Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Review (2021)

This is a review covering Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM.

The 35mm together with the 50mm is widely considered as the two best lenses for shooting street photos, standard everyday photography, and environmental portraits.

These two lenses are also considered standard primes because they tend to give a field of view that is closest to the human eye.

This particular lens, the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM, is designed for the full-frame EF mount camera system, but it will also work on smaller APS-C EF-S mount cameras as well as the new RF mount cameras via an adapter. 

In a hurry? Here’s the quick summary

Canon EF 35mm f1.4L II USM

All in all the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is a great lens to boot if you are shooting with a full-frame camera and have the budget for a rock-solid lens that can bring you joy for years to come. 

The EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is one of the most well-made lenses ever by Canon, both physically and optically. It is also priced at a point that should not burn the pockets of a professional who is looking for the optimum optical performance but necessarily does not want to go overboard with the amount of money that he wants to spend.

It is a bit on the heavier side and there are lighter options available in the market, but if you take into consideration all the points, price, performance, handling, build quality, and image quality the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is by far the best solution for someone on the Canon set-up.

We recommend this lens to anyone shooting street photos, weddings, landscapes, interiors, and architecture. You can also shoot environmental portrait photos with this lens.

Pros and Cons Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Pros
  • The lens has a fast maximum aperture of f/1.4 captures a lot of light even when shooting in dark conditions
  • Very well-built lens bears the L moniker of Canon
  • Comes with weather sealing
Cons
  • There is no built-in image stabilization on the lens.
  • One of the pricier lenses
  • Very heavy to wield for a long duration of time

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Specs

Although the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM has been designed for Canon’s EF mount camera systems you can still use this lens with the smaller APS-C cameras. The field of view of the lens becomes slightly smaller because of the crop factor. In other words, it would appear as if you have zoomed in a bit.

The field of view of the lens originally is 63 degrees but with an APS-C camera that becomes 42 degrees.

The construction of the lens consists of a total of 14 elements in 11 groups. It includes one UD glass element and two aspherical elements. To suppress chromatic aberrations, the lens comes with an improved BR Optics layer.

Apart from these the lens also includes Sub-wavelength Coating (SWC) which is responsible for cutting down on ghosting. Apart from this coating the lens also includes fluorine coatings which help the lens from becoming a dust magnet.

The aperture diaphragm of the lens is built out of nine rounded aperture blades. The result is beautiful rounded bokeh which is helped by the fact that the lens has a wide maximum aperture of f/1.4.

The old Mark 1 lens was not weather-sealed, however, the new Mark II lens does have weather sealing built-in. This is going to be beneficial when shooting outdoors, especially in inclement weather.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Design

At 760 grams this is one of the heavier short focal lengths primes out there in the market. It is definitely among the heaviest 35mm lenses. While weight is not always a good thing, in this case, we can directly relate the increase in weight to two things – the addition of weather sealing and second the additional glass elements that help the lens to perform without any distortions. 

The large focusing ring that sits in front of the lens is super smooth. No matter what material you use and the optical superiority of a lens if the ease of usage is not up to mark it becomes very difficult to work with it. And this is where the engineers at Canon have excelled. They have designed a lens that is not only built good but is great to use.

The zoom ring is super damped and is very smooth when turned.

Plus, the full-time manual focusing function works flawlessly. There is no reason why you should be using multiple lenses. This one lens does it all and does it so well.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Image Quality

The EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is one of the sharpest lenses that Canon ever made. The original Mark I lens was already a hit and had a dedicated fan following, the Mark II simply made the whole thing much better.

Most lenses tend to be at their sharpest when they are stopped down from their maximum aperture, at least by one to two stops. For example, the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens is not at its sharpest when shooting at f/.4, even though it is an otherwise fantastic lens. However, the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is. Even when you are shooting wide open the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM does an admirable job.

It is Canon’s sharpest ever 35mm hands down. If all other 35mm lenses are compared the EF 35mm f/1.4 L II USM will give even the best a run for their money, simply because it is much cheaper than some of the most ridiculously priced lenses – such as the ZEISS Milvus 35mm f/1.4 ZF.2 and yet the sharpness is comparable. The Zeiss is just a little bit sharper than the Canon.

We firmly believe that the Canon is the better value for money proposition between the two lenses.

Versatility

The 35mm is a very versatile lens. It fulfills the focal length of the longer end of the very popular wide-angle zoom landscape lens – the 16 to 35mm. The 35mm is not the most ideal of landscape lenses, but it can do a good job if you know how to use it.

Plus, the focal length is ideally suitable for street photography and environmental portraiture. We have found that the 35mm can work both in indoor as well as outdoor situations equally well, with the best use scenario being outdoors rather than indoors.

Indoors, the focal length is a bit too long for working in tight spaces. But when you have some space to work with it works as a great lens for group photos. The 35mm paired with a full-frame camera can be a great second camera-lens combo to go with a full-frame camera and a 70-200m lens which works as the primary set-up for a wedding photographer.

Absence of Built-in Image Stabilization

Some photographers have pointed out that the absence of built-in image stabilization can be an issue when working with this lens. We can assure you that it is not the case. 

When a lens opens as wide as f/1.4 you can use the fastest shutter speed that your camera can shoot in and that automatically eliminates the problem of camera shake and blurry images.

The only time you will feel the absence of not having image stabilization built-in is when you are shooting at a very slow shutter speed. But even then, one solution is to use a tripod to stabilize the camera.

So, we are not concerned in any way that the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM does not come with image stabilization built-in.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Overall Performance

Let’s quickly discuss a few points on the absolute performance of the lens.

Chromatic Aberrations

How effective are the BR optics in cutting down on Chromatic Aberrations? It does an admirably good job. At least the difference in CA between the original Mark I version of the lens and the Mark II is testimony to that fact. That said, CA is still there in little quantities as most wide primes are prone to that.

We have noticed more of the Longitudinal type of Chromatic Aberration rather than the Lateral type. 

Is that a deal-breaker? No, CA can easily be corrected in post-processing as most photo editing software have a solution for that.

Vignetting

We have noticed that vignetting is there in little quantities. This is again a problem with most fast lenses, especially when you are shooting wide open. Vignetting too can be corrected quite easily in post-processing and so should not be a major problem. Just ensure that the lens profile is loaded into your photo editing application.

Distortion

Finally, about distortion. Distortion is the curved lines that appear when you shoot with a wide-angle lens. This is also known as Barrel Distortion. Longer telephoto lenses suffer from a different kind of distortion.

Anyways, distortion on the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is greatly minimized. So there are no major issues with the lens in terms of barrel distortions.

Final Verdict

All in all the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is a great lens to boot if you are shooting with a full-frame camera and have the budget for a rock-solid lens that can bring you joy for years to come. 

The EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is one of the most well-made lenses ever by Canon, both physically and optically. It is also priced at a point that should not burn the pockets of a professional who is looking for the optimum optical performance but necessarily does not want to go overboard with the amount of money that he wants to spend.

It is a bit on the heavier side and there are lighter options available in the market, but if you take into consideration all the points, price, performance, handling, build quality, and image quality the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is by far the best solution for someone on the Canon set-up.

We recommend this lens to anyone shooting street photos, weddings, landscapes, interiors, and architecture. You can also shoot environmental portrait photos with this lens.

Also, check out 10 Best Wide-Angle Lenses for Canon in 2021

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