The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L has always been one of the most popular, if not THE most popular lens in Canon’s lineup, but with Canon’s recent announcement of the new Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (which is much more expensive) and the discontinuation of the original 24-70mm, many photographers are wondering what the best alternative lens is to buy. In this article I will discuss some of the alternatives and make some recommendations of my own.
Now, if you own a camera with a crop factor like the Canon 7D or any of the other models under the 5D, then you have a number of choices, but the most popular one I’d like to mention first is the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. The quality and sharpness of this lens is great compared to the 24-70mm, it’s specifically designed for the APS-C sensor (so there’s no crop factor) and it’s very affordable compared to the new 24-70mm II. If the 17-55mm is out of budget for you, then you can also consider the Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS, Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS or one of the 3rd party lenses listed below.
For full frame cameras like the Canon 5D (or if you are looking for an L-series lens for your crop factor camera) the choices are a little more difficult. The first and most obvious alternative that many people consider is the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS. This is a good choice for a first lens or general purpose lens, especially if you don’t plan to buy other L-series zoom lenses, but what if you are looking for f/2.8 aperture or if you plan to buy a zoom lens from the 70-200mm range as well? The 24-105mm is obviously not the ideal choice in those cases.
One option (and probably the best option at the moment) is to go for a third party lens like the Tamron SP AF28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di, Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 IF EX DG HSM or any of the other lenses that Tamron and Sigma have in that focal range. These lenses may not look as cool as the Canon L-series lenses on your camera, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are high quality and extremely cheap compared to the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II for example. Sometimes it’s better to buy a third party lens if you can get the exact focal lengths you need, so there is definitely some merit in considering these third party lenses.
Of the Canon L-series lenses there’s a couple of alternatives to consider, but in terms of focal length none of them are really good replacements for the 24-70mm. The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II and the 17-40mm f/4L for example are amazing lenses, but they were built for wide angle photography and don’t even come close to offering the same focal length as the 24-70mm. You could consider supplementing one of these lenses with one or more prime lenses but that defeats the purpose of a general purpose lens.
In the end it seems that Canon has made it clear – if you want to own a full frame camera and you want a general purpose L-series lens, then you have to buy the new 24-70mm f/2.8 II and that’s it. For the moment you can still buy the cheaper Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS, but I’m sure that this will change soon. Another option of course is to buy a used 24-70mm, but those are going fast right now and may disappear off the market completely soon.
I know that this article doesn’t bring a lot of good news, but I hope that it has at least given you some alternatives to consider and I will definitely update this when I find better alternatives.