From the readers: Should I sell my Canon 24-105L4IS?

From the readers is a new category of articles I am working on. As a blogger, I get daily emails about what gear one should buy or how to do X thing. Since the answer to these questions is generally of public interest, I have decided to turn them into articles. If you have any questions you would like answered, feel free to contact me.

Of all the lenses related question touching the 5DmrkII, one that keeps coming up is What should I do with the kit 24-105L4IS? I receive questions about this lens at least once a week and it is a popular topic in forums as well. While I cant provide a straight answer that will hold true for all readers, I think I can give you some interesting pointers.

First, lets see why people have this lens in the first place. Most of the time, it is because it is a popular kit lens. After doing some maths, a lot of prospective buyers saw that if they bought the 5DMrkII kit and sold the lens, they could save some money over the body only box. Proud of their calculation, these fine accountants rush to the store and get the kit then realize how hard it is to sell the 20-104L4IS at their expected price.

Why? Supply and demand. While the 24-105LIS is a great lens (more on this later), too many people did the 5D kit thing and now want to sell theirs too, pushing the price down. While this lens used to worth about the same as the 24-70L, it is now advertised on Craigslist at around 900$ or lower.

But, why people want to sell the lens? Is there something wrong with it? Is there something better for the price? Actually, for its price, the 24-105LIS is an incredible lens. While the f4 aperture might be a bit small for photography work, it is perfect for video. The image quality is very good for still and even better for video and the huge zoom range means that it is a great do it all lens. Add IS to the list and you get a very decent lens for photo and near perfect for all around video. I have shot a few clips with a 24-105 hand held and it worked way better than I expected thanks to its IS. If you dont remember how useful IS can be for video, check this old clip.

So, if it is so great, why so many for sale? From my personal experience, I can see three reasons:

  1. As mentioned above, they think they can turn a quick profit.
  2. They realize (a bit too late) they need a wider aperture lens for their shooting style.
  3. They follow the herd and forum trolls without even giving the lens a real try.

Last night, I was discussing with a few other cinephotographers about how people (mostly converted photographers) want to shoot video wide open while they would get much better results by using a small aperture. Unless your storytelling requires strong subject isolation, an aperture of f4-5.6 is fine for most CU and medium shots.

Let say that you really need a lens with wider aperture. What could one get for selling the lens? While the choice is quite easy for most photographer, since they will pull some more cash out of their wallet and go with the 24-70L2.8, for videographers there are a lot of other options. A popular choice is to go with a Canon 50mm f1.4 and a Canon 85mm f1.8 . These are both excellent lens. If 85 is too long, one could go toward Sigma 20mm f/1.8 (we talked about it before) and the same 50. There are other options and even more if one wants to look at alternative lenses coming from Nikon, Zeiss, etc.

What ever you do, make sure you dont overlap the focal range and that you are getting at least two stops of light in exchange. Also think about the complication involved in a multi-lens kit. Switching lens in the middle of a shoot is not practical, even more so when shooting in a dusty environment.

I just finished reading this post and I am not sure if I managed to clear the situation of just put more confusion into the mix. If I did so, sorry! The general idea behind this post was to show how great the 24-105 is and how hard it is to replace such a versatile tool.

Post publication edit: as stated in the comments, I screwed up and invented 2 lenses… lens models corrected now to reflect current Canon offering!

About Tommy

Photography allows me to be what I want to be, to be where I want to be, and to do what I want to do ... I'm not professional photographer and I don't need a title, I love to take photographs and that is what I do, I love to learn and I always try to do it better ...

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