Recommending the best Canon 24-70mm lenses should be a straightforward answer, right? Simply buy the latest Canon 24-70mm lens and you should be set. However, like most choices in life, the solution is not that straightforward, especially with the new RF lenses for mirrorless cameras and third-party solutions.
There’s also the option of older versions of the 24-70mm lenses and if you wanted to step out of this focal range by a touch, there is also scope for the much older 28-70mm lens or the latest Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM lens.
This means there are plenty of options on the market to choose from, but why choose a 24-70mm lens in the first place? The focal range of 24-70mm traditionally covers the most used and useful focal lengths, from wide angle, to the standards of 35mm and 50mm, up to the start of telephoto images at 70mm.
These lenses can be used on full-frame as well as crop sensor camera bodies, which means you will lose at the wide-angle end, but gain more at the telephoto length, which can be quite useful for portrait shots.
Thus, let’s have a closer look at the current Canon 24-70mm lenses and what they have to offer.
1. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM (Overall Winner)
The first version of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM was a firm favorite for Canon users, with this version being equally as capable. Canon addressed the issues which came with the Mark I, such as the weird reverse zooming lens barrel, making the current version the go-to workhorse zoom lens for working photographers.
The lens features one super ultra-low dispersion, two ultra-low dispersion, and three aspherical elements, with a fluorine and Super Spectra coating to reduce flaring and ghosting. Canon’s renowned ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (USM) covers autofocusing duties and the nine-blade rounded diaphragm is very capable of producing wonderful bokeh effects.
The build quality of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is fantastic, with full weather-sealing and a handy lens lock switch to keep the lens barrel in place. It may not have image stabilization like some other examples listed, but what you do get is image quality which is exceptionally sharp throughout the focal range.
For Canon users who are on the DSLR format, this lens is the de facto standard covering this focal range.
The Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM represents the mirrorless version of the EF 24-70mm above, but it lens includes image stabilization with five stops of compensation.
Built with the usual L-series quality and weather-proofing, the lens is wrapped around three aspherical and three UD (Ultra-Low Dispersion) elements, with an Air Sphere Coating (ASC) for good measure.
A Nano USM motor brings the best functionality from both USM and the STM systems, which work equally well for both stills and video. A control ring has been added which can be configured to change exposure settings, such as aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation.
Image quality can’t be faulted on this lens and the bright f/2.8 aperture works extremely well in low light conditions and produces nice creamy backgrounds blur.
This is currently the most expensive 24-70mm lens, but for those who have already migrated to the Canon mirrorless system, this lens will be the workhorse standard for many years.
For Canon users who still want L-series quality, without the high price tag, then there is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM to consider. Smaller in size than its f/2.8 sibling, this lens has an f/4 aperture, image stabilization, and a useful close focusing distance of 20cm or macro reproduction ratio of 1:1.4.
The lens features two ultra-low dispersion and two aspherical elements, with fluorine and Super Spectra coatings, along with a high-quality rounded nine-blade diaphragm. While this version is not as capable in low light as the f/2.8 lens, it is comparatively sharp from f/4 upwards. Weighing in at only 600g, it’s also a lighter and more compact solution.
Sigma’s Art series of lenses has been proving that third-party manufacturers can provide the same quality as native brand lenses. This is no different with the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG HSM OS Art.
Useful on both full frame and crop sensor cameras, which will provide an equivalent focal length of 38.4-112mm, this lens features three Special Low Dispersion (SLD) and Four aspherical elements, along with a Super Multi-Layer coating.
Autofocusing is covered by the Integrated HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor), which is quick to snap into focus in everything but the lowest of light levels. The lens also benefits from an optical stabilizer system, with up to four stops of compensation.
The build quality may not be on a par with Canon’s own L-series lenses, but the optical quality is where it counts. At f/4, sharpness levels are on par with the f/4 Canon versions and remain sharp throughout the focal range. Sharpness levels are not quite as good at f/2.8 as Canon’s f/2.8 lens, but for a third party variation, the Sigma strikes a nice balance between cost and quality.
5. Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 (Budget Winner)
The Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 may not always be the first on the list for Canon users, but it offers comparable image quality to a Sigma at a much lower price. It features a wide f/2.8 aperture, with vibration compensation, and a moisture-resistant construction with Nanotechnology-based eBAND and Fluorine lens coatings.
The vibration system can provide up to five stops of compensation, which in itself is a great selling point. But, this lens is also capable of producing fantastic images with a solid lens construction. It also has a small lens lock switch to keep the lens barrel in place.
Overall, this lens is a good balance between optical quality and price, making it the best 24-70mm lens for cost-effectiveness.
Summary of the Best Canon 24-70mm Lenses
While Canon’s own 24-70mm lenses are the obvious choice for many at this focal range, third-party makers also show that they are very capable of producing high-end optics at reasonable prices. If you can afford the price tag, then the f/2.8 versions are the best options for low light capabilities and the best bokeh effects.
On the other hand, the f/4 lens is still highly capable, with a lower price tag, and is more compact. Generally, if you don’t own any other type of zoom lens, then a 24-70mm is a great first step.