January 3, 2015

The new Canon EF 24-105mm IS STM lens is sort of a replacement for the old EF 28-135mm IS.  Well, not "sort of".  The focal length range is a bit different, but the 28-135 is likely to be discontinued sooner or later. 

The new 24-105 offers a wider focal length, but aside from that, is it really any better than the 28-135?

Let's find out.

Some Specs
Form Factor
Basic Use


Center Sharpness
Corner Sharpness
Vignetting (Corner Darkening)


Some Specs

Canon EF 24-105mm IS STM
Canon EF 28-135mm IS
Aperture (Max.)
Aperture Blades
7-bladed circular
Aperture Ring?
Aspheric Elements?
Yes (two)
Yes (one)
Can be noisy
Barrel Extends When Zoomed?
Closest Focusing Distance
1.31 feet (15.7 inches;  0.4 meter)
1.6 feet (19.7 inches;  0.5 meter)
Country of Manufacture
Distance Scale?
Filter Size
Front Element Rotates?
Inner Focusing?
Lens Elements
17 elements in 13 groups
16 elements in 12 groups
18.5 oz. (525 grams)
18.9 oz (540 grams)
Year Introduced

Form Factor

Both lenses are EF, not EF-S.  That means they will work on full-frame cameras.   In other words, you can use either of these lenses on your EOS film camera.

Both lenses will also work on APS-C DSLR's such as the Rebel T series and the 60D, 70D, etc.  (Don't forget the conversion factor of 1.6 for the focal length.)

Basic Differences

The 24-105 offers a wider view at 24mm, compared to the 28mm you'd get with the 28-135. 

On the telephoto end, the 24-105 has less theoretical reach.  That said, my copy of the 28-135 only goes to 100mm!  No one can seem to explain this;   I don't really miss the extra 35mm of zoom range anyway.


If you're using a DSLR, the 24-105 walks all over the 28-135.

If you're using a Canon EOS 620 or one of the other early EOS film cameras, you may want to use manual focus for either lens.  The 24-105 seems to lose its advantage;  both lenses do a lot of hunting back and forth in low-light conditions.

Then again, the 24-105 is still quieter and smoother on any EOS camera.

Center Sharpness

is almost identical, at any aperture you're likely to use for landscape photography.  

Here are a couple of 100% crops, comparing the 28-135 and the 24-105 non-L zooms.  Sorry no beautiful sunset pics for this test;  on an icy weekend in January, you have to deal with whatever weather is out there.  Maybe later, I'll put up some nicer-looking test shots when the weather breaks.

The yellow rectangle shows the area we'll be comparing.

First, the 28-135:

Now, the 24-105:

If you can tell the difference between these two, you're a better nitpicker than me. 

They are virtually identical.  The only real difference is that my 28-135 test sample wouldn't zoom to 105.  The farthest it will go is 100 millimeters, for some reason.  I wonder if it's just worn out from gravity-zooming for so many years....

Okay, if I really want to nitpick... my copy of the 28-135 looks ever-so-slightly sharper than my copy of the 24-105.  Realistically, though, this difference is so slight that it might just be the normal variation in lens samples.  In other words, two other copies of these lenses might have it the other way around.

The point here is that both lenses are about equally sharp near the center, at just about any f-stop you're likely to use for landscapes (f/5.6 through f/11). 

Corner Sharpness

These are 100% crops from that same image shown above.  This time, you're looking at the lower-right-hand corner of the photo.

First, the 28-135 at 100mm and f/5.6:

As you can see, the details are a bit soft here.    Compare with the center sharpness, above, and you can see that the 28-135 loses quite a bit of detail sharpness as you move outward.  f/5.6 is getting into the aperture range where most lenses are about as sharp as they're going to get.

Next up:  the 24-105 at 105mm and f/5.6:

There's a very big difference in favor of the new 24-105mm lens. 

At f/5.6 and 105mm, this lens is about as sharp in the corners as it is in the center! 

Usually, zoom lenses are sharpest in the middle of their zoom range.  The fact that the 24-105 is this sharp in the corners at full-telephoto is very encouraging.

See the green and purple fringes?   This is much easier to correct in "post" than corner blurring.   The thing is, I took this test photo without having the correction data for this lens

You can see which is the superior lens in terms of corner sharpness.

Corner Darkening (Vignetting)

Both lenses have corner darkening at the widest angles and the widest apertures. 

These are uncorrected shots.  You wouldn't have this much corner darkening if using the "peripheral illumination correction", but you would have this much corner darkening if using an earlier firmware version or a film camera.

First, the 28-135mm IS lens:

Now, the 24-105mm STM IS lens:

By f/8, corner darkening is mostly gone, even without correction.   At f/11 (not shown) it's virtually non-existent.

As you can see, the 28-135 has a very slight advantage in the light-falloff department.  It's really not that significant, though.  Wider lenses tend to have more light falloff anyway, so that helps to explain the difference seen with the 24-105.

The overall smoothness and handling of the newer lens (the 24-105) is quite a bit better.  The IS (Image Stabilization) works a lot faster, as you'd imagine;  on the old lens, you would often see the whole scene jar a little bit as the IS kicked in.  On the newer lens, I'm not seeing that happen to the extent that it did. 

The biggie here is the 24mm focal length at the wide end.  While the difference between 24 and 28mm is not earth-shattering, it is actually significant.  (At wider angles, each millimeter difference represents a larger percentage of the total focal length.) 

When you start composing a lot of wide-angle scenes, you will appreciate the difference between 24 and 28 quickly.

For many years, 28mm was actually as wide as I ever thought necessary;  in fact, I avoided this end of the zoom range, because I didn't like the perspective distortion.  (Got acclimated to it, though.)

If that sounds like you as well, then maybe you'll be just fine with the 28-135, which still has about the most bang-for-the-buck out of the whole Canon line.  (Go through this link, scroll down & look in the "used" section if you want an even better deal.)

If you're constantly crowding up against 28mm and wishing you could see wider, then the 24-105 might just be the scratch for your itch.  (Get one of these if you want to get ultra-wide out of your system... or get hopelessly hooked on it.)


From what I've seen so far, the new 24-105 has better corner sharpness than the 28-135.   Center sharpness is about the same. 

Light falloff is about the same;  the 28-135 may be slightly better, but not by much.

The 24-105 is generally going to be the better choice.  The AF is much smoother and quieter;  the focal length can go wider than the 28-135;  and Canon has also fixed the annoying gravity-zoom problem.  Furthermore, the IS (Image Stabilizer) works much faster on the new lens.

Both are great lenses, but there's a good reason why Canon is introducing this new lens and probably discontinuing the older one. 

Get your 24-105mm lens via this link and it helps me keep this site going.  Much appreciated!

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