Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens Review
Small and affordable, the Canon 24mm f/2.8 isn't a stellar lens, but it does its job well.
If you're a Canon shooter and looking to upgrade your basic kit, you have a lot of options. But if you’re on a restricted budget, the field narrows considerably. Canon’s most affordable prime lenses, including the ever-popular 50mm f/1.8, are a great place to start. And if you also want something a little more compact, the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM is a compelling option.
The extremely portable EF-S 24mm f/2.8 is what’s commonly referred to as a “pancake” lens. Take a glance and you'll understand why—this thing is (almost) as thin as a pancake. (I’d love to meet—and marry—the person who makes inch-thick pancakes.) It's designed for those who want to carry their DSLR around all day and not wake up the next morning with a crick in their neck.
And at an asking price of just $150, it’s pretty hard to argue with the results. While the fixed 24mm (38mm effective) focal length isn’t the most versatile, it’s an effective option for capturing wide open scenes—especially when you're on the go. It’s also a very capable cinema lens thanks to its smooth, near-silent STM focusing motor. And with a maximum aperture of f/2.8, it’ll do a much better job in dim lighting than your basic 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.
Who's It For?
Like other EF-S Canon lenses, the 24mm f/2.8 is designed exclusively for Canon's “crop sensor” (APS-C) DSLRs, including the entry-level Rebel series and the enthusiast-oriented 70D and 7D cameras. It won’t function natively on full-frame bodies like the EOS 6D or 5D Mark III, which limits its long-term usability if you plan to upgrade to a higher-end camera down the road.
The 24mm f/2.8 produces shots a little wider than what your eyes see, making it ideal for landscapes and everyday people shots. It's relatively sharp across the entire frame, and the wide maximum aperture lets in plenty of light, which should help get clear results in dim lighting conditions. Most of all, this is a lens that should appeal to photographers who want to travel as lightly as possible.
It’s also a great option for anyone who wants a relatively wide angle of view when shooting video with a Canon DSLR, since its STM focusing motor is smooth and almost totally silent when in operation.
Look and Feel
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the 24mm f/2.8 is just how light it feels. Mount it on your camera and, even compared to the standard kit lens, you should have a substantially lighter package. The lens is also very small, barely protruding past the handgrip on most Rebel DSLRs.
That small footprint means there simply isn’t much room for controls, but since this is a prime lens without optical image stabilization, you really don't need many. The only time you’ll need to engage with the lens itself is to focus manually, using the wafer-thin focus ring and an AF/MF toggle switch.
The focus ring doesn't have a feel on par with the best manual focus lenses of yesteryear, but for a digital era lens it's good enough. During my time shooting with the lens I felt a little more resistance would probably produce more precise focusing, but it's a minor complaint—especially considering it's a feature most people will hardly ever use given the tiny size and the low price of admission.
The EF-S 24mm f/2.8's best feature is its consistent performance across the frame. From the center of the image to the corners, it offers consistent sharpness, and that sharpness doesn't drop off considerably if you set the aperture wide open at f/2.8 or closed down past f/8, as some other lenses do. On the downside, it never gets as sharp as some of the better prime lenses in Canon's lineup.
The EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM also has some minor issues with both geometric distortion and vignetting. The lens produces about 1.2% barrel distortion, meaning straight lines toward the edge of the frame will bow out slightly. There's also some vignetting (darkening of the corners of the frame) at f/2.8. Chromatic aberration, which appears as colored fringing on high-contrast subjects, is the only other issue. It's moderately apparent at all apertures, but worst at f/2.8.
Altogether, if you've been laboring with the standard 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 or 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lenses from Canon, this lens will feel like a breath of fresh air. It doesn't provide the flexibility of optical zoom, but it's smaller, lighter, (generally) sharper, and has that nice smooth, quiet focus motor. You'll get better photos, better videos, and have a lighter camera that you'll want to carry around more often.
Below, you can peruse sample photos shot with the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM lens mounted on a Canon 7D Mark II. Click the link below each photo if you want to pixel-peep a full-size version of a given shot.
The Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM lens, like Canon's other pancake lenses, is mostly defined by what it isn’t.
It isn’t super wide-angle or telephoto, it doesn’t let you zoom, and it doesn’t have a super-wide maximum aperture like most of Canon’s most esteemed prime lenses. As an EF-S lens, it's also incompatible with Canon’s high-end, full-frame DSLRs, like the EOS 5D Mark III. But those tradeoffs create some real upsides: This lens is seriously tiny, lightweight, quiet, and cheap. At $150, it's a heck of a bargain.
For beginners and enthusiasts simply looking for something better than the kit lens, that might just be enough. Even the smallest DSLRs are pretty bulky, and one of the common reasons people put their DSLRs away in favor of smartphone cameras is that they just don’t feel like lugging the darn thing around. The EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM puts a dent in that concern, and its 38mm effective field of view isn't too different from what you'd get with an Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy camera.
Frequent flyers who want a compact, lightweight lens that can reliably grab high-quality snaps of landscapes, cityscapes, and buildings will find a friend in the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM. But if you're just looking for a good prime lens and don't care about a little extra bulk, consider Canon's standard 50mm f/1.8. And if you really want a compact option with a little more telephoto reach, look to Canon's EF 40mm f/2.8.
Altogether, this may not be Canon's best lens, but it should prove to entry-level Canon shooters that—even for $150—you can get a lens that can dramatically change what your DSLR is capable of. Even if this lens ultimately isn't for you, it is a great entry point for anyone looking to step into the wider world of interchangeable lenses.
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