The Canon EF 24-105 f/4L IS was my “always on” lens on my Canon full frame DSLR bodies in the past. I always had it on my camera when I didn’t want to carry all my equipment with me.
In 2005 I bought the first version of the EF lens in a kit with the first Canon EOS 5D, both were introduced at the same time. The first 5D had, as some may remember, a resolution of 12 megapixels, and the lens and body harmonized very well.
Later, however, with the 5D versions Mk II and Mk III (21/22 megapixels) and especially the 5DS R with its current 50 megapixels, the limitations of the old lens calculation quickly became apparent. Therefore, Canon did not recommend the lens for the 5DS anymore and instead released a new version. I exchanged my 24-105 in 2016 for version II, which was more suitable. But it was always a certain “love-hate relationship”.
On the one hand, this lens covers a very useful range from a good wide-angle to a light telephoto, which still achieves a nice object-isolation at 105mm despite the aperture f/4 on a full-frame sensor. So it was quite suitable for landscape photography as well as for people/portrait photography. The built-in image stabilizer is also very helpful in low light and the lens is still sufficiently compact. And it is also relatively inexpensive for an L-lens.
On the other hand, I never was 100% enthusiastic about the optical quality. After all, the 24-105 covers a zoom range of more than factor 4. Furthermore, the EF version II still showed significant weaknesses at the edges. When it came to the last bit of quality, I preferred the EF 16-35 f/4L IS at the bottom and the EF 70-200 f/2-8L IS II at the top range, both of which were much sharper in those areas or I used an even better fixed focal length.
During my intermezzo with the mirrorless Sony Alpha 7R bodies, I bought the Sony version, the 24-105 f/4 G*, which was already much better than the EF lens. But as I already reported, Sony is history for me - I sold all my Sony equipment and now I use the Canon EOS R5 as my mirrorless camera. A first field report and further reports about the Canon R5 can be found here on my website.
Since I already own many EF lenses, I will continue to use them with the Canon EF-RF adapter on the R5 for now, this works really well.
After the good results with the Sony 24-105 and the continuing dissatisfaction with the Canon-EF counterpart, I bought the RF 24-105 f/4L IS USM* as the only native RF lens for my R5.
Today I took the opportunity to compare the Canon RF 24-105 F4 L IS USM (RF) and the EF 24-105 1:4 L IS II USM (EF). Because it was a sunny day today, I have chosen a small scene in our garden. All pictures were taken from the same position with the camera mounted on a tripod.
First of all the comparison at 24mm focal length. These are screenshots from Lightroom in the comparison view, on the left side of the picture you see the RF version and on the right side the EF version.
All in all, the new RF lens seems to me to have higher contrast and to be sharper in the center of the image and especially much sharper at the image corners. Both lenses show visible chromatic aberrations, but this is more pronounced at the EF. The EF improves with the aperture stoped down to f/11, the automatic Lightroom lens correction also results in a better result, but the quality of the RF cannot be reached by the EF.
Now a comparison at 105mm focal length from the same position. This time, the left section shows the EF and the right section the RF version.
Also at 105mm focal length, the RF is clearly superior to the EF. In the center, the difference is small, but the RF has a better overall contrast. At the edge, however, the RF is already at an open aperture of f/4 better than the EF at f/11.
The size also argues for the RF. It is in comparison to the current EF version 100g lighter, if you add the necessary EF-RF adapter on the R5, the difference is even more than 200g. It is also 3.5cm shorter than the EF version with adapter.
The autofocus is also by far faster than that on the EF thanks to the RF’s advanced Nano USM drive - the RF 24-105 is actually by far the fastest focusing lens I own on the R5. Without being able to test it exactly, the RF feels as though it focuses twice to three times faster than the EF.
The Image Stabilizer
And last but not least the image stabilizer: According to Canon, the optical image stabilizer in the RF in combination with the in-body stabilization of the R5 should be able to compensate for up to 8 f-stops. According to Canon, the EF 24-105 should “only” compensate 4 f-stops with the built-in optical stabilizer. Unfortunately, the EF-RF adapter does not support the cooperation with the IBIS of the R5, so that the RF version should officially stabilize 4 f-stops more than the EF version.
I have tested this by myself. I took 10 pictures with an exposure time of 1 second each with both lenses with 105mm focal length while standing and looking through the viewfinder. Object of desire was the box of the EOS R5. Below you can find a central crop of the images (855x265 pixels each), sorted by sharpness. The left column shows the images taken with the EF, the right column those taken with the RF:
This is certainly not a test by strictly scientific standards. But with both lenses, I managed to take quite useful pictures in standing position at 105mm focal length and an exposure time of 1 second. Assuming the old rule according to which the minimum exposure time should be 1/focal length, this corresponds to a stabilization by approximately 7 f-stops.
All in all, the result of the RF is clearly better and more consistent, but it seems to me only 1-2 f-stops better than the EF.
Overall, the new Canon RF 24-105 f/4L IS USM lens is significantly better than the EF 24-105 f/4L IS II USM. It is significantly sharper, especially in the border areas and this especially at open aperture. The contrast is higher, chromatic aberrations are there, but to a lesser degree than in the EF version. These can be easily corrected in Lightroom with the integrated profile. The autofocus on the R5 is orders of magnitude faster on the RF, the IS is also better. The lens is also smaller and lighter than the EF version.
In the meantime, I therefor sold my EF 24-105 f/4L IS II USM and replaced it with an EF 24-70 f/2.8L II. You can find a review of the new lens here 😉