Canon 24-105-vs-28-135

March 22, 2011 ·

Mark 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 articleon 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 photographedHillcrest Community Centerin 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

Mark has been making photographs for the past six decades and started adopting a digital workflow in 1999 first with scanning film, then going fully digital in 2004. He has worked with a considerable range of software, equipment and techniques over the years, accumulated substantial experience as an author, educator and communicator in several fields and is a frequent contributor to the Luminous-Landscape website. Mark developed a particular interest in film scanning and authored the ebook “Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8, SilverFast HDR, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop” available on the SilverFast website. In his “other life” (the one that pays for the photography), Mark is a retiree from the World Bank Group and now a consultant in electric power development.

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