Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Review

4.5
January 17, 2013 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM is a new moderate wide-angle prime lens. Boasting built-in image stabilisation and fast and quite auto-focusing, the plastic-bodied EF 35mm f/2 IS USM is a more affordable alternative to Canon's professional wide-angle primes. Read our in-depth Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM review complete with full-size sample images.

The EF 35mm f/2 IS USM is a fast moderate wide-angle lens for Canon’s full-frame DSLRs. Featuring Super Spectra coatings, an ultrasonic focus motor, a circular aperture, silent high-speed AF performance, full-time manual focusing and image stabilisation offering a claimed 4-stop advantage, the new Canon 35mm f/2 is ideal for travel and reportage photography. The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM is available now for £799.99 / $849.99 in the UK and the USA respectively.

Ease of Use

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USMThe Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USMThe Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens, isometric view

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USMThe Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens, isometric view

For a wide-angle prime, the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM isn't too big and bulky, and not too heavy either at 335g. You can use it on a smaller Canon EOS APS-C body for a 56mm equivalent angle of view, and it balances equally as well as on a full-frame camera like the EOS 6D.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USMThe Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens alongside the EOS 6D

As you would expect from a lens that costs this much, build quality is very good, despite lacking the "L" moniker that denotes Canon's premium lenses. The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM feels solid in your hand, even if the outer barrel and the filter thread appear to be made from plastic. The focusing ring is a little narrow but has a ridged, rubberised grip band. It has no aperture ring, which is no big deal unless you wanted to use it on a very old film body.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USMFront of the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens, in-hand

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USMFront of the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens

The lens features a distance scale complete with a DOF scale, although the latter is of limited use, having markings for f/11 and f/22 only. Still, certainly better than nothing. There's also a small red dot that appears to be an infrared focus index.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USMFront of the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USMRear of the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens

The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM boasts Image Stabilisation which Canon claims offers an advantage of up to 4 f-stops over lenses without a stabilizer. This is activated via the On/Off switch on the side of the lens. If the camera body supports it, Canon's IS technology is also able to detect intentional panning movement and automatically switch from the Normal IS mode to the Panning IS mode.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USMFront of the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USMRear of the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens

The only other control on the lens barrel is a focus mode switch with the usual AF/MF settings. Note that this lens offers full-time manual focusing even when AF is selected.

The lens doesn't ship with either a lens hood or a protective bag, a shame given the high price.

Focal Range

At the 35mm focal length the angle of view is 63 degrees.

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSMField of view at 35mm

Focusing

The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens has a rather narrow focus ring. There are hard stops at both ends of the range, making it easier to set focus at infinity. Polariser users should be pleased that the 67mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.

When it comes to auto-focusing, the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM zoom is a quick performer, taking about 0.15 seconds to lock onto the subject when mounted on the Canon EOS 6D that we tested it with.

We didn't experience much "hunting", either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing almost all of the time. It's also a quiet performer, thanks to the built-in USM (Ultra Sonic Motor), which makes this lens well-suited to video recording.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are impressively well controlled with this lens - the examples below shows the worst-case scenario.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM

Light Fall-off

With the lens wide open at f/2, you can see some very noticeable light fall-off in the corners. Stopping down helps, although to completely get rid of this phenomenon, you will need to use an f-stop of f/5.6 or smaller.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM

Macro

The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM is not a macro lens. The close-focus point is at 24cm from the film/sensor plane, and Canon quotes a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.24x for the lens. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case a CompactFlash card.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Close-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. One of the reasons to buy a fast lens is to be able to isolate the subject from the background, which is normally very hard to do with a wide-angle lens. Canon was apparently very much aware of this requirement, as they employed an iris diaphragm with 8 rounded blades for a pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus highlights. Based on what we have seen, we can say that they largely succeeded. Below you'll find some examples, but you are also encouraged to check out our sample images.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM
   
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

Entry Tags

wide-angle, lens, travel, canon, wide angle, prime, 35mm, image stabilisation, f2, architecture, ef, journalism, journalists, photojournalist, usm, IS, 4-stop, 35 mm, Canon EF 35mm f2 IS USM Review

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