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Canon 35mm f/2 IS
Full-Frame EF USM
(2012-today)

© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

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Canon 35mm f/2 IS

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM (67mm filter thread, 0.8 feet/0.24m close-focus, 11.9 oz./336g, about $550.) enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to it at Adorama and to it at Amazon, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.

 

November 2013    More Canon Reviews    Canon Lenses    All Reviews

35mm f/1.4 L (1998-)

35mm f/2 (1990-)

 

Sample Image File

Canon 35mm f/2 IS

Fabric, close-up at f/8 at ISO 100, Canon 5D Mk III. Full-resolution © 22MP image.

 

Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

This Canon 35mm f/2 IS USM is an all-new high-speed, wide-angle lens.

Compared to the previous model Canon 35mm f/2 (1990-), this new IS lens adds image stabilization and instant manual-focus override: just grab the focus ring at any time.

This new lens is 63% heavier than the previous lens, and costs almost three times as much. Optical quality is about the same: both are excellent.

Optics and IS work extremely well, but is it worth triple the price of the earlier 35mm f/2? The fully professional 35mm f/1.4 L (1998-) sells for not much more than this mostly plastic consumer IS lens. Hopefully my review will let you determine if it's worth it — to you.

This new 35 IS is a great lens, but I don't know if it's worth $850 when the previous model is so superb for much less money. No Canon 35mm f/2 is an L lens; the only 35mm L lens is the 35mm f/1.4 L (1998-), which is the only Canon 35mm lens built pro-tough.

 

Compatibility

This 35/2 IS lens is optimized for 35mm film and full-frame digital, and of course works on 1.3x and 1.6x Canon cameras.

This Canon EF EOS 35mm f/2 IS works perfectly with every Canon EOS camera ever made, meaning every Canon DSLR and every Canon autofocus film camera made since 1987.

This means of course it works great on today's 5D Mark III, 6D and Canon 7D, but it works just as well on my original Canon EOS 650 from 1987!

Canon 35mm f/2 IS

Canon 35mm f/2 IS. enlarge.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

 

Name

Canon calls this the CANON LENS EF 35mm f/2 IS USM.

EF means "electronic focus," meaning that there is an autofocus motor in the lens itself. All Canon lenses since 1987 have been EF.

IS means Image Stabilization.

Ultrasonic or USM means Ultra-Sonic Motor. This means autofocus is almost silent, and that you can grab the big focus ring for instant manual focus override at any time.

 

Optics       top

10 elements in 8 groups.

One molded glass aspherical element.

Rear focus: nothing moves externally as autofocused.

Multicoated, branded as "Optimized Super Spectra Coating."

 

Focal Length        top

35mm.

On 1.3x Canon cameras it will see angles-of-view similar to what a 45mm 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, which is actually a very useful zoom range.

 

Angle of View (on 35mm and full-frame cameras)

63º diagonal.

38º vertical.

54º horizontal.

 

Close Focus       top

0.8 feet (0.24m), specified, from the image plane.

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio        top

1:4.17 (0.24x), specified.

With EF12 II tube: 1:1.67 (0.60x).

With EF25 II tube: 1:0.96 (1.04x, larger than life-sized).

 

Diaphragm       top

Front, Canon 35mm f/2 IS

Canon 35mm f/2 IS at f/2, EF diaphragm not visible.

8 blades.

Stops down to f/22.

Rounded to about f/4, octagonal from f/5.6~22.

 

Hard Infinity Focus Stop?        top

No.

You have to let the AF system focus for you at infinity.

 

Focus Scale       top

Yes, abbreviated, and with a big mistake in the footage scale!

Some summer intern was tasked with creating the green footage scale who ignorantly converted the 0.7 and 2 meter markings to feet, marking the scale at 2.3 feet and 6.5 feet.

The footage scale should be marked in round numbers, like 2, 5 and 10 feet, instead!

 

Depth-of-Field Scale       top

Yes

 

Infra-Red Focus Index       top

Yes, red dot.

Most likely for 800 nm.

 

Filter Thread       top

67mm.

Plastic.

Does not move.

 

Size       top

Canon specifies 3.1" (77.9mm) diameter by 2.5" (62.6mm) long.

 

Weight       top

11.855 oz. (336.1g), measured.

Canon specifies 11.8 oz. (335g).

 

Caps       top

New 67mm E-67II front, included. It's a copy of Nikon's newest caps and much improved from Canon's previous caps.

Standard EOS cap rear, included.

 

Hood       top

Optional EW-72 plastic bayonet, $50 extra. I wouldn't buy it; I don't use hoods.

 

Included       top

Lens and caps; that's it.

 

Introduced       top

06 November 2012.

 

Promised        top

Promised for December 2012.

 

Shipping since        top

December 2012.

 

Quality        top

Made in Japan.

 

Price, USA        top

2013 November: $550.

2012 November - 2013 January: $850.

Box, Canon 35mm f/2 IS

Box, Canon 35mm f/2 IS.

 

Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh   Breathing   Color   Coma   

Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters     Flare & Ghosts

Image Stabilization   Lateral Color Fringes   Macro   Mechanics   

Sharpness   Spherochromatism   Sunstars

 

Overall     performance      top

The Canon 35mm f/2 IS is optically superb and handles very well.

Its only vices are that it costs three times what the optically very similar previous EF 35mm f/2 costs, and isn't built any tougher. For not much more than the price of this 35/2 IS today in January 2013, you get the fully professional Canon 35mm f/1.4 L instead.

 

Autofocus     performance      top

Autofocus is fast and nearly silent, as we take for granted with Canon. For the still subjects I shoot, it's almost instantaneous.

 

Auto/Manual Switching

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 Speed

AF is fast!, as Canons always are.

The AF motor might be silent, but you will hear some internal sliding and rattling as it focuses.

 

AF Accuracy and Consistency

I saw no autofocus error on my Canon 5D Mk III.

Especially at f/2, every shot is dead-nuts on.

Yes! Perfection!

 

Manual Focus

Manual focus is easy; just grab the ring.

 

Bokeh     performance      top

Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is neutral to poor.

It's nice and neutral at close distances at f/2 where you need it most, but becomes quite nasty when focused at about 3 meters (10 feet) or more with backgrounds at infinity at f/2.

For superb bokeh, use the EF 35mm f/1.4 L, which even at the same f/2 aperture, has much better bokeh, and opens to f/1.4.

Here are crops from the center of full-frame 22MP 5D Mk III images at 25%. In other words, each crop shows about one-fifth of the image horizontally, and about one-third vertically. If each is about 3" (7.5 cm) on your screen, the complete images would print at about 10 x 15" (25 x 38 cm) at this same magnification. The focus is on a reference phase lattice at about a foot or two (0.5m) with synthetic reference vegetation at 15 meters (50 feet):

Canon 35mm IS Bokeh Canon 35mm IS Bokeh
Canon 35mm IS Bokeh Canon 35mm IS Bokeh

These look pretty good, since I'm only 1 half-meter (1.5 feet) away.

Here's the bad news. This is a crop at 100% from the center of a full-frame 22MP 5D Mk III image of the background at f/2 at infinity, when focused at 3 meters (10 feet):

Canon 35mm IS at 3 meters

Crop from 22MP full-frame image at 100% at f/2, focus at 3 meters.

 

Focus Breathing     performance      top

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/2 IS gets larger as focused more closely.

 

Color Rendition     performance      top

The color balance of this 35mm f/2 IS seems the same as my other Canon EF lenses.

 

Coma     performance      top

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 surprise, this aspheric Canon 35 IS does have some coma at f/2. It gets better at f/2.8, and is gone completely by f/4.

This is only about as good as the previous 35mm f/2 and 35mm f/1.4 L at the same apertures.

 

Distortion     performance      top

The Canon 35mm f/2 IS has low to moderate barrel distortion, just a tad more than the previous 35mm f/2 or 35mm f/1.4 L.

Use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove the distortion for more critical use, however a tiny bit of waviness remains:

Factor on Full-Frame or 35mm

35/2 IS
(this lens)

Infinity
+1.4
+1.3
+1.3
3m (10')
+1.2
+1.0
+1.1

© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

Ergonomics     performance      top

Canon 35mm f/2 IS

Canon 35mm f/2 IS. enlarge.

Ergonomics are just about 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 (darkened corners)     performance      top

Falloff is visible on film or without a profile at f/2, mostly gone at f/2.8, and completely gone by f/4.

It's so low that I didn't bother loading a lens profile into my Canon 5D Mark III, 6D or 1D X .

or other camera that uses lens profiles for correction, falloff is never visible at any setting.

I've greatly exaggerated this by shooting a flat gray target and presenting it against a gray background.

 

Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff on full-frame

5D Mk III peripheral illumination control disabled (same results on film):

f/2
f/2.8
Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff
Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff
f/4
f/5.6

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Filters, Use with     performance      top

The plastic 67mm 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!

 

Flare and Ghosts     performance      top

Canon 35mm IS flare

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, as I did here.

If you push it like this, you can get a dim green dagger opposite the light source, otherwise, no problem.

 

Image Stabilization      performance     top

By "sharp shots" I mean perfect tripod-equivalent sharpness when viewed at 100%, as shot on a 5D Mk III hand-held by me. For most uses, one can use much slower speeds. See Why IS Matters for more.

% Sharp Shots
2 sec.
1
1/2
1/4
1/8
1/15
1/30
IS Off
0
10
30
50
85
IS ON
5
0
16
100
100
100
100

For me, if we set the bar at the speed at which 50% of my shots are exactly as sharp as on a tripod, my slowest speed with IS Off is 1/15, and 1/3 with IS ON. That's a 2.5 stop improvement. Of course for most uses we can accept a little blur, and the percentages would be higher for all speeds — but the relative improvement provided by IS would stay the same.

 

Lateral Color Fringes     performance      top

Better than most Canon lenses, there are absolutely no visible lateral color fringes at 22MP full-frame, even if shot without a lens profile. This is a tiny bit better than the 35mm f/1.4 L, if you're shooting without a profile as we always do on 35mm film.

 

Macro     performance      top

Canon 35mm IS Macro performance

At close-focus distance on full-frame, Canon 35 f/2 IS.

The images would be even tighter on smaller-format cameras (see crop factor).

It's super-sharp; here's a crop from a 22MP full-frame image at 100%:

Canon 35mm IS Macro performance

Crop from above image at 100%, shot at f/8 at ISO 100 on a Canon 5D Mk III. If this is 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, the full image would print at 39 x 58" (1 x 1.5 meters)!

 

Mechanics     performance      top

Canon 35mm f/2 IS

Rear, Canon 35mm f/2 IS. enlarge.

The Canon 35mm f/2 IS is made to typical consumer standards: all plastic, except for the glass and the mount. This is same as the 35mm f/2 (1990-) and nowhere near as good as the fully professional 35mm f/1.4 L (1998-).

 

Filter Threads

Plastic.

 

Hood Mount

Plastic.

 

Identity Ring

Plastic.

 

Focus Ring

Rubber-covered.

 

Barrel

Plastic.

 

Internals

I see mostly plastic with some metal.

 

Moisture seal at mount

No.

 

Mount

Chromed metal.

 

Markings

Paint.

 

Serial Number

Box, Canon 35mm f/2 IS

Bottom, Canon 35mm f/2 IS.

Laser-engraved into the bottom of the black plastic lens barrel.

 

Date Code

None found.

 

Noises When Shaken

Slight clunking.

 

Made in

Japan.

 

Sharpness     performance      top

Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens, and lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers. It's the least skilled hobbyists who waste the most time blaming fuzzy pictures on their lenses, while real shooters know that few photos ever use all the sharpness of which their lenses are capable due to subject motion and the fact that real subjects are rarely perfectly flat, like this chair seat:

Canon 35mm f/2 IS

Fabric, close-up at f/8 at ISO 100, Canon 5D Mk III. Full-resolution © 22MP image.

Not bad for an unflat piece of fabric!

This said, the Canon 35mm f/2 IS is among the sharpest wide lenses I've tested, just like the 35mm f/1.4 L (1998-) and original 35mm f/2 (1990-). The only differences between these and the 24-70/2.8 L II is if you're looking in the far corners on full-frame wide-open, in which case, the original 35/2 is slightly less sharp, and all the rest are also about the same, with this 35/2 IS and the 24-70/2.8 L II being very slightly better in the corners wide-open.

This 35/2 IS is extraordinarily sharp and contrasty, even at f/2. Throughout most of the image, there is little or no difference between f/2 and stopped down, as seen on a 22MP 5D Mark III at the test range at infinity. By f/2.8, 99% of the image has already reached optimum, and at f/4, the entire image is optimum.

The last couple of millimeters in the corners are a little softer at f/2 due to coma, improving greatly at f/2.8, where the corners are now 95% as sharp as the center. By f/4, the entire image is as sharp as the center — very sharp.

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 lens is just as sharp at f/2 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?

Canon 35mm f/2 IS MTF Canon's specified MTF curve, 35/2 IS.

 

Spherochromatism     performance      top

Spherochromatism, misnamed "color bokeh" by laymen, is when out-of-focus highlights take on color fringes at full aperture. This is common in fast lenses.

The Canon 35/2 IS has a very small amount of spherochromatism at f/2:

Canon 35mm IS spherochromatism

Full-frame image at f/2.

 

Canon 35mm IS spherochromatism

Crop from center of above image.

Background highlights may have slight green fringes, and foreground highlights may have slight magenta fringes at f/2.

This is normal, and 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.

 

Sunstars     performance      top

Canon 35mm IS flare

At f/8, direct view of mid-day tropical sun. bigger.

With its octagonal diaphragm, this Canon 35mm f/2 IS makes 8-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.

Why Canon re-used its old 8-blade diaphragm on this new lens is beyond me; I hate 8-pointed sunstars and prefer the magnificent 18-pointed sunstars of the 24-70/2.8 L II, or 10-pointed stars of the first 35/2.

 

Compared       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

I've been making comparisons throughout this entire review.

This 35/2 IS is nice, but too expensive for what it is. The other 35mm Canon lenses all have very similar optics. The only reason to open your wallet for this IS lens versus the previous 35/2 lens is to get Image Stabilization (IS) and instant manual-focus override.

The much smaller and less expensive original 35/2 lens has optics which are just as good, but you have to move a switch to get to manual focus.

IS is only helpful for shooting hand-held at low ISOs in low light, and only for still subjects. With digital's' great high ISOs, I see no reason to need IS in a wide lens. IS is extremely useful in tele lenses, and doesn't do much with wide lenses since hand tremor is much less of a problem.

 

See also Compared to other Canon 35mm lenses.

 

Canon 35mm lenses compared

Canon 24-70/2.8 L II, 35mm f/1.4 L, 35mm f/2 IS and 35mm f/2. enlarge.

 

Canon 35mm lenses compared

Canon 35mm f/1.4 L, 35mm f/2 IS and 35mm f/2. enlarge.

 

Canon 35mm lenses compared

Canon 35mm f/1.4 L and 35mm f/2 IS. enlarge.

 

Canon 35mm lenses compared

Canon 35mm f/2 IS and 35mm f/2. enlarge.

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

If you would you pay twice as much as the perfectly good previous-model Canon 35mm f/2 just to get instant manual-focus override and Image Stabilization (IS), this lens is for you.

Personally I'd get the smaller and far less expensive previous-model 35mm f/2 for half the price with only 63% of the weight and the same optical quality. Both are made mostly of plastic, but you have to move a switch for manual focus override on the older 35/2.

Personally I own the fully professional 35/1.4 L is much, much better made, and much better in low light for action, where IS can't help you. You can't see it here, but this new IS lens isn't made any better than the old 35/2, while the 35/1.4 is made much, much better to fully professional toughness. The 35/1.4 L has been a professional standard for decades so its price has fallen, making it a huge bargain at about $1,350.

For the 35/2 IS, I'd use a 67mm B+W 010 MRC UV filter for protection, or the Canon 67mm UV, or a 67mm Hoya HMC UV. These filters are all very good; the reason to pay more for the B+W is simply if you feel better with a $55 rather than a $33 filter on an $850 lens.

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 and to it at Amazon, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live.

Thanks!

Ken.

 

More Information        top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Canon, USA's data.

 

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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21 September 2012; shoot 04 Jan 2013