Canon 24-70 f/2.8 II Resolution Tests

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Here it is, only 6 months after announcement! The Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II has finally arrived.

I'd love to say something like: "Never have so many forums contained so many threads containing such strong opinions from people who've never touched a lens." But that would be silly. It happens just about every time a new lens is released.

Depending on whose opinion you read, the new lens is either the sharpest zoom every made or an overpriced piece of junk that nobody should buy. It's been trashed for its price, for not having image stabilization, and for its filter thread size. Posted images made with it have been praised as sharper than primes and condemned as no better than its predecessor.

I can't say I'm thrilled with the Mk II's price, but the original Canon 24-70 could certainly be improved on. The original is a good lens, but not up to the standards of, say the Canon 70-200 f2/8 IS II. It definitely has some reliability issues and a lot of copy-to-copy variation, at least some of which relate to its design.

On the other hand, the Tamron 24-70 provides the image stabilization so many people want, but it's beginning to show some reliability issues, too. Still, it's $1,300 and has image stabilization. The new Canon is a breathtaking $2,300. For that kind of money it better have world-beating performance. Heck, for that kind of money it ought to carry my camera bag, frame the shots, and do the post-processing for me.

The Usual Disclaimer

This isn't a lens review. I am not a reviewer. I don't spend days evaluating a single copy of a lens for all of its traits and characteristics, nor do I take hundreds of really great photos with it and describe how it works in the field.

What I do is test multiple copies of the lens for resolution and other basic stuff. I think that is particularly important with this lens, as its predecessor has, perhaps, more copy-to-copy variation than any high-quality lens I know of.

 A Quick Comparison

Looking from the side, the old and new lenses aren't hugely different. The new one is a bit shorter.

 From the front, the larger 82mm filter ring is apparent.

They extend a similar amount but the Mk II is extended when shooting at 70mm, like most lenses, while the old one extends to shoot at 24mm.

With hoods mounted you don't notice the old version extend, since the hood is fixed and the barrel extends inside of it.

At 1.77 pounds, the 24-70 f.28 II is not a lightweight, but it is a bit lighter than the original 24-70's 2.1 pounds.

Resolution Results

We measured 5 copies of the 24-70mm f/2.8 II at 24mm and 70mm. For purposes of comparison I'll add the numbers we know from multiple tests of the original Canon 24-70 f/2.8 and Tamron 24-70 f/2.8. Since the sharpest Canon zoom we have at 70mm is the 70-200 f/28 IS II lens, I'll add its numbers at 70mm. Just to make it really interesting, I'll also add our sharpest 24mm lens, the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II (but remember, we're comparing it at f/3.5 to the 24-70 at f/2.8).

Lens24mm Ctr24mm Avg70mm Ctr70mm Avg
Canon 24-70 f/2.8 II954831950809
Canon 24-70 f/2.8730605705570
Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC815765735655
Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS IIxxxx885765
Canon24 f/3.5 TS-E915775xxxx

We also checked distortion at both ends. The Mk II has 2.45% barrel distortion at the wide end, 1.34% pincushion at the long end. The 70mm pincushion is exactly the same as the version I lens, while the barrel distortion at 24mm is slightly worse than the original's 2.15%.

This is short, sweet, and simple. The resolution absolutely, positively kicks butt and takes names. It is way better than the lens it replaces. It's better at 70mm than the best Canon zoom I know of, the 70-200 f/2.8 IS II. It's even better at 24mm than the sharpest 24mm prime we have, the Canon 24 TS-E. In the center, in the corners, it doesn't care. We only had 5 copies to test, but they were all very similar with little copy-to-copy variation.

Resolution is not everything, of course. But it's certainly an important thing. Unless the real lens reviewers find some dramatic problems with this lens, I'd have to lean towards worth-the-money on this one. I can't believe I'm saying that a $2,300 standard zoom is worth the money.  But then again, I can't believe I'm seeing a zoom lens out resolve a $2,000 world-class prime, either.

Roger Cicala


September, 2012

117 Responses to “Canon 24-70 f/2.8 II Resolution Tests”

Siegfried said:

you forgot to *accidentally* drop it down the floor and then strip it down and show us what's inside.


MCO_970 said:

Impressive results, Roger! Thanks for doing the testing.

Thomas Alicoate said:

Wow! Makes me feel bad I just bought version one.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Zig, for an hour or two, all I'll say is :-)
But do check back tonight.


Chris Wordsman said:

Its interesting to here how much it resolves than the other lens. But on which cameras will this much resolution be picked up on? Can you show a photo in which it demonstrates the resolving power?

Thanks for the actual lens test results!

Jordan said:

Even with the HIGH price tag, you must figure that if it's sharp, relatively lightweight/compact and a common zoom range, then it's worth it isn't it? A working professional must have certain tools. This seems like a photojournalists DREAM, and a wedding photographers as well. As far as the average Joe, then I'd say yeah, it's overpriced. I have the Tamron 24-70 VC and I haven't had any problems with it yet and it's very very sharp! Sure, this one is better, but that grand I can put into a completely new lens.

Bottom line: You have the money then it's worth it but don't go dipping into your life's savings for it when there are other alternatives...

Thomas Alicoate said:

I forgot to ask before, how about that "focus accuracy with newer lens thingy?" Does this one have the higher accuracy feedback loop with traditional AF?

Thank you for all of this info.


LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

You guys are all outing my next articles, aren't you :-) Truth is we managed to get 120 shots to compare AF but they'll be sitting on the computer for a few days. It will take several hours to run the images through Imatest and right now, with me writing all day, repairs are pretty backed up. Probably next week, though.


Zlatko said:

Thanks very much for doing these tests. A lot of photographers are interested in the results!

Brandon said:

Fantastic news, looks like it's time to return my Tammy! Thank God for Amazon's superb return policy.
Roger, do you have any inkling when preorders might be fulfilled and the lens will be readily available, perhaps based off previous trends? I'm hoping no more than 1-2 months...

P.S. Thanks for the early insight, you guys are awesome.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:


I've got no idea. Tyler managed to 'leverage' a few, as he put it. But we've got no hints on regular shipments.

Jacob said:

WOW, Roger... this is spectacular news! I sold my v1 of this lens back in Feb and have been dying to get my hands on # II. I shoot mostly Architecture, so the TS-E 24 L II is my bread 'n butter lens. Am very much looking forward to seeing my new 24-70 compete with it... that is, if my pre-order (Feb) ever ships!

TeeCee said:

Hi Roger and thanks for the test - really impressive!
Do You have a resolution numbers for the Sigma 24-70/2.8 HSM?

James said:

I am not sorry to have version 1. At $2,300 for version two I would pass and rely on my 70-200 2.8 IS II. Incrementally I don't think an upgrade from ver 1 to ver 2 is worth the cost

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:


The Sigma 24-70 HSM resolves 728/622 at 24mm, but at the longer end it isn't nearly as good: 563/500

Colin Hackley said:

Thanks for posting this Roger, very informative. I hate to ask questions that could lead to more work, but how does the Canon 24-105 f 4.0 compare with the lenses you mentioned above? Thank you.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Hi Colin,

Not any work, I have the numbers for all the lenses. I just didn't put up the 24-105 because it was an f/4 lens. The 24 -105 resolves at 890/735 at 24; 820/660 at 105 at f/4. Unfortunately I don't have the numbers at 70mm available, but I recall they were very close to the 24mm numbers. It doesn't start to soften until 90mm or so.


Dr. Mike said:

Can't wait to see if this lens has the rotation detector you found in some other new Canon lenses. :)

But wait, at this price I'm not sure I really want to know! It would kill my budget if I have to buy one. :(

Moany said:

Hi Roger
Thanks for the impressive report. I heard from one who tried one copy of this lens in the local shop and noticed slight knocking noise from the barrel when tilted from vertical to horizontal. Sounded like loose assembly. Not sure if it was one off issue. Did you notice such abnormalities in the copies you tested. If. Yes, is it acceptable?

Steve Crews said:

Any chance that my 24-70mm f/2.8 mkI rental will be upgraded to a 24-70mm f/2.8 mkII that I am scheduled to rent in 2 weeks?

Ray Chen said:

Is that the 24 TS-E II or the original one?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Hi Ray,

It's the II. I should have made that more clear. Thank you!

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:


I didn't notice anything like that. I was checking too, because I wondered if it really needed the zoom limiter switch for zoom creep (none of them did).


Brian said:

That hood on the new lens looks completely stupid...looks like something you would find on a cheap EF-S lens

Maxis Gamez said:

Thank you for the amazing results Roger. Do we know when the lens will be available for rental? I'm going to the Grand Canyon in a couple of weeks and would like to rent it for 10 days.

Thank you!

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:


We got 5 today, with a waiting list of 20 people already. None of the places we buy from got their complete order filled, or even close to it, so I just don't know when we'll get more. But Tyler is amazing, he'll have them trickling in over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully we'll have one.

It's funny you wrote this because I'm being burned at the stake in some forum because 'he's just wanting to rent those lenses'. I wish we really had some to rent. If I was a great businessman, I would have said the new one sucked because we sure have a couple of hundred of the old ones on the shelf. :-)

John said:

Hi Roger,

Thanks for the review. What do you think the lens compared to Nikon 24-70 2.8? Do you have the resolution number for the Nikon lens? Thanks a lot!


Colin Johnson said:

Your previous review of the new 24mm and 28mm lenses with IS stated that the 24mm F/1.4L II has a resolution of 930 - 780 shot @ F/2.8, making it a higher scorer than the TS-E.

Does 954 - 831 makes the new 24-70 have more resolving power than the 24mm F/1.4 II then and should I buy the 24-70 over the 24 prime?

Victor Wolansky said:

There will always be conspiracy theorists nuts......

Qapta said:

Roger, what was the testing camera? Thank You.

Massimo said:

Very Interesting ! Higher MTF will be mandatory for next generation camera with high megapixels because of the smaller pixel size which is obviously more demanding for the lens (and I believe that Canon will not be so stupid to leave this market to the Nikon D800 only).
But what about CA (Chromatic Aberrations), have you tested this ?
Current 24-70mm have good CA performances compared to Nikon 24-70mm and this is very important as new MegaPixels sensors will require more accuracy and will suffer from higher CA respect to smaller MP sensors.
It's my opinion that new generation TOP lenses from Nikon/Canon will cause higher CA. I'm currently very disappointed with Nikon 24-70mm which have already high CA with smaller MP sensors. Nikon 24-120mm (which is more recent) have sligthly lower sharpness but also much lower CA. Nikon current approach is currently to reduce CA in the software, and while this is an acceptable approach for some users it's of course not the best solution; they have a high MP camera but not really a good lens for it !
I hope that Canon have addressed this issue also but I'm also worried that the extremely higher MTF in this new lens may have been achieved at cost of higher CA. Please someone answer to this if you can !

Laurent said:

Well, thanks for this insight.
Do you please know how, say, the 50 f/1.4 performs in this respect
at max aperture and f/2.8?
(I take this 50mm because it is said to be the sharpest of the series,
even better at f/1.2)
I also would like to know same data for the 85 mm (not close in focal range, but that is a some tradeoff in focal range that I would be ready to do if that lense was so awesome).
Thanks for all.
Seems Canon made good work this time^^, glad to be ready for it!

Lynne Hall said:

Any chance of any figures to compare the resolution of this zoom with equivalent Nikon zoom and prime lenses? Currently trying to decide between the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800 and that might make a difference.

Markus said:


how does this compare to the Zeiss lenses , e.g. the 21/2.8?

Seems like Canon has finally found the road to building very competent wide angles (17 & 24 TS lenses, 24 & 28 IS lenses). Which is good as more choices are always a good thing.

And they seem to pay a lot of attention on good & professional build quality (5D III, 24-70 II), managed to reduce the weight of the super teles a lot, etc. - in my opinion, this time they got the memo what really matters to working photographers and how to build up a reputation (again). I like their focusing on no-nonsense stuff (even if a lot of people won't notice because they're just looking at specs without even having the cameras at hand).

Thanks for your great work - I'm enjoying your site more than all the usual review stuff out there! It's just so much more taken from 'real life'.


LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:


We tested on 5D IIs simply because that gave us a comparison to the other lenses which had been tested that way. My experience is IIIs have just a tiny bit higher resolution, but not siginficantly different.

Greg Benson said:

I think you meant to write the "70mm pincushion", not 24mm.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Hi Lynne,

This article: http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012/03/d800-lens-selection has a lot of numbers for good lenses shot on D800s, although those are all at 'best aperture', usually f/5.6, so the Nikon numbers have a strong advantage. This one compares some excellent primes between 5DIII and D800 (zeiss, so we could put the same lens on the same camera: http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012/03/d-resolution-tests and shows some f/2.8 numbers.

There's no substitute for resolution and you'll see the d800 is higher across the board. If you'd be considering a DIVs, or whatever Canon's going to call it, that should have the pixels to compete with the D800.


LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:


Thank you, you are absolutely correct. In all the rush and excitement yesterday I completely forgot about the little 24 and 28mm f/2.8. The 24-70 II though still has an advantage, particularly in the corners and edges shown with the weighted average: 830 for the zoom to 780 for the prime. The centers are certainly too close to call.

We do all of our routine testing wide open -- the purpose is to find bad lenses and wide open does that best. I did find one series I did some months ago with a set of 10 24 f/1.4s at f/2.8. The numbers were 940 in the center, 750 weighted average. Again, right up there with the zoom in the middle, but not quite as good in the corners and edges.


LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Hi John,

On a D3x (our usual Nikon test camera, and a good match since it's about the same number of pixels as the Canon 5D II test cameras) the Nikon 24-70 resolves 890 / 735 at 24mm; 830 / 720 at 70mm.

That makes sense: the Nikon is a bit better than the original Canon, not quite as good as the new one. It's technology is several years old, compared to over a decade for the original Canon and this year for the new one.


LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Thank you Greg. Corrected!
Actually churning out two articles in one afernoon I'm pretty proud that's the first mistake anyone's found :-) Most of that credit has to go to Drew who took time to proofread on a day he really didn't have time.


Johnny from Italy said:

Amazing infos, thanks for sharing your resolution tests!
What about CA and PF performances?
Any chance to see some comparison in jpeg taken in studio and in real shooting situations?

anatoly said:

I think it is the way big companies promote their new product. They fund an expert to say whatever they want him to say and in 30 minutes everyone is
so intoxicated. Com-on people! THEY HAVE TO JUSTIFY THE REDICULOUS PRICE and they gave Roger a bit of the boost!!! Could have been a couple of free lenses to a lot of the money - depending how many people visit the site...
It is probably very sharp but it can not be that much sharper then the version 1!!!! NOT A $1000 SHARPER!!!!!!!

rejumon said:

I think you meant to write the “70mm pincushion”, not 24mm

anatoly said:

I think it is the way big companies promote their new product. They fund an expert to say whatever they want him to say and in 30 minutes everyone is
so intoxicated. Com-on people! THEY HAVE TO JUSTIFY THE REDICULOUS PRICE and they gave Roger a bit of the boost!!! Could have been a couple of free lenses to a lot of the money - depending on how many people visit the site...
They gave a brand new $2000 lens to take to pieces.... It is probably very sharp but it can not be that much sharper then the version 1!!!! NOT A $1000 SHARPER!!!!!!!

Maxis Gamez said:

Thank you Roger for the reply!

steve bryson said:

I remember at the UK Focus on Imaging show, when I exclaimed a little bit of horror at the projected price the guy at the Canon stand said - "This is sharper at the corners than the old one is at the centre...."

Nice to see a good result!

Err said:

Thank you for the excellent test. To me it was a big surprise that a zoom can outresolve the 24mm TS-E II.
One question popped into my mind: How if/can these resolution numbers compared to numbers of other formats, specifically the Panasonic 12-35 from your earlier blog?
E.g. can we say that when printed the 12-35 picture (taken with 16MP body) will have slightly more detail than the Tamron but slightly less than the new Canon (using 5D Mk II)?

Michael said:

Roger, thanks for the feedback on the new 24-70 lens.
The MKI is my go to lens in low reception lit rooms. Mainly b/c of it's ability to grab focus quickly and accurately. I'm wondering how the new one compares and if IS slows it down at all.


Gino Creglia said:

Thank you for the review. Looks like the new zoom lens will compliment my 16mm-35mm II and 70mm-200mm II lens. Can not wait to get my hands on the 24mm-70mm. G.

Laurent said:

Well, actually I remembered that article: http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012/01/the-great-50mm-shootout
so I answered my question myself, at least for the 50 mm:
at f/2.8, the 50mm f/1.4 is 920/690, and at f/4, 960/890.
Which means that if the 24-70 mm mk II lens is as constantly sharp at 50mm that it is at 24 and 70, well, it is properly monstruous on the center with a 950 index on par with the best of the f/1.4 lens.
Not as good on the corner but still superior at f/2.8 with around 830 or 800.
Completely Awesome.
Feels like this lens is worth a good bunch of money, since it could potentially replace a good number of primes. It sharper than their recent wides, than their pancake, than their family of 50mm that are already quite good, and I could not find some numbers for 85mm that are comparable to these (I don't know what unit is used here and 85mm are around 3000 line widths per picture height on MTF50 lmatest), but I would bet that performance is similar or even superior.

Next lens to buy on my checklist. Quite expensive together with 5D3 or 1DX but Awesome is worth it, I guess.

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