Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM is the only general-purpose zoom lens in the Canon line-up with a dedicated macro mode. It’s also the only zoom with hybrid IS which is specifically designed to minimize blur due to camera movement when shooting at high magnification. It is a much-neglected lens. For this shoot of 4 spotted Leaf beetle which belongs to family Chrysomelidae, I used Canon EOS-5D Mark IV with Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM. For illumination I used Godox Ving V860C II E-TTL Li-ion Camera Flash fitted with a homemade DIY softbox.
When used normally, this lens is a regular 24-70mm zoom with a close focus distance of 0.38m and maximum magnification is obtained at 70mm (just over 0.2x). To get into the macro mode a slide switch must be pushed towards “macro” which allows the zoom ring to be turned past the 70mm setting and enter the macro mode. I presume there is some internal rearrangement of the optics at this point. In macro mode, infinity focus is lost, but a magnification of 0.7x can be achieved at closest focus. The working distance (distance from the subject to the front edge of the lens) is around 3cm at maximum magnification.
The hybrid image stabilization system is the same as that used on the EF 100/2.8L IS USM macro lens. It compensates for the usual angular movements of the lens (“pitch” and “yaw”) but can also compensate for horizontal and vertical shifts. While straight horizontal and vertical shifts don’t move the image much in normal non-macro situations, they become very important at high magnification. Normal IS really doesn’t do a whole lot for macro lenses operating near 1:1, while Hybrid IS can give an effective 2 stop stabilization.
Macro performance is pretty good, with quite sharp images across the frame, low distortion and low chromatic aberration. When looked at closely the images don’t match the sharpness of those from a dedicated macro lens like the EF 100/2.8L IS USM Macro but are better than those normally obtained from “close focusing” zooms. The second advantage of a dedicated prime macro like the EF 100/2.8L IS is an increased working distance (around 6″ at 1x macro magnification).
One issue I did notice is that there appears to be a small focus shift (away from the lens) when the lens is focused at full aperture (which is normally the case) and then stops down for shooting. It’s probably most noticeable at a shooting aperture of f8.
At f4 the focusing and shooting apertures are the same, so focus is good. At a shooting aperture of f/5.6, the shift is smaller. At f11 and f16 the increased depth of field tends to mask any small focus shift. I prefer f/13 on this lens for the macro mode on my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
However, if you move to the middle of the macro range but back off a bit on the focus, you get approximately the same framing with very little focus shift. If you drop it to minimum macro mode, which results in about 0.5x, you have a lot of working room.
If you use Live View, manual focus and the DOF preview button you can focus at f8 and shoot at f8, and this gives the sharpest images. In this shoot, I did not use that method, but all the images came out very sharp.
Unless I need 2.8 and 1:1 magnification, I leave my 100L at home. The 24-70 f4L IS has a 1:2 magnification but the working distance to achieve that is very small. So, in the real world, it’s more of a 1:3, 1:4 or 1:5 magnification. This is still great considering it’s a zoom.
At maximum magnification, working distance is incredibly short. It can literally focus down to about 2 inches away from the front element. Obviously, lighting is an issue at this kind of distance. Once you have worked out how to use this lens effectively for close-up/macro work, results can be quite good, and it is certainly sharp.
If you want some interesting and sexy article on Leaf beetles check my blog – Gruesome Beetle Sex.
1 thought on “Macro Mode on Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM”
Very nice useful article Dr Krishi. I have experienced the same issues of very close working distance ( which trsults in lighting issue, more so when I used it with an extension tube – which further reduces working distance) while trying out floral closeups and also the focus issue. But being not so experienced, could not figure out the latter issue. I thought it is my hand shake.