Canon 35mm F1.4L II
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I bought the Canon 35mm F1.4L II lens as soon as it was announced. I had never owned the original 35mm F1.4 that everyone loved so much, it wasn’t a focal length that I thought I necessarily needed. It lands in the middle of two L quality zooms I owned, the Canon 24-70mm F2.8 II and the 16-35mm F2.8 II. Both lenses are pretty fast aperture lenses with fairly consistent image quality throughout, although I can’t ever 100% rely on the accuracy of the focus on the Canon 16-35mm F2.8 II. Since I’ve started doing less event work where I am part of a press contingent and have been able to roam more freely, the ability to use primes wide open has become more of a reality. You can’t really photograph full lengths, head shots and group photos with a fixed prime when you don’t know your fixed position from the subject (although I have been bringing my compact and amazing little 135mm F2.0 as an ambient light portrait lens). So back to the newly release Canon 35mm F1.4 II. It’s not obviously a focal length you think you need. It’s not really wide enough for group photographs or vast landscapes or architecture, but it’s also a bit wide for portraits and head shots. Here’s what it actually does – it quickly focuses on the subject and makes clean, crisp images when photographed wide open at F1.4. That means when you have this lens mounted to your camera, you can trust it to accurately focus on the intended subject and the images won’t show much chromatic aberration or vignetting. Any faults of the glass it might show is easily fixed in post precessing using software like Abobe Photoshop or Lightroom, but I’ve yet to really see any fault from the glass, normally I find “User Error” is at fault. In my opinion this lens mounted on a 50 megapixel Canon 5DS is the perfect combination as a versatile street portrait combination. Unlike older variations of this lens, and other brands attempts to create a super fast 35mm lens, I would completely trust shooting this lens wide open at F1.4. Stopped down just one stop to F2.0 will result in fantastic looking images and may give the user better results more consistently. No matter what anyone says, creating consistently sharp images at F1.4 is not an easily obtained goal, but with the Canon 35mm F1.4L II I’ve seen more accurately focused images at the widest aperture than any other prime lens I own.

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Canon 35mm F1.4L II Pros

  • Image Quality is unbeatable (at 35mm from any other autofocus lens)
  • Build Quality like a tank
  • Very slight chromatic aberration
  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • Focal range is perfect balance between wide and ‘regular’
  • Wide open aperture F1.4 creates beautiful out of focus backgrounds

Canon 35mm F1.4L II Cons

  • Price is on the high end for a fixed lens (Sigma version is nearly $1000 less)
  • The lens is heavy compared to other fixed 35mm lenses
  • No Image Stabilization
  • No zoom

Canon 35mm F1.4L II Competition

Rokinon 35mm F1.4 AS UMC Lens – $406.35

Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM Lens – $549.00

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Lens – $899.00

Zeiss 35mm F1.4 Distagon T Lens – $1843.00

Canon 35mm F1.4L II Conclusion

If you don’t already own a 35mm fixed lens, then the Canon 35mm F1.4 II would certainly be a fantastic choice, perhaps even the best choice in my opinion. There are some obvious pitfalls, mainly based on cost. You could buy the Sigma 35mm F1.4 for considerably less, although you should know that the Sigma lenses are definitely a little slower in focusing and the image quality doesn’t compare to this new BR coated Canon release. If price is of no concern, or you have to place the utmost importance on the accuracy and precision of every image you shoot, this lens is for you. It’s ability to grab focus quickly and accurately will be indispensable for many professional photographers, however the price will put off many enthusiasts who can buy a similar lens for more than half the cost. Sigma are certainly giving Canon a run for their money and there’s nothing better for an industry than some healthy competition! I’m sure that there are plenty of arguments to not spend nearly $2000 on a 35mm prime, and I would happily recommend the Canon 50mm F1.2L lens, but I’m also now anxiously waiting for Canon to upgrade that lens to the new blue spectrum refractive coating version. I expect the 50mm and the 85mm updates to be spectacular investments whenever they may be announced.

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