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Canon RF 24-70mm vs EF 24-70mm — Is There a Difference?

Recently I visited Old Car City USA, a six-square-mile junkyard in north Georgia. The place has been around for over a hundred years and is home to nearly five thousand rusted out American cars from the mid-to-early twentieth century. Old Car City may be too melancholy of an experience for classic car enthusiasts (it is sad after all, for some cars were once quite beautiful), but it’s a wonderful area to explore for photography.

I went to Old Car City to test two very similar lenses — the Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L and the (now ten year old) Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II.

The EF 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II has been my “workhorse” lens for many years. It’s fantastic, not simply for its image quality, but for all the different ways it may be used. Full frame, 24-70mm is the perfect focal length range for general purpose photography. You can shoot everything from wide angle at 24mm to standard focal lengths at 35 and 50mm and a bit of telephoto as well at 70mm. And its acceptably-large f/2.8 aperture provides decent depth-of-field and low light performance when shooting handheld.

When Canon made the leap to mirrorless and started manufacturing RF lenses, the venerable 24-70mm f/2.8L was one of the first they redesigned. They kept most things the same, except this time they added optical image stabilization — a feature I always wanted on the EF model (for Canon DSLRs didn’t provide IBIS).

But what about image quality, sharpness and detail? Now that we have higher megapixel, mirrorless cameras like the EOS R5, does the RF 24-70 perform better? If so, how much better? Or is the EF 24-70mm Mark II still worth buying to save a few hundred dollars?

I was curious to find out, so I took the RF and EF 24-70mm out to Old Car City and spent an afternoon creating comparison images for this video. At the end, I summarize my thoughts about both lenses.

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