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Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Review

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Category: Interchangeable Lenses
Product: Canon EF 24mm f1.4L II USM
Price: £1,249.00
Rating: 4.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 5

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the premium fast wide-angle Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens.

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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens

The second incarnation of Canon's premium fast aperture wide angle lens costs around £1315 and sports a bright f/1.4 maximum aperture, fast ultrasonic focusing and professional-grade weather sealed construction.

The closest equivalent from third party manufacturers is Sigma's 24mm f/1.8 EX DG, which lacks the silent focusing and weather sealed construction of this Canon optic. Although the maximum aperture is also 2/3 of a stop dimmer on the Sigma, it is only a third of the price at around £410.

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM: Handling and features

Weighing 650g, this lens isn't a lightweight option, although it isn't exactly heavy either and it balances extremely well on the EOS 5D MkII used for testing. At 93.5mm long and 86.9mm in diameter it actually feels quite chunky.

The build is typical of Canon's L series lenses, and the lens feels very robust. It is also sealed against dust and moisture and the lens mount is finished with a slim rubber gasket to prevent ingress of water into the camera during use in inclement conditions.

A fast and virtually silent ultrasonic motor powers provides swift, accurate focusing under a wide range of conditions. The bright maximum aperture helps with focusing in low light, which means the lens rarely has to hunt for focus. Even though the lens covers a wide field of view, care still needs to be taken to ensure accurate focusing when shooting at maximum aperture, as the depth of field can be quite shallow, especially when close to your subject.

The minimum focusing distance of 25cm is perfect for shooting in tight spaces. Full time manual focus override is possible by just turning the focusing ring at any time. The amount of resistance is just right to make accurate adjustments simple. As focusing is performed internally, the lens does not extend and the 77mm filter thread does not rotate, which makes using polarising and graduated filters easy to use with this lens.

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM: Performance

In the centre portion of the frame, this lens puts in an impressive performance from maximum aperture, as the sharpness here is already excellent. The clarity towards the edges lags behind a little, being fair but the quality here increases as the lens is stopped down, even a little. By f/2 the quality towards the edges is good and it exceeds excellent levels by f/2.8. Peak quality across the frame is achieved between f/4 and f/5.6 where the resolution is outstanding across the frame.

Resolution at 24mm  

How to read our graphs

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Canon EOS 5D Mark II using Imatest.
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Resolution at 24mm  

Chromatic aberrations are kept well within acceptable levels reaching 0.8 pixel widths towards the edges at f/1.4. This low level of fringing should pose few issues, even in very large prints, or harsh crops from the edge of the frame.

Chromatic Aberrations at 24mm  

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Canon EOS 5D Mark II using Imatest.
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Chromatic Aberrations at 24mm  

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is well controlled for a wide aperture lens with the corners being 2.1 stops darker than the image centre at f/1.4. Visually uniform illumination is achieved when the lens is stopped down to or beyond f/4.

For a fixed focal lens, there is slightly more barrel distortion than you may normally expect. Imatest detected 1.94% barrelling, which may become apparent with straight lines towards the edges of the frame. The distortion pattern is uniform though, so this should be relatively easy to correct in image editing software afterwards if straight lines are paramount.

This lens seems very resistant to flare and loss of contrast, even when shooting with strong point sources of light in the frame, such as the sun. Occasionally a slight loss of contrast can be seen, especially when shooting into the light at bright apertures, but the difference is only slight. A petal shaped hood, which attaches to the lens via a bayonet fitting comes supplied with the lens and it does an excellent job of shielding the lens from extraneous light that may cause unwanted flare.

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Excellent sharpness at wide apertures in the centre   Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Sharpness is outstanding across the frame when stopped down
Excellent sharpness at wide apertures in the centre - ISO100, 1/40. f/2.8, 24mm   Sharpness is outstanding across the frame when stopped down - ISO100, 1/320. f/8, 24mm
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM The minimum focus distance of 25cm is very useful   Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM The bright maximum aperture great for low-light shooting
The minimum focus distance of 25cm is very useful - ISO100, 1/800. f/4, 24mm   The bright maximum aperture is great for low-light shooting - ISO3200, 1/160. f/2.2, 24mm
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM   Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
ISO100, 1/320. f/8, 24mm   ISO100, 1/125. f/11, 24mm
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM   Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
ISO100, 1/80. f/11, 24mm   ISO100, 1/250. f/8, 24mm

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM: Verdict

Although it's not cheap, the high price tag is more than justified by the excellent optical performance, build quality and handling. Images produced by this lens have good contrast and are packed with detail. Those who shoot in low light conditions regularly at this focal length can't really go far wrong in giving this lens some serious consideration.

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
Superb optical performance and build quality.

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM: Pros

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Excellent optical performance
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Build quality
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Fast focusing
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Bright maximum aperture
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Resistance to flare and loss of contrast

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM: Cons

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM May be a little pricey for some
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Quality towards the edges at maximum aperture could be better (although this is a minor concern for a wide aperture lens like this).

FEATURES Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
HANDLING Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
PERFORMANCE Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
VALUE FOR MONEY Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
OVERALL Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM: Specification

Price £1315
Contact www.canon.co.uk
Filter size 77mm
Format full-frame
Construction 13 elements in 10 groups
Angle-of-view 84°
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body) 38.4mm
Internal focusing Yes
Image stabilisation No
Minimum focus 25cm
Maximum aperture f/1.4
Minimum aperture f/22
Weight 650g
Size (lxw) 93.5 x 86.9mm
In the box EW-83K lens hood, LP1319 lens case


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