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Canon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5
Full-Frame EF USM

© KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

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Canon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5

Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM (67mm filters, 1.64'/0.5m close-focus, 12.7 oz./361g, about $190 used.) enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay) when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these oldies when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.

April 2012    Canon Reviews    Canon Lenses    All Reviews

NEW: Sample Images 20 April 2012

Harmony 14 April 2012

Harmony, 14 April 2012. original file. Set to 32mm, f/10 at 1/250, 5D Mark III at ISO 100. (right-hand fence post not in focus, see the grass behind it.)


Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

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The Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM is a very lightweight full-frame do-everything zoom for all Canon EOS digital and 35mm autofocus cameras. It performs especially well on the Canon 5D Mark III, which when a lens profile is loaded, corrects for falloff and lateral color, right in the camera.

Because of the new lateral color fringe correction in the Canon 5D Mark III, this lens is becoming more popular because it is much smaller, lighter and easier to zoom than the big expensive 24-105mm f/4 L IS.

This 24-85mm has great ergonomics; just slide the small but grippy focus ring for instant manual-focus override at any time.

This Canon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 is also marvelous for use with ultralight 35mm EOS cameras. Canon also made a silver paint version for use with the nastiest silver cameras.

It works fine on Canon's 1.6x DSLRs, but its focal length range makes little sense except on full-frame. I'd use a kit lens like the 18-55mm IS instead for a much more practical range on small format DSLRs.

This 24-85mm is sharp, but has a lot of distortion.

This 24-85mm is especially prized for its 24mm ability, build quality and low price and weight.

Consider also the very similar Canon EF 28-105mm USM II, which is the same thing but with a slightly longer focal length range with somewhat less distortion, and often sells for less money.


Compatibility and Formats

This lens is optimized for 35mm film and full-frame digital, and of course works on all 1.3x and 1.6x Canon cameras.

This Canon EF EOS 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 works perfectly with every Canon EOS camera ever made, meaning every Canon DSLR and every Canon autofocus 35mm camera made since 1987.

This means of course it works great on today's 5D Mark III and Canon 7D, but it works just as well on my original Canon EOS 620 from 1987!

As a full-frame lens, this works on all Canon SLRs, regardless of format. As a full-frame lens, I will be reviewing this lens on full-frame.


Canon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5

Canon 24-85 3.5-4.5. enlarge.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More



Canon calls this the CANON ZOOM LENS EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 ULTRASONIC.

EF means "electronic focus," meaning that there is an autofocus motor in the lens itself. All Canon lenses since 1987 have been EF.

ULTRASONIC means USM, which means you may grab the focus ring at any time for instant, silent manual focus override.


Optics       top

Canon 24-85mm internal diagram

Internal diagram; green is the aspherical element.

15 elements in 12 groups.

One aspherical element.

Internal focus; nothing moves externally as focused.

The front group moves in and out as zoomed.

Multi-group zooming.


Focal Length


On 1.3x Canon cameras it will see angles-of-view similar to what a 31~110mm lens would see on a 35mm camera.

On 1.6x Canon cameras it will see angles-of-view similar to what a 38~135mm lens would see on a 35mm camera.


Angle of View (on 35mm and full-frame cameras)

84º ~ 28.5º diagonal.

53º ~ 16º vertical.

74º ~ 24 º   horizontal.


Close Focus       top

1.64 feet (0.5m) from the image plane, specified.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio       top



Minimum Field       top

6.2 x 9.2 inches.

157 x 234 millimeters.


Diaphragm       top

Canon 24-85 L

Front, Canon 24-85mm at 50mm (EF diaphragm not visible). enlarge.

6 blades.

Stops down to f/22-32.


Focus Scale       top


The ring turns from infinity to the closest focus distance in about 90.º


Depth-of-Field Scale       top



Infra-Red Focus Indices       top

Canon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5

Focus Scale, Canon 24-85/3.5-4.5.

Yes, marks for 24, 28, 35, 50, 70 and 85mm focal lengths.

These marks are probably for the 800 nm wavelength.


Filter Thread       top



Doesn't rotate, but does pump in and out with zooming.


Size       top

Canon specifies 2.9" (73mm) diameter by 2.7" (69.5mm) long.

It gets longer as zoomed to longer focal lengths.


Weight       top

12.725 oz. (360.1g), measured.

Canon specifies 13.1 oz. (380g).


Hood       top

Reversible plastic petal-type bayonet EW-73II ($25), not included.


Case       top

LP1014 sack, ($27), not included.


Caps       top

67mm E-67U front, included. (ultrasonic cap with gold "ULTRASONIC" and silver "Canon" logos.)

Standard EOS cap rear.


Quality       top

Made in Japan.


Price, USA        top

2012 April: about $190 used.

2005 December: $300 gray, $310 USA (equivalent to $350/365 with inflation in 2012).


Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Overall    Autofocus   Breathing   Color   Distortion

Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters     Lateral Color Fringes

Maximum and Minimum Apertures   Mechanics   Sharpness   Sunstars


Overall     performance      top

The Canon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 is a well-made, great-handling, plastic-barreled lens with optics that work great with the Canon 5D Mark III's automatic corrections.


Autofocus     performance      top

Autofocus is fast and almost silent.


Auto/Manual Switching

Just grab the focus ring for instant manual-focus override.

You never need to touch the AF-MF switch unless you want to lock-out autofocus.


AF Speed

AF is fast!, as Canons always are.


AF Accuracy and Consistency

AF accuracy is fine on my Canon 5D Mark III.


Manual Focus

Manual focus is easy; just move the ring.


Focus Breathing     performance      top

Focus breathing (the image changing size as focused) is mostly of interest to cinematographers who don't want the image changing size ("breathing") as the lens is focused among different subjects.

The image from the Canon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 gets smaller as focused more closely.


Color Rendition     performance      top

The color balance of this 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 matches my other Canon EF lenses.


Distortion     performance      top

This Canon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 has barrel distortion at 24mm, neutral around 35mm, strong pincushion distortion in the middle of the range, and pincushion at 85mm.

If you want less distortion, use fixed lenses or the 24-70mm f/2.8 L.

The distortion is complex on the wide end; even with correction with Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool there is residual waviness.

Use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove most of it:

On full-frame

at 10' (3m)

at infinity


© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

** Plenty of waviness remains.

* Some waviness remains.

If shot on the Canon 5D Mark III as a raw file with the appropriate lens profile loaded, the 5D Mark III can process raw files in-camera to eliminate all of this distortion. I have not figured out how to get the camera to eliminate this distortion as-shot, or how to use Canon software to invoke the lens profile to correct it later.


Ergonomics     performance      top

Canon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5

Canon 24-85/3.5-4.5. enlarge.

Ergonomics are just about perfect. Everything just works without any silly lock-outs or levers to move.

Everything feels and works great.

The zoom ring moves fast. It's only a little closely spaced at the wide end, still much better than the very cramped 24-105mm's zoom ring.

Focus is via a very well placed and grippy ring. There is no "macro" range; it focuses to 0.5m at all settings.


Falloff (darkened corners)     performance      top

With Peripheral Illumination Correction, an option in the Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 5D Mark III, it's not a problem, so long as you load this lens' profile into your camera.


Filters, Use with     performance      top

The plastic filter threads don't rotate.

There's no problem with vignetting even with thick or rotating filters on full-frame.

With my Tiffen 0.6 ND grad in rotating mount (6mm thick excluding rear threads), there's no problem.

If you push your luck and stack filters, you'll get vignetting on full-frame from 24-35mm, but it's fine even with two stacked filters from 35mm on.


Lateral Color Fringes     performance      top

Harmony 14 April 2012

Window Screen, Harmony, 14 April 2012. original file. Set to 48mm, f/9 at 1/160, 5D Mark III at ISO 100.

There are probably color fringes if shot on older cameras, but none if shot on the Canon 5D Mark III with the appropriate lens profile loaded.


Maximum and Minimum Apertures     performance      top



Mechanics     performance      top

Canon 24-85mm f/2.8

Rear, Canon 24-85 f/3.5-4.5. enlarge.

The Canon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 is a very well made lens. It has a metal mount, and well-made plastic elsewhere.


Filter Threads



Hood Mount



Fore Barrel



Focus Ring

Grippy plastic.






Seem like plastic.


Zoom Ring

Plastic, rubber-covered.


Zoom Cams

Feel like plastic.


Rear barrel



Moisture seal at mount




Chromed metal.





Serial Number

Laser-melted into rear light baffle on back of lens, only visible when not mounted on a camera.


Date Code

None found.


Noises When Shaken

Very mild clicking.


Made in



Sharpness     performance      top

Lens sharpness doesn't matter much, but it sure distracts amateurs who confuse lens sharpness with picture sharpness.

With this warning, it's always sharp and contrasty in the center where it matters, and lower contrast in the sides and corners wide-open.

Stop down a couple of stops, and the sides clean right up.

It's best shot on the 5D Mark III, whose lateral color-fringe correction greatly improves the sides and corners.


Sunstars     performance      top

There are very few, if any, sunstars.

With its 6-bladed diaphragm there are very muted 6-pointed sunstars on only the most brilliant points of light.


Compared       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More


NEW: All 24-70mm Lenses Compared.


This 24-85/3.5-4.5 is a lightweight, inexpensive, mostly plastic, very well built, handy and well-performing lens on the 5D Mark III. For the small increase in sharpness that the 24-70mm f/2.8 L or 24-105mm f/4 L IS might offer in the corners at large apertures on my 5D Mark III, I won't bother carrying them; I prefer this lightweight lens for use in the field — and this 24-85mm zooms much better, without the cramped wide-angle range of the 24-105mm.

This 24-85mm has a boatload of distortion, but if it bothers you, it's become much easier to correct today.

With the 5D Mark III's marvelous ultra-high ISO performance, the extra stop of the 24-70mm f/2.8 L isn't needed, and I love not having to carry all that weight.

Maximum Aperture
Filter Size
Filter Threads
Distortion (W~T) +4 ~ -4
Ease of Zooming
very good
very good
very good
Diaphragm Blades
10 points
6 points
14 points
6 points
8 points
8 points
Instant manual-focus override?
AF/MF switch
slide switch
slide switch
slide switch
slide switch
slide switch
slide switch
Made in
Price, 4/2012
$200 used
$190 used
$150 used


Usage       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More


AF - MF Switch

Leave this in AF.

Set it to MF only to deactivate autofocus.


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Want a super-lightweight, low-cost, high-performance all-purpose zoom for your full-frame Canon?

Only have $200 for a Canon zoom?

Shooting a 5D Mark III or 35mm EOS Rebel?

Heading out for an around-the-world budget trip, or backpacking?

I wouldn't use it on the old 5D Mark II which lacks lateral color fringe correction, but for just about everything else, this could be your lens.

Very similar in performance and weight is the 28-105mm USM II, which sells for even less. Get this 24-85mm if you need the 24mm end, but if you're bringing an ultrawide like the 20-35mm USM or want the longer range of the 28-105mm, check it out as well. They are almost identical lenses.

The 28-135mm IS is also a great lens, with the added feature of image stabilization, that weighs and costs much less and with a longer zoom ranger than the big, fat L-pigs.

If you've found the time I've spent sharing this professional review helpful, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay) when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these oldies when you get yours through these links.




More Information       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Canon's Museum.


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


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