If you, as a professional/prosumer Canon photographer with an APS-C camera (Canon 7D MK2, 70D) want a bright AF lens with a fixed focal length around 35 mm, then you almost cannot do without the Canon 24 mm f/1.4 L II—which was introduced at the end of 2008. In the digital photography age, 2008 seems like centuries ago. Even so, there are still, aside from the Sigma 24 f/1.4 Art, which is not currently available, few alternatives with an equivalent brightness. The optically and construction-wise phenomenal Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 Art comes close as far as brightness is concerned, but it is also longer and heavier. In addition, it is not a lens with a fixed focal length. And there are many photographers who prefer a fixed focal length.
Review Canon EF 24 mm f/1.4L II USM @ APS-C
Canon EF 24 mm f/1.4L II USM + Canon 650D @ f/1.4, 1/320 sec, 200 ISO
Build and auto focus
Canon L lenses are designed for intensive use by professional photographers in their daily work. That means that they are also not inexpensive. Water- and dust-resistant seals offer extra protection, and the lens is delivered with lens bag and a broad, flower-shaped sun cap. In the Canon EF 24 mm f/1.4L II environmentally friendly lead-free glass is used. It is a note that makes you think, since I have only seen that point with a limited number of other Canon lenses.
The silent USM (Ultra Sonic Motor) of the Canon EF 24 mm f/1.4L II focuses quickly and can be overridden manually at any given moment. The AF speed is not lightning fast, but it gives nothing up to the modern 24-70 Canon zooms that we have reviewed previously. The floating internal focus system, according to Canon, provides high image quality across the whole focal range. It also ensures that the front lens does not turn during focusing, which is nice for using, for example, a circular polarization filter.
The vignetting of the Canon 24 mm f/1.4 LII on the Canon 5D MK3 at full aperture amounts to 3 stops. That is a lot. If you are going to correct for this, then you have more noise in the corners than in the center of the image. Thanks to the smaller APS-C sensor, the vignetting at full aperture is now a bit more than 1 stop, and after 1 stop stopping down, it is practically gone entirely.
Distortion Canon EF 24 mm f/1.4L II USM
We can be brief about distortion: you will not have any trouble from it with this lens. And given the large field of view, that is a good performance.
Flare and ghosts
Canon applies a special, patented Subwavelength Structure ("SWC") lens coating, which was specially designed by Canon for digital photography. According to Canon, the coating helps to minimize flare and reflections as a result of reflections on internal components (in particular, the sensor). In most cases, it works well. In practice, under extreme conditions (direct backlighting) and when not using the sun cap, both ghosts and flare are encountered when using the Canon 24 mm f/1.4L II. Not so much at full aperture, but when you stop down. Overall, a very solid performance.
The center sharpness is already high starting at full aperture. For a bright lens, that is very good. The sharpness in the corner clearly increases by stopping down, whereby after stopping down about two stops, the maximum will be reached. If you are not really bound to f/1.4, then the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm f/2.8 IS USM, which puts on an equivalent performance but also offers a broader field of view, is an attractive alternative. For static subjects, the built-in image stabilization of the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm f/2.8 IS USM compensates amply for the difference in brightness.
Chromatic aberration and color bokeh
Lateral chromatic aberration, blue- and red-colored edges at sharp contrast transitions in the corners of the image, are common for wide-angle shots. This kind of color separation is minimized in the design of the Canon 24 mm f/1.4L II by applying two lenses with an extra high refraction index ("UD lens elements").
With bright (<f/2.8) lenses, CA is sometimes visible as purple edges (in front of the focal point) and green edges (behind the focal point) at sharp contrast transitions in blurred parts of the shot. This color separation, called color bokeh, unfortunately does not only appear in the corners, but across the entire image. Above f/2.8, you will have no further trouble with it.
Bokeh Canon 24 mm 1.4L II
A large sensor, rounded aperture lamellae (preferably as many as possible) and high brightness all make a positive contribution to the bokeh. But the glass types applied and the types of lens elements that are used also have an influence. In the shots of our standard test set-up, the bokeh did not look bad, although there was a colored edge around the bokeh rings and there was an onion-ring bokeh (move your mouse over the illustration) visible. In the practice shots, the bokeh was also sometimes noisy, as can be seen in the example above.
Conclusion Canon 24 mm 1.4L II review with Canon 650D
Look in our list of all reviewed lenses of the lenses we have reviewed with a Canon mount in order to compare the performance of this lens with other lenses.
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you store the files in the camera as jpg, and you have applied all available in-camera lens corrections. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and camera.
Solid build quality, extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater
Very good image quality: high sharpness, little distortion
Visible longitudinal chromatic aberration
The Canon 24 mm f/1.4L II has already been around for a couple of years, but it is still among Canon's best and fastest wide-angle lenses. Even so, the question is whether lenses that are designed for use on cameras with a full-frame sensor can beat out the competition from lenses that are specially designed for use on a camera with an APS-C sensor. The difference in field of view of—converted to full-frame—38 mm or 35 mm could be an argument for many photographers to choose a less bright EF-S lens. As far as optical performance is concerned, that does not have to mean any loss. And lenses that are designed for use on a camera with an APS-C sensor are also less expensive. If you are not really tied to f/1.4, then the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm f/2.8 IS USM, which puts on an equivalent performance but also offers a broader field of view, is a very attractive alternative. For static subjects, the built-in image stabilization of the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm f/2.8 IS USM amply compensates for the difference in brightness. The more modern Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 Art is also, given its higher image quality, a solid competitor. But if you have a Canon 7D MK2 or Canon 70D and you prefer a bright lens with a focal length of (converted to full-frame) of around 35 mm, then you will certainly have a lot of pleasure from the Canon 24 mm f/1.4 L II.
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.