Why Every Photographer Needs a 24-70mm Lens

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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 Every Photographer Needs a 24-70mm Lens

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.

No Learning Curve

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.

Why Every Photographer Needs a 24-70mm Lens

Close Focusing Abilities

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.

Although the 24-70mm is not a macro lens (whose minimum focusing distances are around 20 centimeters), it can still take beautiful close-up photographs of flowers and other favorite macro subjects.

Why Every Photographer Needs a 24-70mm Lens

Versatile Range

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.

Why Every Photographer Needs a 24-70mm Lens

Robust and Comfortable Build

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.

Why Every Photographer Needs a 24-70mm Lens

Size

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.

Why Every Photographer Needs a 24-70mm Lens

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

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

 

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

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

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:

Your turn

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.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Anabel DFlux is a published photographer in Los Angeles, California. Having started her photography business at the age of 15, Anabel has dedicated her life to her photographic passion. From canine sports to exotic animals, to some of the biggest musicians in the world - Anabel’s work doesn’t fall into any specific niche. She believes there are no limits to what you can create, and to photograph everything that gives you that spark of inspiration.

  • Steve Yates

    I think that using a 12-60 lens on a Micro-Four-Thirds camera is even more interesting as you get that extra focal length, 120 as apposed to 70. Which for me, is more interesting for portrait photography as I have always liked a 90mm lens for doing portraits. Nice post and nice shots. thank you

  • Higbe33

    My favorite walk around lens is the Sigma 24-105. Tony Northrup says the same. More reach seems to be more important than one stop of light. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7e95a1d2c3a93cf05b68bf72c42a6aa1864e6c558b0b0f6f777f271a9f3380cf.jpg

  • Anabel Dflux

    Thank you so kindly!

  • Anabel Dflux

    Stunning photograph, marvelous work! Though I do like the Sigma 24-105, the F/2.8 of the 24-70mm does offer a lot more wiggle room for many low light situations. I appreciate your opinion!

  • Pete Mueller

    One question (and my one pet peeve regarding almost all lens review articles)… what camera – full frame or crop sensor – are you shooting with and basing your evaluation on?

  • Anabel Dflux

    Hi Pete! I am basing my evaluation on both full frame and crop sensor cameras. My photographic kit includes the Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 5D Mark IV, and Canon 5D Mark III. Three of the photographs in this article are taken on a crop sensor, and the rest on a full frame. Thank you!

  • Dave Hogate

    I have the Olympus micro 4/3 EM-10 ii camera with Olympus 12-40 f 2.8 Pro lens (equivalent to 24-80). It’s the best walkaround lens by far, as mentioned in the article. I’ve used it for macro shots, landscape and portrait type photos with everything in between. It’s large for the camera though but worth having.

    Before the Olympus I had a Sony A550 DSLR with a similar lens (Tamron 17-50 2.8) and used it quite a bit. Just a handy lens to have. Some of the best photos I had with it were at Barber Motorsports Museum using existing lighting, no flash. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c71db733893c7992ea099c3cec36e2a947c43e9dd8dd373362456652c86b1dc5.jpg

  • Anabel Dflux

    This is absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much!

  • Chin Wg Le

    Dear anabel,
    I am using Tamron lens model A032 with camera canon 6D markii..I wonder is there any different if I use 85mm f1.8 len model F016, for portraiture shoots. Pls advise https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6fdc10350fd2f80be90c4f0bb90bf4743175e75eab7cd575779134e289f9a9be.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ea9368787a99a678822c2a147c007a3bd4ae08a1d21deb384497749ee92ddc0d.png

  • KC

    With all the different sensor sizes out there 24-70 can mean different things, but the point is valid. Wide to short telephoto, with a 3X factor is handy.

    In my case I work in Micro Four Thirds (Panasonic) and that’s a similar range to the 14-42 and 12-32 (28-84, or 24-64, in 35mm speak). They’re very small and light. It all makes for a versatile walk around lens.

  • Anabel Dflux

    Thank you very much!

  • Anabel Dflux

    Hi there! The different f/stops (aperture) would result in a different kind of image if you shoot at the lowest f/stop. The 1.8 would result in a significantly shallower depth of field than the 2.8, which you can read more about in this article: https://digital-photography-school.com/benefits-tips-shooting-wide-open/

    As well, a fixed lens like the 85mm does have a tendency to be ever so slightly sharper than a lens that has a range, but that does depend on the lens glass and build.

    Both are wonderful lenses for portraits!

  • Kim Fyson

    This answer doesn’t seem to address the point Pete is making. Surely a crop frame camera will turn a 24-70 into the equivalent of a 40 – 112 (approximately) which is a very different prospect? Or to put it another way, if you are talking about lenses for a crop frame camera you should be recommending and 18 -55 or similar.

  • Anabel Dflux

    Pete asked what camera sensor the review was being based on. I provided a response to his inquiry. The article is about a single type of lens, an individual is open to utilize whichever lens suits their needs best! As with all purchases, research should be conducted before acquisition. Thank you for your comment!

  • MickMJM

    A really helpful article. Thank you for taking time to write it.

  • Anabel Dflux

    Thank you very much!

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  • KC

    You’re welcome. It’s all a bit of a mess with all the “clever” terminology. It’s bad enough “full frame” is tossed around without context, add “crop sensor”, another delightful bit of fluff.

    When I teach, present, or consult on anything photography these days it’s almost like a comedy sketch. “It walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it even looks like a duck, but it’s a duck equivalent”. OK. It’s still a duck. Got it.

  • KC

    Let me add to Anabel’s excellent points. Try some sample shots with both, with the same model, same distance and same f:/stop. Have the model face the camera directly. What we’re aiming for is aesthetics, and that is, primarily, in “your eye”. Besides the obvious, the 85 will crop a little tighter, the face may appear ever so slightly narrower. It’s a perspective “thing”. Pick the one that flatters the subject. Or not. The difference is small.

    The old classic “rule” (it’s not, really) is 2X Normal is a good portrait length. Aesthetically, I don’t have a reason to challenge that. Technically, it’s about right. Look at the distortion you get when you shoot a portrait with a wide angle (same head size). Heads look a bit “spherical”. Portraits are aesthetic, not forensic. You want to flatter the subject.

    Truth be told, I think the “rule” is more about respecting the subjects “space”, giving them a little breathing room. In the old days it might have been about not baking the subject under the hot lights. Been there, done that.

  • awesome article. My favorite lens however is Sony 90mm F/2.8 Macro and for versatility I use the Tamron AF 28-210… 70mm is just too short for my liking.

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  • Andhaka

    The best all around for Full Frame for sure (a bit long on the wide end on APS-C)… still I’m in a prime lens phase and got a 24mm 2.8, 50mm 1.8 and I’m honestly stuck on choosing between the 100mm f2 or the 135mm 2.8…

    Stille nice article and very good arguments.

    Cheers

  • Anabel Dflux

    Hi! Those are great lenses! As for the 100mm f/2 versus the 135 f/2.8, the way I select lenses is based significantly on my stylistic choices and usage needs. The f/2 will give you an even shallower depth of field than the 2.8 and let in a lot more light, so I would naturally be drawn to that one for those reasons alone. However, the 135 is longer. Compare both and see what mm range you need! Good luck!

    Thank you so much for the kind words!

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