Forum Login

How I Decided to Up-Grade
From a Canon 28~135 IS
a Canon 24~105 F/4L IS

By Mark D. Segal

Please note that the JPG files below, once reduced in size and compressed for the web, do not show as great a difference as Mark describes from his evaluation of the originals. Since Mark is a reliable observer it is worth recognizing his comments as superceding what you may see here in these examples. – Michael


Bill Caulfield Browne's article on this site came within a few days of the time I tested the 24~105 - but for a different purpose in a different manner. For the past year I have been using the 28~135 IS USM because it is relatively inexpensive, portable, has good zoom range and is an eminently decent quality lens. I knew it wasn't top-of-the-line Canon, but it worked well for me. Along came the 24~105 offering portability (only a wee bit heavier than the 28~135), good zoom range and top quality at three times the price. Quandary: is it worth sinking about USD $1250 on top of the $400 I spent last year on the 28~135? The solution: test and see.

Unlike Bill, I wanted to see any quality differences BEFORE any work-up in Photoshop other than a vanilla - "no adjustments" conversion from RAW to TIFF. So when the sun was positioned to bring out the detail, I mounted the lens on my Canon 1Ds, mounted the camera on my tripod and photographed Hillcrest Community Center in mid-town Toronto at focal lengths of 28mm, 50mm and 105mm, (the common denominator useful for a comparison of these two lenses) and at apertures of f/4 (4.5 and 5.6 for higher focal lengths on the 28~135), 5.6, 8 and 11. I did not leave the camera in the same position for each of the focal lengths, because I wanted to be close enough to the subject matter so that differences of detail could be seen below the 100% image magnification setting on the monitor, or in a print. I also made several exposures of a house on our street, hand-held, 50mm 1/80th at f/8.

My findings and comparison of key specifications:

– Insignificant vignetting with either lens;

The L lens has generally superior contrast;

– The L lens displays generally less chromatic aberration, but some exists in the same places where the 28~135 had more;

– At 105mm it is hard to see much difference in resolution even at 100% magnification;

– At 28mm and 50mm the differences of sharpness/resolution are obvious even at f8, which should be in the range of the "sweet spot" for both lenses;

–24mm really expands the image area considerably compared with 28mm; at the telephoto end 105mm is enough for me, considering that I also have a 70~300mm;

– Maximum telephoto aperture of f/4 versus f/5.6 (twice the amount of light).

So much for the hard evidence. Now the judgmental stuff: are the differences worth spending the money? Over the long haul, I intend to make many photographs in interesting places with this gear, the 1Ds sensor clearly delivers more resolution than the 28~135 can give it, so the decision was BUY IT. Now my wallet is significantly lighter and the camera bag a bit heavier, but you can judge for yourself whether it makes sense from the several representative test shots shown below.


Selected Comparisons 24~105L vs 28~135

24~105 L @ 28mm
28~135 lens @ 28mm


24~105 L Detail @ 28mm (100%)
28~135 Detail @ 28mm (100%)


24~105 L @ 50mm

28~135 @ 50mm


24~105 L Detail @ 50mm (100%)
28~105 Detail @ 50mm (100%)

Mark D. Segal
October, 2005



Filed Under:  

show page metadata

Concepts: Optics, Focal length, Lens, Aperture, Photography, Photographic lens, Magnification, Zoom lens

Entities: Bill Caulfield Browne, Mark, Mark describes, Bill, Michael, Canon, Hillcrest Community Center, Toronto

Tags: focal lengths, good zoom range, Bill Caulfield Browne, higher focal lengths, decent quality lens, 28mm, Maximum telephoto aperture, Hillcrest Community Center, representative test shots, camera, reliable observer, Canon 1Ds, wee bit, superior contrast, different manner, telephoto end, mid-town toronto, offering portability, judgmental stuff, chromatic aberration, common denominator, subject matter, different purpose, image magnification, key specifications, long haul, quality differences, sweet spot, hard evidence, aperture, camera bag, interesting places, image area, vignetting, originals, exposures, inexpensive, wallet, vanilla, TIFF