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Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Review

John Riley reviews the new Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens for full-frame Canon DSLRs.

| Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Review: Canon 35mm F1,4 Oblique Front View

Canon has an extensive range of high quality L lenses, and here we have the latest update to the very successful 35mm f/1.4 L USM. Coupled with the Canon EOS 5DS R this looks to be an interesting combination to run through its paces. Is the new lens able to give the 50MP 5DS R a run for its money?

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Handling and Features

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Review: Canon 35mm F1,4 Front Element View

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L II USM lens is quite a substantial 760g in weight. It is weather sealed, being resistant to dust and moisture. There is a 72mm filter thread, surrounded by the bayonet fitting that allows the petal shaped lens hood to clip nicely into place. There is a catch on the side of the hood to release it, so there is no chance of a hood becoming detached in use. This is actually quite a nice touch and should prevent the plastic hood becoming loose with wear and tear. Quality of manufacture seems to be of a high standard and the overall finish is excellent. It is a reassuringly solid optic.

A Fluorine coating on the front element is said to repel dirt and grease, thus making the lens easier to clean. The lens construction comprises 14 elements in 11 groups. It utilises “blue spectrum refractive optics” to enhance control of chromatic aberrations. UD (ultra-low dispersion) glass is also employed, and in addition, there are two aspheric elements.

There are nine diaphragm blades, which is beneficial for better rendering of out of focus highlights, improving bokeh. There is an AF/MF switch on the side of the lens, a window showing distances in feet and metres and a depth of field scale marked with positions for f/11 and f/22. Focusing is via an ultrasonic motor, which is totally silent.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Review: Canon 35mm F1,4 On 5Dsr

The lens does not change size or rotate whilst focusing, all adjustments being internal. This makes using filters such as polarisers much easier.

The lens balances very well on the camera and the viewfinder image looks superb. The weight is there, but the combination fits the hand very well, so the whole feels comfortable and is usable for long periods in the field. Using the lens is a very pleasant experience.

35mm lenses are a slight wide angle, preferred by some as a slightly wide standard lens. This focal length is one of the classic reportage, or street photography, lenses, and the f/1.4 bright aperture increases the possibilities as the light fades. Hitting the focus spot will be the greatest challenge at very wide apertures, but at least here the AF is fast and positive and locks on reliably.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Review: Canon 35mm F1,4 Oblique Rear View

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Performance

Resolution at wide apertures starts with a good level of sharpness, but with the images being quite soft at the edges. This is rapidly improving by f/2 and the centre is nice and crisp, with very good sharpness. The peak of central performance comes at f/4 where sharpness is excellent, then drops away gradually, still very good at f/8 but only fair at f/16 and f/22. The edges lag behind some way, but achieve good levels of sharpness between f/4 and f/8.  


Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Review: MTF

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. 

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

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5DS R using Imatest.

CA (chromatic aberration) is controlled magnificently at the centre of the frame, to such low levels that it approaches zero. At the edges, control is a little looser and fringing is visible in images such as tree branches against sky. Like the resolution test, it looks as though the lens is designed very much with high central performance in mind.


Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Review: CA

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 a Canon EOS 5DS R using Imatest.

Distortion is another triumph though, controlled to a very low -0.52% barrel. This would make the lens excellent for architecture. For such a bright wide angle this is a very impressive result indeed. Barrel distortion is of course expected to some degree in wide angle lenses.

It is possible to induce obvious flare spots with the sun just out of shot. There is much better flare resistance in some lenses. To be fair though, in normal shooting conditions flare does not present a problem. It might if we were shooting concerts where light is spilling everywhere, but that just could be a situation where we wished for good flare control.

Looking at the bokeh, the out of focus background areas are beautifully rendered. They are so smooth and give a really gorgeous effect. This is where compromises come in, and higher resolution might well reduce the smoothness. It seems a solid choice in favour of pictorial qualities.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Sample Photos

Value For Money

The lens is currently priced at £1799. By comparison, the previous version, the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L USM costs just £989. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM is £636. Also available are the Tamron 35mm f/1.8 SP Di VC USD (£519), the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 T* Distagon ZE (£1299) and the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC (£399).

The question must be, is the new lens worth £810 more than the previous version? I would suggest that the original Canon lens must be the bargain whilst stocks are available, but thereafter the weather resistance and other qualities of the new lens could well clinch a sale. For more options have a look at to Top 6 Best Canon Lenses of 2015.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Verdict

There is no doubt that the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L II USM is a very pleasant lens to use and has a very attractive “character” to the images, that indefinable look. This is aided by its high contrast that gives a crisp appearance to images.

This is concentrated on the centre without a doubt, the edges lagging behind, but the fine detail is very good indeed at the centre of the field. The edges are a little disappointing, as is the relatively poor flare control. Overall, a very good lens, not a perfect one, but an excellent, reliable choice for Canon users.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Pros

Beautiful bokeh
Very good central sharpness
Fast and silent AF
Ultra Low central CA
Low distortion

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Cons

Edge sharpness lags
Large for a 35mm lens
Fairly high price
Prone to flare


Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Review:

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is a reliable quality choice for Canon users.


Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF USM
Focal Length35mm
Angle of View63°
Max Aperturef/1.4
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size72mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus28cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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Patlezinc Avatar
18 Mar 2018 4:14PM
Are you sure your copy was ok?
Your imatest figures are really low. Many tests have been done, even on 5dsr, and are not so low. They are really good even at 1.4
I have this lens and it is crazy sharp at 1.4, like the 35 Art I owned too.

It puts poeple on a wrong opinion on this lens I am afraid

(According to you, the 35 canon is really bad compared to my 70-300 usm II at 70mm. And it is not the case)

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