At the end of 2012, the Canon 35mm IS was introduced along with the Canon 24-70mm f/4 IS. Fast lenses with a fixed 35mm focal length are popular among photographers with a full frame sensor camera like the Canon 5D MK3 or Canon 6D, because they are ideal lenses for landscape, portrait and travel photography. This lens delivers a smooth bokeh at large apertures, for a nice, quiet background. The combination of a relatively large aperture in a wide angle fixed focal length lens with built-in image stabilization, make this lens unique. There are few wide-angle lenses with built-in image stabilization. This is Canon's first fixed focal length wide-angle lens with image stabilization. This lens is targeted for both enthusiasts and professionals.
Canon 35 mm f/2 IS review @ Canon 5D MK3
Canon 35 mm f/2 IS @ f/2, 1/4 sec (no tripod, + IS), 6400 ISO
The built-in image stabilization is effective: The above image is still sharp, thanks to the image stabilization and the excellent signal/noise ratio of the Canon 6D at 6400 ISO. Even though the image was shot well after midnight, with a shutter speed of 1/4 second and without the use of a tripod.
Construction & autofocus
The Canon 35mm f/2 IS lens is very well built. The lens body is made of high quality plastic, which limits the weight to 300 grams. Still it is one and a half times as heavy as the Canon f/2 version from 1990, which does not feature built-in IS. The mount is made of metal. The lens has a window where you can read the distance where the lens is in focus. There is also a depth of field scale engraved onto the lens, but it is of limited use. You can see that at aperture 22 anything between 2 meters and infinity is in focus. But what about apertures larger than f/11?. The scale is of no use there. The AF drive is quiet and fast. Because this lens has a USM motor, you can at any time overrule the AF and use the focus ring to focus manually, without first having the switch the AF off.
New Canon lens cap
From January 2013, all Canon EF lenses come with a redesigned Mark II lens cap. This lens cap has a grip in the middle, instead of at the side. This allows the lens cap to be replaced while using a lens hood. If you already have a Canon lens and often use the lens hood, there's good news: The new lens caps are also available separately.
The Canon 35mm 2 IS lens has two switches: AF/MF and IS on/off. There is no switch for panning (horizontal IS only). The Canon 35mm IS lens offers instead intelligent panning: the panning IS mode automatically switches on, when needed. The optical IS offers a 4-stop advantage according to Canon. Our test results show that with IS, a hand held shot image at a shutter speed of 1/6 second is, thanks to the image stabilization, as sharp as an image shot without IS and a shutter speed of 1/50 second. That is a real life gain of 3 stops. In the field test of this lens on a Canon 650D, we sometimes achieved a gain of 4 stops, when we compared the sharpness of the images visually.
The sharpness of the Canon 35mm f/2 lens is high all the way from f/2 to f/11. The main reason why you will stop down this lens, is not for getting a higher resolution, but to play with the background blur and the depth of field. But this also applies to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 (which we've tested on a 20 megapixel Canon 1Dx) and the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 MK2.
Canon 35 mm f/2 IS @ f/2, 400 ISO, 1/3200 sec
Review without in-camera correction
This Canon 35 mm 2 IS review has been done using a Canon 5D MK3, for which the camera indicated that no correction data for vignetting and chromatic aberration is available for this lens (yet). Our Imatest measurement results for jpg files, where we did have the lens aberration corrections (vignetting and chromatic aberration) turned on, do correspond with the results of RAW files without lens aberration corrections.
Both at f/2 and f/2.8 the Canon 35mm lens shows visible vignetting, as you can see in this image. Stopping down to f/4 solves this. This could make the choice for a professional 35mm lens more difficult. If you have compare the Canon 35mm f/2 IS with the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 MK2 or the old Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 set at a focal length of 35 mm, then the two zoom lenses win in terms vignetting from the 35mm lens with a fixed focal length. Once a lens aberration correction profile is available, this can be easily corrected in jpg files saved in the camera.
When comparing the distortion of the Canon 35mm f/2 with the distortion of the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 MK2 or the old Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 set at a focal length of 35 mm, the 1.5% barrel distortion of this 35 mm lens with a fixed focal length is somewhat disappointing. This distortion is visible in your images containing straight lines. Should it be disturbing, then it is easy to correct the distortion afterwards in photo-editing software.
We have already reviewd a Canon 35mm f/2 IS with a Canon 650D. There we stated that at the same aperture, the bokeh is much nicer if you use this lens in combination with a camera with a full frame sensor, like the Canon 5D MK3. We show the difference here in the image above. The aperture blades are octagonal, what you will see if you set the lens at f/5.6 (right) or at an even smaller aperture. For an even more beautiful bokeh you could use a 35 mm f/1.4 lens.
Each individual lens element has a Super Spectra coating to reduce flare and ghosts. It is very effective. The Canon 35mm f/2 IS is really a class better than all Canon Canon 24-70 mm or 24-105 mm zoom lenses. Even when a very bright light source shines directly into the lens, you will see virtually no ghosting and the area with reduced contrast around the light source is very small. This lens will shine in concert photography or night photography.
The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM has a molded glass aspherical lens element at the rear, intended to correct chromatic aberration in the entire optical system That is successful. Even at a 100% magnification visible chromatic aberration is limited, as illustrated in the images below, which show the amount of chromatic aberration in the outmost corners.
Canon 35mm f/2 IS review RAW & JPG score: This table normally shows the performances of this lens when saving files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections enabled. The Jpg score then gives for this lens / test camera combination: "What you see is what you get." However, the Canon 5D MK3 test camera did not have correction data for this lens (yet). Therefor the results for a RAW and a jpg file are almost identical, because both files are not corrected.
Good image quality: high resolution, low chromatic aberration
Effective built-in image stabilization
Well protected from flare
Fast, accurate AF
1.5% barrel distortion
No lens hood
Our Canon 35mm f/2 IS review conclusion can be short and clear: this is a very nice lens performance in virtually all respects is. Like many 35 mm lenses on a camera with a full frame sensor, vignetting and barrel distortion are the main downsides. Both parameters can easily be corrected afterwards with software, should you wish. The high sharpness, low chromatic aberration and very low susceptibility to flare even at f/2 and a built-in image stabilization form an attractive package. We therefore conclude that the Canon 35mm f/2 IS will find its place in the bag of many professional reporter photographers.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.
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