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Just got a Canon 40D body, and was about to get Canon's 24-105L lens. I hear people raving about the lens, and it all made sense until I saw a Cameralabs' review of the lens.

So don’t buy the EF 24-105mm expecting an upgrade in optical quality alone or you may be disappointed. Where this lens really scores over general-purpose EF-S lenses is in terms of build and mechanical quality ...

Now I'm contemplating getting a 18-135 for a 3rd of the price.

I'd be interested to hear from somebody who had some experience with the lenses, and not just read some reviews (like I did).

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7 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I have a 24-105 L and it is an excellent lens. The build quality is superb which makes it heavy but the L series lenses become an asset as a result of their build - it will last.

The image quality is also excellent. Check out the digital picture review linked to above. Whilst Andy says some will say he is bias (for a long time I think he has only reviewed Canon gear) - the bias is somewhat irrelevant when you're comparing Canon to Canon.

The 18-135 covers a longer range, typically this isn't a good thing IQ wise in zoom lenses (with some exceptions). I haven't used this lens though.

Check out this link which contains comparison images of a lens test chart with both lenses. Set the focal lengths and apertures to comparable values. To me, at a quick comparison, the 24-105 looks to have significantly improved IQ:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=355&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=0&API=0&LensComp=678&CameraComp=474&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=1&APIComp=0

My advice? Invest in the best quality lenses you can afford to. If you buy L or at least don't buy EF-S, they will last forever and transcend any bodies you own be they cropped or full frame.

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I agree that IQ in 24-105 is superb! –  Hasin Hayder Apr 13 '12 at 15:27
    
remember to set the same camera too, the link compared a 1Ds3 to 60D. Heres the right link: the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/… –  Michael Nielsen Mar 17 '13 at 8:53
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I have neither lens (feel free to downvote me since I'm not answering the question you asked, I won't mind, promise. But it's not clear to me that you're asking the right questions).

The paragraph above the one you quoted implied that shooting both at f/8 will show little difference in IQ. This is true when comparing many (if not most) lenses. But the only time I shoot at f/8 is for waterfalls or scenic vistas; anything else within 100 yards I shoot wide open. Are you the same (do you care more about wide-open performance or stopped-down performance)? If so, is f/5.6 acceptable?

I know this isn't a lens-recommendation forum, but... what other lens(es) do you have? What focal lengths do you prefer (do you ever shoot between 18 and 24? Between 105 and 135?)? What apertures? What weather conditions? Why do you think you want IQ (large prints? pixel peeping? resized-for-the-web 1024x768 images?), and against what lens are you hoping to gain it? Have you thought about, in the same price range as the 24-105/4L, the EF-S 17-55/2.8 IS, which I've heard is very sharp? The EF 24-70/2.8L? An EF 17-40/4L plus an EF-S 55-250/4-5.6 IS?

In defense of the decision you're considering: last summer I thought long and hard about getting a 70-200/4, with or without IS, then chickened out and bought the 55-250/4-5.6 IS. It was a lot cheaper, and had IS, and wasn't big and heavy and white, and I don't make any money off my photographs, so it was a lot easier for me to justify the cheaper lens. A lot of the pictures I take with it aren't nearly as sharp as I'd like, but some are, and (in bright daylight) it's taken a couple of my favorite pictures! Still, though, I've looked at a lot of pictures that I've taken with it and wondered to myself, "what could have been if I'd gotten a 70-200...?"

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i'm not going to down vote you just because you gave me a lot of food for thought. +1 thanks –  roman m Feb 19 '11 at 11:07
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I have the Canon 18-135 lens (purchased when I upgraded to the Canon T2i from my Canon XTi). I like the range and the lens weight is certainly convenient. However, when I upgraded from the Canon 70-300 IS to the Canon 100-400 L IS lens (because I wanted the extra distance for wildlife photography), well, the picture quality was beyond my expectations.

I wouldn't say I quite have the L sickness, but I'm looking for the crisp quality of the 100-400L with a more portable range like my 18-135. So I'm seriously considering the 24-105 IS USM. It sounds like there are some mixed reviews, but the link of:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=355&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=0&API=0&LensComp=678&CameraComp=474&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=1&APIComp=0

really seems to have sold me on it.

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I have both the 18-135 and the 24-105L. They are not the same optically at all. I shot with the 18-135 for over a year before upgrading to the 24-105L and there was a huge difference. I always found the centre to be fine on the 18-135 but the edges were very soft. I always had to do a lot of work in PP to sharpen the edges which never ends well. As far as weight goes, the 18-135 definitely wins though. It is easy to carry around all day. Optically, it is not in the same park though. In fact, if you campare the sharpness at the Digital Picture between the 18-55 IS and the 18-135 IS, you will find that the 18-55 wins at every focal length. That coming from Canons cheapest kit lens! So all that to say is it is very unfair to compare the 18-135 to the 24-105. The 18-135 is just a kit lens but a bit longer.

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I've not got either lens, but I've been looking around for a while, as I'm after the 24-105 myself. I've never heard the 18-135 described as much more than an upgrade for the kit lens.

Some links from my favourite review site:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EF-S-18-135mm-f-3.5-5.6-IS-Lens-Review.aspx

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/reviews/canon-ef-24-105mm-f-4-l-is-usm-lens-review.aspx

The only reason for getting the 18-135 over the 24-105 would be if you can't afford, or justify, the extra expense of the L lens.

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it's hard to justify $600 just for a "quality build" w/o much gain in IQ –  roman m Feb 19 '11 at 11:04
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If you can't appreciate the massive difference in IQ then you should definitely get the cheaper one. "If the EF-S 18-135 represents the extent of your budget, it is a good choice....reasonable f/8 image quality.....nice casual use lens for those on a tight budget" vs "If I had only one lens, this would be the one....superb build, mechanical and optical quality...great optical quality...". –  Poldie Feb 19 '11 at 11:21
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As always, comparing L lenses to "normal" lenses is a process that can lead to something called "L-disease".

That said, I would definitely go for the L lens. Not because it's supposed to be better, but because it is. Whatever reviews may tell you (I especially like The Digital Picture, which you have links to in Poldie answer - but some may think it's too biased), the L lens will always have superior build quality, better bokeh, better sharpness and better contrast than a "normal" lens. This is going to be tough to see at, say, f/8, but at f/4 everything would be almost as clear as at f/8 in the L lens, while on the others maybe not (to see this, on the Digital Picture, there are tons of sharpness charts where you can compare your lenses at almost all apertures).

In conclusion, as much as the 18-135 can be a good general purpose lens (wider range, probably lighter weight than the 24-105 L), that little L really makes the difference in the long run, especially in terms of build quality. Again, one might argue that a lens like the EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS is a great lens and should be made L. But that's a whole new discussion.

(In general, for lenses, the more you spend, the more you get)

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The "L-disease" is a form of compulsion that gets to photographers when they buy their first Canon L lens. They just can't stop and want to have them all. I'm ill too. :) –  Andy Feb 19 '11 at 10:48
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I have 60D with 18-135 and 5D mark iii with 24-105. Don't laugh at me but I do feel 18-135 sometimes focuses faster when I compare them side by side.

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