Gear Check: New Lens – Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS II

I’ve added the Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS II to my kit recently, so I thought I’d write a little about that decision, and explain what I’m most likely to use it for. When the Canon 5D Mark II came out many years ago, I purchased it as a kit with the original 24-105 f/4 L IS and used that lens for some years. It was responsible for creating some of favourite images back then, although you could not call it an absolutely stellar performer in terms of image sharpness. It was adequate for professional use, but never blew my socks off when examining images closely.

When Canon released the Mark II version of the 24-70 f/2.8 L, I immediately purchased one of those based on the rave reviews it was getting throughout the industry, and I wasn’t disappointed. The 24-70 f/2.8 L II is stunningly sharp, and quickly became my go-to general purpose lens. I sold my original 24-105mm at this point, thinking there would be little use for it in my cupboard alongside the 24-70.

As it happens, that’s a decision I came to regret on a number of occasions. The image stabilization in the 24-105mm is extremely useful for aerial photography, and the 77mm filter thread is much more universally compatible than the 82mm on the 24-70. Carrying the 24-70 on landscape photo missions means taking two sets of filters in many situations, one set of 77mm for my 16-35, and a set of 82mm ones for the 24-70, as well as two sizes of filter holder adapter rings when I want to use 4×6 filters. It’s kind of a pain in the ass.

The more I shot with the 24-70, the more I also found myself missing that small focal length gap in my range between the 24-70 and the 100-400, because I have a bit of a love for the compressed effects of mountain landscapes at slightly longer focal lengths. I’m lucky to have access to a very big kit of lenses, so it wasn’t exactly a priority to acquire a 24-105mm again, but I certainly had it earmarked for a future purchase when the time was right. There’s a good reason why the Canon 24-105mm lens is the #1 most popular Canon DSLR lens, according to people like Digital Photography School, and Explorecams. When Canon announced the new Mark II version of the 24-105mm alongside the 5D Mark IV, I knew it was time to add one back to my kit.

Initial online reviews of this lens suggest it’s only a very marginal improvement over the old one in terms of image quality. Whilst that is a bit disappointing when you consider some of the recent Canon hits like the 11-24mm, the 100-400 II, and the 24-70 II, you have to remember the price point of this lens is MUCH lower at just over $1000. Having experienced time without a 24-105, I’m definitely prepared to take a small image quality hit in many cases, in exchange for the versatility of the lens.

Will I sell the 24-70 f/2.8 L II?  No! When it comes to shooting low-light action, the one-stop advantage of f/2.8 over f/4 will give you twice the shutter speed for the equivalent amount of light. Image stabilization in the 24-105 is nice to have for static subjects, but it offers no benefit at all when you have a moving subject. I anticipate using the 24-70 for sports photography, and also landscape photography when I have close access to a car and am able to therefore have both a 24-70 and 24-105 in the bag/car. The detail provided by the sharper 24-70 is nice to have if possible, but if I’m traveling light and looking to minimize my gear then I’ll be happy carrying the 24-105 for all other landscape activities, and therefore minimizing the number of filters that its necessary to carry. For general purpose travel photography and day-to-day usage, it’s hard to beat the range of the 24-105.

Physically, the Mark II version now resembles the styling of the 24-70 II, and it has grown in size a little from the original version. Not by so much that it’ll make a difference how you use it or where you take it, but to an owner of the original lens, it’s instantly noticeable. Build quality is, as you would expect from a Canon L-Series lens, excellent.

Photo of author

Dan Carr

Founder of Shutter Muse, full time photographer and creative educator. Dan lives in the Canadian Yukon, but his wanderlust often sends him in search of images all around the world to meet the needs of clients and readers alike.

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