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I recently upgraded my camera to a Canon 5D Mark III, and now my kit 18-55mm lens no longer fits.

I’m looking for a general, travel, walk about, portrait and landscape lens. I was thinking about 24-70mm, but could have a little more either end. I’d also like it to be f/2.8 (ideally) and have image stabilization. I’ve been looking at these but none have all 3 of the things I’m looking for:

  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens

  • Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG 12-60mm Power O.I.S. F2.8-4.0 Lens

  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens

Are they good choices, if so which one? Or is there a better one I’ve missed?

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    Are you aware you effectively can't mount lenses from other manufacturers on a Canon body? – Philip Kendall Apr 11 at 16:51
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  • Personally, I'd rather have the extra stop on the 24-70 f/2.8 than lose that stop in trade for IS. IS helps you handhold shutter speeds you normally couldn't. Subject movement blur is still a problem w/ slow Tv's. – Hueco Apr 11 at 18:47
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    You should have saved the money on the new body, and expanded your lens system instead. Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q5 Q6 – osullic Apr 11 at 20:29
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    I've no knowledge of the Tamron - it could very well be a great buy. My point was that I'd take the extra stop over IS at that focal range. But, I'm personally a solid shooter at slower focal lengths and not too scared to crank the ISO if needed. You should run some scenarios on what you plan to shoot and see how you feel about f/2.8 and no IS vs f/4 and IS vs the Tamron f/2.8 with IS. There's often too many variables in lens choice - it's a personal decision. – Hueco Apr 12 at 18:30
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You can't use Nikon nor Panasonic lens, they have different mount.

For me the best option for FF Canon are Canon 24-105/f4 or Sigma 24-105/f4. Both of them offer image stabilization and are quite flexible as walkaround lens. And offer very good image quality.

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    Thanks Romeo, I don’t know how I managed to miss that they have different mounts?! So for you IS is more important than the extra stop? Or were there other reasons for these being your faves? – Imi Apr 12 at 14:44
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    The EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM is a pretty good lens... A bit more expensive than the corresponding Sigma of course, but it's my default general purpose lens (when I don't need ultra-wide, super-tele or a wider aperture). – twalberg Apr 12 at 19:23
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    For me, it's that range that makes it great, the IS is a big bonus as well of course. It would be even better as an f2.8, but the extra weight might effectively make it too heavy for a walkaround lens. – Robin Apr 16 at 19:21
  • @Imi, for me IS is more important. 2.8 will give me one stop benefit. IS can help me with 3-4 stops. I succeed to take photo at 1/15 on 400mm with IS :). ALso extra reach (to 105mm) make it for me more flexible. And as Robin mention 2.8 may become too havy – Romeo Ninov Apr 16 at 19:31
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Choosing a camera lens is a highly personal choice, and depends on what works for you, far more than what matters to other photographers.

Since you have used a zoom lens in the past, I suggest loading your past images into a program like Lightroom that allows you to sort photos by focal length, and critically examine what focal lengths are actually important to you.

  • Remember to adjust values to account for crop-factor angle of view differences.

Were you commonly maxing out one end or the other of your 18-55?

  • Then you may want to consider a lens with wider coverage

Do you have a very large percentage of your images at or near a specific focal length?

  • Then you may actually find yourself better served from a less expensive prime lens or two, or some combination of lenses.

[Personally I found Canon's 40mm 2.8 lens a real delight as a walk-around lens, and proved far more enjoyable than lugging around a heavier zoom lens.]

The important thing is to establish Your needs from a lens, and then ask for one that matches those needs.

  • +1 for the mention of the pancake. Sometimes, you want your kit; other times, you want to just pack the camera for just-in-case moments. Also love the 24 on APSC cameras. I'm always amazed at how small my xxD's feel with it. – Hueco Apr 12 at 18:27
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Your old camera had a 1.6x APS-C crop sensor, while your new camera has a full-frame sensor. Your old 18-55mm kit lens has the same field of view that a 29-88mm lens would have on full frame. The closest available lenses cover 24-70mm, 28-75mm, and 24-105mm.

  • As others have stated, make sure your new lens is for the Canon EF mount. Your main options will be made by Canon, Sigma, Tamron, or Tokina. Although there are other makers, lenses made by Nikon, Panasonic, Sony, FujiFilm, Olympus, and other major camera manufacturers will not work with your camera. Canon FL, FD, EF-S, EF-M, and R/RF lenses will also not work with your camera, despite being made by the same manufacturer of your camera.

  • When choosing lenses, you should establish reasonable priorities. You want a zoom with a large focal-length range, fast aperture, and image stabilization. No such lens exists because to increase the focal-length range means making compromises.

    Such a lens with large aperture would likely be very large and very expensive. Large, heavy glass elements would be difficult to move with image stabilization motors. Something has to give.

    If fast aperture is most important, you're looking at 24-70/2.8. If wider zoom range is most important, you're looking at 24-105/4. If you're willing to consider third-party lenses (made by Sigma or Tamron), both options are available with image stabilization.

  • Notably, you don't mention sharpness, distortion, chromatic aberration, glare/flare resistance, or bokeh quality as decision-making criteria. This is perfectly fine if your'e looking at mainly higher-end lenses, since they're expected to be more than good enough.

Options to consider:

  • Prime lenses. Consider a "nifty fifty" lens (50/1.8). These were the kit lenses from the film era. You can combine it with wider (28mm or 35mm) and longer (85mm) lenses to cover different shooting options.

  • 24-105/4, which Romeo Ninov recommends (and I strongly agree) – These lenses were designed to be specifically what you want – walkabout travel lenses. They cover a wide focal length range for maximal versatility, without extending into clear superzoom territory. The F4 aperture is large enough for most uses.

  • 24-70/2.8 (and similar, such as 28-75/2.8) – These full-frame kit lenses are wide to moderately long, midrange zooms. They tend to be large, heavy, and expensive. The fast F2.8 aperture gives you the option for increased background blur. You can increase depth of field (sharpening the background) by closing the aperture to F8 or F11. It is often paired with a 70-200/2.8 telephoto zoom.

    In some cases, there is a 24-70/4 option. This is a "slower", less costly, smaller kit option. The F4 aperture is large enough for most uses. You can still stop down to F8 or F11 for deeper DOF. It may be paired with a 70-200/4 lens. Michael C explains a rationale for using these lenses:

    The EF 24-70mm f/4 is a "near" macro lens with a MM of 0.70X, something the EF24-105mm f/4L IS, at 0.24X (and pretty much all of the other 24-105 or 24-120 lenses are in the mid-.20s as well) can't even begin to approach. It's also smaller. lighter, and quite a bit sharper. Landscape photographers and hikers that like to get close to flora and fauna love it.

  • 35-150/2.8-4 – This is a newer lens made by Tamron. Compared with 24-105/4, the aperture is faster at the wide end, and it has an expanded zoom range. The trade-off is it's slightly longer at the wide end. However, 35mm is the classic wide-angle lens on full frame, so it may be fine, depending on your needs.

  • Then there are superzoom lenses, covering ranges such as 28-300/3.5-6.3. They are a lot of fun to use, but they tend to be less sharp than the aforementioned options. Their apertures at the long end also limit their indoor usefulness. If you plan to progress in photography, you will likely move toward the previously mentioned options.

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    The EF 24-70mm f/4 is a "near" macro lens with a MM of 0.70X, something the EF24-105mm f/4L IS, at 0.24X (and pretty much all of the other 24-105 or 24-120 lenses are in the mid-.20s as well) can't even begin to approach. It's also smaller. lighter, and quite a bit sharper. Landscape photographers and hikers that like to get close to flora and fauna love it. – Michael C Apr 13 at 6:42
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As someone who's shot well over 100K frames with an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS on EOS 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III bodies, as well as a large number of frames with an EF 24-70mm f/2.8L (original version) over the past decade, I'm going to buck what seems to be the prevailing wisdom here and say you should seriously consider the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC G2. The G2 stands for Generation Two (both generations of the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC use the same optical formula - the G2 has more advanced lens coatings to reduce internal reflections and flare as well as some non-optical improvements that are also well worth the upgrade). If I needed to buy such a lens today, I certainly would put it at the top of my list.

Here's why:

  • The previous Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC gives the Canon "II" a good run for its money.¹ At f/4 and narrower, there's virtually no difference in sharpness between these two lenses at any focal length and aperture. At f/2.8 they're both about the same at 24mm and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II pulls away a bit as the focal length increases to 70mm. But the Tamron vignettes less, distorts less, and shows less chromatic aberration wide open at f/2.8 (particularly at 35mm and 50mm) than the Canon does. Is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II sharper across the zoom range from 35-70mm at f/2.8? Yes it is. But not by a whole lot. They're both very good and significantly better than the older Canon 24-70/2.8L or the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS.
  • The previous Tamron is a lot closer to the very good Canon 24-70/2.8 II than to the older less sharp original Canon EF 24-70mm f//2.8L, which I still use. The old Canon 24-70/2.8 is plenty sharp for your stated use cases. It's also noticeably sharper than the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS when camera movement is not a concern. Both generations of Tamron's 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC lenses are sharper than the older Canon 24-70/2.8, and even more so than the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS.
  • It has Vibration Control, which is Tamron's name for IS. One reason (among several) that I tend to use my 24-105/4 more than the 24-70/2.8 is because of IS. There are situations where IS is worth more than an extra stop of aperture. There are situations where an extra stop of aperture is worth more than IS. I tend to shoot more of the former (i.e. standing on a vibrating temporary outdoor concert stage) than the latter, but when the camera is on a tripod my 24-105/4 is rarely on it and the 24-70/2.8 often is.
  • The EF 24-105mm f/4L IS is legendary for it's toughness. It is one of those lenses that takes a beating day in and day out and just keeps on working. (The older Canon 24-70/2.8, on the other hand, does not. The EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II is a totally new design that corrected the issue that was the older version's Achilles heel.) But the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC also has developed a reputation for being a good workhorse lens.

I know a shooter who is a helicopter based flight paramedic in the U.S. Army while also pursuing a degree in photography. One of his major projects for his degree program is a photographic study of the various helicopter mounted units with which he has served and currently serves. From combat deployment in the Middle East to environmental extremes in places such as the California and Nevada deserts around Death Valley in the summer to Alaska and upstate New York in the winter, his Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC has often ridden along with him in the high vibration environment of military helicopters. He also likes to take his camera along for a bit of off-road travelling in his personally owned Jeep. I've asked him several times since he got it shortly after it was introduced back in 2012 how it is holding up and every time he has said it's still as good as the day he got it.

Lens choices can be intensely personal decisions. What is the "best" lens for one person may not always be the best choice for another. It may well be that you would prefer the extra "reach" of the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS (or the newer IS II - there's not much difference between them performance-wise) over the larger aperture of a 24-70mm f/2.8. The slightly lower image quality of the current 24-105mm f/4 lenses compared to the current state of the art 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses may not make that much of a difference for you.

One thing I would advise, based on your apparent experience level from what you've told us in the question, is that you should probably consider a stabilized lens, whether f/2.8 or f/4. For a more casual, less experienced photographer I think IS is more significant than for a seasoned pro who has plenty of other tricks up their sleeve if need be. Especially since you can have both IS and f/2.8 in a 24-70mm lens from Tamron or Sigma (though I think the Tamron is better optically). This is particularly the case when you're already moving from a crop body to a FF camera and considering lenses with wider apertures than your previous one. The narrower depth of field a larger sensor and a wider aperture will yield often requires improvement in technique. Some forms of poor technique that you might have gotten away with using an APS-C camera at f/5.6 will be more noticeable with a FF camera at f/2.8. You probably don't also need to be moving from a stabilized to a non-stabilized lens at the same time.

¹ As always, "composite scores" at DxO Mark should be taken with a grain of salt. How DxO weighs various factors, which they don't reveal, may be different than how a particular photographer might weigh each of those same factors. Click on [Measurements → Sharpness → Profiles] and then start playing around with various focal length and aperture combinations to see how actual measurements of the two lenses compare in various setups. You can do the same with the other categories: Transmission, Distortion (Profiles), Vignetting (Profiles), and Chromatic Aberration (Profiles).


Why does it seem you've shot so many more frames with 24-105/4 than with 24-70/2.8, yet recommend 24-70/2.8?

  • As I said above" I tend to shoot more of the former (i.e. standing on a vibrating temporary outdoor concert stage) than the latter. Much of the time IS with f/4 makes more sense for what I am shooting than f/2.8 without IS. The Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC G2 gives both options in the same lens.
  • Because of the vulnerability of the original 24-70/2.8 to misalignment from relative minor bumps to the front of the lens combined with much of my work involving being in crowded places where such bumps are likely to occur. Neither the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II nor the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC G2 suffer from this same vulnerability.
  • I already owned both the EF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS and the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L before the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC was introduced. They're still good enough for what I do. I've chosen to spend available resources in other areas rather than replace the two older Canon lenses with the newer Tamron.

If the Tamron with VC had been available when I bought the older Canon 24-105/4 IS, I'd have bought the Tamron instead - hands down. I would then not have even needed to consider spending even more for the EF 24-70mm f/2.8 for a few specific use cases where it can get shots that the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS can not.

A lot of the images I've shot with the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS since 2012 would have been shot with the SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC instead. In fact, almost all of the images I've shot with either the 24-105/4 or the 24-70/2.8 since 2012 (when the Tamron was introduced) would have been shot with a Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC had I owned one. The only reason I'm not using the Tamron is because it was not available at the time I made my lens purchases. Instead of having to choose between f/2.8 with one lens or IS with the other, the Tamron gives both in the same lens while also being better optically than either one. It's also cheaper than what I paid for either of the other two.

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