We really enjoyed testing the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM. It’s a cut above the standard 24-70mm f/4 lenses, and it’s a lightweight and versatile tool that’s capable of capturing both landscape shots and wildlife in a field, or even snapping shots of family when you’re on vacation. In normal light, it can handle almost anything you throw at it, and the lens is light enough to slip easily into a holdall without weighing you down or taking up too much space. It’s a great accessory to have with you on most shoots. It’s not particularly a low-light or astro performer, however.
Important specifications of the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM:
System: Canon RF mirrorless
focal length: 24-105mm
Min. focus distance: 0.2m
Dimensions: 2.9″ x 3.4″ / 76mm x 88mm
Filter size: 67mm
At $1300 at most stores, the 24-105mm is good value for money. Again, it handles most situations for the average shooter and is a great “kit” lens for an entry-level or enthusiast Canon body. However, if you are serious about acquiring one of the best lenses for astrophotography, you will need to look for more specialized gear. Here at Space we love astrophotography, so while we can really like the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, we can’t really recommend it for photographers looking to focus on astro. Here’s why.
Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM in review
Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM: Design
- Portable thanks to the lightweight design
- Simple construction and operation
- Telescopic zoom means the lens gets bigger as it is zoomed in
Much like other lenses in Canon’s mirrorless RF stable, this lens has a simple, uncluttered design. It’s very light, relatively compact, and easy to navigate with your hands. It’s worth noting that this is a telescopic zoom lens, which means the actual lens extends as you increase the focal length. This isn’t a big deal and won’t affect most filters you can attach to it, but be aware that it shifts the weight quite slightly when shooting with a tripod. Likewise, the minimum focal length changes when you take close-up shots.
By default there are three control rings. One handles focal length, another focus, and the last one gives you the ability to change other factors like ISO or aperture. That last ring sits closer to the very end of the lens and feels great, especially if you’d rather shoot through the viewfinder than your camera’s screen.
Elsewhere you have a switch near the flange side of the barrel that toggles between autofocus and manual focus, and you have the option to toggle image stabilization on or off. This lens has up to 5 stops of image stabilization and we found it worked fairly well, which we’ll detail in the performance section of the review.
When you buy the lens, it comes with a lens cap, end cap and lens hood. Weirdly, we found it difficult to screw the end cap onto this lens unless the red mark on the lens and cap were perfectly aligned. When you’re concentrating on a subject and trying to switch lenses by feel, it can be quite annoying. Overall, however, it’s difficult to fault the 24-105mm’s design.
Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM: Performance
- Looks good in normal light
- Some loss of clarity at the edges
- Stabilization is okay, but not great
When you’re spending $1300 on a lens, you need to be sure it will work well. We’re happy to report that the RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM does a great job in most lighting conditions and if you’re a photo generalist or landscape photographer you’ll have a great time with this lens. The images produced are sharp and clear in the center across the entire focal length range and only lose clarity at maximum zoom. Even then, we expect most enthusiasts will rarely notice this. So unless you’re a pro and need perfect edge-to-edge sharpness, you won’t be disappointed with the shots you’ll get here.
We tested this lens at night and had a little trouble. Restricted to an aperture of f/4, it is more difficult to see stars. With the 24mm focal length it delivers decent landscapes, but it’s difficult to gather enough light through the lens without taking longer exposure times (resulting in the stars blurring and trailing as the Earth rotates). As an astro-specific lens, it is limited. It’s not wide enough to capture those big images of the night sky, which is, for example, an ultra wide angle like the Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS USM, nor can you open the aperture wide enough to keep the shutter speed relatively to keep short. If you’re photographing a largely dark sky, you’ll notice these slight inconsistencies at the edge of the image as well.
For other low-light situations, the 24-105 mm is sufficient. We tested it with light trails and a shot of the moon. The tracks were fine, and the image we got of the moon was pretty good too, although significant cropping was required even at the longer 105mm end of the lens.
We experimented with low-light situations to test the image stabilization in the lens itself. Although it clearly made a difference whether it was on or off, we got some pretty blurry shots even when shooting between 1/15 and 1/20. This came as a bit of a surprise as the stabilization is very good on other Canon lenses we tested. It’s fine in normal light, but when we photographed a bed of colorful leaves in the shade of a tree, we saw a real loss of definition in the leaf shapes. Obviously increasing the ISO slightly meant that even 1/50s shots came out clear, but we expected a little more from the shake reduction.
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Overall the images we got with the 24-105mm are good. You’ll just have to work a little harder than normal to take advantage of some of the lens’ features, especially when you’re shooting in low light.
Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM: Functionality
- Not weatherproof
- The tuning of the control ring is OK
- The stepless zoom makes it good for videos
We should note that the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM is not weatherproof at all, so we recommend protecting it if you intend to use it in wet or dusty conditions. That’s pretty disappointing for a lens at this price point, whatever the reason, and limits your ability to use it in inclement weather.
The standard control ring setup works well, and we found the torque on the rings to be a little looser than what we’re used to. This is very much a personal preference, so it’s not a mark against the lens – just an observation. Disappointingly, we felt the 24-105mm lens was a bit loose when mated to the EOS R we tested it with. Not enough to be a cause for concern, but it did dent our confidence in the lens’ durability a bit.
When zooming in and out, the movement is very smooth, one of the most satisfying feelings of any telescopic zoom we’ve used. When we held it to shoot, the lens felt pleasantly tactile, whether we were shooting far or long. The internal motors used for focusing are quiet and efficient, so there’s absolutely no qualms about this aspect of the lens.
Normally we’d like to burn a little more functionality into a lens, beyond the third control ring, but on the 24-105mm we don’t feel the need for that. This aims to be a basic, versatile lens for general photography and barring a few minor complaints, it achieves just that.
Should I buy the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM?
If you’re looking for a good kit lens that works at night, this isn’t the lens for you. The 24-105mm is a good day lens, but not a low light specialist. This is largely due to the inability to drop below f/4 and the slight limitation that comes with a lens with such a varied focal range. If you’re a casual astrophotographer and a regular daytime photographer, then this is a good lens and you could reasonably add an extra star to the score we give it. If that’s you, we’d recommend buying the 24-105mm on a deal like Black Friday or something like that and maybe getting a 40mm or 50mm f/1.8 to complement it to cover your astro shoots. It’s an imperfect solution, but it will work.
If this lens were a little cheaper, we might overlook some of its low-light flaws. However, for $1300 there are much better lenses you can buy to photograph the stars. If the moon is your thing, we’d recommend getting something with at least one lens with a focal length of at least 300mm-400mm to increase the range, or you’ll be constantly clipping straight into your images.
If the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM isn’t for you
If you’re looking to spend a little more money and want a kit lens that can handle Astro, we recommend the Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM. It’s a bit more money, at $2400 at most stores, but it’s one hell of a lens and it’s just as much fun taking photos of the night sky as it is portraits, landscapes and everything else.
Looking for more length? The Canon RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM is a solid option and will greatly increase your range. However, similar to the 105mm lens, it is not an astro lens. So don’t expect the Milky Way to take on that easily, although you can easily pick the Moon.
For those on a tighter budget who still need something versatile for most situations, we’d consider a prime lens. The Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is a beauty, ideal for a range of photography styles, and costs just $200.