As flat as a pancake. It’s the thought that comes to mind when you first see the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM. An inexpensive lens that due to modern lens technology doesn’t cut down on quality, which wasn’t the case in past ultraslim prime lenses. This design is aimed at the APS-C brigade, which should give the equivalent of a 38mm angle of view.
This angle of view may be a bit wider than the normal 50mm focal length, but a little extra width can give you more room to play with.
When you are used to regular zooms or hefty prime lenses, the rather flat Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM looks like it just has one or two pieces of glass inside and that’s it. The reality is different with six elements in five groups, which also includes an aspherical element. The lens is a little deeper than the black barrel shows as the rear element extends into the camera body, so the lens is actually a bit thicker on second glance.
Inside the lenses are also seven rounded diaphragm blades which go from an aperture of f/2.8 – f/22. An auto and manual focus switch is located on the side of the lens barrel with a 52mm filter thread at the front along with a very thin manual focus ring. Everything here weighs in at a very slimline 125g. As for build quality, the lens feels relatively solid being made from quality hardened plastic with a metal mount. It’s not weatherproofed, but it can’t really be expected at this price point.
The Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM In Use
When this lens is first attached to a decent-sized DSLR the camera almost feels like there is no lens attached due to the lens’ light weight. Disconcerting at first, but followed by joy as it’s a relief to not have a kilo or so of lens hanging off the end of the camera for a change.
When the lens is in operation the stepper motor (STM) is quick to react and quieter than expected. Probably quiet enough to be used for video work. The option of manual focus is there with the thin focus ring but processed electronically via the AF motor. The only downside to this is that the camera needs to be switched on for manual focus to work.
When it comes to evaluating image quality on a lens at this price point, you almost expect less from what it can do. In this regard, the lens is slightly soft, especially in the corners when wide-open at f/2.8. Stopping down to f/4 sharpens everything across the frame up to f/11. When you hit f/5.6 the lens hits it’s sharpest mark and after f/16 diffraction starts to set in.
Some barrel distortion is present though it’s not overt and can be easily corrected in software. Chromatic aberration also pops up in high contrast areas. Again, this is possible to correct in postprocessing, but it’s not over the top with red and cyan color fringing. Just enough to be noticeable. Vignetting is present, especially at f/2.8, but stop down to f/4 and everything seems to go away.
Bokeh is quite pleasing, although once there’s a lot of complexity to the background, the image can become quite busy. Still, considering the price bokeh is better than expected. The same goes for overall image quality and contrast. Especially when stopped down the lens produces pleasing images, which, when coupled with ideal lighting, definitely come out better than expected.
How Does It Compare?
As pancake lenses go there’s not much comparison at this focal length. A more expensive option is the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM. This is a more regular-sized lens which also benefits from image stabilization. It’s sharper wide open, but it’s also starting to age a little.
There are other 24mm lenses on the market from different makers, primes and zooms which include a 24mm focal length, but they all cost more money and some far more money. Therefore, you expect better optical quality and functionality from a more expensive lens. This is why the cheapest lenses in a brands lineup can be hard to compare. The lens has to be taken on its own merits and has the image quality you’d expect from the price point.
|Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM||Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM|
|Aperture||f/2.8 – f/22||f/2.8 – f/22|
|Elements||6 elements in 5 groups||11 elements in 9 groups|
This is a very capable little lens which is inexpensive enough to be in anybody’s kitbag. As a beginner’s lens it would definitely complement a kit zoom and — just like the popular inexpensive Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM — is a nice first step into using a prime lens. It can act as a nice fallback lens or something to pull out of the kitbag when you want a different perspective.
What you are getting for your money means there have been some compromises along the way with slight softening when wide open, distortion and vignetting. Stopping down and some post-editing tweaks can cure these matters, which means in total for what you’re getting, this is a worthy lens for the price.
Possible uses for this lens would be landscapes, wide-angle indoor shots, architecture, street, and travel photography. Unless you’re buying into the second-hand lens market, which itself can be mean unknown quantity or old lenses which may need adapters, the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM is definitely worth consideration for the money.