Thursday, January 31, 2013

[Review] Canon 24-70mm 2.8 II

The color and contrast are absolutely amazing.
(Taken with the Canon 24-70mm 2.8L version II)
Summary: This lens is absolutely amazing. Period. The sharpness, color, and contrast are just unbelievable.

In this review, I will rival this lens to its previous lens (the Canon 24-70mm I) as a walk-around lens. I will rival this lens to a fast prime (the Canon 50mm 1.2) as an indoor basketball photographer.

The walk-around photographer perspective (vs. Canon 24-70mm I)The 24-70mm 2.8L II hands down replaces the 24-70mm 2.8L I.

Reasons for the 24-70mm 2.8L II
- Colors, colors, colors
- Contrast
- Lighter
- T stop is better!
- Noticeable sharper at corners
- Flare control

Reasons for the 24-70mm 2.8L I
- Bang for the buck
- A bit less distortion at wide
- 70mm is narrower than the II

Let's start talking about the 24-70mm version I. I personally did not find it to be not sharp, "kit lens grade," and lack of IS problematic lens. In terms of sharpness, the center sharpness is good enough and it isn't the problem of the lens. Next, "kit lens grade" lens argument is way too harsh. The lens is very well built and it does wonders in many situations- but I will clarify later why some might say so. 24-70mm isn't a range of focal length that really needs IS for photography. I have no problems getting non-motion blurred images, unlike the 135mm 2L, in indoor situations. This lens is good. The usefulness, build, and sharpness are really fantastic. 

1:1, center, and at f/2.8. Anything to complain about?
(Shot with the Canon 24-70mm 2.8L version I)

Canon 24-70mm 2.8 version II really answers that "kit lens" argument for some. Number one: color and contrast. The version I gives you images with flatter color and images do not seem to pop. Take a look at this example:

24-70mm I gives you flatter colors and less contrast.

The lens didn't really bring out the color of the paint and I would consider this image to look kind of bland compared to what I saw in real life. The 24-70mm version II really does a fantastic job at brining out color (look at the first image). Note: I understand the two are in different lighting situations, but, generally, I find the statement to be true given the images I've taken. The contrast is absolutely amazing, matching to what the primes can give. I am very amazed of the color rendering of the 24-70mm II. The color and contrast alone really justifies why the 24-70mm II is a much better lens than the 24-70mm I. It is really that good. Another note, the 24-70mm II gives a warmer tone to the images (I shoot RAW).

So really, the 24-70mm II is justified because of the color and contrast. A few goodies also come with the lens: sharpness at corners, T stop is closer the actual f/2.8 than the predecessor, much better flare control, and lighter (but it isn't a light lens). As a walk-around lens, I would highly recommend replacing the first version. Again, the colors and contrast really answers that "kit lens" argument about the 24-70mm I, even though I do not even agree with that statement. The images speak for themselves as you can see the fantastic details in the rendering. I replaced the first version as my walk-around lens. 

The colors and contrast are amazing. Stepping down does not improve sharpness by much.
(Shot with the Canon 24-70mm 2.8L version II)

The flare control is absolutely fantastic with the new coating.
(Shot with the Canon 24-70mm 2.8L version II)

1:1, center, f/2.8 - crazy sharp
(Shot with the Canon 24-70mm 2.8L version II)

The low-light sports (indoor basketball) photographer (vs. Canon 50mm 1.2L)
Go for the primes.

Reasons for the 24-70mm 2.8L II
- Multiple perspectives
- Sharper
- You can say bang for the buck

Reasons for the 50mm 1.2L
- Sharp
- f/1.2
- lower noise
- faster
- images are just better

Just as a background, I rarely shoot more than 70mm while shooting basketball, as I like my images wider. Yes, I shoot my basketball shots at f/1.2, nothing else. I have the 5D Mark 3 and only use the center point.

The Canon 24-70mm 2.8L II lets me use different focal lengths at the shoot, which is very convenient. The new zoom does a fantastic job at obtaining focus and f/2.8 gives such a great leniency in focus misses and provides a wider depth-of-field. However, when I shoot sports, I would like to get the best images possible. The f/2.8 really is the limitation in this particular field. I usually shoot at 1/800. This means I have to pump that ISO to 4000 (nasty in my taste). This also means that I do not get that "wow" bokeh I want in my images. The crowd in the background seems much fussier and the noise makes the image fussier.

At f/1.2, although the depth-of-field is much thinner, the players aren't exactly that close to me at 50mm such that the depth-of-field is ridiculously small. I found the lens to be superb at acquiring focus fast and accurate, and I do have a large yield rate with the 50mm 1.2L shooting basketball. The images that come out of the 50mm is just phenomenal- I am able to shoot at ISO 800, bokeh is amazing, and the players just stand out.

Therefore, in my sports photography experience, the 24-70mm II just can't replace my 50mm 1.2L. I am willing to give up sharpness at 50mm 1.2 for other properties. But really, the 24-70mm II is absolutely no slouch at all. It does the job very well.

Acquires focus fast and accurately
(Shot with the Canon 24-70mm 2.8L version II)

Even at ISO 4000, with a 5D3, the lens does a great job
(Shot with the Canon 24-70mm 2.8L version II)
However, the 50mm 1.2L really captures images that stand-out
(Shot with the Canon 50mm 1.2L)

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