Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Review

January 17, 2013 | Mark Goldstein |


The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM is a capable but rather pricey wide-angle prime that will appeal most to travel and reportage photographers looking for a lightweight and responsive lens.

Despite it's lack of an L-series billing and plastic construction, the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM build quality is reassuringly good, and it's a great match for either a full-frame Canon DSLR like the EOS 6D or an APS-C body, where the focal length changes to 56mm. Auto-focusing is quiet and quick, with the ability to instantly manually override it via the focus ring if required proving a nice touch. The capable image stabilisation system used in conjunction with a high-ISO monster like the EOS 6D is a low-light shooter's dream ticket, making it easy to hand-hold the camera and get the shot.

Image quality is generally very good. Chromatic aberrations are well controlled, geometric distortion is impressively low for a wide-angle lens, and the Super Spectra coatings successfully prevent contrast loss attributable to flare. The only real optical issues are obvious corner shading at the maximum aperture, something that every full-frame shooter has to put up with, especially when using wide angles, and more seriously a lack of critical edge sharpness between f/2-2.8 and f/8-f/22.

If you can afford the rather hefty price-tag and don't mind the non-L billing or sharpness fall-off at the edges of the frame, we can certainly recommend the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM as a light and portable wide-angle prime lens for Canon DSLR owners. If size and weight are less of a concern than optical and build quality, then we'd recommend the equally new Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM instead, which is the same price as Canon's more consumer-oriented offering.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 4