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Fondly known as the “walk around lens” by professionals and hobbyists alike, the 24-70mm lens is the staple of any photography kit! A lens that offers diversity and functionality, its range makes the 24-70mm lens a remarkable companion for a vast array of photo shoots. From wide captures to close-up portraits, and everything in between, this lens is one that many photographers jump for immediately.
Camera brands such as Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, Sigma, and Tamron understand this and have offered a rather wonderful selection of 24-70mm lenses from which to choose. Several professionals actually own more than one 24-70mm, as this lens has the potential of becoming the most used glass in your photographic arsenal.
Why? Well, it’s awesome of course! The benefits of the 24-70mm lens are as priceless as our love for it. Here are some of the reasons why you want to have this lens in your bag.
The focal range of the 24-70mm lens is greatly inspired by the human eye. As such, this lens allows brand new photographers to learn with more ease than some other types of lenses due to its lack of distortion.
It is much easier to study composition when you can photograph similarly to how your eye sees naturally. Some wide angle lenses have a curve to the glass, which causes the subjects to warp when improperly photographed. The 24mm aspect of this lens offers no ultra-wide angle distortion while still offering a rather wide capture, perfect for simply concentrating on the best arrangement of elements.
There is equally little trouble with the rest of the focal range. The range passes through 50mm, a commonly used focal length for portraiture. The 70mm offers a very nice zoomed close-up. This lens is a great stepping stone to a variety of focal lengths, such as the 70-200mm lens.
This lens is absolutely excellent for a subject that happens to be in close proximity to the glass. The minimum focusing distance does vary depending on models, but it averages 38 centimeters (15 inches) from the glass. To give perspective on how close this is, the average focusing distance for most lenses is 48 centimeters (19 inches), although this is affected by whether your camera is full frame or not, the type of lens, etc.
Arguably the most important benefit of the 24-70mm lens is its versatility. The range offers limitless possibilities, with an added boost of immense adaptability in the face of various photo shoots.
You can easily go from a wide angle to a zoom with this beauty, acclimating as quickly as your subjects change. This lens also allows you to capture a large variety of shots per session without the need to consistently change your lens. Considering our photography game with clients is primarily speed and efficiency, the 24-70mm will quickly become your best friend for this reason alone.
The versatility allows you to pack just this one lens when you go gallivanting across the world on vacations or destination shoots, an ideal prospect in and of itself. The 24-70mm lens is also a favorite of wedding photographers, as it allows them to capture precious moments without lapsing to change out gear. As previously touched upon, the focal range also covers the significant focal lengths in the photography world, such as the 50mm and the 70mm.
Most 24-70mm lenses are rather robust little creations, with a comfortable build to last. Knowing that this lens is referred to as the walk around lens, most brands have ensured that your faithful companion is able to outlast most of your adventures.
From weather protection offered by some manufacturers, to solid and sturdy bodies, the 24-70mm is ready for most anything you can throw at it. This lens is also rather comfortable to hold, considering it isn’t very long nor terribly short.
Of course, we cannot discuss build without talking about size. At an average size of 3.28 x 3.28 x 4.86 inches and weight of approximately 2 pounds (900g), the 24-70mm is neither the largest nor the heaviest lens on the market. Quite the contrary, this lens happens to fit into most cases and isn’t the world’s worst hassle to carry.
In comparison to the rest of my kit, my 50mm (f/1.2) lens weighs more despite being shorter. To add even more praise, I have been easily able to put this lens with a camera body into a regular old purse. The amount of use and adaptability you can accomplish with this lens greatly outweighs any physical burdens of transporting it and many would argue that this lens is the same size as the average, most common lenses.
Now that the 24-70mm has (hopefully) won you over, there comes the burden of choosing which one to get. There are a variety of different 24-70mm lenses, ranging not just by brand, but also by aperture and weight. Here are some, just to name a few:
Canon’s collection of lenses is home to the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, and Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens. The f/2.8 aperture version is the most commonly seen 24-70mm lens, due to its beautiful depth of field and low light capabilities (remember, the wider the aperture, the more light the lens lets in!).
The EF 24-70mm f/2.8L (above left) is the predecessor of the newer EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM (above middle), and those on a budget may do well looking into the original lens which landed an iconic spot in Canon’s lineup. The updated version features improvements to image sharpness, vignetting, and AF speed. That being said, these improvements come at a rather substantial price tag. When pairing with a camera body that features advanced auto-focus systems, the version II is significantly faster than its predecessor. However, if you own one of the older bodies, you won’t see a significant difference. Like version I, version II features weather sealing with a front filter in place, which separates this lens from its competitors.
Canon’s EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens (above right) is another option. Although it does not feature a 2.8 aperture, the addition of image stabilization may sway some to purchase this version. Some of the benefits of this lens over its f/2.8 companion are reduced size/weight, image stabilization, and much lower cost. Another huge benefit is maximum magnification (MM). The 24-70 f/4L IS features an impressive 0.70x magnification (compared to 0.21x for the 24-70L II) which means it can double as a macro lens in a pinch.
Nikon has the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR ($2396 USD) and AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8G ED ($1796 USD), with a $600 difference between them (at the time of writing this article). The 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR is on the larger size of the 24-70mm array of lenses, being an inch longer than its predecessor and a bit wider. However, both of these lenses are extremely sharp in practical use, a wonderful testament to the models. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of vignetting at the wider apertures. The f/2.8E ED VR version features image stabilization and vibration reduction, unlike the 24-70mm F2.8G ED.
Tamron is home to their 24-70mm f/2.8 DI VC USD Lens, which is still one of the only f/2.8 24-70mm lenses with image stabilization. Tamron’s vibration control system allows this lens up to 4-stops of camera shake compensation. The ability of this lens to capture sharp images of static subjects in low light is extremely beneficial, given its low light capability. This lens is also significantly more cost-effective than the Canon lenses. Sadly, you can expect anywhere from 2-3 stops vignetting on a full-frame camera, wide open, depending on the focal length. However, this lens is quite sharp and was noted to out-perform Nikon’s 24-70mm not too long ago. Unfortunately, the AF has been said to not always be consistent.
Note: Read reviews for lenses before you make any decisions.
Sigma has the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM ART. This lens is significantly heavier than some of the other 24-70mm lenses mentioned, primarily the Canon 2.8 version II. The build quality is excellent given the comparatively affordable price tag. This lens features built-in vibration reduction just like the Tamron equivalent, and a minimum focusing distance of 37 centimeters.
For more on other 24-70mm lenses see these dPS reviews and comparisons:
Now that you’ve learned of the wonders of this charming lens, what are you waiting for?!
Have you used a 24-70mm lens before? What are your favorite things about it? Please share in the comments below.