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