Canon 35mm L

Canon’s Fast 35mm Lens

The Canon 35mm 1.4L and us have had a tumultuous past to say the least.  We have purchased this lens only to sell it off, only to buy it back again.  It’s not that we love giving Canon our money, but rather that this focal length is a necessity for us and we require it for every single wedding we shoot.  It’s ability to tell a little more of the story than a standard lens and its crazy fast 1.4 speed make it perfect for indoor photography and the perfect companion on a wedding day.

It also offers exceptionally fast and accurate autofocusing that we have come to rely on. In bright typical shooting situations focus is immediately and awesome to use! The only time it struggles is in very dark situations such as during the dancing and reception portions of a wedding day. Even with our Canon 6d -3ev cross type center autofocusing point combating disco balls, flashing lasers and dancing subjects can make autofocus difficult for any lens!

This being one of Canon’s oldest production designs it lacks some of the newer features we really enjoy from our other L lenses. It does not have image stabilization, no biomimetic coating and no weather sealing to speak of. It does however have an ultrasonic motor that is super speedy and eight aperture blades to keep the bokeh round. It also has a legendary reputation and 15+ years of proving itself as an incredible image creator.

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Standard View + A Little More

Most photography dogma preaches that a standard lens views the world at roughly 50mm. So 35mm gives you a standard view of the world plus just a little more! This is an extremely handy focal length to have indoors for obvious reasons. This lens is classified by Canon as a wide angle lens, as such it does suffer from geometric distortion that can be expected from the curvature of the lens. For this reason we are very careful about how we use this lens when photographing the bride. If we are getting close for a portrait we make certain that we center her to keep from face warp. From our experience, no bride wants her face warped in her wedding photos.

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Love & Hate

So why all the buying and selling? This is one of Canon’s oldest designs that is still currently in production with its 1998 release date. The photographer rumor mill predicts this lens as the most likely to be reincarnated by Saint Mark for the last four or five years. However, we still wait. While this lens does create beautiful images and creates colors and contrast that closely reassemble our other L lenses, it’s generally a pretty soft compared to some of our other standard lenses.

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In Conclusion

Knowing that a Mark II is probably on the horizon might stop a lot of photographers from purchasing this lens. If you find yourself in this situation consider picking up one used as they are plentiful after the Sigma 35mm made it’s way onto the scene. If you don’t shoot weddings and don’t have way more images to ever edit consider picking up the Sigma. We have also owned the Sigma 35mm and we love the sharpness and contrast that lens created.  However, our workflow discovered many additional hours tinkering with color sliders to match the Sigma to our other Canon and Zeiss lenses and we have parted ways with the Sigma for this reason alone.  We are optimistic that 2015 will be the year of the 35mm Mark II, but should it not happen again what other choice is there?

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More Resources

Are you interested in learning more about this lens? There are lots of great useful resources all of the web to help us photographers achieve our photographic dreams! We have included some of the articles and resources that were helpful for us when researching our own gear purchase.

Canon Official – Tech Specs