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Equipment

Canon 24-105 f/4 IS Mark II MTF Results

I like to start articles by stating my expectations, because, like everyone, my expectations going in color my opinion after seeing the results. Given Canon’s recent series of home-run lens upgrades, I expected the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 IS II would be a superb lens. I was particularly expecting improvement at 105mm, which was the weak point of the original lens.

And, I usually put my conclusions at the start of an article so those of you who don’t like MTF graphs and spirited discussion about optical results don’t have to scroll down to the bottom. The new Mk II version is a bit better than the original version, but I was expecting a lot more. I wouldn’t rush out and upgrade from the 24-105mm f/4 IS if your goal is amazingly better optics. There may be other reasons to do so, but optics is not it.

MTF Comparison

We’ll make straight comparisons between the average of 10 copies each of the 24-105mm f/4 IS (on the left) and the 24-105mm f/4 IS II (on the right).

24mm

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

Technically, the new lens is a tiny bit worse at 24mm, but the difference is so slight that it would be much smaller than copy-to-copy variation. So I expect some people will find the new one a bit better, or a bit worse, than the old version but most people won’t notice any difference at all.

 

70mm

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

 

There’s a much more significant improvement at 70mm, and here I think the difference might be noticeable. However, it’s worth pointing out that the difference is most significant for the lower and mid frequencies (red, yellow, green lines) but not that significant at higher frequencies. So absolute resolution probably is not much different, although a more contrasty look may be noticeable.

105mm

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

At 105mm there isn’t a lot of difference in the center, but the new lens certainly is better off-center out to near the edges. The absolute edges and corners, though, are about the same. Still, I would expect some people will notice the off-axis improvement; it certainly seems significant in the central 2/3 of the image.

Overall then, the new lens did what I had hoped; it’s better at the longer end. But I had expected a more dramatic improvement. Once again, expectations turned out to be down-payment on disappointment. It is a better lens, but not hugely better. I wouldn’t rush out to upgrade expecting obviously better optics.

Copy-to-Copy Variation

Most recent Canon updates have also done a superb job of reducing sample variation. The original 24-105 f/4 had a high variation so I had expectations that things would improve with the new version, and they did. Again, here are variation comparisons with the original version on the left and the new version on the right.

24mm

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

70mm

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

105mm

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

At every focal length, the new version has a lot less copy-to-copy variation than the old version did. This is especially significant that the on-axis (“0” at the left side of each graph) has less variation, meaning overall sharpness in the center has less variation.

MTF Comparison to Other Lenses

The 24-105 tends to be a convenience zoom. People like it because of it’s very useful focal length and reasonable cost. A lot of people got their’s bundled as a high-end kit lens with a camera purchase, but others are deciding whether to buy this lens or a different zoom in that price range. Here are a couple of conventional alternatives compared to the new lens.

Canon 24-70mm f/4 IS

The 24-70mm f/4 IS gives up some range compared to the 24-105, of course, but has the handy Macro feature and is a bit less expensive.

24mm

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

 

The 24-70 is a bit better at higher frequencies at 24mm, no question – being a shorter range zoom, that’s not surprising. There’s a reason 3X zooms tend to be the sweet spot of lens design and have a distinct optical advantage over 5X zooms.

70mm

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

At 70mm the 24-70 f/4 IS shows even more strength, sharper in the center and off-axis, and with less astigmatism.

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

The Tamron gives you a f/2.8 aperture option along with similar Vibration Control at a similar price point to the Canon 24-105mm, but again you give up the extra range. Remember, when comparing these MTFs that the Tamron is tested a full stop of aperture wider than the Canon. It would have much better MTF at f/4.

24mm

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

The Tamron’s performance at 24mm is impressive. It’s basically as a bit better than the 24-105mm even though it’s being tested at f/2.8

70mm

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

Olaf Optical Testing, 2016

At 70mm it’s not quite as sharp as the 24-105, although stopped down to f/4 I’m sure it would be every bit as good, or perhaps a bit better.

Conclusion

As always, I remind you that this has been an MTF test; it was only an MTF test. Had this been an actual photograph you would have been instructed that all differences were simply because of poor technique.

But on the basis of MTF, the 24-105 f/4 IS II is a decent lens, but not a spectacular upgrade. Would I upgrade my old 24-105 f/4 IS? Nope. If I was in the market would I buy one? Well, I’d wait for the price to come down or for it to be available as a kit lens with a new camera. One other thing to consider is that the new 24-105mm is significantly larger than the original version, and for some people, that’s going to be a negative for a walk-around lens.

Otherwise, I think there are three very reasonable ways to go for Canon shooters in this price range. If you really need the extra length, then the 24-105 is the best choice. If you’d rather have macro capability, of the option of shooting at f/2.8 when you need to, the Canon 24-70 f/4 IS and Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC might be better choices.

Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz

Lensrentals.com

November 2016

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Lensrentals.com. 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 Equipment
  • I love your no-bullshit reviews, Roger.

  • Guy Schlacter

    Wassup with the website, won’t let me pinch zoom to read the page /charts (Chrome iPad)?

    So, it is Feb 19, 2017 and this lens has had huge delays and still not available to purchase. Do you know whether the source of the production delay could attribute to the minimal optical quality improvement in your test? Also, on you Image Height Axis plots go to 20mm, can you please explain this relative to a 36mm full frame sensor? I would think 18mm would be max and corners even grater than 20mm from center.
    -Guy
    gschlact

  • Dragon

    It has image stabilization too, unlike the rest of the 24-70 f/2.8 choices.

  • asiafish

    Thank you for this. Any timeline on a full teardown? How does the build compare with the 24-70/4 IS?

    I used the old 24-105 for a while, but never liked it’s look at the wide-end and have been delighted with the 24-70/4, except of course for the loss of the long end.

    What I really want is the same optical and build quality as the 24-70/4 IS, but that zooms out to 105mm. Oh well.

  • asiafish

    So is the 85/1.2L II

  • Albert

    Coming from a Nikkor 24-120 f/4, I switched it to a Sigma 24-105 f/4 and was impressed. The difference was quite visible, especially after fine-tuning with the USB dock. It is sharper especially at 70mm and up (the Nikkor suffered noticeably wide open), and above all had quite a bit more contrast. I did not do side-by-sides as i sold the Nikkor to buy the Sigma, but I had the Nikkor for over a year and as my main and only lens for that period can say with confidence I knew it inside out.

  • Marc P.

    Update, i’ve just figured out the Photozone Review of theI 24-105/4L USM Mk. II, that was fast from Photozone yet, and at the right Moment….oops, the Mk. II Iteration is nowhere that good….

    http://www.photozone.de/canon_eos_ff/995-canon24105f4ismk2

    Photozone says:

    “So what’s the final conclusion ? Honestly, we would recommend to skip this lens. We just didn’t find any substantial improvement over the already not-so-great predecessor. Instead we would suggest to check out the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 USM L IS or the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 HSM ART.”

    kind regards

  • Brandon Dube

    We haven’t run MTF vs Field vs Focus on the gen 2, but the gen 1 is quite flat at 105mm. At 24mm it is flat to about 15mm, after which it curves strongly. 70mm has a flat sagittal field but is very astigmatic.

    The gen2 is a revision of the gen1 design and not a very strong departure. I would expect them to be very similar in this regard.

  • Van Forsman

    Hell, I know you’ll publish them eventually, but I suppose the canon pro 24-70 mk II would also be cool. But I expect you also like avoiding work and looking at lenses too.

  • Van Forsman

    Hey Roger or Brandon, I would love to see how the field of focus curves of these lenses compare. I feel like it could be meaningful since they’re all stabilized lenses and stabilized lenses tend to be very useful as handheld landscape or low light lenses for other non-moving subjects, where knowing the focus field design leans could be very useful.

    Also because field of focus curves are beautiful. I’m very interested in getting the 24-70 macro from LensAuthority since I really trust your transparency. I’m considering an upgrade from my slightly too dark, film era EF 35-105 f4.5-5.6.

  • Howard Cihak

    In terms of MTF performance in a 24-105 lens, I’ve been wondering how Canon’s 24-105/3.5-5.6 compares. It’s certainly a lot lighter and slightly shorter than the L versions.

  • obican

    Roger Cicala (from LensRentals) says he was mistaken when he said Sony GM 70-200 (BH link here, good luck if you can find one in the stock) wasn’t the best fucking lens in the world that you can buy (seriously, use my link above). He learned better.

  • Yep. I’m learning from my mistakes. 🙂

  • dyna

    I’m impressed the 5 year old Tamron held its own against the latest model. That speaks rather highly of its introduction let alone its longevity.

  • Panagiotis Leontidis

    Ok about MTFs but I think that’s the biggest problem with 24-105 mkI is the huge barrel distortion. It’s the worst lens I have owned. Is any improvement in the new version?

  • Sean T

    You caught me! But to be sure, you’re already feeding the fanboy wars with your cross-posting of Nikon and Canon and Sony MTFs (have you seen the gnashing of teeth about the Sony GM 70-200 results?). You saying the Nikon 24-120 f/4 is quite good enough for me though, thank you.

  • Sean, you want to bait me into starting fanboy wars, aren’t you? I’m going to stop cross-posting lenses that aren’t a consideration for shooters of the main posts brand. A Canon shooter might be considering a Tamron or Sigma, but they won’t be considering a Nikon. That being said, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4, if you have a Nikon camera, is really quite good.

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    Ugh, I had a 24-105mm f/L IS once, with a 6D. It wasn’t any good until f/8, really, and it’s a shame that Canon hasn’t radically improved it. At 24mm and f/5.6, my Panasonic 12-32mm retractable miniature resolves more evenly across the frame.
    Just like you, Roger, I was expecting something better. Especially in a lens that is one of Canon’s biggest sellers.

  • Sean T

    Neat, thank you Roger. Interesting that there aren’t more significant improvements. Do you have Nikon 24-120 f/4 MTFs around?

  • Robbert

    And there is also an other alternative, the 24-105 3.5/5.6 IS STM lens. Not a f 4.0 lens but probably almost as good as both ‘L’ versions I guess.

  • tyger11

    Since they sell so many of these, this redesign is probably mostly to reduce production cost.

  • Michael – Visual Pursuit

    The major advantage of the new 24-105 is the barrel lock switch that prevents it from extending while being transported. I think this is more an upgrade in regards to production streamlining and longevity of lens life.

  • Brandon Dube

    The 200mm f/2.8L II is the same lens with a faster motor and no more telescoping hood.

  • Adam, that is a great question, and I actually asked some others for their opinion. We had to go back a while and there were two – and like this both were upgrades of already good lenses: The Canon 200mm f/2.8 II and Canon 85mm f/1.2 II.

  • Ketan Gajria

    Thank you, it would be great to get an update on this:
    https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2014/03/a-24-105-comparison/

    Of course, I’m sure you have nothing else to do and have a lot of free time 🙂

  • Adam Sanford

    Based on the killing streak Canon has been on in recent years — 16-35 f/2.8L III, 24-70 f/2.8L II, 100-400L II, 35 f/1.4L II, etc. — I was honestly hoping for a more clear-cut improvement.

    Can you recall the last time Canon ‘sequeled’ a lens and it *wasn’t* a big step forward?

  • Given sample variation I’m not at all surprised. They’re really close. They vary. Some are going to find the II a bit better, some the I. I’d expect something like 60:40 find the II a little better.

  • I don’t know. I haven’t gotten to test the Sigma Art yet. But if it’s like most of the recent Sigma Art releases, well, if I was a betting man, I’d bet that way.

  • Adam Sanford

    Wow. Uncle Rog, I have to say I was not expecting this.

    TDP’s IQ samples head to head between the I and II version peg the II version as a tie or even a slight *downgrade* from the I version. Not kidding:

    24mm f/4: https://goo.gl/sv9Env

    105mm f/4: https://goo.gl/GwdggC

  • Ketan Gajria

    How does the new Canon compare to the Sigma Art 24-105mm both in terms of MTF and sample variation? This is the main lens I am comparing the Canon to right now.

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