Canon overhauls 24-70mm lens, stabilizes 24mm and 28mm primes

One of Canon's most popular lenses gets better optics, coatings, and bokeh--but costs $1,000 more and doesn't get image stabilization. New wide-angle prime lenses do get it, though.

Canon's EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens will cost about $2,300.
Canon's EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens will cost about $2,300. Canon USA

To IS or not to IS?

That is the question Canon faced when deciding whether to put image stabilization in a trio of new lenses it announced today. Curiously, it reached two different answers.

For a rework of a highly regarded professional-grade staple, the 24-70mm F2.8, Canon decided against image stabilization, evidently discouraged by drawbacks such as weight, complexity, and expense. But for new incarnations of its 24mm and 28mm F2.8 lenses, IS is now an option.

Canon's new EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM follows the pattern of several lens upgrades in recent years: spruce up the new model with better optical elements to improve sharpness and cut chromatic aberration; use new coatings to improve color balance, cut ghosting, and resist fingerprints; and move from eight to nine curved aperture blades to improve the smoothness of out-of-focus areas. The new lens retains the extending design of its predecessor but adds a zoom lock to keep it compact during travel.

The improvements come at a cost--specifically, a $1,000 premium.

The first-generation model goes for about $1,300 nowadays, but the replacement will cost about $2,300 when it goes on sale in April, Canon said. To be fair, Canon has been hurt by a tough exchange rate in recent years, but this is a big price increase even for Canon's "L" (luxury) class of high-end lenses.

It's also a good chunk lighter, at 805g versus 950g for the first-generation model. That should help folks who have to carry a bunch of lenses around.

Canon's $850 EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM and $800 EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM bring image stabilization to the wide-angle prime market.
Canon's $850 EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM and $800 EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM bring image stabilization to the wide-angle prime market. Canon USA

Image stabilization, which counteracts camera shake by moving lens elements around, is undeniably convenient when shooting handheld, so some people will be disappointed that the new 24-70mm lacks it. Nikon's 24-70mm model lacks image stabilization, but Tamron's brand-new 24-70mm model has stabilization . (Nikon calls it vibration reduction, and Tamron calls it vibration compensation.)

Canon shooters unhappy about the lack of IS in the 24-70mm model can take consolation, though, that the feature has arrived in two compact prime lenses, the EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM and the EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM. Zoom lenses dominate the mainstream market by virtue of their flexibility, but prime lenses are still a popular niche since they can offer top optical quality for a given focal length.

The 24mm model will cost about $850 and the 28mm model about $800, Canon said, and both should arrive in June.

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