This lens does not disappoint. The box does not involve a lot of pomp and ceremony; it simply contains the beast itself (with lens caps), the hood, the lens case (tote bag style), manual, and warranty. The serial number of the lens is engraved on the metal docking ring which connects to the camera, as well as a date code which tells you when and where the lens was manufactured (see The Digital Picture web site for details of how to interpret the code).
The 24-70 is built like a tank, and it is weather sealed. It feels very solid indeed, and weighty too. The weight does put some people off, but I have to say I find that oddly reassuring. Because of the ring USM system, focusing is VERY quiet and reasonably fast. It's so quiet you can actually find yourself thinking nothing has happened. Full time manual (FTM) focus is enabled. One odd feature of this lens is that it reverse zooms. Physically speaking it is shortest at the 70mm focal length, and longest at the 24mm end, with the front-most element retreating towards the camera as focal length is increased.
The front does not rotate, for those of you wishing to use polarising or graduated filters (it's a 77mm thread), and the lens hood stays static relative to the main body while the front element moves back and forth inside it. This means that at all zoom levels the lens is using a lens hood of correct depth, instead of the ridiculous "one size fits all" approach that most other zoom lenses are forced to use.
Colour reproduction and detail capture are great. I originally used this with a Canon EOS 40D, and after buying the lens I started shooting in full manual mode - it simply makes that big a difference to your shots that it is a massive confidence boost. I also started using live mode more often, since the super sharp lens made it easier to manual focus accurately with the underwhelming 230Kpixel LCD screen on the back of the 40D. When using live mode and manual, I found that I made more use of the invaluable histogram (RGB mode), which again was basically this amazing lens forcing me to up my game.
I have now upgraded my 40D to a 7D. While it gave good results on the 40D the lens needed a slight AF Micro-adjustment tweak on the 7D to give the sharpest results from auto-focusing. In combination with the 7D's superb viewfinder and hi-resolution LCD the lens gives a bright and easily-focused image which is a joy to work with. The 24-70mm has been off my 7D only once since I bought the body, and that was because I absolutely needed to use a 10mm focal length. The combination is unstoppable!
The bokeh this lens creates is just out of this world when you have stepped up from non-L glass. At f/2.8 it gives a dreamlike and smoothly transitioned blur to objects both in front of and behind the plane of focus. I have yet to take a photo with this lens that has an unacceptable bokeh, and believe me when I say I have tried to take deliberately bad "worst case scenario" shots.
I had seen no obvious vignetting, pin-cushion or barrel distortion problems until I upgraded to the wonderful Adobe Lightroom 3.0
, which can automatically correct these on import and thereby makes them stand out. I suspect I didn't notice the effects beforehand because they were just so very minor and only had subtle consequences. This is possibly because I use a body with a 1.6x crop factor (so vignetting for example largely occurs in parts of the image circle that are not captured by the cropped sensor). Another reviewer mentioned chromatic aberration throughout the zoom range but I have not seen this with my own - perhaps he has a bad copy :sadface:
Minimum focusing distance is 1.25' (0.38m) and the maximum magnification is 0.29x. Maximum magnification is 0.63 to 0.18x with the Canon Lens Extension Tube EF 12 II
and 1.25 to 0.40x with the Canon EF 25II extension tube
. The lens is not compatible with the 250D close-up lens but the 77mm 500D version
will fit it giving a maximum magnification of 0.40 to 0.13x. Lastly, the lens is not, repeat NOT, compatible with either the 1.4x or 2x Mk II extenders.
In short this lens is fantastic and it hooked me on L-glass. It encouraged me to buy a 70-200mm and the 100mm f/2.8L macro. One final comment - I know other reviewers have mentioned it but I want to reiterate the point: This lens may burn a hole straight through your savings but YOU WILL NOT REGRET BUYING IT.
** Edit 02/01/2010 **
There are a lot of people holding off on buying this lens at the moment, because rumours of a 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM abound on the internet. Well, those rumours have been around for nearly two years and still... no IS lens. If you are holding off in hope of an IS version replacing this one, just flipping buy it. The IS version will be released at a massively higher price point anyway and if the Mk I versions of the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS can hold their value in the face of being superseded by the best Canon zoom lens ever made, then I am betting that the prices of the 24-70mm Mk I are hardly likely to crash any time soon.
** Edit 07/02/2012 **
So more than two years on, the Mark II lens has now been announced (but without image stabilisation, sadly). Canon RRPs are as predicted much higher than the current cost of this version of the lens: $2299 from Canon USA and 2299 from Canon Germany. Canon's RRP for the original version is £1540, so expect actual launch prices of about £1900-2200 in the UK for the Mark II.