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by Bart Arondson

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I am looking to buy a Canon L lens, preferably a zoom to cover various ranges and focal points. I had a look on the new Canon 24-70f4L and it looks fantastically sharp. However, someone mentioned on another post that this lens is not too sharp at 70mm. After having a look at this amazing picture, I kinda think that it's sharp enough for me.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8486/8200814076_cf3911bdc7_o.jpg

This lens is more expensive than the 24-105f4 though. So which one should I get? I really care about the Sharpness at this point.

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3  
You keep saying "sharpness" and "sharp". If that is really all you care about, get a prime. As another commenter noted, the 24-70f/2.8 II is as close as you will get in a zoom, and boy will you pay for that advantage in $$$! –  dpollitt Oct 14 '13 at 15:20
    
Get a 40mm f/2.8 if you want a very sharp lens for just a little $$$. –  dpollitt Oct 14 '13 at 15:27
    
Can that be as sharp as the one shown on my 24-70f4 link? –  polyglot Oct 14 '13 at 15:37
    
Head over to the-digital-picture.com and take a look. Here is an example - goo.gl/BNHYBY It is close to as sharp, but not quite. Dollar for dollar the 40mm f/2.8 is a great value, and it is considered very sharp. –  dpollitt Oct 14 '13 at 15:43

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you want the sharpest result, get the 24-70f/2.8 II or the 70-200f/2.8 IS II (whichever is appropriate for your needs). They are the two sharpest zoom lenses Canon has ever made and are possibly two of the sharpest zoom lenses in the world right now. I own both and have found them to both perform exceptionally.

If cost is a factor, you could consider giving up the zoom and go for a semi-fast prime that would be ever so slightly sharper and would also be much cheaper (but you have to zoom with your feet), but if you want sharp and zoom, there isn't any substitute for the f/2.8L IIs.

One thing worth noting though is that the 24-70 is not a fixed volume lens (the front element moves) so it is not as well weather sealed as some. Probably not an issue for fashion photography, but something to keep in mind if you will be using it in any wet environments.

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I need something sharp, versatile (hence the zoom) and relatively cheaper than the 2.8L. I still need it to be sharp enough though. The front element is kinda disturbing I have to confess, I was thinking about the 17-40mm f4, but I don't know how that performs in terms of sharpness. What are your prime lens proposals that could much the 2.8 in terms of sharpness? –  polyglot Oct 14 '13 at 15:02
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Don't get the 17-40 f/4. I have that one as well and I very rarely use it now that I have the 24-70. It's not a bad lens, but it's one of the weaker Ls and isn't even remotely close to the 24-70f/2.8 II. –  AJ Henderson Oct 14 '13 at 15:03
    
Really, just about any of the primes would work. I don't have direct experience with the primes, but I'm not aware of any primes in Canon's line that are f/1.6 or faster that are not as sharp or sharper than the 24-70 f/2.8 II, so the selection would really be dependent on your focal length needs and your budget. –  AJ Henderson Oct 14 '13 at 15:05
1  
The fact that you want to try the 17-40mm is laughable as it is not even close to the sharpest L lens, it is probably my least sharp lens. I still love it, but certainly not for fashion photography! –  dpollitt Oct 14 '13 at 15:24
    
Note, the front element moves when zoomed for all of the 24-70mm and 24-105mm lenses discussed in this conversation. Only the various Canon 70-200mm "L" lenses have internal zoom as well as internal focus. –  Michael Clark Oct 15 '13 at 21:13

If you are serious about fashion work you need a set of fast primes, not an f/4 or slower zoom. Although the example you linked to is impressive considering it was taken using an f/4 zoom, it is probably not quite good enough for commercial use.

Depending on what focal lengths you plan to work at you can go for any of the following focal lengths. 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 100mm, 135mm, and 200mm. You probably don't need a lens in every one of these focal lengths, but you probably do need at least one wide, one medium, and one long lens.

Lenses like the $360 EF 85mm f/1.8 perform every bit as well optically as the $2,300 EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II set at 85mm and using the same apertures, plus the prime is over a stop faster at f/1.8. The EF 85mm f/1.2 L II, at about $2,200 is six times the price but delivers incredible image quality that no current zoom can touch. The comparisons are similar at 50mm: The EF 50mm f/1.4 costs about 1/5 the price of the $1,620 EF 50mm f/1.2 L. The 50mm f/1.4 set to the same apertures is the optical match of the EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II set to 50mm.

Based on the assumption that you are shooting on a full frame body I would recommend starting with the EF 50mm f/1.4, the EF 85mm f/1.8, and the EF 135mm f/2 L. You can purchase all three of these lenses for about $500 less than the EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II and only about $300 more than the EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS. If you just must have a zoom, you should consider the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC. It debuted at around $1,200 bucks around a year and a half ago but is now selling many places for right at $1K or less. It is not quite as sharp as the Canon 24-70 "II" at longer focal lengths and f/2.8, but it is better than the original EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L and much sharper than the EF 24-105mm f/4 L (which happens to be my favorite general purpose lens, but I would never consider it for paid fashion work). By f/4 the Tamron pretty well matches the Canon 24-70 "II".

Here's a comparison between the Ef 24-105mm f/4 L IS, the Ef 24-70mm f/2.8 L II, and the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC at DxO Mark. The overall scores are weighted for things, such as absolute T-stop vs. claimed aperture, that may not be your primary concern. To get to the actual data click 'Measurements--> Sharpness--> Profiles' and then select focal lengths and apertures for each lens. The two 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses are clearly sharper than the 24-105mm f/4 above 35mm, especially at the edges. At 70mm focal length the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II is sharper at f/2.8 than the others are at f/4. By f/4 the Tamron is pretty much the equal of the Canon "II". You have to stop down to f/8 before there is no real difference between any of these lenses. Clicking on the 'Measurements--> Sharpness--> Field Map' and setting each lens to 70mm/75mm @ f/4 illustrates the differences dramatically. Swapping in the EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS shows the new 24-70 is slightly better than the older 24-105, but still trails the two 24-70 f/2.8 lenses at wider apertures and longer focal lengths.

Be aware that no matter what lens you use in order to get results similar to the example you linked you are also going to need some studio lighting with quality modifiers that allow the light to be softened and spread over large areas. You are also going to need to do a significant amount of post processing, particularly in terms of selective sharpening and frequency separation, to get similar results.

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Thanks very much for the detailed info. My current plan is to get a sharp zoom lens which will be used as a secondary to cover most focal lengths, hence my 24-105f4 assumption. My primary lens will be the 50mm1.2, as it's soft and is more aesthetically pleasing to my personal taste. –  polyglot Oct 15 '13 at 11:09
    
I've added a link to the lens comparison tool at DxO Mark for the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS, The EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II, and the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC. –  Michael Clark Oct 15 '13 at 20:49
    
And a link to the same comparison with the new 24-70 f/4 swapped in for the old 24-105 f/4. The 'Measurements--> Sharpness--> Field Map' is particularly revealing at 70mm and f/4. –  Michael Clark Oct 15 '13 at 21:20

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