The Canon 24-105mm f4 is a true master of versatility with an incredibly useful 24mm focal length on the wide end, with some really nice reach with 105mm on the telephoto end.
Walking around, shooting landscape photography, travel photography, HDR, or events, you can use this lens in just about any situation. Build quality is really nice, color, contrast, and sharpness are very good and there are no serious flaws other than some minor chromatic aberrations in the corners and some distortion. It’s the perfect high-end kit lens.
Focal Length: 24-105mm Full Frame
Aperture Blade: 9-Blade Rounded
Elements: 18 Elements in 14 Groups
Coatings: Super Spectra Coatings
Minimum Focus Distance: – 1.48′ / 45 cm
Focus: USM AF System
Construction: Metal and Plastic / Weather Sealed
Filter Threads: 77mm
Pros – Price, Sharp, Versatile, Nice color and contrast, fairly fast autofocus, really good IS, decent pop, Made in Japan.
Cons – Mustache barrel distortion at 24mm, pincushion distortion at 50mm and 105mm, vignetting at 24mm, vignetting at f4 at all focal lengths, some chromatic aberrations at 24mm and 105mm.
Canon RF 24-105mm f4L Review | First Impressions
It’s been a while since I’ve partaken in the greatness that is Canon zoom lenses. I own the trinity of zoom lenses for the EF mount, but the older editions. The 24-70mmm f2.8L I, the 70-200 f2.8 L II, and the 16-35mm f2.8L II.
All those lenses have been updated with the latest Canon coatings and optics software calibration and tuning, so I’m not exactly sure where this 24-105mm sits compared to the latest lenses. But man, compared to my older zooms, this lens is so much better. Sharpness is great, chromatic aberrations are kept to a minimum, but the biggest thing and most important to me is the color and contrast is outstanding. I personally don’t use zoom lenses for anything other than landscape photography, but I’m finding the 24-105mm versatility to be so good, that it’s really hard to leave it behind. Especially considering beautiful color and contrast.
24-105mm RF solves a lot of issues I didn’t like with the 24-70mm and the 70-200mm. The 24-70 always seemed to distort and stretch what was along the edges when at 24mm, and the 70-200 just lacked micro-contrast. The image always just felt dead and boring. Bokeh, color, and sharpness were always nice, but no punch, no life. This lens is different.
24mm might not seems wide enough for landscape photography, but Lightroom has made stitching panoramas so easy that I find myself often tilting the camera in portrait mode so I can get a wider vertical field of view, then I can shoot a panorama across the scene. This gives me a look similar to the ultra-wide lenses I’m used to shooting and it’s easy to do.
Also, in those situations where you’re not using ND filters and it’s not late enough for a tripod, the IS makes shooting those panoramas by hand incredibly easy with very reliable results as long as you don’t drop below 1/30 on the wide end of the lens.
When I ordered the Canon EOS R, I was considering not ordering this lens and just adapting my old glass, or retro glass, but I’m very glad I got this new masterpiece from Canon. I highly recommend it.
For situations besides landscape photography, the lens is still fantastic. It focuses very faster, has great color and contrast with really nice bokeh if you can get your subject close enough to the lens.
Let’s get into the features and characteristics because it’s not all candy and sunshine with this lens.
Build quality is nice. Canon is using a thinner plastic for the exterior shell to keep the lens lighter, but it still feels really solid. It definitely feels nice for plastic. I would even say it feels nicer than my Sony Zeiss zooms or even my Fujifilm lenses which have aluminum shells.
All metal construction means nothing. I can’t even count how many “all-metal” lenses I have that are complete crap when it comes to build quality. Pretty much everything by 7Artisans, SLR Magic, and Mitakon. Metal has a higher thermal conductivity, so it will expand and contrast much faster than plastic.
Anyway, if you’re concerned about the RF 24-105mm feeling like lightweight cheap plastic like a lot of the cheaper Sony EF lenses or cheap Canon APS-C kit lenses, don’t be. This is a very high-quality lens and it feels like an appendage of Robocop.
On Lens Switches
The lens has two switches, one for IS, one for manual focus. You only have one type of IS, and it’s either on or off. You don’t get the multiple modes as you do with the 70-200mm lenses.
The manual focus switch is incredibly useful when switching to manual for quick panoramas or landscape shots with ND filters.
There is also a lock switch to keep the lens at 24mm when walking around.
On Lens Rings
The lens features three rings; one for zoom, one for focus, and one for custom configuration.
The zoom ring is the closest to the camera and it’s the largest ring. The next ring is for focus, and the furthest ring is the custom control ring which I haven’t really figured out a good use for yet.
Autofocus is quick with this lens, but it’s by no means the fastest lens I own. But still, it’s quick and it won’t let you down. The best part about the autofocus is it’s silent, making this lens outstanding for videographers.
There is a little bit of aperture chatter though, so you’ll likely not want to change the aperture while recording if you have an on-camera mic.
Focus-By-Wire Manual Focus
For shooting in manual focus mode, the 24-105mm uses a fly-by-wire system. If you’re coming for Fujifilm or Sony this might seem horrible, but, Canon has figured out how to make this system work perfectly. You don’t feel the focus steps like you do with the Sony and Fujifilm lenses, it’s buttery smooth and you really feel like your focusing on a manual lens.
I was really concerned with this when ordering this lens, as the stepping you often get with manual focus fly-by-wire lenses gives me anxiety when trying to fine-tune my focus, but this Canon is fantastic. Manual focus also works very well with the EOS R three peg manual focus assistance, which is incredibly useful. I believe only Canon’s cinema cameras had that feature in the past and they moved it over to the EOS R.
Focusing all occurs internally so there are no external moving elements when focusing from close to infinity.
Image Stabilization is really good with this lens and you really notice it. I know a lot of people love their Sony IBIS systems, but man, I honestly never notice when I have it turned on. You really feel it with this lens.
Canon claims it’s 5-stop, but honestly, IS doesn’t really work that way. People keep acting like IBIS and IS are designed so you can shoot 1-second exposures. That’s not its intent.
The IS in the RF 24-105mm works a little differently than a lot of other stabilization systems I’ve used. If you’re used to a Sony IBIS system, this Canon IS system works differently in that it doesn’t lock the shot in a fixed place, rather it completely removes all the micro shake but still allows the natural drifting. This is actually how my Sony A7rIII IBIS with IS lenses was before the recent firmware which now forces the image to try to object lock harder.
While the locking IS is great for photography, for videography it’s not so great, since the IS is constantly trying to fight you as you’re naturally panning or moving the camera, and it really ruins the shot when shooting video because you get all these jumps. The 24-105mm doesn’t fight you like this, it allows the natural drift. I’m still waiting for a camera brand to allow us to pick the style of IS, so we could have a mode that tries harder to fix itself to an object while maybe sacrificing a stop or two, or a version that allows more drift for video.
I’m still finding I can shoot 1/30 pretty comfortably even on the long end of the lens if everything is still. I could probably go slower on the wide end but don’t really like to since no IS system is 100% reliable, and the purpose of IS was never really to shoot 1-second exposures handheld.
If you want reliably sharp shots at the long end (105mm), especially shooting subjects that are moving or if you’re moving at all, you’ll need to shoot with a shutter of at least 1/100, most likely faster even with IS.
What IS on the 24-105 allows me to do, is shoot landscapes and panoramas handheld without pushing too deep into my ISO and shoot portraits on the long end without having to go 1/200 on my shutter. So you end up getting a few more keepers when shooting on slower shutters, but not really 5-stops like advertised.
I supposed if you were a Buddhist monk that just finished a meditation session and immediately grabbed the camera and shot a landscape photo, then maybe you could pull off a 1-second shutter. But for the normal folks like you and me, at 24mm for landscape photos, you won’t want to drop below 1/30.
Build Quality Bottom line
The focus-by-wire is not a problem with this lens, you won’t even notice it’s focusing electronically. The switching and all the controls are laid out very well and the lens is very easy to get used to. The weight, durability, and overall feel are really nice, not too heavy but it doesn’t feel cheap. It’s also weather-sealed, but since I own this lens, that’s not something I’m willing to put to the test.
Hopefully, the telescoping front barrel won’t vacuum up all the dust like a lot of Canon’s older zoom lenses. I guess I’ll let you know in a year or so.
Canon 24-105mm F4L | Technical Overview
Corner to corner sharpness with the Canon RF 24-105mm f4 is really nice. You get very consistent performance across the frame at the different ends of the lens. You will see some minor sharpness falloff in the corners but the lens does perform best overall at 50mm due to the improved corners.
This lens is very sharp, but I think the EOS R is actually holding it back. I think it could be sharper if it was put on a higher megapixel camera without a low pass filter. The reason I say this is because when I test other sharp lenses on my EOS R, they are about as sharp as this, so I’m seeing a cap on sharpness based on the performance of the EOS R sensor, which by the way, is very good.
So with future Canon RF bodies, you could see better center sharpness with the RF 24-105mm if you were using a higher megapixel sensor without any optical filters. So that could be indeed good news. However, the corners will likely not improve as they drop in sharpness compared to the center on the EOS R.
Center sharpness really nice with this lens. I spent quite a bit of time comparing side-by-sides in Lightroom to see what focal length was the sharpest and it’s all very close. I would say 50mm is a hair sharper than 24mm and 105mm, but it’s very difficult to tell. Maybe when we get higher resolution cameras it will be easier to see the difference.
When looking at the corners, 24mm is a hair sharper than the 105mm end but it’s also darker due to the vignetting.
When looking at the corners at 50mm, the edges are the best overall. No chromatic aberrations and you get the most detail.
The Canon 24-105mm f4 definitely performs the best overall at 50mm. You get the best corner sharpness, the least amount of chromatic aberrations, and very little vignetting and distortion. In terms of center sharpness, it’s extremely difficult to see a difference between the different focal lengths, but the closer you are to 50mm, the better the corners and edges will perform.
Click to see the full-size charts.
Distortion is all over the place with the 24-105mm. It’s only really noticeable at 24mm where you get some pretty noticeable barrel distortion with a subtle mustache shape. You will need to use Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw’s built-in lens profile corrections to remove this correctly.
At 50mm, the lens begins to show some pincushion distortion, and by 105mm this becomes more pronounced. Again, Lightroom lens profile corrections fix it without any problem.
I’ve been shooting a lot of panorama landscapes at 24mm and have still been able to stitch them together without any issues in Lightroom, even without selecting the profile to remove the distortion and vignetting. Possibly Lightroom fixes these issues automatically when stitching, so it’s yet to be an issue.
At all focal lengths of the 24-105mm, there is a bit of vignetting until f4. You will see the most vignetting at the 24mm end where it never really clears up unless you apply a lens profile correction. From around 50mm to 105mm you still get some vignetting at f5.6, but it’s mostly gone by f8.
If you shoot JPG the camera will mostly correct for this on its own.
There are some chromatic aberrations, mostly in the corners at the wide and tele ends of this lens. At 50mm there is almost no edge fringing on my charts.
To see how the corners fringe, check out the sharpness charts above.
I’ve noticed some chromatic aberrations and fringing in my landscape photos at higher apertures when shooting tree branches against the bright sunset. It’s not very extreme and usually simply clicking the “Remove Chromatic Aberrations” correction in Lightroom gets rid of it.
So you will have to deal with some chromatic aberrations as you move out of the center of the frame, but it’s not severe and pretty standard for a zoom of this range.
Wide-open, you will see some spherical aberrations that look sort of like contrast smearing or ghosting. It’s mostly only in the corners and edges and it will be more pronounced at 24mm and 105mm. Closing the aperture down to f8 pretty much cleans things up.
It’s been hard for me to find good examples of Chromatic Aberrations in my real-world photos. This is the worst, or I guess the best example of CA issues with this lens. It’s pretty insignificant, but in this sample, clicking the “Remove Chromatic Aberrations,” did not remove the purple fringing. So you would have to use the manual sliders to remove it. Adding +2 with the defringe slider in Lightroom removed this without any issues.
Art & Character
The color and contrast mixed with the butter smooth bokeh really surprised me. I went into this lens just thinking I would have a boring, lifeless lens because of the versatility of the 24-105mm focal length and f4 aperture. That is not the case at all.
Canon has managed to find the perfect balance between contrast, color, and pop and attribute corrections. This lens actually performs better than a lot of my cheap Chinese and Russian primes lenses, albeit, it’s only an f4, but it’s the first time I’ve shot with a zoom, where I can’t tell right away I’m shooting with a zoom, especially at 50mm.
The 24-105mm f4 RF is only an f4 lens so it’s not really a bokeh beast, but you can still get some really nice bokeh if you’re close enough to your subject.
As with any lens, the quality of the bokeh changes with distance. Up close it’s buttery smooth and very creamy. Further back it starts to get a little edgy with some minor soap bubbles on the highlights. Some would say it’s a bit nervous. But keep in mind, bokeh changes dramatically with distance and there is definitely a sweet spot. The closer your subject the better. This is really true with any lens though.
The bokeh balls look really nice, with no onion rings, and no serious cat’s eye bokeh. In some situations, you might see some more pronounced soap bubbles, but it’s difficult to find yourself in those situations without looking at a 100% crop since all the variables need to be perfect. Even when everything lines up to produce those soap bubbles, they are very small and insignificant. I definitely wouldn’t consider this is a soap-bubble lens, so I don’t even know why I mentioned it. Anyway! Charts!
Flaring & Sun Stars
The Canon RF 24-105mm f4 is very resistant to flaring and ghosting and you can shoot directly into the sun without it blooming out your image or killing your contrast.
You will see some decent sunstars when stopped down to a higher aperture of something like f11 to f16, but ultimately it’s a little difficult to produce epic sun stars unless the conditions are just right.
Contrast / Micro Contrast & Color Rendering
The contrast and color are really nice, as always with a Canon L lens. Micro contrast is actually very nice for a zoom lens as well, but that seems like that’s usually the case when going with slower lenses. Less glass and thinner elements are always better for image pop.
As someone who almost exclusively shoots primes, I’ve been very impressed by this.
Canon is using a Super Spectra Coating which is a legacy coating that has been around for some time now, but colors, contrast is still nice.
These are some straight out of camera RAW samples that were taken with the Canon EOS R. These are untouched except scaled and exported to JPG for presentation here. I’ve posted full-size JPG samples and more on my smugmug.
Straight Out Of Camera RAW
Here are some B&W samples. You can see there is some decent pop to this lens for a zoom. The images feel very natural and they don’t look like they’ve been shot through 20 UV filters are a car’s windshield. Something that often happens with high element zoom lenses.
Canon RF 24-105mm f4L Review | Bottom Line
The Canon RF 24-105mm f4 is very sharp with great image stabilization, outstanding contrast, and color rendering, nice pop with only some minor, yet easily correctable flaws. Build quality is also really solid and the lens isn’t too heavy either. The best part is the price.
For the landscape, travel photographer, the Instagrammer that wants to shoot a reflection of the golden gate bridge through a chain-link fence off his smartphone, whatever it may be, this lens is outstanding.
The lens’s main weakness is the f4 aperture. You’ll notice most of my photos in this article are of landscapes and travel. I just haven’t been in love with any portraits I’ve shot. It’s fine for shooting portraits with an awesome backdrop where it’s all about the environment, but when it comes to shooting beauty portraits, you’ll most likely eventually want a faster lens ( faster lens means f2.8 or f2 something like that ).
However, if you’re in a studio shooting models against a backdrop where it’s all about fashion, production design, and hair & makeup and less about bokeh, f4 is great. You’ll even get a little more pop if you’re using strobes, which means really stunning, high contrast punchy images. I haven’t tested it yet, but I can almost bet you this lens has more pop than the 28-70mm f2 which will need massive glass to produce that aperture. Something to consider if you plan on only shooting at f4 or f5.6 anyway.
I actually really love this lens, and it’s the first zoom lens I’ve used in a long time where I don’t feel like I’m compromising quality for versatility. I usually don’t say this in my reviews, but if you’re stepping into the EOS R system, and you don’t have the EF 24-105mm f4, you should seriously consider this lens!
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