24-105mm 'L' or 24mm prime?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by david b, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. Hi,

    I have a Canon 5D Mk1, and currently (all Canon) 35mm 2.0 , 50mm 1.8 prime lenses and 70-200mm 4.0 'L'. I've got rid of a lot of camera gear I don't need, and this is my only kit. Subject to the question below, I'm more than happy with that.

    I am interested in both landscape and portraiture, and want a wider lens than the 35mm. As far as I see it, there are two main options:
    1. Stick with the current lenses (which I am very satisfied with) and buy a 24mm prime lens. This sounds like the cheapest option, and perhaps might(?) give me the best quality, and will give me a lens range from 24mm to 200mm which is all I need and want.

    2. Buy a 24-105mm 4.0 'L' zoom, and since this will incorporate 35mm of course, sell the 35mm prime to help fund it.
    I can afford both options, especially if I sell the 35mm. It seems to me that the advantage of option 1 is that it is cheaper, but means a 4 lens system, so likely more lens changing in the field. It may also offer higher quality than using the zoom, but I don't know about that. The advantage of option 2 is that I would not need to change lenses much and would have only a 3 lens system (2 for landscapes when I wouldn't need the faster standard lens). In fairness 99% of my landscape work could be done with the focal lengths of 24 to 105mm...So actually that could be one lens...
    I'm expecting the 50mm lens and the 70-200mm to be all I need for portraits, so I guess I'm asking about landscape use really. I have all the other stuff like filter rings in all sizes, etc.
    I am interested in what people would do?
  2. I have both the 24-105 and the 35mm f/2.
    Even though the 35mm is the only Canon lens I've ever had to have repaired, it is still one of my favorites, and have often used it on both film and 35mm-sensor digital. On the other hand, the 24-105mm is so much one of those "just so darned handy" lenses that I couldn't live without it.
    The 35mm makes a good low light supplement to the f/4 L zoom, and it actually doesn't sell for all that much (recent eBay prices in the US$200+ range) although the new IS lens may increase the attractiveness of the old standard. Used 24-105s seem to go around $700-800 these days, and that's been true for quite a while.
    If it were me, I'd try to stretch to keep the 35mm and get the 24-105 too.
  3. In fairness 99% of my landscape work could be done with the focal lengths of 24 to 105mm​
    Interesting you say this! I took my 24-105 and 5D to Yosemite and discovered the park was designed for this exact focal length range. I didn't have any need to pull out any other lens the entire time I was there, even though I brought numerous other lenses! ;-)
    Here's another vote for the enormously versatile 24-105!
  4. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I understand that there might be a small quality advantage in favour of the primes, but an outfit essentially consisting of the 24-105 L and 70-200f4 L gives you good image quality and the bit of overlap 70-105 means that you're not changing lenses every few moments. I'm sure that in a studio, changing from one prime to another is quite manageable, but in the field lens changes are sometimes inconvenient and the source or much of the dust that plagues the 5D (well my 5D anyway).
    So I'd vote for 2, though first thing I'd do is set the camera to focus using the centre spot only, if you haven't already.
  5. I have had the 24-105L for many years and it's a great lens. Almost a perfect "one lens" for a full frame camera, although many people use the 24-70 options, including the new, and expensive 24-70f2.8L. I find the IS on the 24-105 quite good, never intrudes, but does allow longer exposure times. An f4 lens is always going to be "slow" compared to a faster prime. And that's where the prime's advantage comes in. Fast, bright, better bokeh and shallower depth of field. From your current collection, I presume the 24f1.4LII is out of the question, but it's certainly THE 24mm lens to get if you want the best performance possible. But it's not perfect and the slower 24mm lens is even worse.
    When compared at 24mm, the zoom has a lot of distortion and the corners are soft wide open. The prime has less distortion and by f4, the corners are going to be sharper.
    Given your budget constraint (and I am only surmising here) I would recommend the 24-105L zoom. You can correct the distortion in LR or other software, the lens has a great range for walking around, and the performance is overall very good. It's weather sealed with a filter and has a really cool red ring around the front end!
  6. Use the 24-105mm f/4L IS with Digital Photo Professional's DOL (Digital Lens Optimization) function turned on, or use another lens optimizer software (available for LR and the foundation of DxO Optics Pro) and you'll achieve results rivaling any prime.
    For most landscapes you'll be shooting at f-stops smaller than f/4, so why buy a lens with f/2.8?
    I use the 24-105mm, the 70-200/f4 IS and the 500/f4, with various ETs and TCs and get great focal length coverage and high quality results.
  7. I found the 24-105 to be mediocre indoors in lower light (and to have displeasing bokeh), but fine outdoors in good light. So while I sold my copy in favour of faster primes (and, more recently, the new 24-70), I think that in your case, it's the lens with which you'd be the happiest.
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I have a 24 Prime and also the 24 to 105L (and also the 35/2 and a 5D).
    I find that the 24-105 is a great / versatile “travel” lens – so for me that means “Landscapes”. I also find is a very suitable Portrait Lens. It is a great “one lens solution” if one lens is what I require.
    I find that I do use a fast 35 when ‘travelling’, especially indoors or for low light or for some street portraiture, where the extra aperture is surely an advantage over the IS of the 24 to 105. So interestingly, I do often ‘travel light’ with just 24 to 105 and a fast 35 Prime – I mention this to give you some pause before committing to sell your 35/2. – I suggest you evaluate what would a used 35/2 would gain you in dollars and what it is actually worth as part of your kit.
    From the uses you outline I suggest that you buy the 24 to 105 and not a 24 Prime: the zoom will be much more flexible for your uses.
  9. Many thanks for all these responses. There seems to be a current general theme that the 24-105mm is the way to go, though I must admit that even if it doesn't make much money, I can't really see the point in having the 35mm 2.0 and the 24-105mm.
    I do think that reduced / no lens changing in the field is a definite advantage, since much of our landscape photography is under challenging conditions - hills, windswept beaches, 'bad' weather etc.

    So I think I'll get one, and evaluate before being too hasty to get rid of the 35mm 2.0, though as I see things, I'm planning to standardise on the 24-105mm, 70-200mm and 50mm as a 'fast' lens but this will probably only see indoor use.
  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I can't really see the point in having the 35mm 2.0 and the 24-105mm.
    . . . I'm planning to standardise on the 24-105mm, 70-200mm and 50mm as a 'fast' lens but this will probably only see indoor use.​
    If a 50mm Focal Length is the "fast Prime" answer "for you", then that's a good plan.
  11. For convenience the 24-105 might seem a good option; but due to distortion and severe vignetting at 24mm and poor bokeh at the long end: its not up to the standards I would expect of a L lens.
    If you have been using primes; you will probably find this lens disappointing.
  12. David:
    Will f/4 suffice for your needs? If so, I'd buy the 24-105/4. If not, then get the aperture you need.
    I have both the 24/1.4 II and 24-105/4. (And also a Canon 5D.) With the 5D, my main low light lens is the 35/1.4. I just like that focal length. I bought the 24-105/4 as my first zoom in the Canon line. Thought it would just be a vacation lens. I was pleasantly surprised, and it's my main workhorse lens for professional work. It replaced quite a primes.
    I bought the 24/1.4 II when I switched to a 1D4 as my main camera. The 35 was no longer wide enough. I use the 24/1.4 in low light situations where I would have previously used the 35/1.4. I use the 24-105 when I have sufficient light or when I don't want to change lenses.
  13. David, I'll throw out a 3rd option, the Canon 17-40 f/4 L lens, which is the same price neighborhood as the 24-105L, probably cheaper if you aren't bundling the 24-105 with a camera. I was looking at the same choice you're facing a couple of weeks ago. I was in the process of buying a 5D Mark III as an upgrade from the T2i, had the 35mm f/2, the 50mm f/4 and the 70-200 f/4 IS L lens which I'd just bought new. I shoot mostly landscapes and needed a wide angle to replace the Tamron 10-24mm I'd been using with the crop sensor camera. I shoot a lot of waterfalls which are often big and in tight spaces with limited space to back up and capture the whole waterfall and the scene I want. 24mm at the wide end on a full frame would not have been wide enough for me, but it sounds like you don't often need a shorter focal length.
    I had the opportunity to get the 24-105 L for $700 in a bundle with the 5D Mark III but didn't really seriously consider it because it didn't give me a wide enough angle on the low end and overlapped with the focal lengths of my other 3 landscape lenses. I didn't see the need to overlap that much with the 70-200L which is by most accounts slightly superior to the 24-105L in image quality, and I'm perfectly happy with the 50mm f/1.4 covering mid range for landscapes and as a fast lens for walking around purposes. I'll keep the 35mm f/2 even though I probably won't use it a lot because I like it, it won't bring a lot used and it takes up little space or weight in the camera bag. I can carry only the 35mm and 50mm to shoot handheld and travel extremely light
    So my choice came down to the 16-35mm f/2.8 L and the 17-40mm f/4 L. Virtually all the reviews said the image quality of the two was virtually identical. The 17-40 is lighter, costs about half as much as the 16-35 and since I didn't care about shooting at f 2.8 with a wide angle (most of my wide angle shots are on a tripod with aperture of f/8 or higher), the 17-40 was my choice. I paid about the same price for it that the 24-105L would have cost me bundled with the 5D Mark III. I've only shot a couple of times with the 17-40L so far but am delighted with it. If you use Lightroom 4 there's a lens correction profile for it (and the other Canon lenses) which does a great job of correcting any distortion due to the wide angle.
  14. More helpful responses, thanks.
    I did consider the 17 - 40mm Canon lens, but decided against it as (a) I don't really need or want a lens wider than 24mm, and (b) I would still be in frequent lens changing territory as it is only 40mm at the longest end.
    My plan is that when I'm doing outdoor photography, the 24-105mm lens will rarely come off the camera, if at all.
    Anyway, I've bought one, so when it arrives, I can see for myself.
    Thanks again for the useful input from everyone.
  15. It's amazing how we ask someone who we've never met, their opinion on a tool we've never handled, to do an unknown task and get an acceptable result. Still, here is what I've learned over the years. The 24-105 Zoom is not in the same ball park as the 24mm prime lens. You will get an acceptable result with the 24-105 lens, but you will get an exceptional result with the 24mm prime.
    The only way to prove this is to try it.
    Let me know of your results.

Share This Page