Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

Lens Reviews / Canon Lenses i Lab tested
35mm $1,199
average price
image of Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion

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Buy the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

(From Canon lens literature) L-series professional f/1.4 wide-angle lens with an Aspherical lens element to correct aberrations. The floating system enables high picture quality to be obtained over the entire focusing range. Autofocusing is quick and quiet with rear focusing and ring USM. Full-time manual focusing is also possible.

Test Notes

This isn't a cheap lens, so it should probably come as no surprise that it's performance on sub-frame cameras is really stellar. Even wide open (which at f/1.4 is very wide indeed), this lens is only slightly soft, and only slightly more so in the corners, rapidly improving as you stop down. Chromatic aberration is modest, geometric distortion is low, at only 0.26% barrel distortion, and even shading (more commonly called vignetting) isn't too bad, at 0.44 EV, once again decreasing rapidly as you stop down, dropping to less than 1/10 EV from f/2.8 onward.

Build quality on this lens is also exceptional, as you'd expect from a Canon L-series lens selling for over $1,000. In fact, it's hard to find any serious complaints about this lens: If you need this focal length and its f/1.4 speed, this is about as good as it gets. You do pay a lot for the speed though: If you can live with just one stop smaller maximum aperture (and considerably cheaper construction), the Canon 35mm f/2 does very well too, but at a price that's typically less than a quarter that of the 35mm f/1.4.

Full-Frame Test Notes:

As is generally the case, moving from sub-frame to a full-frame camera results in significantly poorer performance in several areas. Corners are much softer wide open, but do still flatten out nicely by f/2.8 - But then, if you only needed f/2.8 speed, Canon's 35mm f/2 lens is almost as good at f/2.8 as this one is. Vignetting gets quite a bit worse at full-frame, with a worst-case light falloff of 1.43 EV wide open, and never getting much better than about 1/3 EV, regardless of aperture. Happily though, barrel distortion rises to only 0.38%, only a modest increase above that on a sub-frame camera.

Chromatic aberration was rather odd on the 5D though, in that the maximum value increased at most apertures relative to the results on the 20D, while the average value decreased quite a bit. This reflects the fact that the CA gets worse pretty dramatically right at the edges and in the corners of the frame, while the 5D's larger pixels make the CA less evident over most of the rest of the image area.

Bottom line, as was the case when used with a sub-frame camera, this makes a good lens for a full-frame user if you really need that f/1.4 maximum aperture. If you can get by with f/2 to f/2.8 though, the Canon 35mm f/2 gives much better bang for the buck.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM User Reviews

9.6/10 average of 16 review(s) Build Quality 9.6/10 Image Quality 9.4/10
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by hansdampf (5 reviews)
    Image quality, size, AF speed, weight (compared to zooms)
    Price, weight (compared to other primes)

    First the less important :
    The workmanship is very solid, metal and plastic, nothing jerky or shaking. What you expect from an L lens.

    The ring for the distance has the perfect resistance, moves exactly like you want it to. Autofocus works just like it should as well of course. And it offers full-time manual override , so you can take corrective action at any time when the AF does not get it right, which rarely happens. Internal Focusing

    Lens hood and bag are included in the bag.

    As for the image quality with afull-frame sensor, a 5D MkII in this case:
    With the 24-70/2,8 I had certainly not a bad lens , but this is better. Having the possibility to use f 1.4 in really low-light conditions has a very special appeal for me. Of course with the aperture being this far open, you have to pay special attention to the shallow depth of field. But when you get it right, the effect is just magical, and the bokeh produced with this lens is really beautiful.
    However, one should keep in mind as razor-thin depth of field this is at full aperture, and it is also important to remember that the image is slightly soft and vignetting (easily correctable) is visible.
    With stopping down to f/2 things improve and in the f/2.8 range the best imaging performance begins in terms of resolution and saturation. But remember, a good image is not defined in terms of sharpness, no distortion or whatever, it's mainly the composition!!

    I like shooting people in their every day environment, and that is often indoors without flash (which ruins the atmosphere for me). This lens is perfect for me for this - including shooting people opposite of me at the table.

    Not a cheap lens. But worth the money. And it serves the full-frame sensor as he deserves it and can do. I've had the Sigma 30mm 1.4 for my crop-sensor before. But the AF performance and build quality of the Canon lens is much better.

    A general note on primes: not being able to zoom makes you think so much more about your composition with is the most important element that makes a good picture (exposue being OK). 35mm on a full frame is slightly wide, but even on a crop is a very good focus length to shoot most situations. Get close to the action, shoot with intent and care less about technical stuff, your material is rarely the limiting factor.

    I shoot a lot with this lens for weddings, you can see some examples here (all photos in those galeries execpt for the really wide and the tele shots):ée/n-Pv4hF

    reviewed April 25th, 2014
  • 6 out of 10 points and not recommended by claus (5 reviews)
    good AF , very sharp at f4 and up in the center, almost complete lack of CA.
    poor build quality for the price , soft until f2.8 , very soft at f1.4, never gets tack-sharp

    it is a plain overpriced lens.

    only pros I found are : its fast and accurate AF and its good flare performance.

    I returned this one and I decided to use my Samyang 35f1.4 instead.

    if it is not sharp below f2.8 , what is the point of having this super expensive prime or choosing it over the very very sharp almost flawless 70-200f4.0?

    for me it is an useless prime, period.

    I compared this lens to my Nikon 35f1.4G and Minolta 35f1.4 and both of these 2 outperformed my Canon 35f1.4.

    I think this was the worst released Canon.

    reviewed October 10th, 2012 (purchased for $1,200)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by 3systemuser (19 reviews)
    extreme central sharpness , quite well controlled CA, good contrast , super fast AF.
    Lo CA is a bit high, Fullframe edge is not very sharp wide open, not sealed.

    it is an old lens and probably replaced very soon with sealed version of this lens.

    so, it is kind of hard to justify it now , especially at current very high price.

    but it is still a great lens and probably one of these best L lenses, epsically its cost and perfomance raito taken into consideration.

    its central resolution is nothing short of outstanding from f2 and even at f1.4 it is quite sharp , a bit sharper than the very expensive new Zeisst*1.4/35ZE and Nikon AFS35f1.4G, though the Zeiss edges out in the edge and border perfomance.

    its flare resistance is not as good as an SWC lens such as the newer EF24f1.4LMK2 or TSE24f3.5Lmk2 but it is still good at least as good as the Nikon 35f1.4G.

    its AF is very fast , much faster than the Nikon AFS35f1.4G or Canon 50f1.2L.

    it is very small , very well made but lacking sealings , this was actually the main reason why I sold it for the 24Lmk2 and waiting for a new 35L prime with SWC coating while shooting with the 24Lmk2 and T*1.4/35ZE.

    over all though, it is not flawless but a great lens even in 2011 and it is amazing (it was out in 1998).
    note: on a subframe body, it is almost flawless.

    reviewed August 31st, 2011 (purchased for $1,100)
  • 8 out of 10 points and not recommended by JPMuller (9 reviews)
    Center Sharpness, Fast AF
    Corners soft, PRICE

    I recently ran into an issue with my beloved Canon 35mm 1.4 L lens. After many years of exceptional quality and loyal service, it started to back focus when photographing an object or subject from that was more than 3 meters away. I find the 35mm focal length to be essential for wedding photography.. especially when it is a prime and can capture subjects in dark situations and help them to pop with its wide aperture. In a pinch with a wedding in a couple days, I picked up the Sigma 35mm 1.4 DG HSM Art Lens from a local vendor. I have read really great reviews so I decided to give it a try. Price when purchased was $899 plus tax compared to the Canon 35 f/1.4L USM which is presently going for around $1,499 plus tax.

    After the wedding and after getting my Canon back I decided to do a head to head to see how the two lenses compared to one another. When it comes to lens comparison and reviews, I love to do it, but I don’t consider my methods to be super scientific or clinical. In addition, I often test the lenses only at the widest aperture. I do this because when buying/using a prime lens, my intention is to isolate the subject and/or use it in low light. Therefore the performance at the widest aperture is most important to me. Therefore for this particular comparison every shot was taken at an aperture of 1.4. No retouching or editing was done whatsoever. I simply shot in RAW and then exported as sRGB Jpegs

    Here are the results!

    I cannot recommend this lens after comparing it side by side with the Sigma. :(

    reviewed November 16th, 2010 (purchased for $1,350)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by serg (4 reviews)
    Weather Sealed - no

    minimal CA & shading, fine focus, sharp

    reviewed March 15th, 2010 (purchased for $1,400)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by SETI (20 reviews)
    Focusing distance,AF speed,bokeh

    The best Canon L !!! No need in words

    reviewed January 27th, 2010 (purchased for $1,500)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by wrongnumber (2 reviews)
    Fast, super sharp from 2 and up, fantastic bokeh
    heavy, obvious CA in bright light at 1.4

    I love this lens, fast and really sharp when stopped up a little, really awesome bokeh and paper thin DoF , definitely on the heavier side, but solidly put together, definitely on the heavier side, but a solid piece nonetheless. There is some CA in the 1.4 to about 2 range of f stops when shooting into bright lights, but it can be avoided by stopping down. I got a great deal on a used lens so I can't really complain super happy with this lens, it practically lives on my camera body (XSI). I can't wait to see it on a full frame body.

    reviewed March 30th, 2009 (purchased for $800)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by waro52 (5 reviews)
    L quality all around
    price, size

    Another winner from Canon. It makes a great normal lens for a 1.6x camera. Sharp and contrasty wide open. I love the low light capabilities of this lens. Almost makes flash unnecessary, almost. Very quick focus and superb construction. Duh, it's an L series. The vignetting others talk about is an extremely minor concern for my type of photography (indoor sports) and has not made any shot a tosser. It is big and heavy for a 35, but it balances nicely on a 40D, and it is an f/1.4 so weight is a small price to pay for the pictures its speed allows you to take. All in all, this lens will not disappoint you if you have money to burn.

    reviewed December 31st, 2008 (purchased for $1,100)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by nico77 (1 reviews)
    THE light. THE color.

    bought during a trip in Hongkong, instead of the 28/1.8 (I wanted a 28 because I used a 28 all the time on my film cameras) and the 35/2, after having read the messages on this website. I get used to the 35mm framing. Mostly because this lens brings trully the light I was waiting for. Colors are slightly different when closing the diaf. But I didn't meant it was bad! I prefer this lens at 1.4.
    This is a typical example of what you get with a 5D:
    After having tryed this lens I don't use anymore the 24-105L. In my current trip to Singapore and also in India, I only took this lens + 5D + a pair of leica's M6.

    When reading about this lens I was concerned about the vignetting on a full frame. actually there is another example at 1.4 with the 5D:
    As you can see you can notice it, but for me it is not at all a problem. Furthermore we usually like to add some vignetting in photoshop, right?

    I personnally just find it sad that people stick with zooms as the 24-70L and forget about this prime.
    This 1.4 aperture makes the difference, you can really work at night and also make nice portraits.
    THis one is a night one, it is not that good but makes my point:

    save, buy and enjoy!

    reviewed October 1st, 2008 (purchased for $1,150)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by marshaa (6 reviews)
    sharp, light, gorgeous colors and clarity -

    No negatives with this lens - great on a 40D as it approximates the "normal" 50 lens; used most of the time on my 5D. Images can be used straight out of the camera - deep, clear colors, wonderful contrast, my favorite lens.

    reviewed June 7th, 2008 (purchased for $1,000)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by Lee Jay (16 reviews)

    This lens deserves its reputation. Fast focusing, fast optics, outstanding optically. Just a wonderful lens in every way.

    reviewed January 7th, 2007 (purchased for $1,140)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by gadgetguy (62 reviews)
    SUPERB image quality and construction
    none (if it fits your budget, that is!)

    If you have a 1.6x crop DSLR, this is the "classic" lens for it because it approximates a "normal" focal length.

    Image quality is what you would expect from a L-series prime - sharp, contrasty, and with great color. Bokeh is also excellent.

    reviewed January 5th, 2007
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by mebailey (21 reviews)
    Super sharp even at f1.4, fast focus, great for existing light photography, light but well built.
    None Ive found

    I really enjoy using this lens. I use for group shots on my 5D or as a walk-around on my XT. It delivers a high number of keeper every time out. I have used it very effectively outside at night for campfire shots. It is a solid investment for crop or full frame cameras.

    reviewed December 14th, 2006 (purchased for $1,148)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by killersnowman (10 reviews)
    'Normal' length on 1.6crop, Fast, REALLY Sharp

    this is by far my favourite canon lens. i use it almost exclusivly for taking panoramas. the build is on par with a tank. very sturdy and pretty substantial in your hand.

    the FOV on a 1.6x crop camera is perfect for everyday shooting. this lens almost never leaves my camera. the only down side is that it produces a 'hotspot' when shooting infrared. this limits its uses for infrared shooting. not bad considering the speed of the lens.

    subject isolation and bokeh is sooo sooo sooo good.
    here are some samples of the lens:

    smooooth bokeh:

    pano examples:


    reviewed December 9th, 2006 (purchased for $1,200)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by AHAB (8 reviews)
    Crisp, sharp images
    none, expensive, but pays for itself with great images!

    I love this lens!
    Great for low light wedding work, makes me think of ditching my 24-70 2.8.
    The 35 lens has much more sharpness and detail.
    I often use it for wedding and portrait shots... especially in the dark reception halls.
    Beautiful colors, sharp, one of Canons finest lenses.
    My other favorites:
    85 1.2
    200 1.8
    If you must rent one, before you buy.
    I'll never sell this lens!

    reviewed November 27th, 2006
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by louisjaffe (6 reviews)
    Optically excellent
    Heavy and bulky

    Expensive, heavy and bulky. But this lens has two great strengths. 1) Wide open, it's great for available light coverage. 2) At critical aperture, like f11, it's wonderfully sharp. On a Canon EOS 5d, this is the first lens I've seen that can really take advantage of every pixel.

    reviewed July 1st, 2006 (purchased for $1,100)