Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II Trounces the Mark I in Sharpness

Despite its girth, weight, and price, Canon’s original 24-70mm f/2.8L is a highly-regarded general-purposes lens. When the followup Mark II version was announced back in February, the higher-price tag, similar specs, and lack of IS had many photographers scratching their heads. Then the reviews started coming out.

Reviews had glowing things to say about the Mark II, calling it “the best performing Canon full-frame-compatible general purpose zoom lens available” and saying that it’s “way better than the lens it replaces.”

To quantify just how much sharper the Mark II version is over its predecessor, Roger Cicala over at LensRentals decided to pit 70 copies of the Mark II against 125 copies of the Mark I in Imatest tests. The chart above is what resulted (as you can probably guess, the upper right is “better”).

Here’s Cicala’s conclusion after seeing the results,

A look at the graph shows a couple of things. Overall, the range of variation of the Mk II lens is about the same as the Mk I version […] You can also see that three of the tested Mk II lenses seem to be out-of-sorts. The bottom line is that 3 lenses out of the 70 copies were not up to expectations. That is a bit higher than the 2% unacceptable rate we usually see ‘out of the box’.

One other thing demonstrates the difficulty we have with one of the less-than-expected copies; they’re still better than the best of the 24-70 Mk I versions. They just aren’t as much better as they should be.

So basically, the Mark II lenses with the worst sharpness were still sharper than the sharpest Mark I lenses. That’s crazy.

Canon 24-70 Mk II Variation [LensRentals]

P.S. These tests also show a tricky thing about lens reviews: the fact that copy-to-copy variation can lead to different reviewers concluding different things about the image quality of lenses. It’d be nice if every reviewer had 70 of the same lens on hand to test, but sadly camera companies don’t send out review units by the truckload.

  • sierrarobba

    mk I a film camera lens and everyone know its a soft lens so they other lens isnted of this!

  • Simon Cooper

    The much older 28-70mm f/2.8 is still a favourite of mine.

  • John Goldsmith

    “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept” – HCB

  • Mario Liedtke

    I am curious if Nikon lenses have also such a wide variation in quality! That wide spreading from 700 to 900 is absolutly unaccetable imho. Just consider you get a 700 for the price of a 900 it could be! I would have not guessed that there could be such a big difference, nowadays!!!

  • stanimir stoyanov

    Wow, the Mk II is really sharp wide-open compared to its predecessor.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II Trounces the Mark I in Sharpness and Price

  • Matt

    Whats up with having to sign in to vote down but not up? I really do not like having to sign in for anything, kind of an invasion of privacy and an act against free speach.

  • Michael Zhang

    Hmm… Not sure. It’s a feature of the commenting system we use, and not something we can customize. It might have to do with the fact that downvotes have the power to hide comments for everyone and put them into the “pending” queue

  • OmniMode

    When I want to quit photography, I’ll start saying that to my clients. ;-)

  • John Goldsmith

    Depends who your clients are. :) The way I see it, commercial photography has existed for well over half a century without this lens. Regardless, the point I am making is that while new equipment is exciting, most people should work on getting their eye to see better without needing to upgrade to the latest and greatest.

  • OmniMode

    But gear lust and cultivating the art of photography can happily co-exist in a person. :D

  • ThePope2012

    yeah well.. for th price it better be….

  • ThePope2012

    get a clue about statistics.
    then get a clue about tolerances in cameras, camera mounts, and lenses.
    if you understand that…. ask someone in manufacturing what it will cost to reduce the current tolerances.

  • Ivan

    “ask someone in manufacturing what it will cost to reduce the current tolerances”. Good point! And we already know the answer: attempt to reduce manufacturing tolerances as well as influence of other factors such as thermal stresses to close to zero leads to cameras that would cost a few hundred thousand to a few million a piece. Examples: an average camera on a space mission. Thank you, but I am OK with excellent sharpness +/-20% for $500 to $1000.

  • Traingineer

    I’ll stick to my old 24-70 ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)