot, one of them will be perfectly sharp at 100% magnification on my 5D.

IS is supposed to make noise. It sounds like something is running inside the lens. You won't hear it outdoors, but listen for it in a quiet room and its obvious.

Read Why IS is Important to understand more about what these ratings mean.

This lists the percentage of sharp shots that I get with and without IS. The first figure is without IS, and the second is with IS.

 
1
1/2
1/4
1/8
1/15
1/30
1/60
1/125
24mm
0/15
2/20
5/85
20/100
40/100
90/100
100/100
100/100
50mm
0/1
0/15
0/85
20/100
30/100
70/100
80/100
100/100
105mm
0/0
0/0
0/50
2/75
15/85
40/95
50/100
80/100

TIP: In dim light, fire several shots in the continuous shutter mode and pick the sharpest later. Blur is a random event, so if you fire enough shots, you'll eventually get a sharp one even at much slower slower speeds! See the 15% sharp figure at 1 second at 24mm? That means, on average, one out of 6 shots at 24mm is perfectly sharp hand-held with IS ON at one full second!

Now let's chart the slowest speed to get 50% sharp shots at each focal length, and with that, we can calculate how many stops we gain with IS.

"Real Stops Improvement" are how many extra stops I got, IS On compared to IS Off.

"Marketing Stops Improvement" isn't comparing the speed I can use from IS OFF to IS ON, but instead comparing the speed one can use with IS ON to the old-wives-tale speed of 1/focal length. That's called Lying with Statistics, and that's par for the course for marketing departments. I can hold much slower than the old wives' tale speed.

 
IS Off
IS On

Real
Stops Improvement

Marketing
Stops Improvement
24mm
1/15
1/3
2-1/2

3

50mm
1/22
1/3
3
4
105mm
1/60
1/4
4
4-2/3

I have practice firing a camera smoothly. People with marksmanship, hunting and sniper skills do very well at this. If you jab the shutter, you won't get results this good, but you'll probably get the same number of stops improvement over how slow you would have been able to hold the camera using bad technique or with jittery hands.

 

ZOOMING   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Canon 24-105mm zoom ring

Canon 24-105mm f/4L Zoom Ring

The zoom range is cramped at the wide end, making it difficult to zoom precisely.

This is my biggest complaint with this lens. It's probably why I haven't bought one for myself, along with my personal dislike of mid-range zooms in favor of a wide and a tele zoom or an all-range lens like the Nikon 18-200mm.

It's well spread out in the top octave from from 50 - 105mm.

The range from 24 - 50mm is squeezed into half the space, and the range from 24 - 35mm is only about 1mm along the zoom ring: the distance between the bar to the right of 24mm to the dot to the left of 35mm! These focal lengths are so close that Canon couldn't fit the numbers on the ring so they had to put those little marks there instead! This makes it very difficult to select exact settings at the wide end.

Zoom lenses are not supposed to move in equal increments per millimeter. They are supposed to zoom in equal distances per percentage of focal length change. See also cm/octave.

Because the wide zoom range is so cramped, it makes it very difficult to use the range around 35mm. I find myself either pushing it against the stop at 24mm, or being out around 50mm.

Worse, it is very stiff, and it hurts my fingers trying to jam it around the wide end.

Call me a whimp, but other lenses like the cheap Canon 18-55mm EF-S do this much better. The Canon 24-105mm takes two firm fingers to zoom, while some other lenses can do it with a flick of a single finger.

 

Focus Shift while Zooming

Focus shifts while zooming.

Zoom before you focus.

 

Actual Focal Lengths

The focal lengths appear accurate at infinity.

As expected, the apparent focal lengths are reduced as one focuses closer at long focal lengths.

This is how IF (internal focus) lenses focus. They don't get longer on the outside: they move elements around inside to reduce the effective focal length to focus closer.

 

Compared     top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

 

See my 24-70mm Pro Zoom Comparison.

 

Recomendations     top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

The optics are excellent, but I found the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS difficult to use because of its cramped and stiff zoom ring.

Try one for a few hours before you keep one. If your fingers are fine, it's a fantastic lens. For me, it was just plain weird that my fingertips felt worn off and that I couldn't enjoy smooth, precise setting of wide focal lengths.

Get this 24-105mm for use on full-frame and 1.3x cameras. If you worry about distortion or light falloff, get the DxO software which eliminates it.

The 24-105mm probably isn't the best chose for a 1.6x camera. Get the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS or 17-85mm IS instead, since they cover a more appropriate mid-range and you're not paying for format capacity unused with these smaller cameras.

The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L is better made and has a much better zoom system without the congestion at the wide end. If I was in the market for a miodrange zoom for my full-frame Canon, I'd get the 24-70mm instead. See them compared.

 

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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