Might be a great compromise...

Started Nov 4, 2019 | User reviews
47872Mike Regular Member • Posts: 210
Might be a great compromise...
1

As long as you don't over-pay. They aren't rare!
I got mine just last week to use on my 6D. Apart from being small and light and mechanically nicely-made, delivering excellent AF speed and accuracy, here is the essence of what you will get optically:
Very good sharpness across most of the image field, right from open aperture. This holds true at all apertures, as far as I can so far tell. I am absolutely not seeing an improvement when stopped down, except at the borders and corners. But most of the time, this is a lens you can be confident of using at open aperture, because contrast across most of the field is already high. The colours are typical good Canon.
The corners never get truly sharp, at least at wider focal lengths, but I think they are about the same as any wide zoom from this era. The corner performance reminds me of, say, the 10-22 for 1.6 crop. It's not horrible, but it ain't great. 
Borders mostly look reasonably good. 5.6 will help with this.
Distortion is fairly high at 20mm but lowers as you raise the focal length looks lowish for most focal lengths much above about 24.
Vignetting and CA are mostly taken care of for my JPEGs by Canon's correction profiles.
It doesn't flare as badly as I feared it might.
I am confident a 17-40 L is going to be better in borders and corners, but it's a fair bit bigger and heavier, and I got my 20-35 for about a quarter the price of a used 17-40. I am not in a position to quantify just how much better as I always managed to stop myself buying one. My guess is a 20-35 would be worth trying at up to half what you'd expect to pay for a used 17-40. It all depends how much value you place on small size/weight, and how much you want to spend...

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Canon EF 20-35mm F3.5-4.5 USM
Wideangle zoom lens • Canon EF • 2545A003
47872Mike's score
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Average community score
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Canon EF 20-35mm F3.5-4.5 USM Canon EOS 6D
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Macro guy
Macro guy Veteran Member • Posts: 5,606
Re: Might be a great compromise...

I think Tamron 20-40 f2.7-3.5 is a bettet lens on all counts except for size.

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OP 47872Mike Regular Member • Posts: 210
Re: Might be a great compromise...

Macro guy wrote:

I think Tamron 20-40 f2.7-3.5 is a bettet lens on all counts except for size.

I think I remember seeing that one, but have never used it. I can well believe it could be optically superior, although out of camera JPEGs shot through it won't get any boost from the Canon aberration corrections as they do the 20-35.  
I do personally value the small size, light weight and fast, accurate AF of the Canon 20-35 though.

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Michael Thomas Mitchell Forum Pro • Posts: 12,158
Re: Might be a great compromise...
1

This was actually my first wide-angle zoom for my original Canon D30. (Yes, the 3MP "D30", not the later "30D".)

I shot MF and 35mm film for weddings for years. When the D30 came out, I picked one up right away, eager to immerse myself in the new technology. (I actually also owned a Nikon D1, part of an intentional plan to "audition" each brand's system, anticipating a substantial future investment in whichever new digital photography system suited me and my needs best.)

The D30 brought me the smallest film/sensor surface area I had captured with since 110 instamatics as a kid. And I had not anticipated losing so much real estate using the same focal lengths I had used with film. (I seldom shot wider than 28mm with my 35mm film cameras, but you can imagine my surprise when looking through the D30's viewfinder for the first time with an EF 28-135 mounted. Half my picture was gone!)

Even in 2001, a decent used 20-35 was neither rare nor expensive. I quickly picked one up and used it alongside both the 28-135 (I liked for the stabilization, but disliked for that dark 5.6 aperture) and the 28-105 (smaller, lighter, more compact, and slightly brighter), with which it was in the same class and paired well.

When I adopted the 1D/1DsII bodies, I upgraded all my glass to L series and replaced the 20-35 with a 17-40, which represented an improvement in every respect except size, and even then the increase was modest. (The 17-40 is one of Canon's smallest, lightest and least expensive L lenses.) So I don't recall actually using a 20-35 on a full-frame digital body.

Today, there is no reason to mount a 20-35 to an APS-C body. Even a cheap kit lens would offer a much broader range, better IQ, plus stabilization for less money. But for smaller full-frame bodies like the 5D or 6D series, it still a viable option for little cost. And yes, the size is cool.

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ed rader Veteran Member • Posts: 9,000
true. a better title would have been .....

"A great Way to Compromise Your Images"

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OP 47872Mike Regular Member • Posts: 210
Re: true. a better title would have been .....
1

ed rader wrote:

"A great Way to Compromise Your Images"

Hmmm I think all lenses are compromises, all photos are compromises, and that we all pick our own compromises all the time. 
Clearly the 20-35 is going to deliver a more compromised optical performance in extremis than newer, bigger, more expensive lenses. But you could also say the 17-40 was "a great way to compromise your images" as it isn't going to be as good as a 16-35, or that that in turn isn't going to be as good as a prime etc etc
I didn't expect strong corner performance from a 1990s wide zoom but in general I'm finding the lens a little bit better than I expected.

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ed rader Veteran Member • Posts: 9,000
Re: true. a better title would have been .....

you have low standards if you're happy with that lens

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OP 47872Mike Regular Member • Posts: 210
Re: true. a better title would have been .....
1

ed rader wrote:

you have low standards if you're happy with that lens

Thanks for your helpful post. 
Read mine above!

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gipper51 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,292
Re: Might be a great compromise...

If size, weight, and price are a priority, would this lens do any better than say, a 10-18 on a crop body? Second hand the 10-18 fetches about $160 these days, and is much wider with decent corners. Plus many body options available that are smaller than anything FF.

I've usually been let down by old, cheap zooms on FF, and I've tried several. Seems almost all of them had centering issues somewhere in the range. Makes sense, given the manufacturing tolerances of the era and that most were used on consumer film SLRs for making 4x6 drug store prints. Nobody saw the flaws back then. The Canon 28-135 IS was the one pleasant surprise for me, but I ended up shooting it very little. My 18-135 STM is a better lens (and smaller), with more range to boot.

Just my opinion, but I'd say most are better off with a crop body and second hand EF-S lenses like the 10-18, 18-135 STM and 55-250 STM than a FF body and 90s era non-L zooms.  A bit of patience you could score all three for very little coin.  Old zooms can be fun to play with, but unless you enjoy trying semi-vintage lenses and looking for the occasional gem, from a practical standpoint the option above is probably better for most.

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OP 47872Mike Regular Member • Posts: 210
Re: Might be a great compromise...

gipper51 wrote:

If size, weight, and price are a priority, would this lens do any better than say, a 10-18 on a crop body? Second hand the 10-18 fetches about $160 these days, and is much wider with decent corners. Plus many body options available that are smaller than anything FF.

I've usually been let down by old, cheap zooms on FF, and I've tried several. Seems almost all of them had centering issues somewhere in the range. Makes sense, given the manufacturing tolerances of the era and that most were used on consumer film SLRs for making 4x6 drug store prints. Nobody saw the flaws back then. The Canon 28-135 IS was the one pleasant surprise for me, but I ended up shooting it very little. My 18-135 STM is a better lens (and smaller), with more range to boot.

Just my opinion, but I'd say most are better off with a crop body and second hand EF-S lenses like the 10-18, 18-135 STM and 55-250 STM than a FF body and 90s era non-L zooms. A bit of patience you could score all three for very little coin. Old zooms can be fun to play with, but unless you enjoy trying semi-vintage lenses and looking for the occasional gem, from a practical standpoint the option above is probably better for most.

Well, if one has a modern crop body then, yes, I'm definitely prepared to entertain the notion that you could do better for not much more cash. 
I don't have a modern crop body on which to test the theory, don't necessarily want to buy and carry one to get a 10-18mm, and my 20-35 actually doesn't seem to be decentred...yes, at any focal length! I guess I must have lucked out and got one that was built for slide-film shooters?

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