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Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens.

| Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and features
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens Review: Canon Ef 35mm F2 Is Usm Lens (1)

This wide angle prime lens from Canon sports a fast maximum aperture of f/2, an ultrasonic focus motor and image stabilisation. This lens is currently available for around £765, which seems a little steep. In this review we'll take a look at whether the performance justifies the price.
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens Review: Canon Ef 35mm F2 Is Usm Lens (3)

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Handling and features

This lens is designed similarly to Canon's latest high end consumer grade lenses, with the barrel being constructed from high quality plastics, accented with a silver ring and finished with a metal lens mount. The lens feels very well put together whilst the plastics help to keep the weight below 340g. The lens balances well on the Canon EOS 6D used for testing, making a reasonably compact and lightweight combination.

Autofocus is powered by an Ultrasonic motor, which moves lens elements quickly, resulting in fast autofocus. Manual focus adjustments can be made at any time, whether the lens is set to AF or MF. The focusing ring has a smooth action and is heavily dampened. As a result, a reasonable amount of force is required to move the focusing ring when applying adjustments, which may hamper doing this.

As focusing is performed internally, the 67mm filter ring doesn't rotate. This is ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. Closest focus is 24cm, which is great for shooting in cramped environments and even for the occasional close up.

Canon claim that the image stabilisation system this lens is equipped with will allow sharp images to be taken hand held at shutter speeds up to four stops slower than would be possible without. With care, sharp hand held images are possible around half the time with shutter speeds as low as 1/5sec, which is around three stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would allow.
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens Review: Canon Ef 35mm F2 Is Usm Lens (6)


Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Performance

Sharpness is already excellent in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture, although the clarity towards the edges of the frame lags behind, just falling short of good levels. Stopping down the aperture as far as f/4 improves clarity across the frame, resulting in outstanding sharpness across the frame.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens Review: Resolution at 35mm
Resolution at 35mm

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. 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 a Canon EOS 6D using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are a little higher than you might expect from a lens of this type. Fringing is strongest at f/2 and f/22 where chromatic aberrations approach one pixel width in size. This level may start to become noticeable, especially around high contrast edges towards the edges of the frame.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens Review: Chromatic aberration at 35mm
Chromatic aberration at 35mm

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 6D using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is quite pronounced at maximum aperture. At f/2 the corners are 2.67 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved until the aperture is stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond.

Only a mild level of 1.18% barrel distortion is present, which shouldn't pose too many issues for normal picture taking. However the distortion pattern is not completely uniform across the frame, having a slight wave to it, which may make applying corrections in image editing software afterwards a little more tricky.

No lens hood is supplied as standard by Canon, which is a shame. Even so, this lens seems reasonably resistant to flare, so it should be possible to get by without a hood for all but the most extreme light conditions.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Sample Photos


Value for Money

Canon's latest lens releases all seem to be priced rather high at launch, with no sign of the prices dropping as supply is established. This lens certainly doesn't buck that trend, being priced at around £765. That makes it only around £250 cheaper than Canon's flagship 35mm f/1.4L, which is available for just over a thousand pounds.

Third party offerings at the same focal length include Sigma's 35mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM. Although this lens lacks an image stabiliser, it does have a faster maximum aperture and can be picked up for around £740.
Samyang's 35mm f/1.4 is another alternative. This lens has a fast f/1.4 maximum aperture, but lacks image stabilisation, autofocus and any electronic coupling with the camera. It can be bought for around £380 though.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Verdict

With this lens, Canon have produced something that performs very well indeed, but then you would expect that for the asking price. It may be questionable whether or not having image stabilisation available at this focal length really is a killer feature, as it will really only be of use for photographing static subjects, unless motion blur is required for creative effect.

With alternatives that have a faster maximum aperture being available for the same, or slightly more money, it does make it difficult to see the value in this lens. If the price drops as supply of the lens settles down, then it will make more sense in Canon's lens line up.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens Review:  
The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens offers excellent sharpness and good build quality.  

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Pros

Good build quality
Image stabilisation
Excellent sharpness
Focuses close
Reasonably lightweight

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Cons

Reassuringly expensive
No hood is supplied as standard
CA a little high at f/2 and f/22


Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF
Focal Length35mm
Angle of View63°
Max Aperturef/2
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size67mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus24cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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josa 11 25 Czech Republic
5 Feb 2013 3:51PM
Man clean your sensor, it's like UFOS' attack...Wink
theorderingone 19 2.4k
6 Feb 2013 12:40PM
It's Canon's camera Tongue
ElSid 15 11 United Kingdom
6 Feb 2013 4:56PM
Canon do seem to have lost the plot on price lately. Judging by the price premiums between IS and non IS versions of certain Canon lenses I think I'd rather have no IS and a better price...Sad

Oh and I supect it's not a proper ring USM either since it doesn't seem to have AF/M marking on the AF switch - really not good enough at this price level.

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