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Friday, January 12, 2007

Short Report: Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM

The new L-Series zoom delivers under demanding lighting conditions

Short Report: Canon EF 24-105mm

The appeal of the Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM is two-fold for me. The lens offers the zoom range that I frequently use for most of my photography. The equivalent of a 38-168mm lens on my Canon EOS 20D, it provides me with the flexibility to shoot virtually any subject, from portraits to street scenes. Additionally, its Image Stabilizer feature helps ensure that I get sharp results despite hands that aren't as steady as they used to be.

I had the perfect opportunity to put the lens to the test when two friends from San Francisco came to Los Angeles. Pireeni and Colm are Word & Violin (www.wordandviolin.com), a husband-and-wife team that combines poetry and music for a moving and thought-provoking performance. They had asked me to take some portraits of them for their website.

The theater lighting was minimal. This concerned me because the maximum aperture of the lens is ƒ/4. Though I knew I could have had the benefit of a wider aperture with my Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8, I also knew that such a slim depth of field wouldn't leave much room for error. And since I wanted more depth of field to get both Colm's face and portions of his violin in focus, I'd need to go with a smaller aperture. By increasing the ISO sensitivity of the camera to ISO 800, I could shoot at a shutter speed of 1⁄30 sec. at ƒ/4.5.

With the lens set at approximately 80mm, I knew that a shutter speed of 1⁄30 sec. was risking blur from camera shake. With image stabilization, however, I expected to get sharp results at shutter speed settings three stops slower than would normally be possible. Though IS wouldn't counter any subject motion, I was more concerned with soft results from my own body's movements.

The lens delivered consistently sharp results, with the only motion blur produced by Colm's hand controlling the bow, though this added a dynamic element to the photographs. While I'm increasingly using a tripod, I was satisfied to see that handholding a telephoto focal length could still deliver great results. I had anticipated having to manually focus the lens in the dim light, but the lens and the camera's autofocus system worked great even without the aid of the camera's AF assist light.

The resulting images were sharp, and I saw little evidence of color fringing, even in the high-contrast areas of the image. The solid construction and heft of the Canon EF 24-105mm felt perfectly balanced in my hand, and I was pleased to see that the results matched or exceeded my expectations.

Contact: Canon, (800) OK-CANON, www.usa.canon.com.

SPECIFICATIONS
Focal Length: 24-105mm
35mm Equiv.: 38-168mm
Maximum ƒ-Stop: ƒ/4
Minimum Focus: 1.48 feet
Filter Size: 77mm
Size: 3.3x4.2 inches
Weight: 23.6 ounces
List Price: $1,249

Standout Features

• Image Stabilization to counter camera shake

• Ultrasonic Motor for fast and responsive autofocus

• L-series, ultra-low-dispersion glass minimizes chromatic aberration


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