Almost flawless! 35mm f/2 IS USM review

Started Jun 26, 2014 | User reviews thread
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Jonathan Brady
Jonathan Brady Veteran Member • Posts: 5,886
Almost flawless! 35mm f/2 IS USM review

For several months I owned the EF 35mm f/2 IS USM, EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake, and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art simultaneously. Over that time I had plenty of opportunities to figure out where I was happiest with each. I knew going in I was going to sell 2 and keep 1. Regarding my thoughts on the EF 35mm f/2 IS USM...

Image sharpness: in my opinion it falls between the two when considering the bulk of the image frame on my 70D. It's not as sharp as the Sigma wide open (the Sigma is sharper at f/1.4 and f/2 than the 35 IS is at f/2) but at f/2.8 they're basically even and it's sharper than the 40mm.

Bokeh: I don't think it loses anything to either of them in this department - if it's not the best of the three it's tied for first.

Focusing: I've found there to be little difference between the focusing speeds and sound of the Sigma and 35 IS and it's probably a little faster than the 40.

Image stabilization: of course, the big advantage of this lens over the other two is the IS. IS makes this lens an EXCELLENT choice for a low-light (or anything brighter), walk around lens for non-moving subjects.

Video use:You'll hear and see it focus racking once you've obtained focus and the camera attempts to maintain focus, if you use AF. That's not unique to this lens as all other non-STM lenses do it too. I recommend an external mic if you're in a quiet environment and take advantage of your cameras ability to deactivate AI Servo focusing if your subject isn't moving - this is a good recommendation for all lenses. In my opinion, there's no advantage to this lens over any other (HSM for Sigma or STM for the Canon 40mm) with regards to the focusing system in video - however IS is probably useful.  Well... except that the 40mm STM seemed to have trouble going from near to far in my test (linked below). Obviously the focusing system of the 40mm STM will be slightly smoother for cameras which wholly support STM in video (T4i, T5i, SL1, and 70D and maybe [not sure] the 6D) but be aware that the 40mm has an electrical buzzing sound to it when it focuses in video so you'll still need an external mic. In fact, here's a video comparing some popular options: Turn up the sound to hear the focusing motors (or not, as is the case with the 18-55 STM).

What did I decide to do between the three lenses? I'm keeping the 35mm f/2 IS USM! For me, it's the best compromise in terms of speed, versatility, comfort/portability (size/weight) and cost. However, I did find myself frequently grabbing the Sigma when I KNEW I'd want to shoot wide open or slightly stopped down and when IS wouldn't matter - so if that's you, HEAVILY consider the Sigma (with an AFMA enabled camera and/or the Sigma lens dock). If an aperture faster than f/2.8 doesn't matter to you, nor does IS, save yourself time, money, space, and weight, and buy the 40mm f/2.8 STM and LOVE THE HECK OUT OF IT! It's really great!

What would I change? For me, the opportunities for improvement would be sharper wide open and an equally fast STM focusing motor to use this lens for video more easily. Otherwise, this lens is STELLAR and there's little, if anything, to complain about in daily, real world shooting.

Final thoughts: The softness wide open compared to the Sigma 35mm Art does bother me as it's obvious there's a sharpness difference but the smaller size, lighter weight, and IS made this the better choice for me and I just sold my Sigma 35mm Art the other day (I've got an ad up for the 40 STM right now). The sharpness is all that makes me deduct anything out of a 5 star rating and it's worth half a star because it's still very usable at f/2 - it's just not impressive.

If you want this lens, keep an eye on Canon's refurb store. It's $480 there and they frequently run sales of 15-20% off and you can often get free shipping if you simply ask for it. This means you can get this lens for around $400+/- (including tax) and that's a STEAL!

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QUOTE: "Another conclusion: After having read a few hundred instances of “fanboy” references during research for this article, it’s clear to me that the word has lost whatever potency it might once have had as an insult. It’s too much of a cliché, too inappropriately dismissive, too likely to be tossed in as an ad hominem attack by someone who shows signs of extreme fanboyism himself."
In other words - takes one to know one. And you lack creativity.

 Jonathan Brady's gear list:Jonathan Brady's gear list
Sony a9 Sony Alpha a7R III Sony FE 55mm F1.8 Sony FE 35mm F1.4 Zeiss Batis 25mm F2 +5 more
Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM
Wideangle prime lens • Canon EF • 5178B002
Announced: Nov 6, 2012
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