Canon EF 35mm f2 IS Review
This lens surprised quite a few people when it came along, as did the Canon EF 24mm f2.8 IS and the Canon EF 28mm f2.8 IS. They are not super-fast, the release prices can only be described as overpriced and there are zooms with stabilization that cover the same focal lengths (EF 24-70 f4 L IS & 16-35 f4 IS). So what’s the point of the Canon EF 35mm f2 IS and where does it fit?
Please note that all images are 1500 pixels wide
Specification & Price
Firstly, the 35mm is two stop faster than either of these stabilized lenses. Secondly, it is smaller and lighter. Thirdly it is cheaper. At its current price, it is also about 50-60% the cost of the more flexible but slower Canon 24-70 f4 L IS zoom. But is it any good? There is not much point in it being f2 it performance at this aperture is lackluster and to be frank, despite reading plenty of reviews, I had no idea what to expect.
Build Quality & Handling
As other reports have stated, the Canon EF 35mm f2 IS well-made and feels tightly constructed, although its not insignificant volume means that it feels very light at its 335g listed weight. Build is not quite L series, but it is not far off either. Handling is perfect in my eyes. It’s a very nice size on the EOS 5D III, meaning that controls fall to finger nicely and the manual focus has a nice smooth and damped feel to it. Well done Canon, this feels like a premium product.
Very fast and accurate, but not quite silent. There is a slight ‘shhht’ as element groups move about inside, but it’s not an unpleasant noise, unlike the plasticky squeal of some of Sigma’s HSM lenses.
As with the Canon 85mm EF f1.8 I was pleasantly surprised.
Wide open, performance is more than usable – it’s downright sharp, especially when the subject is not super close. Like the 85mm, the lens needed no AF micro adjustment on my 5D III and, while I could see an improvement on centre from stopping down, it was nowhere near as marked as I expected. Edge performance wide open is very good indeed. There is a subtle softness very slight glow in the corners, but its not unpleasant and will, if anything, add to human/animal photos. I also found that by adding a bit more contrast and clarity, f2 files looked all but the same as stopped down files on centre. Overall, I am quite astounded by the performance at f2. Wow….
Working through the apertures, the Canon EF 35mm f2 IS should give performance roughly like this:
f2.8 – its about as sharp on centre as its going to get, although pixel peepers will see that it still has not quite peaked. Edges pick up to a very good level and the slight glow in the corners is gone. Vignetting reduces substantially to the ‘who cares’ level and contrast and colour is a bit richer than at f2.
f4 – Almost perfect. Centre performance is not seen to improve further beyond this aperture and edges are superb.
f5.6 – Perfect in every way.
See end of this review for a more distant series of shots by aperture
Colour is very pleasant and much like the 85mm f1.8 – typical Canon but not perhaps not quite as lovely as the L series. It’s hard to describe the difference, but L lenses seem to produce slightly richer colors with more luminosity, but the color from this lens is very pleasing to the eye indeed.
Bokeh is, in short, very good. OK, so the Cosina Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 II is a bit smoother at times, but this Canon is certainly not ‘bad/. It’s a bit better, in my view, than lenses like the Leica 35mm f2 Summicron ASPH and the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8 FE.
CA is a lot better than the 85mm f1.8… It’s not perfect, but I saw very little CA and its easily corrected in Lightroom. It’s a non-factor with this lens.
Its worth noting that this lens showed no signs of significant decentering and, as stated, required no AF micro adjustment. Canon is obviously doing something right, because this is the third EOS EF lens in a row that has not required and adjustment on my 5D III body.
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