Resolution Tests

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II Resolution Tests

Published September 11, 2012

Here it is, only 6 months after announcement! The Canon 24-70mm 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

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Resolution Tests
  • Qapta

    Roger, what was the testing camera? Thank You.

  • Victor Wolansky

    There will always be conspiracy theorists nuts……

  • Colin Johnson

    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?

  • John

    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!


  • Roger Cicala


    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. 🙂

  • 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!

  • Brian

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

  • Roger Cicala


    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).


  • Roger Cicala

    Hi Ray,

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

  • Ray Chen

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

  • Steve Crews

    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?

  • Moany

    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?

  • Dr. Mike

    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. 🙁

  • Roger Cicala

    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.


  • 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.

  • Roger Cicala


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

  • 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

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

  • 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!

  • Roger Cicala


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

  • Brandon

    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.

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

  • Roger Cicala

    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.


  • 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.


  • 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…

  • 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!

  • Roger Cicala

    Zig, for an hour or two, all I’ll say is 🙂
    But do check back tonight.


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

  • MCO_970

    Impressive results, Roger! Thanks for doing the testing.

  • Siegfried

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


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