Canon EF 35mm f/2

Lens Reviews / Canon Lenses i Lab tested
35mm $249
average price
image of Canon EF 35mm f/2

Lab Test Results

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

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(From Canon lens literature) Fast 35mm wide-angle lens. With a minimum focusing distance of only 0.8 ft. (25cm), you can approach the subject closer and still obtain a more natural wide-angle effect. You can even obtain good background blur for portraits.

Test Notes

At a price of about $250, the Canon 35mm f/2 lens is a winner. In a few words, here's why. In blur tests, it's a standoff with the Canon 35 mm f/1.4 ($1150) and measurably better than the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX ($420). The Canon f/2 slightly outperforms the other two lenses in both chromatic aberration and geometric distortion comparisons. And it (Canon f/2) holds its own quite well in the light fall-off measurements against the other two lenses. Here are some more details.

In a blur-measurement contest (on the EOS-20D) with its relatives, the Canon 35mm f/1.4L and the Sigma 30mm f/1.4, the Canon f/2 fares very, very well. More specifically, at f/2 the Canon f/1.4L outperforms the Canon f/2, which, in turn, slightly betters the Sigma lens. However, from f/2.8 through f/11, the two Canon lenses have very similar blur performances, while the Sigma lens is measurably third. At f/16 and f/22, the Canon f/2 actually (very) slightly outperforms the Canon f/1.4.

Chromatic Aberration
In the Chromatic Aberration comparisons, the Canon f/2 actually outperforms (albeit only slightly) both the Canon f/1.4 and Sigma f/1.4 lenses. The latter two had very similar CA results.

Light Falloff ("Vignetting")
The Light Fall-off comparisons for the Canon f/2 to the Canon f/1.4L and Sigma f1.4 EX are on the whole very similar to the blur results we saw above, in that the Canon f/1.4L outperforms both other lenses at wider apertures (1.4-2.8) with the Canon f/2 slightly better than the Sigma lens in this range. In the remaining range (f/4-22) the two Canon lenses are essentially the same with the Sigma lens performing slightly worse.

The Geometric Distortion tests showed the Canon f/2 to have significantly less average distortion (0.15%) to that of the two f/1.4 lenses which each had an average distortion of about 0.25%.

Build Quality
While the Canon f/2 does not have the build quality or apparent ruggedness of the Canon f/1.4L or the Sigma f/1.4 EX, it functions quite well. It auto-focuses reasonably rapidly and the manual focus ring operates very smoothly. We did, however, notice the loud AF operation that was also noted in some of the user reviews.

Unless you really need the light-gathering capabilities of the 1.4 lenses, this Canon f/2 does a very fine job (particularly from f/4 on). A true "best buy" in the Canon EF lens lineup!

Full-Frame Test Notes:

The full-frame results for the Canon f/2 as compared to the Canon f/1.4L are very similar to the sub-frame tests. At lower apertures (2-2.8), the Canon f/1.4L outperforms the Canon f/2 in both the blur and light fall-off tests; while in the remaining range (f/4-22), the two perform very similarly. The Sigma f/1.4 EX is excluded here because it is strictly a sub-frame lens.

As in the sub-frame tests, the Canon f/2 actually betters the Canon f/1.4L in the Chromatic Aberration measurements. We can offer no rational (or irrational) explanation for this result, other than that the relaxed design constraints provided by the smaller maximum aperture let the 35mm f/2's designers achieve a better overall result.

These two Canon lenses perform essentially identically in the full-frame geometric distortion results with both showing an average distortion of about 0.25%.

Once again the Canon f/2 proves itself to be a worthy competitor against a significantly higher priced lens (the Canon f/1.4L) which admittedly is more sturdily built and has one-stop more light gathering capability. But, again, if you don’t need the low-light capability, the Canon 35mm f/2 is a really excellent bargain!

Canon EF 35mm f/2

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Canon EF 35mm f/2 User Reviews

8.2/10 average of 21 review(s) Build Quality 7.2/10 Image Quality 8.6/10
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by dugong5pm (52 reviews)
    small & light, pretty sharp, cheap
    build quality

    a must have "budget" lens for Fullframe or even APS users. Use it on Fullframes and it will kicks ass. Put in on an APS system, and voila..a fast normal lens. The lens performs great, an expected results from canon primes.

    The lens build quality is something like a plastic toy material. It hasn't been equipped with USM, so the focus barrel moves as you focus the lens. The good thing is that the mount's made from metal. For the price I guess there's nothing to be complained about.

    reviewed October 9th, 2012 (purchased for $199)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by sonylover1 (5 reviews)
    Amazing little lens for 1,6 crop cameras. Sharp from 2.0. Good contrast
    Loud AF- motor. MF focus a pain.

    Bought this used and gave away my 50 1,8. Very good for streetphoto and landscape. It is sharp from center to edge.
    Wouldnt pay more than the 200 $ though...

    Try it on astrophotgraphy!

    reviewed August 8th, 2012 (purchased for $200)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by steveygti (7 reviews)
    Affordable, light, great colors/contrast, great IQ on cropped sensors, great in low light conditions
    noisy AF, AF sometimes struggles in low light

    35mm is the new 50mm! I use it on my T2i (550D) and the results are astounding! Immediately, i noticed that this lens is ubersharp & produces great colors and contrast. It produces wonderful bokeh wide open. The speed of the AF is okay and it has a high pitch buzzing sound just as loud as the 50mm prime f/1.8 lens. This lens is so light and is worth every penny. Great outdoor and indoor lens!

    reviewed December 28th, 2011 (purchased for $285)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by kaci (10 reviews)
    sharpness at 2.8 and higher, general IQ, colours and contrast, weight and size
    sharpness f2.0 - f2.8, not so great on FF

    Great lens on APS-C, beautiful results from f4 - f8 = ideal for weddings, portraits and as a walk-around standard lens. Wonderfull colours. But definetelly has to be stopped down to 2.8, at 2.0 really weak.

    On full-frame not so good focal length for me and the overall IQ seems to be a little bit lower to me. For example, my Tamron 17-35 2.8-4 at same focal length is evidently sharper from f6.3 in whole frame and less distorted!

    reviewed April 15th, 2011 (purchased for $350)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by limeyboy (1 reviews)
    Cheap, sharp, light, compact.
    Not an L lens. Slightly noisy.

    Let's be honest. This is a budget lens. We all want high end gear but usually have to settle for cheaper stuff. Lenses such as this make that OK.

    This baby OUT PERFORMS the f1.4L in some categories. It's not far behind in the others.
    Everybody loves zooms & use them most of the time. The only reason we still use primes is because they're fast & sharp. Zooms have become sharper, so therefore we only use primes because they're fast. This lens is fast compared to almost any zoom.

    35mm is slightly wide or around normal on a DSLR, depending on the sensor, therefore;
    it's not wide enough for the "serious" landscape people & it's not long enough for the "nature" people, so it's going to be used as a "general" lens when the lights low.
    It's light enough to have in your bag all the time & just used in those low light situations.
    It makes a good lens for light, all day walks & hikes.
    Don't worry about the data, you're just distracting yourself from the main purpose; taking beautiful & interesting pictures. If those wing-nuts can do it with a LOMO, then you can do it with something like this.

    reviewed May 30th, 2009 (purchased for $200)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by RogerB (2 reviews)
    Solidly built and good results
    no USM motor

    Although a very old design, dating back to pre-EOS days, this lens delivery the goods. The results are good, the AF is not too noisy and focusses quickly and decisively. The manual focus ring is narrow and not very usable, but you will never need it anyway. I use this on my 1.6 crop body and would highly recommend it to people on a tight budget, who want a standard lens capable of sharp photos in low light.

    reviewed May 10th, 2009 (purchased for $330)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by photonut (5 reviews)
    narrow DOF, very small, not too expensive
    noisy focus, small focus ring

    This is the first prime I bought for my 30D some two years ago and I never regretted it. I find it produces excellent close-up portraits with very nice background blur. It's also a great lens to chase the cat around with :) I have a 16x20 enlargement of said cat on my wall which I love.

    It's only slightly longer than normal on a 1.6x body so you can still use it for many things. It's also very small so it'll fit in pretty much any bag and not feel like a brick. This means I carry it most of the time.

    Autofocus is quite noisy but that has never proven to be an issue in practice. Speed is ok: this is not a lens you'll want to track a moving subject with but I don't find myself waiting for it to focus either. Manual focus does not feel great but is quite usable. Build quality is like other lenses of that time: good but not OMG-L-amazing!!!

    reviewed November 15th, 2008
  • 4 out of 10 points and not recommended by pepstein (5 reviews)
    Small and light
    Poor corner performance, especially on full frame

    On full frame 5D, this lens is fairly sharp at the center from f/2.8, improving a bit as you continue to stop it down, but corners are soft and exhibit CA at all apertures.

    On 1.6 crop 350D, this lens is once again fairly sharp at the center from f/2.8, improving a bit as you continue to stop it down. Corner softness is a problem, but at least it improves substantially as you stop it down.

    I used this lens with the 350D for a recent backpacking trip, and found most images required a significant contrast boost in post-processing. The best results came from f/8 to f/16. I suspect a lens hood would help. I'm sure the 17-40 would have produced better images, but the 35 is much smaller and lighter.

    I don't recommend this lens for full frame due to the poor corner performance, but for cropped sensors, this lens might be appropriate if you need something compact and light, and are willing to give up some flexibility.

    reviewed July 22nd, 2008
  • 0 out of 10 points and recommended by IJG (1 reviews)

    Hi Everyone
    I wold like to ask You some questions. I am planing to buy such a lens and nowdays I try read about it as much as possible, and people often say this lens is fast. Some people say this lens is very fast. :) Others say it is quite slow. Not easy to decide what to think. I would be grateful if someone could say something more accurate for example how many second does it take to focus...
    Now I am using a Sigma 17-70. I would be great if some of had some experience with this lens and would be able to compare. Which is faster? Which is noisier?
    I did no think my objective to be noisy at all, and while reading a forum a recognized this one is also considered to be a loud stuff.
    Thanks a lot!

    reviewed January 7th, 2008
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by anrieff (5 reviews)
    Fast, small, light, unsuspicious, VERY sharp, useful focal length, build quality good, close focus
    CA, color reproduction

    This is a very good "normal" prime lens for 1.6 crop dSLRs. The pictures produced are very realistic and have an retro touch (effect highly pronounced when B/W). However, every now and then, this glass spoils some image, even given the perfect shooting conditions (be it missed focus, CA, colors ...). Behaves somewhat unpredictably.

    The lens goes well for the most of the optical parameters. Its sharpness is superb, and you can really use all of the aperture range (f/2 – f/22). It is VERY sharp even at f/2.8, at f/4 being just a bit more. If you are in short supply of light, even f/2 won't let you down. Center is always sharp. Vignetting and flaring characteristics are good also.

    What this lens suffers in is color reproduction and CA. The former is responsible for the overall dully-looking photos, with a bit washed out, unattractive colors. Since I'm using it on a crop body, the 35mm equivalent of 56mm focal length (very close to normal) makes pictures very candid, but also too ordinary. Combined with the color reproduction, the photos somehow exactly fail to please the eye.

    The other thing that keeps popping here and there is purple fringing. I know that every lens suffers from it to some degree, but it seems that my copy performs quite bad here: none of my other lenses show CA so noticeably, and I expected more from my 35mm f/2, at least for being a prime. (I tested a Sigma 17-70. The latter is the only lens with worse CA characteristics I tried).

    Prior to adding the 35mm f/2 to my gear, I believed it will crush and smack the kit lens (18-55 f/3.5-5.6) at 35mm. While the 35mm f/2 is sharper than the kit, otherwise their performance is very similar. Contrary to tests at this site, my kit becomes quite a good performer at 35mm and f/8. It is sharp enough, CA is good (apparently better than the prime!), its flare control is excellent, colors are noticeably more vivid. Well, it requires full four steps down to achieve this, but in a bright environment the kit lens actually outperforms the 35mm f/2.

    That said, it would be unfair to call this lens a bad one; it just does not justify its price, if you already own the kit and don't need its fast f/2 aperture that much. Both big buggers (colors and CA) are easily attributed via postprocessing. Also I find the view angle of this lens very useful, perfect for a walkaround prime lens (on 1.6 crop). In fact it stays most of the time on my camera, except for travel, where I'd use the kit.

    Compared to 17-40 4L, this lens is a winner in terms of center sharpness (a bit), but fall short on corners (both sharpness and especially CA).

    I use this one frequently for portraiture, it does a fantastic job there. Group shots are also easy, view angle is enough. Nearest focus distance is 0.25m, so closeups are quite impressive, too.

    I find the build quality of this lens being quite reasonable. The bayonet is of metal. The decoupling of the focus ring when in AF mode is a cool feature. The ring itself is comfortable and quite fun to use. It has a lot of travel - half a turn from closest focus to infinity (compare to the 50mm f/1.8 II, which has less than 1/4 turn). As with most wide-angles, there is a steep increase in focus distance once you get above 1m. The focusing markings go like this... [0.25m.........0.3m......0.35m...0.4m......0.5m......0.7m...1m .. 1.5m 3m infinity]. With the abrupt change after 1.5m, it becomes a bit tricky to focus manually, when your subject goes more than 1.5m away. Same holds true for AF, though: it will sometimes miss focus when shooting objects > 2m away. The issue is chronic for, e.g. the 50mm f/1.8 II, while this lens shows it only occasionally. That said, things are exactly opposite at close distances: the focusing is extremely accurate, albeit a bit noisy.

    This lens is at least three classes above the 50mm f/1.8 II in terms of build quality (the only other prime I own). Optically, the 35mm f/2 is also a winner (it falls short only in terms of CA, the 50mm is remarkably better corrected), with view angle much more useable.
    So this is what it really is – a fast, normal (on crop dSLRs), light, small and unsuspicious lens, which delivers excellent sharpness. If you can live with its colors and CA characteristics (or are willing to postprocess your photos), it is just as good as it gets. It is not awfully expensive, too.

    Last note, if this is your to-be-first lens and you are puzzled between the 35mm f/2 and the kit – go for the kit. It's much more versatile, and, in right hands, can produce very good photos.

    Test images:

    reviewed January 18th, 2007 (purchased for $300)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by adobo (17 reviews)
    Cheap, close to classic focal length (50mm) on a crop body
    Umm..USM please?

    Its sharp, won't burn the bank.. focus ring is way better then the 50mm f/1.8 II (its closer to the Mark I model)...

    IQ is there.. its not L so no need to fuss with minor problems, fast enough.. heck, I love this lens!

    One lens that I would recommend to a beginner.. why? because of the classic focal length and that he or she would be forced to mind the composition rather than just adjust the zoom when he or she wants to...

    One lens that you should try at least once in your life :)

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $250)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by DimLight (7 reviews)
    Lightweight, fast AF, very good image quality, very useful on 1.6 crop camera bodies.
    Loud focus motor, CA is quite evident

    This is my second prime, the first being the well-known 50mm f/1.8 II, so I cannot avoid comparing them.

    When I got it I was immeditely surprised by its construction quality. Basing on pictures on (and other sites) as well as on my experience with the 50mm, I somewhat expected a plasticy, fragile little thing. I was wrong. This lens is indeed mostly made of plastic, but it feels sturdy and solid and is much heavier than my 50mm.

    I also expected it to focus slowly (it lacks USM), and I was pleasantly surprised on this regard, too. The autofocus motor is very very fast, you will not miss USM from this point of view. What you will miss is USM's silent operating mode: when focusing, this lens lets out a *very* loud whine which reminds me of old 9-pin printers.

    Pictures turn out very good. They are indeed a bit soft on the corners when shooting with the lens wide open (f/2), but it is *way* better that my 50mm f/1.8 II at the same aperture. This is a cheap lens you can actually use at its widest aperture.

    I did notice some bokeh-realated issues at f/2, however: when shooting close subjects, out-of-focus high-contrast areas can turn out greenish or bluish. This effect disappears when stopping down a little.

    Image quality is overall very good: colors are pleasant, contrast is high and details are crisp. The only nuisance here is about chromatic aberrations, which are higher than I expected and than I would like to see. They can be corrected in post processing, however.

    With its 56 mm equivalent this lens gets you as close as you can to a "normal" lens, and it shows. In everyday usage it turned out much more useful on my 1.6 crop body than the 50mm f/1.8, which in most cases its either too narrow or too wide. This is the very reason I bought it for, so I am pretty satisfied.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by Lee Jay (16 reviews)
    Small, light, cheap, fast
    Slow and noisy to focus

    Great optics, very small size and very low cost. The focusing is a bit slow and unreliable, not to mention noisy. But I think this makes a better beginner prime than the 50/1.8, especially on 1.6 crop cameras.

    reviewed January 7th, 2007 (purchased for $240)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by Xtian (6 reviews)
    Sharp, Light

    I finally switched over to a dSLR, and my 85mm f1.8 lens became WAY too narrow (~135mm?). I could have gotten a 50mm (closer to 85mm) but I decided to go wider as I could easily crop the image in photoshop to my liking.

    I take a lot of indoor shots (church events, etc) where the use of flash is inappropriate (don't want to draw attention to myself) so I needed a fast lens. This is a very sharp lens and very easy to carry around. Not THAT sharp fully open at 2.0 but when you stop it down a few stops it will get extremely sharp as the review notes.

    During our Christmas banquet I probably used around 40%/60% combination switching back and forth between 35mm/85mm.

    The focusing motor is loud but not disturbingly so. I won't be using it during a Sermon but... if you think about it the Mirror Slap of an SLR is probably louder. I rarely take pictures during a message because the SLR mirror slap is way too loud for me. If I have to, I use a Point and Shoot or go into the baby room and use a tele/tripod/polizer combo.

    Prints on my canon-dye sub (cp510) look amazing. The bokeh is not as good as my 85mm but better than a regular zoom that starts out at f3.5.

    This is becoming an excellent complement to my 85mm.

    reviewed December 25th, 2006 (purchased for $220)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by tvoj (6 reviews)
    Pretty small, relatively inxpensive, sharp, contrasty, focuses fast and accurately on my 30d, reasonable construction quality, a good "normal" lens for a 1.x crop factor
    Buzzy motor, a hair heavier than I'd expect, mount is a little stiff on my 30d (maybe this is actually a Pro)

    I haven't owned this lens very long, but so far I'm pleased.

    To my eye, the contrast and sharpness are better than my 50mm/1.8 (which seems more finicky).

    I like the focal length on my 30d. This is probably a
    better general-purpose prime for a 1.6x crop DSLR
    than the usual 50MM lens.

    Also unlike the 50mm, in AF mode, the focus ring is decoupled from the focus mechanism, so there is probably no chance of you screwing it up by trying to manually focus in AF mode.

    Unlike my 50mm/1.8 this lens has a metal mount, and fits real snug on my 30d.

    The motor buzz isn't too bad, but if you're used to the USM experience, you will certainly appreciate the difference.

    I like the fact that there's actually distance scale markings on the lens. You don't see that very often on newer lens designs.

    reviewed December 8th, 2006 (purchased for $210)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by ralph m (3 reviews)
    Light weight, small, good image quality, low price
    needs USM, noisy focus

    This is a very good lens for the money. It is close to what we used to call "normal" in the old days with the 1.6 crop factor cameras. Image quality on the APS camera is very good. Sharp and pretty good contrast. Focus is noisy but fast and it does not hunt a lot. It is one of the older designs.. 1990's and could use USM and FT manual like the 85 1.8 etc. But, for the money it is a good lens to own and use. It is very small and unobtrusive. It will not stand out in a crowd or attract other photographers, but if you want some good images it will produce.

    reviewed December 5th, 2006
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by Tomti75 (13 reviews)
    Good IQ, very small size, price
    Contrast and sharpness wide open, noisy autofocus

    I tried a friend's 35mmf f:2 on my 350D (Rebel XT), before deciding for the Sigma 30mm 1.4 as a "normal" prime

    First thing you notice is the AF buzz. Not that loud, but feels like my first AF lens nearly 20 years ago... Anyway, it's reasonably fast and accurate, that's all you want...
    The Sigma's AF is faster and more silent, but can miss the point from time to time.

    I liked the 35 f2 size and weight a lot. On a 350D it's incredibly light, feels like shooting with the body only !

    Generally speaking, the IQ was very good.

    On the other hand I was quite disappointed by the performance wide open : at f:2, the images were quite sharp (you could see small details), but with a rather poor contrast (hazy edges).
    CA (purple fringing) was also very visible wide open.

    As I wanted a fast prime, and planned to use it 80% of the time wide open, this was no good for me.

    Compared to the Sigma 30 1.4 I finally bought, my conclusions are quite the opposite of the reviews here. If indeed, the Sigma has quite soft borders at 1.4, past f:2 my copy has a better IQ (sharpness & contrast) than the copy of the 35 I tested. Maybe it's just a matter of good or bad luck, but there it is... (The sigma is also bigger, heavier, and more expensive...)

    Bottom line, it is a very good "normal" prime for a DSLR, not expensive, very light and compact, but I'd buy it to use at f:2.8 or above

    reviewed December 4th, 2006
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by dccps (13 reviews)
    normal field of view on a reduced sensor size Canon slr, very good sharpness and color, small and light
    not USM, slight build

    If you are used to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera, this is about as close as you can get to a "normal" lens. At f/2, its not quite as fast as I would like, but the reduced sensor size of Canon's 30D or 20D etc. really takes advantage of this lens's sweet spot. Small, light, and a good quality optic: qualities that certainly have their place, especially in this price range.

    reviewed November 30th, 2006 (purchased for $225)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by freetoken (9 reviews)
    lightweight, low cost, good images
    a bit of CA, small AF ring

    This lens is very useful as a walk around lens for both APS-C and FF cameras. It is very light weight.

    The only objection I have to the optics is that the CA can be noticeable enough to want to correct it - which is very easily done with some raw converters such as Adobe Camera Raw. Other than that, this lens is a very affordable alternative for those looking for higher quality images than what the normal zooms give.

    The focus ring is small and does not inspire confidence.

    I found out the hard way that the construction quality is not quite the rough-n-tumble type as some other lenses; dropped this lens about a foot and the AF/MF switch broke off and had to pay Canon to repair it.

    The lens hood is a bit fiddly.

    reviewed November 19th, 2006
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by drwho9437 (9 reviews)
    Light, fast, inexpencive, sharp
    Somewhat noisy motor, build good but not great.

    Really this is probably the prime lens to get for a crop digital Canon. Don't let the fact that it is more than 50mm effective put you off. Its really quite a nice lens. Combined with a 400D/350D you have a compact and light weight set up that works very well. In the time before zooms were common this would have been all many people used. Doing so builds photographic skill if nothing else. The focusing ring could be better damped and the build won't please everyone. Its a very old lens design, as such you just live with these shortcomings. For the cost I think it is probably second to none. F2.0 is just wide enough for some DOF isolation at this focal length. The 28 2.8 is nice too, but lacks this, a bit more.

    Bottom line, the best single prime to buy in the EF lineup. Doubly so if you are on a budget.

    reviewed November 15th, 2006 (purchased for $230)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by fstopjojo (8 reviews)
    Nice maximum aperture, Good sharpness wide open and excellent by f2.8, Small and lightweight, Fast and accurate AF, MFD a boon for up close and personal shots, Great price.
    Noisy "wasp in a matchbox" AF, Tends to hunt in low-light, MF ring very small, Build construction could be better.

    Considering the price-point of this lens, it's quite a steal. While there are some significant cons to the 35 f2, the pros FAR outweigh them. The lens produces above average contrast, AF is fast (albeit the noisiest I've ever used) and accurate, the size is nice and small, and the MFD is a boon. I highly recommend this lens, but with one warning: If you have little ones that you like to snap pictures of while they sleep, this lens (in AF mode) used in conjunction with the 20D (with its ridiculous mirror slap sound) might cause them to have nightmares. Let's together say: L-O-U-D. But I still dig the lens.

    reviewed November 2nd, 2005
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by psulonen (6 reviews)
    Compact, discreet, inexpensive, reliable, optically excellent
    Buzzy AF, less than professional build, 5-blade iris

    I'm a huge fan of this little gem. On the APS-C crop, it makes for a pretty decent normal, although for that mission the bokeh leaves something to be desired, and it is only f/2.0 rather than the f/1.8 or f/1.4 that you'd expect. However, it only really comes into its own on full-frame.

    On full-frame, it's reasonably sharp in the center even wide-open, and very sharp from f/2.8 down, making it an excellent performer for available-light situational shooting. The discreet appearance and compact size are major assets for street photography -- in my opinion, these characteristics make it even better suited for this mission than it's much bulkier and pricier big brother, the 35/1.4L. In fact, it is my default choice for this type of shooting, although it often alternates with the 50/1.4 USM.

    On full-frame, you need to stop it down to around f/5.6...f/8.0 for sharp corners; this is still well below the diffraction limit, which makes it very well suited for stuff like landscapes and architecture too.

    The lens has no major optical issues worth mentioning; it's highly resistant to flare and a very solid, reliable performer all around.

    However, there is no free lunch. On the "con" side are buzzy (although quite fast) auto-focus, no full-time manual, less than professional-grade build, and a 5-blade iris which means that out-of-focus highlights when stopped down look pentagonal. (In practice, this is a minor niggle, since stopped-down there will be a quite a bit of depth of field so you'll see those pentagonal highlights very rarely; wide-open they're round, of course.)

    I would heartily recommend this lens to anyone who needs a fast 35 but isn't inclined to pay the cost and weight penalty of the 1.4L. It has no glaring weaknesses and a good many strengths, at a very, very attractive price.

    reviewed October 20th, 2005