Canon 35mm f/1.4 L
Canon 35mm f/1.4 L (works on all DSLR and 35mm AF Canons, 72mm filters, 20.5 oz./582 g, 1'/0.3m close focus, about $1,350). enlarge. My biggest source of support is when you use any of these links, especially this link directly to it at Adorama, directly to it at Amazon or this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay), when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.
Sample Image Files
Bricks at close range at f/1.4 on full-frame. Darn sharp right out to the edges, and when shot with a lens profile, no falloff even at f/1.4! Other f/1.4 lenses never look this good shot wide-open in daylight. (That's my shoe in the lower right.) Original © 20MP 6D file.
Hair Tonics at f/1.4, ISO 100, full-frame. Original © 20MP 6D file.
Yellow at f/9, ISO 100, full-frame. Original © 20MP 6D file.
The Canon 35mm f/1.4 L is an incredibly great lens. Not only is it ultra-sharp and free from ghosts and most distortion, it has great bokeh, is built like a tank, and sells for a bargain price for a pro lens.
It's a bargain because it's been in Canon's catalog since 1998. If Canon ever introduces a "II" version, it will cost a lot more and be made out of plastic, and then you'll have to pay the same price for this lens used as you can get it for brand-new today. The same thing happened when the Canon 24-70/2.8 was replaced by its more-plasticy -II version.
If you've been considering one of these 35/1.4s, just get it. I've never been impressed with the 24/1.4 II the few times I've used it, while this 35/1.4 always impresses me — and costs less. This 35/1.4 is superb optically, and much better made than Canon's newest pro lenses. This 35/1.4 has metal focus and identity rings, and machined billet aluminum filter threads and hood mount.
It's a USM lens and you may grab the focus ring at any time for instant manual-focus override.
This Canon EF EOS 35mm f/1.4 L works perfectly with every Canon EOS camera ever made, meaning every Canon DSLR and every Canon autofocus film camera made since 1987.
Canon 35mm f/1.4 L. enlarge.
Canon calls this the CANON LENS EF 35mm f/1.4 L Ultrasonic.
EF means "electronic focus," meaning that there is an autofocus motor in the lens itself. All Canon lenses since 1987 have been EF.
L only means as expensive as L; it means nothing technically.
Ultrasonic means it uses an Ultra-Sonic Motor (USM). This means autofocus is almost silent, and that you can grab the big focus ring for instant manual focus override at any time.
11 elements in 9 groups.
Rear focus: nothing moves externally as focused.
1 ground aspherical element.
Multicoated, branded as "Optimized Super Spectra Coating."
Focal Length top
On 1.3x Canon cameras it will see angles-of-view similar to what a 44mm lens would see on a 35mm camera.
On 1.6x Canon cameras it will see angles-of-view similar to what a 55mm lens would see on a 35mm camera.
Angle of View (on 35mm and full-frame cameras)
Close Focus top
1 foot (0.3m), specified, from the image plane.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio top
Minimum Field Size top
5.4 x 8.1" (136 x 206 mm).
35mm f/1.4 wide-open at f/1.4. (EF diaphragm not visible).
8 straight blades.
Stops down to f/22.
Hard Infinity Focus Stop? top
You have to let the AF system focus for you at infinity.
Focus Scale top
The ring turns from infinity to the closest focus distance in about 140.º
Depth-of-Field Scale top
Infra-Red Focus Index top
Yes, red dot presumably for 800 nm.
Filter Thread top
Does not move.
3.1" x 3.4" (79.0 x 86.0mm), rated.
20.530 oz. (582.0 g), measured.
Canon specifies 20.5 oz. (580 g).
$35 EW-78C plastic bayonet petal hood, included.
As of December 2012, only fits this 35mm lens.
$25 LP1214 leather-grained vinyl padded sack, included.
72mm E-72U front, included.
Standard EOS cap rear, included.
Lens Made in Japan.
Front cap and hood Made in Japan.
Documentation Printed in Japan.
Rear cap made in Taiwan.
Case made in China.
Price, USA top
2013 November: $1,329 (after mail-in rebate).
2013 April: $1,260 (add to cart for this price).
2012 December: $1,350.
Box, Canon 35/1.4 L.
The Canon 35mm f/1.4 L is optically superb, handles very well and no Canon lens is better made. I wish everything was this good.
Autofocus is fast and nearly silent, as we take for granted with Canon. For the still subjects I shoot, it's almost instantaneous.
Just grab the focus ring at any time for instant manual-focus override.
Only move the AF-MF switch if you want to disable the camera from auto focusing.
AF is fast!, as Canons always are.
The AF motor is silent, but you will hear some internal sliding
AF Accuracy and Consistency
I saw no autofocus error on my Canon 6D.
Especially at f/1.4, every shot is dead-on.
Manual focus is easy; just grab the ring.
Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is superb!
Out-of-focus backgrounds just melt away, making the subject pop-out as if it's three-dimensional:
Ryan at McDonalds with Dada (Ryan's pick for dinner). (Canon 6D, Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L, Auto ISO 200, f/2 at 1/125, 6 sharpening, -2 contrast, auto white balance, Perfectly Clear automatic correction.) bigger.
Focus breathing (the image changing size as focused) is mostly of interest to cinematographers who don't want the image changing size ("breathing") as the lens is focused among different subjects.
The image from the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L gets larger as focused more closely.
The color balance of this 35mm f/1.4 L seems the same as my other Canon EF lenses.
Coma, or saggital coma flare, is when points of light in the corners turn into batwing-shaped blobs. This is often a problem with fast normal or wide lenses.
To my astonishment, this Canon 35 1.4 is almost completely devoid of coma.
Here's what it looks like at f/1.4 on full-frame:
And here are crops from the lower left corners of 100% 20MP full-frame images.
As you can see, it's minimal at f/1.4, and gone by f/2.8. If these are 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, these full images would print at 36 x 55" (1 x 1.5 meters) at this same high magnification:
By minimal, I mean it's completely invisible for most subjects. Here's a crop from the top left of the same f/1.4 image. The blurs are star trails during the time exposure; as this is the top left corner, coma would go the other way:
Crop from top left of image at 100%. The blurs are star trails, not coma. Original © file.
Square. Canon 6D, ISO 800, f/1.4 at 1/30, hand-held.
Straight lines will almost always stay visibly straight. Only if you're a total nerd shooting brick walls will you notice that the center bulges out a bit, with the sides staying flat, similar to most 20mm f/2.8 lenses.
Day Lockers, Picadilly, London, UK.
Use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove the distortion for more critical use, however a tiny bit of waviness remains:
© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
Canon 35/1.4 L. enlarge.
Ergonomics are perfect.
Just grab the big focus ring at any time for instant manual override. One firm fingertip will do it.
The AF - MF switch falls right under your thumb.
Falloff is visible on film at f/1.4, mostly gone at f/2, and completely gone by f/2.8.
I've greatly exaggerated this by shooting a flat gray target and presenting it against a gray background.
The metal 72mm filter threads are big enough that even two thick stacked filters won't cause any vignetting on full-frame (or any other format).
Go ahead, use any big, fat thick filter, and you'll still be able to add a second one, too!
At f/8, direct view of mid-day tropical sun. bigger.
Flare and ghosts are very well controlled. You'll never see any flare or ghosts unless you put the full disc of the sun in your image and deliberately put something dark elsewhere to show anything. If you push it like this, you can get a dim green dot.
Better than most Canon lenses, even other L lenses, there are nearly no lateral color fringes even if shot without a lens profile. Without a lens profile, there is just the tiniest bit of blue-yellow, but you're never likely to see it.
At close-focus distance on full-frame, Canon 35 f/1.4 L.
The images would be even tighter on smaller-format cameras (see crop factor).
It's super-sharp; here's a crop from a 20MP full-frame image at 100%:
Crop from above image at 100%, shot at f/6.3 at ISO 100 on a Canon 6D. If this is 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, the full image would print at 36 x 55" (1 x 1.5 meters)!
Rear, Canon 35 f/1.4 L. enlarge.
The Canon 35mm f/1.4 L is made better than most any other L lens today. Most of this lens is metal, not plastic like the 24-70/2.8 L II.
Moisture seal at mount
Engraved into the bottom of the black plastic lens barrel and filled with white paint.
Stamped with white ink on rear light baffle.
Noises When Shaken
Almost no clicking.
This said, the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L is among the sharpest wide lenses I've ever tested. It is extraordinarily sharp and contrasty, even at f/1.4. Throughout most of the image, there is no difference between f/1.4 and stopped down, as seen on a 22MP 5D Mark III at the test range.
The last two millimeters of the corners are a little softer at f/1.4, improving at each aperture until they are as sharp as the center by f/5.6.
So long as you're in focus, sharpness doesn't vary much from perfection, except by f/11, where diffraction softens the image.
Throughout most of the image (except the last millimeter in the corners), this crazy lens is just as sharp at f/1.4 as it is stopped down!
Hey, sorry to spare you endless boring charts, but with a lens this good, there's nothing to show other than sharp pictures under all conditions.
The biggest detriment to sharpness will be a lack of proper vision and technique, never this lens. I bought mine directly from Adorama. I can't vouch for anything if you buy from a local store or chain where you never really know who's opened and played with your lens before you buy it. I never buy retail; too many risks, so why pay more?
Here are Canon's claimed MTF curves:
Canon's MTF Curve.
Spherochromatism, misnamed "color bokeh" by laymen, is when out-of-focus highlights take on color fringes. This is common in fast lenses, and I see some at large apertures.
Background highlights may have slight green fringes, and foreground highlights may have slight magenta fringes.
This helps bokeh, smoothing out foliage (green) backgrounds even further.
If you're in perfect focus, there are no fringes.
Spherochromatism is a completely different aberration from lateral color fringes.
At f/8, direct view of mid-day tropical sun. bigger.
With its octagonal diaphragm, this Canon 35mm f/1.4 L makes 8-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.
See also Compared to other Canon 35mm lenses.
This classic Canon lens is tougher than Nikon's 35/1.4G, with equally excellent optics, for less money. Why anyone would pay more for the all-plastic-barreled Nikon compared to this fully professional Canon 35/1.4 is beyond me.
The Canon 35mm f/2 is a stop slower, a little softer in the farthest corners wide-open and requires moving a switch to get manual focus, however it's just as sharp otherwise, and weighs and costs a whole lot less.
The Canon 35mm f/2 IS hasn't shipped yet. For my money, I'd spend a little more to get this fully professional 35/1.4, or save my money and move the switch on the original 35/2 myself for a whole lot less money.
The 24-70/2.8 L II is a much bigger and more expensive lens than any of these. It's even a tad sharper in the far corners at f/2.8 than the 35/1.4 L and 35mm f/2, but you either want a zoom, or you don't. The 24-70 is huge compared to any of these other fixed 35mm lenses.
* add to cart for this price.
There's a reason Canon has never bothered with a -II version of this 35mm lens: it's so good, there isn't any room for improvement. I'm sure Canon will come up with a -II version at twice the price and made of a lot more plastic with virtually identical optical performance one of these days in the interest of cost reduction (for them), but for today, this 35/1.4 is one of the biggest deals in the entire Canon catalog.
I'd use a 72mm B+W 010 MRC UV filter for protection, or the Canon 72mm UV, or an 72mm Hoya Alpha UV. You don't need a "slim" filter; any normal 72mm filter works great. These filters are all very good; the reason to pay $60 for the B+W or Canon filter is simply if you feel better with a $60 rather than a $36 filter on a $1,300 lens.
If you use a front lens cap, pitch the crappy Canon cap and replace it with the big, thick easy-to-grab Nikon 72mm cap. (Pros don't use front caps; they leave a filter on the lens and throw it in their bag uncapped.)
With its solid-alloy 72mm front end, it kits excellenely with the 20mm f/2.8 USM and 80-200mm f/2.8 L, which share the same sized metal threads. Sadly, Canon makes no really high-mechaincal-quailty 50mm lens; the 50/1.2L is all plastic on the outside and the only 50mm EF Canon lens sold today with a metal filter thread is the 50/2.8 macro. The set of 20, 35 and 80-200 ought to be all you need for any assignment anyway. The 20-35/2.8 L also shares even better mechaincal quality and a 72mm alloy front end, but you don't need a 20-35 zoom to use with a fixed 35mm len. See Assembling a System for more.
If you've found the effort I've spent in sharing this professional review helpful, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to it at Adorama, directly to it at Amazon or this link directly to it at eBay (see How to Win at eBay), when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live.
More Information top
Help me help you top
I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.
The biggest help is when you use any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.
If you find this page as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.
As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!
Thanks for reading!
11 December 2012