Lenses and Optics

Comparing Canon’s Best Mid-Range Zoom Lenses

Published June 20, 2024

With their introduction into mirrorless six years ago, Canon has had one of the most aggressive lens development periods in photographic history – averaging over six lenses each year to help fill out their RF series lens lineup. While there are still some holes in their lineup (most notably only recently getting an RF 35mm f/1.4L), there has also been some pretty dramatic overlap – most obviously in their 24ish-70ish lens lineup. So we figured it was time to look at Canon’s options available in the most popular zoom range and determine which lens is for what.

Of the lenses we’ll be looking at today, I’ve narrowed their lineup down to these lenses – Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS, Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS, Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L, and the Canon RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM Z. Despite the similar focal ranges, these lenses are pretty different in use and purpose, so before we get into the use case of each, lets look at a small table of their stats and what differentiates them from each other.

 Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USMCanon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS USM Canon RF 28-70mm f/2 L USMCanon RF 24-105mm f/2.8 L IS USM Z
Focal Length24-105mm24-70mm28-70mm24-105mm
Angle of View84° to 23°84° to 34°75° to 34°84° to 23°
Min. Focus Distance1.48' / 45 cm8.27" / 21 cm1.28' / 39 cm17.7" / 45 cm
Aperture Rangef/4 to f/22f/2.8 to f/22f/2 to f/22f/2.8 to f/22
Optical Design18 Elements in 14 Groups21 Elements in 15 Groups19 Elements in 13 Groups23 Elements in 18 Groups
Image StabilizationYesYesNoYes
Filter Size77 mm82 mm95 mm82 mm
Dimensions (ø x L) 3.29 x 4.22" / 83.5 x 107.3 mm3.48 x 4.95" / 88.5 x 125.7 mm4.09 x 5.5" / 103.8 x 139.8 mm3.5 x 7.8" / 88.5 x 199 mm
Weight1.54 lb / 700 g1.98 lb / 900 g3.15 lb / 1430 g2.9 lb / 1.3 kg

So as you can see, the optical design of these lenses is pretty drastic from lens to lens, but their difference doesn’t just stop at optical design, but purpose too. So how this will be structured is I’m going to touch on each lens one at a time and discuss what its best use case might be, but before we do that, we can dive into the similarities, starting with their general image quality and color rendering. So to show those differences, I took placed a Canon R5 on a tripod, and mounted each lens individually, testing the top and bottom ends of each focal range, to give you a general idea of the focal range and depth of field of each. For consistency, I shot each of these images in the camera’s jpeg output, so that the color rendering would be true to life and accurate, as well as no adjustments to sharpness.

At their widest focal length
At their most zoomed focal length

As you can see in all of the images (available to download in full resolution here), the color rendering and depth of field of each are very similar throughout all of the lenses. So with that in mind, what lens is best suited for what application? Well, let’s look at each lens one at a time.

Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS

The Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS is considered the kit lens for many of the professional R series cameras from Canon – meaning this lens will often get packaged together with the camera body at a discounted price. However, despite the most affordable price on this list, the Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS is an excellent lens and is best suited for event photography, and video productions that don’t require razor-thin depth of field.

Additionally, the 24-105mm f/4L IS is the cheapest of the four options, as well as having the smallest footprint overall (and largest focal range). While the f/4 might be a deal breaker for some of the more stubborn pros, this lens is an excellent value for anyone looking to cover this focal range.

Size comparison of the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS & Canon RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS

The next on the list is another lens that has a long legacy transmitted over from the EF era of lenses, the Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS. Designed as an alternative to the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS by offering an additional stop on the aperture, giving you a great lens that offers a slightly shorter depth of field – making it a perfect lens for event/portrait photography and a lens for low light conditions. These reasons are why a 24-7mm f/2.8 is in virtually every wedding photographer’s bag, and an excellent lens option for those who like the 24-105mm, but want something with that extra stop while keeping it lightweight and compact.

Size comparison of the Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS & Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L

Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L

If you’re looking for the biggest and best lens available in this midrange focal range, look no further than the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L. At f/2, this lens is the fastest of the bunch, though it does have the shortest focal range as well. Along with that, this lens also has no IS system built into it (though an in-body stabilization system should still work well with this lens), and is the second most expensive of the bunch, but f/2 in a zoom lens is a rarity, and should give you the depth of field comparable to what you could expect from a prime lens. This lens is ideal for the portrait photographer who doesn’t mind the added weight (and massive front element) and needs something with a mix of versatility and speed.

Canon RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM

Finally, the list is down to the final and most recent option, the Canon RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM. Of all the lenses on this list, this one has the size and shape of a smaller telephoto lens and even comes with a tripod mount to better distribute the weight. For this focal range, f/2.8 is an industry marvel, and easily the most overall versatile of the lenses on this list. For the use case, this lens would be best suited for wedding and event photographers who are willing to invest the extra funds to get a broad zoom range with an f/2.8 aperture. I fully expect this lens to get plenty of use in film productions as well.

Of these lenses, which one do you think is the best value? Canon’s lens lineup is plentiful, but still missing a lot of options in various focal lengths. What do you want to see next for the Canon RF lens system? Feel free to chime in below in the comments.

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Author: Lensrentals

Articles written by the entire editorial and technical staff at LensRentals.com. These articles are for when there is more than one author for the entire post, and are written as a community effort.
Posted in Lenses and Optics
  • KennyRedSocks

    "instead of writing 1.48 feet for one lens and 17.7 inches for another, you should have either changed every measurement to either feet or inches"

    While that is egregious, MFD is useless when comparing zooms of different maximum focal lengths and, even if they were the same, that still wouldn't tell you how much focus breathing each of them have.
    The only relevant measure with any consistence is the maximum reproduction ratio.

  • YS

    For me the best value is still using a ef adapter and the old 24-70 2.8 II, much cheaper, can get drop in filter and still works great and it’s as sharp in the meaningful areas for photos

  • I'm a older guy and I appreciate anything lighter in weight. I bought the 24-105 f/4 and haven't looked back. It's a great lens and if push came to shove, I could easily use it as my only lens With today's noise reduction and sharpening software, smaller maximum f/stops are, IMHO, no longer game-changers. Yes, I realize it adds additional processing steps, not to mention cost, but even when you add in that expense, you're hundreds of dollars ahead and maybe just a few minutes behind.

    There are a couple of problems with the article, both of which might be associated with poor proofreading (I often wonder what today's editors do, considering all of the mistakes I see–and not just here.)

    What I think you should have done in the article's first chart was to standardize all of the measurements: that is, instead of writing 1.48 feet for one lens and 17.7 inches for another, you should have either changed every measurement to either feet or inches (I realize the info probably came right off Canon's spec sheet, but there's no excuse for mixed information like this…Canon, you should be ashamed!), so that everything is easily comparable. The chart would have been easier to read had the like-focal length lenses been grouped together.

    The second item is that the first image in the first group (column 1/line 1) seems to be mis-labelled. I believe it should be "24" not "70".


  • Jalan

    Wedding and portrait photog here. Been a Canon user for decades mainly because of the lenses. I have never liked 24-70 lenses and have been mostly a "prime" user until last year. Then I bought the 28-70 f/2 and it is is the second best lens I have ever owned! I use it for about 85% of my wedding photos. Big and heavy (and expensive) and I love it. PS – The best lens I have ever owned is the Canon RF 135mm f/1.8!

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