Fstoppers Reviews the Canon 35mm f/2

Fstoppers Reviews the Canon 35mm f/2

The 35mm focal length is one of the most popular primes made, probably only second to the 50mm if second to anyone. It’s popular because it is good for so many things, making us feel like we have to own fewer lenses to capture more amazing images. Most of you know that I’m very attached to my Sigma 35mm f/1.4, but when shooting with Canon’s new 35mm f/2 IS, I did my best to remain objective.

Right out of the box, the Canon feels much like any other Canon lens. The body is built from a mix of plastic, metal and rubber. I have complained about too much plastic on the body of a lens because it makes the product feel cheap, and I’m not about to let Canon get away with it either. This doesn’t feel like a high quality lens. Granted, it feels higher quality than other lenses on the market, but it isn’t at the top of my list.

canon 35mm f2 f 2 35 mm review


There isn’t anything new feeling about the Canon 35mm f/2, but that’s Canon’s prerogative. Their lenses all feel and handle the same which of course has its advantages. No matter what Canon lens you pick up, the focus rings will feel the same, the switches will be in, generally, the same place and the lens will feel in your hands like you’ve been shooting with it for years. Even though its new, it slides into your arsenal like it’s always been there. I like that about Canon, but they need to be careful. Their competitors are innovating and given another two years, they could find themselves no longer the “cool” lens to own.

canon 35mm f2 f 2 35 mm review 2


Outside of appearances, the lens functions extremely well. I never struggled, complained or got angry with the lens in any situation. It always focused well, accurately and fast. The autofocus motor was advertised as silent, and it doesn't disappoint. The motor is fast, quiet and pretty accurate. It did struggle in darker areas and would rack in and out as it tried to find the point I wanted to focus on, but this was not a common occurrence. It happened basically where any other lens would struggle and I can't really hold it against the Canon.

The image stabilization is Canon IS, and if you like Canon IS, then you’ll like it on the Canon 35mm f/2. I’m really not that impressed with the IS because Tamron does it so much better, but it functions generally as advertised and will help with video or when you want to drag the shutter a little bit (though I seriously still advise using a tripod).

This lens is pretty darn sharp. Zero complaints there. Is it the absolute sharpest lens at this focal length I’ve shot with? No, but at a certain point being slightly sharper ends up making basically no difference. It’s sort of just something that only you and other photographers will notice. I mean heck, normal people can’t tell the difference between a photo shot on an iPhone compared to one shot on a Hasselblad. Below you can take a look at a 100% crop (from top to bottom) at f/2, f/5.6, f/10, f/16 and f/22. Click any for a larger size.







Notice above that wide open there is significant chromatic aberration. This was not unexpected, as many lenses at this focal length suffer from a little CA when open.

The lens was sharpest between f/5.6 and f/10, which is pretty normal for most lenses on the market. At no point, even at f/22, would I say that the images produced were unusable. Though they are not what I would classify as "sharp," they weren't muddy and the textures are still pretty discernable. It is pretty much what I have come to expect from Canon optics.

For you bokeh fanatics, take a look at the bokeh below:

BO4P9847 final


I think the most desirable thing about the Canon 35mm f/2 is that it performs basically to the same level as the 35mm f/1.4 L, for a heck of a lot less cash. If you are intent on sticking to your Canon guns and don’t see yourself needing the depth of field of a 1.4 lens, then the 35mm f/2 is a really solid alternative. When I say basically, I mean that though it does not open as far as the L glass 35mm, it does produce basically the same sharpness and performs very similarly.

However, sometimes f/2 is really not wide enough. When shooting in the dark (which I do often), I was really missing that extra stop that can be found on other 35mm lenses on the market.

What I liked:
Quiet autofocus motor
Light weight
More compact size
Sharpness and general performance
Image stabilization

What could use improvement:
General aesthetics and build quality

IMG_4279 final


I don't really have a lot to say against the Canon 35mm f/2. It is a solid lens and a welcome addition to the Canon optics family. For $850, it is priced pretty well for how it performed. I'm not really all that impressed with the way the non-L Canon optics feel in my hand, but I'm a proponent of form over function. When it just works, I'm more than willing to look past the blasé exterior.

The Canon 35mm f/2 is a really good lens that will do exactly what you need it to in nearly any situation. I do miss the extra stop, but f/2 is actually more than most people expect. If you have to have a Canon but don't want to pay a really high Canon price, the Canon 35mm f/2 is a nice compromise.

Jaron Schneider's picture

Jaron Schneider is an Fstoppers Contributor and an internationally published writer and cinematographer from San Francisco, California. His clients include Maurice Lacroix, HD Supply, SmugMug, the USAF Thunderbirds and a host of industry professionals.

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As someone that likes shooting wide open, at f2 that is terrible. Seriously would not buy this lens because of that awful fringing. I have 60yr old lenses that resolve better wide open and they didn't cost anywhere near as much as canon is asking for this. Bad Canon. Each of these new moves make me one step closer to jumping off the Canon system. The only saving grace is that the EF mount accepts old glass much easier than the other makes.

Umh... Isn't Nikon better at accepting old glass? Canon have had different mounts, while you can mount a 50 year old lens onto a brand new Nikon body today. Might be wrong.

You're right Jens. Nikon has kept compatibility with their old lenses and newer bodies. The DX mount. Canon went full retard and has continuously changed the mount, so it's a pain in the ass if you want to use older glass...

 Canon didn't continuosly changed the mount, they did once, from FD to EF in 1987 to allow Auto Focus lenses

Canon did change to EF 1987 (26 years ago) but you can still use lots of lenses with DSLR, sure it wont auto-focus but then most lenses made +30 years ago didn't have auto focus anyway. :)

I'm using lots of old lenses with Pentax-K mount with my Canon DSLR. There are lots of adapters to make old lenses work and the only thing that won't work is auto focus, the camera will meter light just perfect TTL no matter if they are older EF or other mounts with adapter.

For example, can mount an old MF Nikon lens with adapter for Canon EF, set the camera to Program and use an automatic flash. That's even something you can't do with Nikon. (maybe some of there top models but not a consumer camera.)

 LMAO... "full retard".  Good one.

No, it's not a "good one", it's offensive and deserves to be modded out.

No... It was a good one.

i spot a Nikon fanboy

Yes and no.

If you want good quality manual focus glass, get a Nikon. The Nikon glass was almost allways the best in the MF times, and most of the professionals and serious enthusiasts had Nikon cameras and, therefore, Nikon glass, or good quality this-party lenses for the Nikon mount.

Olympus, Pentax, Minolta and Canon glass was fine too, don't get me wrong.

If you use MF lenses in a modern Nikon camera (middle-weight cameras and up like D7000, D600, etc), you'll get metering, af confirm dot. You'll focus wide open, as you do with contemporany lenses, and and select the aperture in camera, wich will step down just when you take the shot (as normally).

You can shoot mf nikkor glass without adapters of course, or you can adpater other system's lenses, but they will need corrective optics… not a very good option…

You can mount most of the MF lenses on Canon bodies without adapter (including nikkor lenses), and some adapters have "af confirm chip", that activates that feature on camera.

But you'll have to operate the apperture ring manually every time you take a shot/focus.

Look carefully, the fringing is only in the unfocused parts. Some call that "color bokeh" but that is not the official name, it is called spherochromatism. So for the stuff that is in focus, the fringing is a lot less, if any. In fact, using the sculpted head is not the most useful test object. A classical test chart is much better, or if one *wants* to check for spherochromatism, it is a better idea to just take a picture of a black and white ruler that extends out through the focal plane. Also we cannot check corner sharpness here (which is very good for this lens).

I'm liking the Sigma a lot better for $50 more

Considering Nikon Charges $389, not sure $500+ more is with it for IS...

35mm is by far my favorite focal length, right along with 85mm. Though I prefer my 35mm f/1.4 :-)

For me, the siggy 35/1.4 is much better and costs about the same…

I think that this lens was probably designed for professional video.  Image stabilization is pretty important, even as wide as 35mm.  Especially if you are on a moving vehicle.  Even though the vibration on the Tokina 11-16 is manageable without much notable warping... I can't fool myself into thinking non-is wide angle lenses don't  warp...if you run Premiere's Warp Stabilizer on wide angle non-is video...you'll see the image's subtle dance, swaying back and forth like a blade of grass. 

Again typical canon ugly red green pixel on shadow (clearly visible on last image shoot by f22).I so regret I switch to canon,I will come back to again to nikon.wait me my lovely gear and old friend nikon.

So between the two which one do you like better, Canon or Sigma????

I am working on a comparison piece right now. I like to keep comparisons out of reviews and try and comment on individual pieces on their own merit. 

At this price, I'd go for the 35 f/1.4 L with the current discount. I personally never understood why Canon keep stuffing IS into short focal length lenses. 

The world's first stabilized 35mm lens, with semi near focus, and you say canon's competitors are beginning to out-innovate them... seriously, are you smoking the whacky tabacci?

 " When shooting in the dark (which I do often), I was really missing that
extra stop that can be found on other 35mm lenses on the market."

I feel like this is troll bait, but I'll give it a try...

You can't be serious?

Okay, so I think you know what IS is, but just to make sure...

Image Stabilization creates more sharp images, by utilizing a mechanism in the lens which will compensate for unstable hand holding technique, as well as allowing for longer exposures than would normally be available in a 35mm lens. (c) me two minutes ago.

The lens you are complaining about and reviewing, versus the lens you are raving, has one less stop of light, that is true.

It also has two - three additional stops of light gathering as a result of your IS built into the lens.

So, you gained, at minimum, one stop of light gathering capability compared to your golden f/1.4 lens.

I don't know if you've ever shot something in your life without sitting in front of a computer during it; I don't know if you actually own this lens, or just stole someone else's images with it, but you clearly, do not know, what you are talking about, while you're reviewing this.

Agreed completely. Also, the Sigma 35 F1.4 has serious AF and/or field curvature problems. Not for all buyers, but for many, probably those who test carefully. The electronic interface of the Sigma is not licensed but back engineered, which I think is why the AF is not working perfectly (and for making actual pictures in the wild out there, the only useful AF is one that works perfectly). Having max aperture 1.4 is a status symbol that can cloud objective thinking...

Damm straight! Smart_Alex82 totally agreed

Yes, IS compensates for camera movement. But it does not compensate for subject movement. I regularly shoot in low-light situations alongside other photogs. If I'm shooting unstabilised 50mm f/1.4 or 85mm f/1.8 and others are using a f/3.5-4.5 zoom with IS, they might beat me when the scene is static, but guess who gets clearer photos the moment the subject starts moving? Low light often means an event. Events are typically about people. People move. One stop doubles exposure time at the same ISO. That's where IS fails.