Photography News issue 25


Photography News Issue 25

First tests

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L II USM £1799


How it rates Verdict



Some lenses are like works of art, some more workmanlike. This lens falls into the latter category with the only frill being the red line around the end of the barrel. The manual focusing action is nothing special, there is no IS and there’s only one control. Put the superficial aside, though, and what Canon has done internally has been remarkable and, while this lens is £1799, you do get an outstanding optical performance.

Format Full-frame, APS-C Mount Canon EF Construction

Fixed focal length (prime) lenses have suddenly come back in vogue and there are some brilliant examples out there, from camera and independent brands. After years of living on modest-aperture zooms perhaps someone realised that there was an appetite for truly fast-aperture, high- spec primes. The EF 35mm f/1.4 L II USM is Canon’s latest and it fills the need for a top-end lens that gives a natural perspective, and the semi-wide view is ideally suited to most subjects. The need has been created by the arrival of 50-megapixel full-frame DSLRs in Canon’s range that demand the best possible quality lenses to fulfil their potential. The original 35mm f/1.4 was launched back in 1998 when film ruled so, while a fine lens, it isn’t ideal for the 5DS/R, and the other current 35mm is an f/2, non-L version. While the EF 35mm f/1.4 L II USM is a top-end lens it’s not especially exotic on the outside at least. There is a red line to signify its L status and it is weather proofed, but there’s no IS and the only control was an AF/ MF switch. Internally, however, it’s a different story and this lens is the first to feature Canon’s proprietary Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics (BR Optics for short). This is in addition to two aspherical elements and one UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) element. BR Optics feature new organic material designed to refract blue light to a greater degree compared with existing special optical glass to control colour fringing as much as possible. Used in combination with conventional glass elements, BR Optics produce very sharp, contrasty images with minimal chromatic aberration. That’s the theory and there is no doubt that this lens is very capable. I suppose the question I have is, since chromatic aberration is more of an issue as focal length increases,

how much impact do BR Optics have at 35mm where CA is less of an issue in the first place? Quality is high from f/1.4 onwards and gets even better from f/2.8 and peaks at f/5.6 and f/8. Edge sharpness is also good from f/1.4 and peaks at f/8. Diffraction takes its toll at the smaller apertures and while f/16 still delivers a high standard of performance, f/22 looks less impressive. Flare resistance is excellent. It is possible to induce a few faint flare marks by including the sun’s disk at the edge of the frame but still good in the situation. Physical handling is good. The lens is no lightweight but it is well balanced on something like the EOS 5DS, the camera used for this test. The lens’s only control is anAF/MF switch but the focus barrel allows full- time manual override anyway. WC

14 elements in 11 groups Special lens elements

Features Lots of exotic glass to optimise performance


BR Optics (Blue Spectrum Refrac- tive Optics), two aspherical, one UD element Coatings Subwavelength Coating (SWC), fluorine coating on front and rear surfaces to repel liquid and dust Filter size 72mm Aperture range F/1.4-22 Diaphragm Nine blades Internal focus Yes Manual focus Yes Minimum focus 28cm Focus limiter No Maximummagnification 0.21x Distance scale Yes, metres and feet Depth-of-field scale No Image stabiliser No Tripod collar No Lens hood EW-77B supplied, bayonet fit Weather-sealed Yes Dimensions (lxd) 80.4x105.5mm Weight 760g Contact


Performance Amazing in the f/4-11 range and impressive at the wider settings too

Handling No concerns, good in bad weather conditions, too


Value for money Serious outlay for a serious lens



Overall A leading and very useful standard prime so a great investment Pros Optical performance, USM Cons Price, no IS








Images We fixed the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L II USM lens onto the 50-megapixel EOS 5D S with ISO set to 100 and shot a bunch of Raws. The files were processed in Lightroom CC with default sharpening. The enlargements on the right were taken from the centre (left half/yellow) and the edge of the frame (right half/pink).

Powered by