Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM Lens Review:

Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM

 

I've recently tried the new Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM and want to share my first impressions and sample images here. My impressions are very positive. I have no intention to shoot test charts, because nobody shoots test charts, print them and hang the pictures of test charts on the wall in real life, and there are lots of places over the internet, where you can check out formal lens tests. I will supply a link or two at the bottom of this review page where you can check all these formal test results if desired. I want to share some real life experience here.

Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM was introduced to replace old trusted Canon EF 35mm f/2.0. It is packed with the new technologies like ultrasonic focusing drive, new optical coatings and image stabilization.  The new lens is relatively large for its characteristics, I expected 35mm f/2.0 lens to be a bit smaller. Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM is build similar to Canon L lenses, it just lacks the red stripe on it, and a weather sealing gasket on a lens mount. The lens body is made of high quality plastic with metal mount. Focus ring is wide for a lens of this size and operates silently and smoothly, without any wobble. The lens is equipped with a ring-type USM for fast and silent AF operation, and allows full time manual override. Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM  auto-focus speed is fast, but it is not nearly instant like on the best Canon L lenses. AF accuracy is very good on both Canon 5D mark III and Canon 7D.

Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM has internal focusing and doesn’t change its size. Filter thread is fixed and doesn’t rotate, so it accepts polarizing and gradient filters well. I recommend using high quality UV or protection filter, that doesn't degrade image quality, to protect the front element from accidential fingerprints, dust, waterdrips and scratches. Good examples are B+W UV MRC filter or the new one B+W XS-Pro UV MRC filter. B+W UV MRC filters are probably the best, as they don't degrade image quality at all, and cleans very easily, thanks to special coating. I fill much more comfortable cleaning dust and fingerprints from filter than from an expensive lens, sure one shouldn't expose lens to these, but unfortunately it happens sometimes. All new Canon lenses, at least pro grade ones, have a special fluorine coating that makes cleaning easier. Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM has 67mm filter thread.

Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM is equipped with a new generation Image Stabilizer. Canon claims that it offers up to 4 stops of shake reduction, and I think that it may be true in some situations, but not always. IS on this lens works almost insensibly, and it really helps to reduce camera shake. It was surprising, but Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM image stabilizer is worse than in Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM. It is less efficient and when you shoot from tripod with Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM you must turn IS off, as it is with old IS versions.  If you forget to turn IS off photos taken with a long exposure would be blurry.

Bike, Canon 5D mark III, f/4, 1/200.

Bike, 100% crop, Canon 5D mark III, f/4, 1/200.

Moscow university, Canon 5d mark III, f/6.3, 1/200s.

Moscow university, 100% crop, Canon 5d mark III, f/6.3, 1/200s.

 

Optically Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM is very good. It is sharp even wide open, especially in the center and in the middle of a frame.  Corner sharpness wide open is not perfect, but good. Sharpness improves slightly when stopped down, by f/4 it is sharp in the frame corners too. There is plenty of sharpness for any real life use even wide open. When you shoot wide open, you probably want to isolate a subject with a shallow depth of field, and nobody puts main subject in a frame corner. So when you use Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM lens, you need to adjust aperture for DoF only. Color reproduction is very accurate; saturation and contrast are excellent. It captures almost all the tiniest and finest details. Image quality of Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM is so high that it almost matches magnificent  Carl Zeiss Distagon 28mm f/2.0 ZE. Click cat images below to compare.

Cat, Canon 5D mark III, f/2.8, 1/50s, click image to compare.

Cat, 100% crop, Canon 5D mark III, f/2.8, 1/50s, click image to compare.

 

Chromatic aberration on Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM may be noticeable only in extreme conditions, but in real life shots there is nothing to worry about. It has only small traces of chromatic aberrations that can be corrected easily in software like DPP or any other image processing software. On the sample shots it is not corrected, so you can see that it is negligeable.

Vignetting is visible when you shoot with Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM wide open on a full frame body, but quickly disappears stopped down. When you shoot at wide apertures vignetting emphisizes visually perceived depth, have a look at cat or microphone samples. Distortion is not significant and is barely visible in real life shots.

Mosque, Canon 5D mark III, f/5.6, 1/320s.

Mosque, crop 100%, Canon 5D mark III, f/5.6, 1/320s.

Bronze relief, Canon 5D mark III, f/2.8, 1/30s

Bronze relief, 100% crop, Canon 5D mark III, f/2.8, 1/30s.

Microphone, bokeh sample, Canon 6D , f/2.2, 1/60s.

 

Bokeh, or how the lens renders of out of focus areas, is a very important characteristic of any lens. It is hard to measure, but is very easy to see. Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM bokeh is very good, thanks to 8-blade circular aperture. Background is rendered very smooth and nice, however highlits may have slightly visible edges and are not round in the corners of a frame.

Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM is flare resistant, it doesn't loose contract with the bright lightsource in a frame. There may be some color artefacts, but there are not severe. Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM turns bright light sources into a not very beautiful 8-point stars when shooting stopped down to a narrow apertures.

"Red October" confectionary, Canon 5D mark III, f/10, 10s.

"Red October" confectionary, 100% crop, Canon 5D mark III, f/10, 10s.

 

Conclusion. 35mm is a very popular focal length. This is because field of view is very similar to what we see with eyes, just a bit wider. So it is a wonderful general purpose lens. Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM is a great travel or street photography lens. This lens gives you great flexibility, it is useful for anything from landscapes to candids and interiors. It is good for environmental or interior portraits. On a APS-C camera body it is equivalent to approximately 56mm lens, what may be convenient for many people. With it's relatively fast f/2.0 aperture it can separate subjects from a background.  Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM has a close focus ability that can create dramatic shots from a short distance.  Optical image stabilization with a fast f/2.0 aperture makes Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM a low light photography gem. I  can point out only two not very significant disadvantages, as relatively large size and the need to turn off IS when shooting from a tripod. Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM is an excellent lens overall, as it offers excellent image quality, consistent AF and very efficient Image Stabilization. 

You can buy Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM here (use these links to support this site) :

Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM Lens at Amazon.com

Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM Lens at Adorama

Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS USM Lens at B&H Photo

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