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Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II
Posted 1 year ago in Reviews.

Review – Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II
By: Glenn Bartley | Twitter | Web Site
Discuss the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Introduction
As a professional wildlife photographer my primary lens when heading out in to the field has to be a super-telephoto. I have no choice in the matter as the small and shy subjects will simply not be possible to photograph with any other focal length. When we talk about these super-telephoto lenses we are referring to fixed focal length lenses that are longer than 300mm (although the 300mm f/2.8 also may be considered a super telephoto). Because my work is primarily focused on birds I tend to lean towards the long end of the spectrum and for many years I have relied on the Canon 500mm f/4 to be my workhorse lens. It has never disappointed me and I am still astonished at the image quality that this lens is able to produce. The 500mm seemed to me like the perfect lens. It is light enough to hand hold for flight shooting and focuses as close as 14 feet. On the other hand the 500mm’s big brothers the 600mm and 800mm were too heavy and have minimum focusing distances that make them impractical to use in the types of rainforest environments that I often find myself in.

All of this changed when Canon recently released their series II super-telephoto lenses. In these new products Canon has been able to dramatically reduce the weight and minimum focusing distance of these lenses. They also radically increased the price tag! The temptation to upgrade to a longer lens was beginning to grow and I was very interested to see if the outrageous price tag could be justified. After all why spend twice as much on the new version?

Lens Rentals was kind enough to let me take the new 600mm lens into the field on a recent one week trip to southeastern Arizona. In this review I hope to shed some light on what I found and offer some information for those in the market for a super telephoto lens.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Build
As you would expect in a lens that costs well over $10,000 the build quality of the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II is superb. But then again there were very few things to complain about on the previous version. In the version II lens though Canon has been able to make the shell of the lens entirely of magnesium / titanium which allows for the weight savings over the previous version. Canon also claims that the new lens features better dust and waterproofing through the use of rubber O-rings on the lens mount and focus ring. Manual focusing is effortless on the new lens as the focus ring is incredibly smooth to operate (although perhaps this is because I am used to using a 10 year old lens). The design of the tripod collar does seem to have been improved and features extremely smooth operation with easy-to-operate tension control.

Switches on the side of the lens will be familiar to previous users of the Canon super-telephotos. Only two changes have been made to these controls. The first is that Canon has introduced a new stabilizer mode 3 (more information below). The other addition is the new PF or “power focus” setting. This setting “allows you to drive the autofocus motor electronically instead of having to use the focus ring. It is aimed at users shooting HD EOS Movies with their DSLR cameras as it makes it possible to produce a very smooth and controlled focus pull from one focus distance to another”*. (*Canon USA)

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Specifications
The weight savings is the biggest and most worthwhile change in the new series II telephoto lenses. It is especially noticeable in the 600mm with the new lens being over three pounds lighter. Three pounds may not sound like all that much and in many cases it is not. But when it comes to lugging around a lens all day in the field, or trying to hand hold one of these monster lenses, three pounds is a BIG difference. The other very noticeable advantage of the new 600mm lens is that the minimum focus distance has been reduced by 3.27 feet. Again this is a tremendous advantage when working in the field. Users of the new 600mm will benefit from a much higher magnification factor (essentially allowing you to get closer to your subject and get more pixels on the subject). At the end of the day the new 600mm is essentially like using the old 500mm except with a bonus 100mm.

Some people may be tempted to think that 100mm is not really a significant increase in focal length. For example, not significant enough to upgrade to a $12,000 lens. When we look closer at the numbers though it becomes evident that this 100mm can result in a much larger subject in the frame (i.e. more pixels on the subject). For example, a 600mm lens gives the user 20% more magnification but this translates into 44% more pixels on the subject (due to the fact that we are talking about area). Or if you want to get mathematical:

  • o    6002 = 360,000
  • o    5002 = 250,000
  • o    360,000 / 250,000 = 1.44

Or to use another example:

An object that is 10 pixels long in the frame when using the 500mm would be 12 pixels long with the 600mm.

  • o    10= 100
  • o    12= 144
  • o    144/100 = 1.44

Canon Super Telephoto Lens Comparison Table

 

LENS

WEIGHT

MIN FOCUS

MAGNIFICATION

Canon EF 500mm f/4.0 L IS II

7.04 lbs

3.19 kg

12.14 ft

3.7 m

0.15x

Canon EF 500mm f/4.0 L IS

8.54 lbs

3.87 kg

14.77 ft

4.5 m

0.12x

Canon EF 600mm f/4.0 L IS II

8.65 lbs

3.92 kg

14.77 ft

4.5 m

0.15x

Canon EF 600mm f/4.0 L IS

11.83 lbs

5.36 kg

18.04 ft

5.5 m

0.12x

Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS

9.86 lbs

4.47 kg

19.68 ft

6 m

0.12x

 

Accessories
The lens comes with the enormous ET-160W lens hood which serves to eliminate lens flare and also protects the front element. It will also result in a lot of extra attention when you are in the field and many people asking you if you are shooting for National Geographic.

The lens also ships with its own hard sided case (although most users will likely wind up using a roller bag or backpack).

The Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II also includes both front and rear caps. While lightweight and effective the front cap is a very tight fit and does seem a bit “cheap” for a piece of equipment at this price point.

Most users will likely want to add some kind of protective lens cover and a quick release style foot or plate.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

A bit on Image Stabilization (from Justin’s text)
“Optical Image Stabilizer technology makes hand-held photography more practical at slow shutter speeds*” (*Canon USA). IS helps free the camera and photographer from the tripod and gives you a bit more latitude to how and where you shoot. As a guide, it’s suggested that photographers’ shutter speeds should match the apparent focal length of the lens. So ideal shutter speeds on a full frame camera like the 1DX, 5DMKIII, or 6D, would be about 1/300th of a second at 300mm – of course this has no bearing on stopping motion or action. On a crop body like the Rebel series, 60D, or 7D you’d be looking to multiply that by the crop factor of the camera (1.6x) so 300mm would be 1/480th of a second, this make sense as the apparent focal length is magnified, so are any potential shakes. The IS advantage, then, is to allow yourself a bit more working room to achieve sharp images. The stabilization compensates for movement and shake, effectively correcting the slight changes the photographer introduces into the image through movement. 4 stops *technically* brings the 1/300th rating down to 1/50th of a second, though excellent technique is still recommended and, again, this won’t’ stop your subject from moving. Obvious advantages to this are people working indoors, where lighting is limited and you don’t need sports-level action stopping shutter speeds.

The mode switch allows for three types of stabilization:

  • Mode 1 is for “regular” use which corrects for vibrations in all direction
  • Mode 2 compensates for moving subjects or panning where there is a bit of fluidity and motion already being introduced to the lens to capture an image.
  • Mode 3 “Corrects vibration only during exposure. During panning shots, corrects vibration during exposure only in one direction the same as MODE 2*.” [Canon USA].

There’s a focus preset button so you can set a specific focusing distance and return to it at any time by rotating the “Playback Ring” (a grooved metal ring between the focus ring and the front rubber grip). The front rubber grip also has four equally placed AF stop buttons which temporarily pause autofocus.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

In the Field
The first thing that I noticed when I got to Arizona and started shooting was that I found myself using the lens without the 1.4x teleconverter that is normally fused to my lens. While there were certainly subjects that did require the 1.4x for the most part I found that 600mm was sufficient. This led to two major advantages in the field. The first was that the image quality is always better when not using a converter (especially if shooting wide open). The second was that I really needed that extra stop of light! Although you may think of Arizona as being a sunny and bright place, the truth is that I was often shooting in shaded canyons to avoid the harsh light and I needed every bit of shutter speed I could get. The extra 100mm really came in handy for me on this trip!

As expected the 600mm lens focused quickly, silently and accurately. Being used to the already wonderful 500mm lens that I already own I did not notice any real improvements here. Certainly nothing that would be worth upgrading for alone.

Lenses of this focal length are designed and intended to be used on a tripod. There are however times when photographing moving subjects where hand holding is definitely the way to go. I did not do any flight shooting while I was in Arizona. I would say though that given that the new 600mm is the same weight as my old 500mm I would not anticipate any challenges with hand holding this lens for short periods of time. While I cannot comment on the focus tracking ability of the lens I will say that the weight of this lens feels more balanced somehow and may actually be easier to handhold than my old 500mm. Furthermore, the extra two stops of image stabilization are sure to help when photographing birds in flight (especially at slower shutter speeds).

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Image Quality 
The image quality that this lens produces is nothing short of astonishing. It is hard to imagine how a 600mm lens could be any better. It is likely the case that the only lenses in the canon telephoto lineup that rival the new 600mm lens are the 300mm f/2.8 and 400mm f/2.8. It should be noted however that the previous version of this lens was also amazing. We really are comparing apples to apples here. While I did not do any controlled testing of the image quality the general consensus seems to be that the new 600mm offers some very slight optical improvements over the previous generation (especially at the edges and when using the 2x teleconverter).

Who it’s for
A 600mm lens obviously has a fairly limited target market – primarily wildlife and sports photographers (although the latter would probably lean towards the 400mm f/2.8). What we as wildlife photographers need is focal length – and lot’s of it! These long lenses with wide maximum apertures also allow us to isolate their subject from the background by providing pleasing blurred out backgrounds.

Dedicated wildlife photographers who have decided to invest in a super telephoto lens essentially have three choices these days – 500mm, 600mm or 800mm. There is no perfect fit for everyone and, for some photographers, the lighter and smaller 500mm will certainly fit the bill. It does seem however that the new 600mm has made the 800mm for the most part obsolete. After all, why would anyone want an 800mm f/5.6 lens that only focuses to 19.68 feet and costs more than the 600mm that focuses closer and accepts teleconverters so well?

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Who it’s not for
This is definitely not a lens for the weekend warrior to start with. Those considering buying their first long lens would be better off starting with a shorter focal length such as the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS and then “graduating up to the bigger glass.

The other major consideration has to be the sheer weight of this lens. When you consider that you will also need to carry a sturdy tripod, gimbal head, flash, camera body, etc. the entire rig will still wind up weighing in at well over 15 lbs. As incredible as this lens is it could also act as an anchor if the user is not able to carry it in the field.

Conclusion
What a treat to be able to use this lens for an extended period of time for real world testing. There is basically nothing that I did not like about the lens. It is at the top of its class in every regard.

When it comes to bird photography more focal length is always a good thing. This is especially true if you do not have to sacrifice weight or minimum focus distance. Having the luxury of being able to put more pixels on distant subjects, to not be forced to approach as closely to skittish wildlife, or to be able to choose to not use a teleconverter are all tremendous advantages.

For those who already own the older 600mm lens the decision becomes slightly more clouded. The new lens does not bring any real world sharpness advantages over the older version. The decreased weight and minimum focus distance however may just be worth the cost of the upgrade.

Perhaps the proof is in the pudding on this one? At the end of my week long shoot in Arizona I was certainly convinced of the merits of this lens and placed my order for one as soon as I returned home.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II

Pros

  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • Improved image stabilization (now 4 stops instead of 2)
  • Best in class optics – sharp at all apertures and accepts teleconverters very well.
  • Dramatically reduced weight and minimum focus distance over previous generation lens
  • Improved weight distribution over previous version
  • Improved tripod collar
  • Exceptional build quality

Cons

  • Weight – despite the reduction may still be too heavy for many users
  • Shockingly expensive
  • Supplied lens cap is a very tight fit. Perhaps could have been designed better.

Discuss the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II on the Canon Rumors Forum

Buy the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II Lens
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Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II
Posted 1 year ago in Reviews.

Review – Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L II
By: Justin VanLeeuwen | Twitter
Discuss the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II

Wide angle lenses tend to be an essential, if not fairly niche, part of a photographer’s kit. The distortion caused at the extreme edges of the frame can have both a positive and negative effect on the results of an image, and thus should be used sparingly and selectively. Part of the Canon “holy trinity” (complemented by the 24-70 f/2.8 L II, and the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II) of zooms, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM represents the pinnacle of Canon’s wide-angle zooms. For the longest time, I’ve been using a close Canon alternative, the 17-40 f/4 L. At half the price and quite a bit lighter it was actually my very first lens, ever. Obviously I was curious to see if the wider aperture, the slightly wider focal length, the added weight and cost were worth an upgrade from a lens that has worked very well for me up to now.

EF 16-35 f/2.8L II

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II

 

Build
While this won’t be a straight compare-and-contrast of the 16-35mm vs. the 17-40mm, I think it’s important to note some of the more stand-out differences. Of course, the first thing I noticed was the weight. At 640 grams, it’s slightly heavier than the 17-40′s 470g. It’s not a huge difference, but remember, I’m incredibly used to the 17-40 so it was noticeable. The added heft does give it a good balance on my 5dMKIII with grip, and it was pleasant to use all day during some events I covered. I’ve mentioned in other reviews that 82mm is the new 77mm and with the 16-35 was the first to introduce that filter size in the lineup. I’m not afraid of using circular polarizers on lenses this wide, though you will have to be careful with what type you choose, as any filter that is too thick will definitely cause vignetting at the corners on a full-frame body at 16mm.

5D Mark III, 16mm, f/6.3, 1/125th ISO 50

5D Mark III, 16mm, f/6.3, 1/125th ISO 50

The rubber focus and zoom rings were smooth and well-proportioned to the size of the body. Mine was a rental unit but didn’t show any signs of being loose. A rubber gasket at the mount makes this lens weather sealed (though a front filter is required to *fully* weather seal the lens). The 16-35 is built to last and work in the most trying of environments.

Image
The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II is Canon’s flagship full-frame wide-angle zoom. Only the 14mm f/2.8 L is wider and as fast (the Canon 8-15mm fisheye is wider, but the fisheye adds a different level of distortion and it is f/4). As such, we’d expect it to have the best optics Canon has to offer. I found images to be relatively sharp wide-open at the centre (something I cannot say is true for the 17-40 f/4 L) and definitely sharpened when stopped down a stop to f/4. A tricky thing to accomplish with wide-angle lenses is an effectively blurred background as the maximum focus distance is so close (hyperfocal distance can be achieved within 4 feet at about f/6.3). You really need a wide-open aperture and a close subject to be able to create a decent amount of bokeh.

Potential issues with all wide-angle lenses are flaring, softness of image and chromatic aberration (especially at the edges). While I did find some chromatic noise, I found it very well controlled considering the aperture and wide-angle. The lens also didn’t “flare out” like some cheaper glass I’ve used in the past; you can shoot into the light without having to worry too much about loss of contrast. Does it soften at the edges? Yup, but it also distorts heavily, elongating anything along the outer stretches of the lens. Great if that’s an effect you’re going for with sky, or landscape, or even architecture, but less than flattering for faces or features you’d rather see in proportion.

For the first time in a long time I didn’t find lens vignetting to be an issue. It is present, especially at the wider focal length of 16mm and wide-open, but it wasn’t as drastic as many primes and it improved as the lens was stopped down. There was some lens distortion when photographing straight objects but it was not a surprise and it was easily fixed in Adobe Lightroom 4.

Because this is a full-frame compatible lens (as are all “L” series), these factors vary depending on the crop factor of the body of your choice. How wide a wide-angle lens is changes if you’re shooting with an APS-C size sensor at 1.6 crop; where most of the lens faults and flaws are cut-off by your sensor, and your apparent focal length shifts to about 25-56mm. While I no longer use a crop-sensor camera, I did find those focal lengths useful when I did, especially for landscape and interior work. On a full-frame camera the sheer field of view can complicate your compositions, since there is so much to consider in your image.

5D Mark III, 16mm, f/6.3, 1/30th ISO 500

5D Mark III, 16mm, f/6.3, 1/30th ISO 500

Who’s it for

This lens is a staple for photojournalists and wedding photographers. The fast aperture, great optics, and versatility of a zoom help them create compelling images in the tightest of environments. In a completely arbitrary collection of data, someone took a look at the EXIF information of all the cameras and all the lenses used by Reuters photographers in their “Best photos of the year 2012″ the Canon 16-35mm was, by far, the most used lens in these images. You can draw your own conclusions from this though: http://petapixel.com/2012/12/02/the-most-popular-cameras-and-settings-for-reuters-best-photos-of-the-year-2012/

When carefully wielded, the 16-35 makes a versatile group and environmental portrait lens. Just watch out for those edges of the frame, where distortion and stretching occurs. Keeping your subjects centred will help keep them looking reasonably normal. This is a great way to accentuate foreground objects, while allowing background objects to fade out into the distance.

I prefer to shoot interior photography at 24mm with my 24mm f/3.5 L Tilt-shift lens. I find 16 or 17mm too wide on a full-frame camera to accurately capture a space. The distortion at the edges makes rooms and objects seem much larger than they are, misrepresenting what I’m trying to accomplish. Of course, this can be used to your advantage in creative architectural photography, taking curves and lines and accentuating them.

5D Mark III, 16mm, f/8.0 1/160th ISO 320

5D Mark III, 16mm, f/8.0 1/160th ISO 320

Some landscape shooters may find the 16-35mm a versatile lens for outdoors, as Canon has not yet made a 14-24mm equivalent like Nikon has. It’s likely their best bet for ultra-wide angle shots. Like I noted with architecture above, it’s a matter of taste if you like the distortion that comes with 16mm. I should also mention that the 17-40 f/4L will perform just as well when stopped down to equivalent narrow apertures often used in landscape photography. If you’re shooting at f/11 I’d say the 17-40 is the smarter choice.

Conclusion
The 16-35mm f/2.8 L II beats my 17-40 f/4L in all aspects hands-down, except for cost. While I won’t find myself making the upgrade anytime soon, I did find the superior optics and faster aperture a boon in many situations I was in while working with the 16-35. The weight difference became less significant, and I actually mistook one lens for the other while packing my kit one day. I don’t always use a wide-angle lens and it’s use to capture more elements in a scene can be subjective. If you’re shooting on a crop sensor body and plan on making the switch to full-frame someday, you’ll definitely get a lot of value out of this lens moving into the future. Full-frame users who may be used to their “kit” 24-105 or 24-70 may want to rent or try the 16-35mm before they purchase it, since this level of ultra-wide-angle can be a shock for some first-timers. If cost is a factor I do suggest having a look at the 17-40 f/4L, while it distorts a bit more, is soft-wide open, and doesn’t have as shallow an aperture, it’s served me well from the very first shot I took with my digital Rebel XT.

5D Mark III, 18mm, f/4.0 1/25th ISO 1600

5D Mark III, 18mm, f/4.0 1/25th ISO 1600

Pros

  • Wide-open fast aperture to capture more light & blur out backgrounds
  • Wide angle to exaggerate foreground elements
  • Great Optics across the focal range
  • Excellent wide-angle for both crop-sensor and full-frame bodies

Cons

  • Twice as expensive as Canon’s 17-40 f/4L (but with twice the “value” I suppose)
  • No Image Stabilization. Is that an issue for such a wide-lens? Nikon users have it, so heavy-coffee drinkers like me want it too!

Discuss the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II on the Canon Rumors Forum

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Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II
Posted 1 year ago in Reviews.

Review – Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II
By: Justin VanLeeuwen | Twitter
Discuss the Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II

There’s a certain threshold you can pass in your lens acquisitions where usefulness, desire, and expanded needs meet. Perhaps in no place is this more true than when entering the super-telephoto range; extending 300mm and beyond. With the exception of a few choice zoom lenses, the Canon Super-Telephoto range enters a niche market of primes that serve a very specific purpose beyond what most photographers will encounter in a day (depending, of course, on what you do). I had always been curious about Canon’s 300mm f/2.8 L, and when the 300mm f/2.8 L II was released I was eager to give it a try. Not much longer in range than my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II, I thought it could be *handy* to have in situations where a bit of extra reach was needed. But at a retail price in the multiple thousands, “handy” may not cut it as that kind of purchase needs to be justified beyond a desire to fill a focal range gap. The Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS II is the first in a range of lenses that, in my opinion, serve the purpose to get you closer to your subjects when your movement is otherwise restricted.

The Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II has very good weather sealing!

The Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II has very good weather sealing!

Build
We’re clearly looking at a more or less $6,500 “pro” lens here; there’s very little to fault in the sturdy metal construction of the body. While I found handholding it to be completely possible (especially with image stabilization engaged), I don’t recommend spending a full day trying to shoot it without some level of support as the weight will get to you. A sturdy tripod or monopod will go a long way to help you get the shots you want (many of the images I captured here were using a monopod). The large rubber focus ring is incredibly smooth and easy to move as, obviously, a larger lens will accommodate this design feature.

Weather sealing is a must, as many photographers using it will be in unshielded outdoor venues or even near water. As you can see from the image above, I tested its capabilities and I’m happy to report everything still works as it should.

The lens comes with a very large hood which, as always, I do recommend you use not just to protect the front element since there are no screw-on filters of this size, but also to prevent light from entering and flaring-out your images. It may significantly increase the length of the lens, but you’re not buying it to be discreet. The standard longer focal length switches adorn the side include a focus limiter, stabilization ON/OFF, stabilization mode 1/2/3, focus preset modes & the set button, and AF/PF/MF.

Boating in Canada | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS 5D Mark III

Boating in Canada | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS 5D Mark III

A bit on Image Stabilization
“Optical Image Stabilizer technology makes hand-held photography more practical at slow shutter speeds*” (*Canon USA). IS helps free the camera and photographer from the tripod and gives you a bit more latitude to how and where you shoot. As a guide, it’s suggested that photographers’ shutter speeds should match the apparent focal length of the lens. So ideal shutter speeds on a full frame camera like the 1DX, 5DMKIII, or 6D, would be about 1/300th of a second at 300mm – of course this has no bearing on stopping motion or action. On a crop body like the Rebel series, 60D, or 7D you’d be looking to multiply that by the crop factor of the camera (1.6x) so 300mm would be 1/480th of a second, this make sense as the apparent focal length is magnified, so are any potential shakes. The IS advantage, then, is to allow yourself a bit more working room to achieve sharp images. The stabilization compensates for movement and shake, effectively correcting the slight changes the photographer introduces into the image through movement. 4 stops *technically* brings the 1/300th rating down to 1/50th of a second, though excellent technique is still recommended and, again, this won’t’ stop your subject from moving. Obvious advantages to this are people working indoors, where lighting is limited and you don’t need sports-level action stopping shutter speeds.

The mode switch allows for two types of stabilization: 1 is for “regular” use which corrects for vibrations in all direction, while 2 compensates for moving subjects or panning where there is a bit of fluidity and motion already being introduced to the lens to capture an image. Mode three “Corrects vibration only during exposure. During panning shots, corrects vibration during exposure only in one direction the same as MODE 2*.” [Canon USA].

There’s a focus preset button so you can set a specific focusing distance and return to it at any time by rotating the “Playback Ring” (a grooved metal ring between the focus ring and the front rubber grip). The front rubber grip also has four equally placed AF stop buttons which temporarily pause autofocus.

Rally | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS 5D Mark III | ISO 1600 1/8000 f/2.8

Rally | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS 5D Mark III | ISO 1600 1/8000 f/2.8

Focus
The principal use of a long range telephoto is sports photography. Often you’ll be facing fast-moving subjects in dynamic environments. While your camera has a lot to do with AF performance and it will ultimately impact how well the lens works, the lens itself needs to be able to perform to high standards. I’m happy to report this lens meets and exceeds any expectations you may have of it. Focus was incredibly fast, quiet, and accurate to a point that any error was likely mine and/or a combination of the auto-focus settings I had enabled on the camera. New to this lens in version 2 is the “PF” focus mode:

“Helping moviemakers achieve smoother and more appealing focus shifts when filming on EOS DSLR cameras, Canon has included a new Power Focus (PF) mode on the company’s two new super telephoto lenses. This mode allows manual rack focusing to be operated smoothly by turning a playback ring that is normally used for the focus preset function. Both low and high speed focus shifting is available” [Canon USA].

Ugly shirt :-), nice portrait. | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS 5D Mark III | ISO 400, 1/100th f/2.8

Ugly shirt :-), nice portrait. | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS 5D Mark III | ISO 400, 1/100th f/2.8

Image
When I first started using the Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS II, someone I knew mentioned “It doesn’t suck, eh?” and were they right. Rarely did I stop down from f/2.8 – after-all, a fast wide-open aperture to create lovely out of focus backgrounds is part of the appeal – and rarely did I need to. The lens is sharp wide-open, from what I can tell corner to corner. It does vignette slightly, which improves as you stop down but I’m tired of writing about fast lenses and vignetting. THEY ALL VIGNETTE; this isn’t news. I often find the vignette pleasing as it helps to further focus the viewers’ eyes on the subject of your photograph.

I was hard pressed to find any noticeable flaws in the optics either. Chromatic Aberration and fringing were nearly non-existent. Since I used the lens’ hood whenever I was shooting I didn’t encounter any flare, and honestly forgot to shoot into the light to try and challenge the lens itself (also, I find the idea of a 300mm magnification of the sun slightly scary for my camera sensor). At 300mm f/2.8 you’re also looking at incredibly smooth and out of focus backgrounds, an interesting phenomenon is that at a close distance you can introduce minor obstructions like branches and fences and they won’t appear in your final image (though they will influence image quality as they’re just blurred out).

Compression is another great reason to use a telephoto lens, as it helps bring background elements “closer” in a two-dimensional image. Coupled with a particularly close minimum focus distance of 2 meters, there are some unique opportunities but I implore you, please do not use this knowledge for evil. Focusing closely at someone’s face at 300mm will “flatten” the perspective of their entire head, bringing their rear-most features like ears, and top/back of their head closer to the frame, a flattening but not a flattering look. A strange phenomenon I ran into was when the lens blurs out more detailed backgrounds, like shrubs without leaves. The pattern and lines left, while still very much out of focus, were still a bit distracting, though not as distracting as in-focus twigs.

Kayaking | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS 5D Mark III | ISO 1600, 1/3200 f/2.8

Kayaking | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS 5D Mark III | ISO 1600, 1/3200 f/2.8

Who’s it for
Sports and events, as mentioned, are a clear use for the lens where a fast f/2.8 aperture will help frame full-body subjects with a wonderfully blurred out background. But don’t think you’ll be capturing subjects too far away, after all, this is only 300mm and you may find yourself wanting a bit more reach as I did photographing kayakers on the Ottawa River. Most of these shots were cropped down to better frame the subject. The Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS II is fully compatible with Canon extenders, which will cost you a bit of your aperture speed as well as a notable degradation of image quality.

I imagine some wild-life photographers would be interested in this lens, but I found the lens too short to reach smaller creatures, I think the 300 is best suited for larger (non-violent) animals within a good 20 metre range. Horses, dogs and cattle come to mind, perhaps because they’re domesticated and you can get closer to them by their nature. I just don’t like the idea of approaching a grizzly bear with only 300mm… Maybe 400mm buys you some safe space. If you took this on Safari, I’d definitely suggest you invest in an extender.

I’m sure many people are interested in the lens for some unique portrait opportunities, but having used the slightly lighter Canon 200mm f/2.0 L IS I can’t see anyone using the 300mm over it. Again, if reach and range isn’t an issue you’ll get similar looking, if not better, images using something that gives you a bit of a tighter working distance. Of course, if range is a factor and you’re unable to get closer to your subjects, photojournalists working on a high-profile story may find the lens very useful, though its price may seem restrictive.

Hoops | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS 5D Mark III | ISO 100, 1/1000th f/2.8

Hoops | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS 5D Mark III | ISO 100, 1/1000th f/2.8

Conclusion
I’m thankful that I was able to use this lens as long as I did, since it made me realize how seldom I’d use it in my day-to-day work if I owned it. I’m not involved in sports, or wildlife, and many of my editorial assignments actually put me in a restrictive space. Rentals on this focal range are readily available and certainly an option for me otherwise. This wasn’t a lens I took out with me every day; I had to seek out events and situations to put it to. It abated my own curiosity, and helped confirm that one does not indeed need everything.

You’re not me, though, and you may find 300mm is exactly the range you require. The lens is superb, no doubt, and I don’t think anyone who already knew this was something they needed ever thought otherwise. That’s why I wrote this piece completely from my perspective, from the curious photographer, wondering if I need just a little more reach. More practical for my use, I think, will be getting a 1.4 extender, and dropping it onto my 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II to get 280mm f/4. Sure, it’s not as nice as 300mm f/2.8 but it’s a lot lighter and more practical for my use.

Of course none of the images I shot above would have been achieved without the 300 f/2.8, though I think many of them would have been possible with a 400mm f/2.8… And while my curiosity was piqued, I think for the more specialized super-telephoto focal lengths, I should step aside and let someone else handle those reviews.

Snowy Owl | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS-1D Mark IV | ISO 400 f/5.6 1/8000

Snowy Owl | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS-1D Mark IV | ISO 400 f/5.6 1/8000

CR’s Take
I’ve used the EF 300 f/2.8L IS II a few times and found it to be a delight to use. It’s actually a lot more versatile of a focal length than people tend to realize. I’ve found myself using it for wildlife, portraits, landscape and anything else where I want compression, isolation or moderate reach. The lens is well balanced and is easy to use for long periods of time. The autofocus and image quality are second to none. It’s hard to believe they made the 300 f/2.8L IS II even better than its predecessor.

As a rental item, we’ve never had any issues with this lens. It gets used hard and is built to take it.

There’s really nothing else to write, the lens is awesome and if you’re in the market for something in the 300mm-400mm range, you will not be disappointed. Most people that rent it, or write reviews about it, don’t want to give it back.

American Kestrel & Snowy Owl | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS-1D Mark IV

American Kestrel & Snowy Owl | Canon EF 300 f/2.8L IS II & EOS-1D Mark IV

Pros

  • Nigh-perfect image quality
  • Fast and accurate autofocus coupled with highly functional image stabilization.
  • Exceptional Build
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to the Canon 400mm f/2.8 L IS II

Cons

  • Weight can be an issue for some
  • Relatively expensive compared to some zooms in the same focal range (though not the same aperture)
  • Potential gateway lens leading to even longer lenses that cost even more crazy amounts of money

Discuss the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II on the Canon Rumors Forum

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Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM
Posted 1 year ago in Reviews.

Review – Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM
By: Justin VanLeeuwen | Twitter
Discuss the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM

Sigma is arguably one of the more recognizable of the third party lens manufacturers. It is known for providing inexpensive alternatives to many of Canon’s own zoom lens offerings, or filling niche gaps left in Canon’s lineup. This applied to their limited selection of prime lenses as well; I briefly owned their 30mm f/1.4 EX DC and was happy with it on a consumer level, though the optics didn’t hold up to some of the more pressing work I did and a move to full-frame (it’s a “DC” lens, denoting it’s for Digital Camera’s only, and specifically crop sensors) meant I wouldn’t be able to use it anyway. They released a 50mm f/1.4 EX DG that retailed for MORE than the Canon equivalent; their stance was that it performed better optically and had better build, both of which may very well be true. But pervasive issues of quality control, of batch variance where you never know for sure if the lens you get will be anywhere close to being as good as it can be, or as it is advertised, and a stigma (pun?) attached to owning something “inferior” than a first party “L” lens kept many consumers away.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM | Click for Larger

I can’t claim to know what Sigma was thinking when they produced the 35 f/1.4, but I like to think it was an evolution to their approach with the 50mm f/1.4, and a reaction to the (potentially unfounded) general opinion of their brand. It’s no secret new Canon lens prices have been particularly high as new technology, coating, and build methods are integrated. Maybe this gave Sigma some more leverage to manufacture a product that they could put a bit more money into, something that would still be competitive in price while appealing to everyone who’s always been on the fence about buying something from anyone but Canon with great optics as well.

Whatever the process was, it clearly has worked. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG (I’m gonna leave the “DG” off from now on) was released with a simplified industrial design that would appeal to an Apple enthusiast. With the promise of better quality control and optical performance that could outperform Canon’s more expensive and more-than 10-year-old 35mm f/1.4 L is there any surprise that this lens has already been a roaring success?

Swing | EOS 5D Mark III & Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM |  1/3200th, f/2.0 ISO 100

Swing | EOS 5D Mark III & Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM | 1/3200th, f/2.0 ISO 100

Build
It’s not always necessary, or warranted, to comment on a lens’ looks, it is a tool and the optics are what really make the difference, but it’s hard not to remark on the cool industrial design the Sigma 35m f/1.4 offers. Simple, sleek and smooth, it appeals to the eye as much as to the touch, it features an all metal outer body and thick and smooth front rubber focusing ring. The lens has a great weight to it too, often an indicator of quality parts. Ridges carved into the body along the side help extend the design, as well as give a bit of grip. A firm AF/MF switch adorns the side of the lens which, when pressed, will click into place with an authoritative “snap”; I don’t see anyone switching it by accident. A nice touch is that the panel behind the switch changes from white in AF to black in MF as a visual cue.

A smoothed out base truly polishes out the look of the lens and provides a variance of texture from the slight matte finish of the body. All these features help give the lens a transcendental experience. It becomes more than just a tool you slap onto the front of the camera. From the moment you look at it, when you touch and handle it, you’re appreciating it in its own right as a work of art in itself.

Speaking of art, this lens has a rounded “A” slapped onto the side, denoting it as part of Sigma’s ?Art? series (I’m assuming they’re transitioning from the EX nomenclature that defined a lens with exceptional build quality or whatever…). I sort of find this misleading: while the art of the lens itself is clearly visible in its craftsmanship, it’s presumptuous and potentially misleading to say a lens is for “art” as much as it is to say another lens? S is for “Sport” or C for “Contemporary”. (What the heck does contemporary mean!?) As a slightly OCD guy, I understand the need to classify things, but this is a clear oversimplification that has little bearing on real-world photography. It’s actually kind of silly, but their corporate “Rethink Lenses” philosophy reads well enough. You can check it out here: http://www.sigma-global.com/en/lenses/cas/concept/index.html

Sigma has always been great at providing extra elements with their lenses that are optional add-on’s (read: cost money), on Canon glass. A petal-shaped lens hood is included and its design acts as a lovely extension of the design of the body. A newly designed centre-pinch lens cap is provided which I find a bit easier to manoeuvre than Canon’s own newly released centre-pinch caps. Finally, a small padded belt-pouch is included. While I doubt I’ll use the latter, I find this more desirable than Canon’s useless sacks that they include with the L series.

Image
Fast apertures bring all the photographers to the yard. We all love and drool over fast apertures. We talk about “creamy” bokeh like it’s a rich French pastry, sweet and sublime in both taste and texture. Well the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 has that to spare. A 9 blade aperture ensures your background blur is, in fact, soft and creamy. Bokeh renders beautifully and is pleasing to the eye. I can confirm that the lens reproduces images with stark colours and contrast as well as a reasonably sharp image when it is wide open. Vignetting is incredibly prevalent on this lens, enough so that you may have to adjust your metering accordingly. I don’t really know a prime lens that doesn’t, but you’ll have to stop down well past f/2.8 to get rid of it in-camera. Of course this can be corrected simply in software.

I admit I have an affinity for 35mm lenses: there’s something about this focal length that I just get. Having used the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L, my expectations for Sigma’s release were pretty high. They had to be. If it didn’t beat out the Sigma 30mm I wouldn’t buy it and if it didn’t come close to Canon’s 35mm I wouldn’t want it. And while I’ll say right here and now that I still like the “feel” and look of the images I took with the Canon lens, the Sigma is absolutely no slouch and it definitely out-performs the Canon on some, if not all, technical levels. For one, chromatic aberration, including fringing, is very well controlled. On the Canon I felt that there was a big purple moss growing on all my back-lit subjects. With the Sigma, there’s sometimes only a feint greenish/blue hue, and just a slight touch of purple or magenta. Obviously, situations will vary, but this was very impressive.

Trevor Portrait | EOS 5D Mark III | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM | 1/3200th, f/2.0 ISO 100

Trevor Portrait | EOS 5D Mark III | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM | 1/3200th, f/2.0 ISO 100

A specific issue I had with Sigma’s 30mm lens was that the optics were not well suited to getting hit by direct light. Shooting into a light-source was the optical equivalent of a demolished building: nothing worthwhile was left over. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 has none of these flaws; it handles light-flare well, retaining much of the image’s fidelity. The visible optical flare may not be as dramatic or pretty as you’ve seen in some of Canon’s primes, but it’s still there for those who like to add that creative flair (pun!).

As we all know, I’m shallow-depth of field challenged, and have a pretty tough time gaining focus wide open. Somehow I don’t have the same issue with the Sigma. This may very well be that it’s auto-focus system performs excellently. Silent and fast, I had no problem achieving focus with my 5DMKIII straight out of the box. Has Sigma squashed their bad quality control rep? One lens doesn’t tell the whole story, but for me it’s a very good sign.

Who’s it for?
For most people, if they could have one fast lens in their bag it would likely be a “nifty fifty.” 35mm is my jam. I love the middling optic, not quite telephoto enough to be great at tight portraits, not wide-angle enough to capture a whole room. It serves a great purpose of being able to photograph people and objects but show a selective amount of their surroundings.

Wedding photographers will surely want this lens in their kit: it is perfect for candids and low-light situations. The fast aperture and shallow depth of field will capture special moments with amazing clarity while isolating distracting backgrounds.

If you can work the focal length, portrait photographers have a lot to gain by showing off a bit more than just the face of their subject. Context can be achieved by showing some of the surrounding location; being able to blur out that background will help to isolate your subjects.

If I could travel with just one lens, right now, it would probably be the Sigma 35mm f/1.4. I love the versatility its aperture and focal length get me, and knowing I could get creative with my compositions while still maintaining excellent image fidelity makes it a no-brainer. While it’s not particularly light, the trade-off for a unique image is certainly worth it. That’s just me, though, but you may benefit from having this as part of a more varied kit.

iPad | EOS 5D Mark III | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM | 1/200th, f/1.4 ISO 100

iPad | EOS 5D Mark III | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM | 1/200th, f/1.4 ISO 100

Conclusion
The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is the finest lens I’ve ever used from the company. It has impressed me more than many of Canon’s own primes. Perhaps some of that is a bias because my expectations were slightly lower or I was at least cautiously optimistic about this offering. Either way, I have been thoroughly sold on the lens and have given up my quest for a Canon 35mm f/1.4L, even if Canon does replace their lens soon (which they should). It will likely retail for close to $2,000, putting the Sigma at half that. Canon would have to offer a significant amount of value for anyone to want to consider that over the Sigma, except possibly the most die-hard of Canon fans.

Caveat emptor: Sigma reverse engineers their lenses, which means they “figure out” Canon’s focus system and electronics. I haven’t heard of this being a problem for anyone yet, but it’s important to note that your lens may have an issue with future cameras. To hedge this, Sigma (Canada) offers a 10-year warranty to help with firmware upgrades and repairs. Their warranties are not global, though, so I recommend you buy your lens from a retailer in your own country and check on what is offered. To my knowledge, this is also the first lens that Sigma has released that will be compatible with their USB dock and optimization software for consumers to do their own lens calibrations and firmware updates.

Did Sigma beat Canon on this lens? When you factor in the cost, the look, the optics and the images (that’s all that matters in the end), then yes, absolutely. There is nothing that the Canon offers that would make me want the Sigma any less, especially the extra bit of cash left over after you buy it.

Pros

  • f/1.4 shallow-depth of field and fast aperture
  • Sharpness & superb optical quality
  • Quick and accurate auto-focus
  • Affordable compared to the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L
  • It just looks and feels great

Cons

  • Not weather sealed (but neither is the Canon)
  • Potential future compatibility issues
  • Lack of red ring will make Canon fanboys sad?

Discuss Justin’s review of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM

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More Images
Below are more images taken with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM

Canon EF 24 f/1.4L II
Posted 1 year ago in Reviews.

Review – Canon EF 24 f/1.4L II
By: Justin VanLeeuwen | Twitter
Discuss the Canon EF 24 f/1.4L II

I love the 24mm focal length. Some of my own personal favourite photos have been taken at 24mm. I often use the wide-end of my Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L, I definitely use my 24mm f/3.5 L TS-E, and, though I sold it when I owned it, I’ve taken some memorable photos with the Canon 24 1.4 L II. Wait, what? Sold? Yes. While I found the colour and contrast on the lens to be as good as I had ever seen, I wasn’t using it to the fullest of it’s abilities; namely the widest aperture available on a Canon wide-angle lens.

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II

Wide-angle lenses have a few benefits beyond expanding your field of view. 24Mm isn’t so wide that your edges are dramatically elongated or distorted, but not so telephoto that you can’t help emphasize foreground objects just by being closer to them. Shorter focal lengths have the added benefit of requiring a slightly slower shutter speed to achieve sharper images. At 24mm I can confidently shoot at 1/20th of a second and achieve desirable results (though 1/30th or more would be better), including potential motion blur of faster moving objects.

Build
The Canon 24mm f/1.4 L II is stout and sturdy. It feels like it’s built like a tank. A metal body gives it substantial weight and increases my confidence when using it that very little harm could come to it. It has a 77mm front thread, has a weather sealing ring at the rear and comes with a petal shaped EW-83K hood to help reduce flare – something wide-angle lenses are particularly prone to. Full time manual focus is enabled with the lens is in AF and I find the focusing ring smooth in it’s movements; certainly good for video.

Rock Sculptures - Canon 7D, EF 24mm f/1.4L II at 1/50th, f/5.6, ISO 160

Rock Sculptures – Canon 7D, EF 24mm f/1.4L II at 1/50th, f/5.6, ISO 160

Image
Truly, this lens’ optics are some of the best I’ve experience on a Canon lens. It’s not so much the sharpness (though it is) it’s the “feel” of the images, the 3D look you achieve on a wide-angle portrait that’s near impossible with any similar lenses at f/4 or 5.6. The colour rendition is superb, and the way the lens handles contrast and flare just adds to every image you make. While chromatic aberration and fringing is present in some scenes, it’s remarkably well controlled compared to many other L primes.

I’ve mentioned this in my previous reviews, but I have a personal focus issue. It’s not A.D.D., I just have a very difficult time focusing lenses wide-open. I find, when shooting at f/1.4 even with micro-adjustment in-camera, I needed to use live-view to help guide my focus better. Stopped down to f/2 still gives you great results, ones that are better than any other 24mm lens Canon produces.

Something I rarely mind in my telephoto lenses is vignetting. On a wide-angle lens, however, it becomes a nuisance when your field of view covers more area, it almost results in a spot-light effect (see the above image as an example). Stopping down helps this slightly, but not until around f/4, by then you’ve also lost a lot of the shallow depth of field appeal that this lens offers. This issue is clearly diminished on crop sensor bodies like the Canon 7D, which married very well to the 24mm lens (giving it a relative ~38mm apparent focal length).

This lens truly shines when your subjects are within the .25m – 3m range. The closer the better to throw the background right out of focus. Where you may have to stop down on some of the zoom lenses from f/2.8 to f/4, you can comfortably shoot at f/2 knowing you’ve isolated your foreground subject from the background.

Serina - Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 24mm f/1.4L II at 1/80th, f/2.2, ISO 100

Serina – Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 24mm f/1.4L II at 1/80th, f/2.2, ISO 100

Who’s it for?
Photojournalists and Wedding photographers and any other shooters who find themselves documenting daily, or special, events. Not only is 24mm one of my favourite focal lengths to create environmental portraiture, the extra leverage f/1.4 and it’s shallow depth of field buys you will help you isolate your subjects from a potentially chaotic background. The build and relatively small size of the lens will also help you photograph without being potentially obtrusive (of course you may need to move closer to your subjects to frame them properly).

For editorial work this lens would work great photographing your subject in their environment, and then switching to photographic vignettes of your location, focusing on objects and details. The shallow depth of field will draw attention to exactly what you want your viewers to focus on.

I often find myself shooting events, and in tight spaces group photos may need me to use a 24mm focal length, but unless everyone is perfectly aligned I couldn’t possibly shoot with this at f/1.4; the versatility of a zoom is useful here, as I often shoot at f/5.6 or so to make sure all my subjects are in focus.

I have seen some incredible astro-photography done with a 24mm f/1.4 lens, though I haven’t explored this type of work myself, using the fast aperture with a camera’s high-ISO capabilities can allow for unprecedented abilities to gather light, at shutter speeds that to not leave light-trails.

I do not recommend this lens for people involved in real-estate or interior photography, not only is the Canon 24mm f/3.5 L II TS-E built for that kind of work, the extreme vignetting at the edges will ruin an otherwise consistent colour tone on your walls.

Younes & Amanda - Canon EOS 7D, EF 24mm f/1.4L II at 1/2500th, f/2.2, ISO 250

Younes & Amanda – Canon EOS 7D, EF 24mm f/1.4L II at 1/2500th, f/2.2, ISO 250

Conclusion
One of the most impressive lenses I’ve ever used, in build and quality of images, yet I still sold it. Why? I found myself missing focus very often, this is a personal handicap, and not any fault of the lens. If you live in the world of wide-apertures and can rock a fifty or eight-five wide-open then this lens will certainly lend itself to your style and kit.

On a crop body, even though you’re losing much of what a wide-angle lens has to offer, you’ve bought yourself an interesting focal length that will still work great for environmental portraits, without having to purchase an ultra-wide-angle lens like the 14mm f/2.8 L. For those making a crop to full-frame jump, I suggest you rent the lens first – you may not be used to just how wide 24mm actually is.

As a full-frame user, the Canon 24mm f/1.4 L II will help round out your arsenal. If you already have a kit consisting of primes, or if you feel your zoom just doesn’t offer the shallow depth of field you need for your images, this lens will not disappoint.

Shooting wide-open is a choice, and it can certainly produce pleasing results. If that’s not indicative of your style, and you’re not willing to have a few misses because your focus was slightly off, there are some excellent zoom lenses that can be had for a few dollars more, or even the new Canon 24mm f/2.8 IS – if image stabalization is something you think you need.

The culmination of colour rendition, sharpness, and a shallow depth of field will help you create unique and truly memorable images with the Canon 24mm f/1.4 L II, one of the best lenses Canon has to offer.

Pro’s

  • Incredible image quality
  • Shallow Depth of field
  • Solid build
  • Great image character when shot wide open
  • A very reliable lens under hard use
  • An easy lens to find used for a good price

Con’s

  • You pay for what you get – price to match the quality
  • Weight (probably answered my own question above), solid build brings the weight.
  • Some may not like the vignetting when shot wide open, though easily correctable.
  • Be conscience of distortion when shooting people close up, easy to correct in Lightroom if needed.

Discuss Justin’s review of the Canon EF 24 f/1.4L II

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Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS
Posted 1 year ago in Reviews.

Review – Canon EF 24-70 f/4 L IS
By: Justin VanLeeuwen | Twitter
Discuss the Canon EF 24-70 f/4L IS

Last year Canon released the 24-70 f/2.8 L II to much fanfare and praise, but there were a few who were lamenting the lack of what seems to be a staple in all new lenses: image stabilization. There were rumours of an IS version being tested in the wild, but what some were surprised to see when it was finally announced was that it was to be a 24-70 f/4 IS. Fast primes and wide-open zooms get most of the glory in photography. Dreamy, creamy shallow depth of field is nice, but sometimes an image calls for more depth and sharpness. Sometimes a photographer doesn’t need the financial and weight trade-off a faster lens gets you. Sometimes they need something that simply does the job. In my commercial work, I often find myself shooting at apertures of f/5.6 to f/11. Is a 2.8 lens really necessary on those jobs or does the f/4 serve the purpose?

Canon EF 24-70 f/4L IS

Canon EF 24-70 f/4L IS

Build
When I first received the Canon 24-70mm f/4 L IS, I had just finished a few weeks of working with the Canon 24mm f/1.4 L II. I was shocked at how they were almost the same size and how the zoom weighed far less. Alone it may not be so obvious, but compared to the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L (which I own) or the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L II (which I reviewed), the Canon 24-70 f/4 L IS is drastically smaller and lighter. The body is of a mixed plastic and metal design, but don’t let that “plastic” turn you off, it feels incredibly robust and sturdy.

The lens’ body has the standard “AF/MF” switch, as well as the stabilizer’s “On/Off” switch (no explanation needed). However, opposite to these, there is a clever little “Macro/Lock” switch. The lock is pretty straightforward: by pulling the switch back towards the camera, you prevent the lens from accidentally extending. A nice touch to the lock is that the lens will break free with a soft “click” when you turn the zoom ring. No chance of ruining the lens by force if you’ve locked it and forgotten; not that it was loose when it wasn’t locked, but zooms do loosen with use and age. When you’re zoomed in at 70mm and want to get in closer to your subject, pressing that same switch forward will allow you to zoom into the “macro” range. I will note that, while handy in a pinch, the physical working distance to objects is incredibly close, so close as to block off light and bump the lens hood against anything you’re trying to photograph. Unlike locking at 24mm, you have to push the switch forward again to disengage from macro mode and resume shooting in your normal 0.38m-5m focus range. (an interesting note, exif data reads out Macro at “80mm”>

Macro Mode - Canon EF 24-70 f/4L IS

Macro Mode – Canon EF 24-70 f/4L IS

The focus and zoom rings are a good size, the rubber grip is relatively small at just over 1 cm wide compared to much larger lenses, but not so diminutive as to be unusable or even frustrating. I don’t know how this applies to video rigs that rely on focus shifts, but for stills they’re well placed and easy to use.

AF is fast and accurate. At no point did I have any issues with the AF, the noise, the speed or anything; it just works, and works well.

The front lens element has a familiar 77mm thread, so many of my filters already fit and work with it. Canon has also included their own version of the popular centre-pinch-lens cap. While this is a nice design, I didn’t exactly dislike the older lens caps except, perhaps, on telephoto lenses with their hoods attached which benefit from the centre-pinch style. In most cases I felt the caps were secure and held well. Maybe I just have to get used to it, but I sometimes found myself misplacing the cap on the front of the lens, and it popped off in my bag a few times.

Overall this is a true “L” series lens, from weather-sealing at the base to the high-quality front element, you can be sure this lens will withstand more than a few bumps and bruises.

Image
Let’s be honest, f/2.8 gets all the love. Why? The obvious arguments are for separation of your subject from the background with a shallow-depth of field, and low-light situations. I can shoot at 70mm f/4 and get a respectable amount of background blur, not to mention my subject is mostly in focus now. I can’t say the same for faster lenses. With every new generation of camera body, comes a significant advancement of low-light gathering abilities. The high ISO’s in todays camera allow you to easily stop your camera down for added clarity and depth in the scene. Like most (all?) lenses, the Canon 24-70 f/4 L IS vignettes wide-open at f/4 across the focal range, worse at the wider end, and it improves slightly as you stop down. Another issue is that at 24mm, the image is very distorted. This is also correctable in software, but combined with heavy vignetting even up to f/8, you’re looking at some significant compromise.

Light Test - Canon EF 24-70 f/4L IS

Light Test – Canon EF 24-70 f/4L IS

I don’t run any sharpness test, and neither do my clients when I submit work; you can find those all over the internet from people interested in that level of accuracy. I can see the lens is perfectly sharp for my needs, even wide-open. I think that at f/4 it’s better than my Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L, but can’t say that it’s the case for the 2.8 version II. That lens was ridiculously good, and it would be hard to improve on it, especially stopped down to its sweet-spot.

I was impressed with how well this lens handled chromatic aberration. I shot a on an overcast day with snow on the ground – perfect light to dark conditions that make it stand out – and there was some chroma, mostly at the lens edges, but it was hardly noticeable.

Image Stabilization

People make a big deal about IS, and I absolutely love it on telephoto lenses. Stabilization helps reduce the lowest usable shutter speed at a given focal length. So on a 200mm lens and a full-frame camera body, you would want a shutter speed of at least 1/200th of a second to get relatively sharp results and 1/80th at 70mm. That said, IS doesn’t stop action, or your subjects from moving – it helps lock up your own camera shake. It’s handy in tight situations, and if you need to shoot at 1/40th or 1/60th of a second it will certainly help. I’ve never been overly concerned about my ability to hand-hold 24mm at 1/25th of a second or less, but having it certainly won’t hurt. Clearly it’s even better suited for subjects that already don’t move in dark situations where the IS will effectively counter camera-shake.

Projector | 5D Mark III at 24mm, 1/40th f/7.1 | EF 24-70 f/4L IS

Projector | 5D Mark III at 24mm, 1/40th f/7.1 | EF 24-70 f/4L IS

Who’s it for?
Lightweight, wide-angle to telephoto with macro capabilities (albeit not particularly useful) and image stabilization make this an ideal landscape photographer’s lens. 24 mm is very common for use in the field, and the versatility of a zoom just buys the photographer more options. As I mentioned, it’s as small as the 24mm prime, and weight is everything if you’re out trekking for a few days.

Commercial photographers working indoors but requiring totally in-focus and sharp portraits will welcome its slightly lower cost than the f/2.8 II’s, and will benefit from the versatility IS buys them at slower shutter speeds. Of course, if you’re working with a flash, you may want to choose something with a bit more output, as the smaller aperture requires more light.

While I never bring my 24-70 f/2.8 L to architectural shoots because of its weight, I might be more inclined to bring the 24-70 f/4 L IS along. It may not replace my 24mm f/3.5 L tilt-shift, but the other focal lengths could certainly come in handy, and it might be a good lens for someone looking to get into interior work. Vignetting at f/4 might be an issue, but much of that kind of work is shot well above that aperture.

Travel photographers or hobbyists who just like good images will welcome the light weight and popular zoom focal range. Travelling light and inconspicuously is an advantage and the lens is short enough to not draw too much attention to itself.

While 70mm still isn’t a particularly strong telephoto zoom, it will work well in a kit paired with some primes, or more obviously the Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS; these two lenses were made for each other. As of now, Canon has created a secondary f/4 “Trinity” of lenses if you include the 17-40 f/4L.

Quinn | 5D Mark III | 73mm, 1/60th, f/6.3 | EF 24-70 f/4L IS

Quinn | 5D Mark III | 73mm, 1/60th, f/6.3 | EF 24-70 f/4L IS

Conclusion
If you’re a bokeh-loving wide-open lens kind of person, you’ve probably already dismissed this lens. F/4 isn’t in your vocabulary. Some of us appreciate a depth to our images that can reveal layers of detail and interest. Yes, the faster lenses, when stopped down, will likely be sharper at f/4. In the case of the 24-70 f/2.8 L II, it will also cost you significantly more. As far as cost is concerned, I do find the current SRP on the 24-70 f/4 L IS a bit high, higher than when I purchased my 24-70 f/2.8, but still lower than the version two release. These prices drop and settle over time, but like most things, there’s a price to owning the latest and greatest gear.

Zooms can replace a number of primes, allowing photographers to work faster without having to swap lenses to reach a different focal length, or achieve a certain level of telephoto compression. You can quickly switch from a 24mm environmental portrait to a 70mm headshot. The compact nature of the zoom saves even more space in your kit, giving you room in your bag, or the ability to travel smaller and lighter.

I’ve never found the 24-70 focal range particularly exciting. It’s not wide enough to create an interesting level of distortion, nor so telephoto as to create a special compressed and isolated “look” to your subjects. I never LOVED my 24-70 f/2.8 L, I just used it every day. Like that lens, the 24-70 f/4L IS is a tool; one that is more than capable of getting the job done.

Pros

  • Compact and light-weight
  • Image-stabilization for lower light/slower shutter speeds
  • Reliable and quick autofocus

Cons

  • Vignetting at f/4 where many faster lenses will have dispersed this
  • Distortion across the focal range, specifically at 24mm
  • Awkward macro mode
  • f/4 aperture may just not appeal to some

Discuss the Canon EF 24-70 f/4L IS on the Canon Rumors Forum

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Canon EF 85 f/1.2L II
Posted 1 year ago in Reviews.

Review – Canon EF 85 f/1.2L II
By: Justin VanLeeuwen | Twitter
Discuss the Canon EF 85 f/1.2L II

Canon’s L lens lineup boasts some of the the finest glass in its category. Some of the glass is unique, that there is no current direct competition on the market.  While most zooms have identical Nikon, or third party, counter-parts, some of Canon’s prime lenses are completely in a league of their own.  The Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II is just one of these lenses; at a half stop faster than any other glass. Practically, how does f/1.2 hold up against 1.4? Is the lenses $2,000 price tag justified? After all, Canon shooters have the option of a Sigma 1.4 at half that price, and the Canon 85mm f/1.8 for about $500.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II

Build
My first impression of the lens was that it was heavy, it’s clearly got a lot of glass (though only a 72mm front lens element) and an all metal construction.  If I was prone to dropping things, or if I had kids that were <ahem>, well, I would feel pretty confident about this thing surviving some hits. A few interesting quirks about this lens include a more bevelled-than-I’m-used-to base, it doesn’t change the way it handles, it just looks a bit different because it thins out so drastically at the mounting area.  Another small bit to note is that the lens element does protrude (extends) when bringing focus to the closer ranges, nothing significant (maybe about an inch) and if you have the lens hood on you’re not noticing this anyway.

Though solidly built, I’m always surprised when I find an L lens without weather sealing at the base.  I know some lenses are morel likely to be used outdoors than not, but what would seem like an insignificant cost to the manufacturer is a significant gain to the consumer.  By no means is  it a deal-breaker for this lens, but I can’t always anticipate what my shooting conditions will be either.

Canon EF 85 f/1.2L II | ISO 320, f/1.2 1/125th

Canon EF 85 f/1.2L II | ISO 320, f/1.2 1/125th

Focus
The 85 f/1.2 is definitely not known for it’s speedy autofocus, f/1.2 is a pretty shallow depth of field to begin with. At an average 2 meters (6 and a half feet) the plane of focus is 3.78cm (~1.5 inches)  I think some eyeballs are deeper than that. A way to get good results would be to take a number of sequential shots of your subject, since a slight change in your posture could throw your intended focus point completely off.  I also found manual focus ring pretty annoying.  While full manual focus is available while the AF switch is on, you often CAN NOT re-focus the image if the camera is shut off. Unlike many lenses where you can move the focus to a point, you can pretty much free-spin the ring on the 85, essentially locking it up until you engage the AF again, it’s a unique quirk, and I’m not alone in disliking this, It has to do with the fact that the lens uses electronic focus instead of mechanic and the focus ring is not mechanically connected to the lens mechanism and requires electricity from the camera. I’m sure it has something to do with the sheer amount of glass that has to move inside of the lens.

I do recommend using the micro lens adjust feature with your camera.  While Canon quality control is usually quite good copy variance does happen, and at f/1.2 even an adjustment of +1 (towards your subject, as I did on my 5DMKIII) will be the difference between locking focus and missing completely.

I’ve had a weird relationship with 85mm lenses.  A few years ago, I was shooting on a crop factor body, and couldn’t get used to the fairly distant minimum focusing distance of 1 meter, which wasn’t quite close enough to fill the frame for a tight portrait, and (on a crop) the maximum distance before hitting infinity left me without a fully blurred background. Move ahead to today, and it makes a lot more sense on a full frame body.  I’ve used this on my 5DMKII, my 5DMKIII and a 1DX, thankfully for the latter two, because combining the slow AF of the 85 with the ‘NO’ AF of the 5DMKII left me hurting. Taking full-body photos from a distance achieved a wonderful blurred background and foreground, while moving in closer to the subject produced an ethereal bokeh that reminded me of Canon’s 200mm f/2 L IS€“ except with a closer working distance of just over 3 feet.  Vignetting is very heavy on this lens at the widest apertures, though I’m a fan of lens vignette most of the time, and software is available to effortlessly correct it.

I’m also thankful for Adobe Lightroom’s latest tools to correct chromatic aberration and fringing in photos because, like most fast primes, this one can produce some wicked purple fringing and chromatic aberation along the edges to make you think some of your subjects were coated in soft fuzz.

Sharpness can be achieved wide-open when proper focus is achieved, though that is the trick, and shooting three-dimensional subjects like people may force you to stop down in order to get good focus from the front to back of a single eye.  Of course, the incredible shallow depth of field can be used creatively, as true sharpness isn’t everything, and using the shallow dof to draw attention to a focal point is an important function of this lens.

Canon EF 85 f/1.2L II |  ISO 320, f/1.6 1/400th

Canon EF 85 f/1.2L II | ISO 320, f/1.6 1/400th

Some people view lens flare as a flaw in an image, you should have moved or blocked the light-source somehow; I say it can be a creative choice in your photographs.  Take the lens hood off and let the sun work it’s magic at the right time of day and you’ll be treated to some of the nicest fiery lens flare I’ve ever seen.  Slightly unpredictable, but very welcome for certain styles.  The flare does not present itself in a dramatic softening of the image, which allows you to take advantage of heavily backlit subjects while retaining both colour and contrast in your image.

Who’s it for?
Clearly anyone involved in portrait work of any kind will be pleased to add the Canon 85 f/1.2L II to their kit.  The ability to whip it out and know you can take any level of incredible portraits, from full-body to tightly framed face-shots, with it makes it worth the purchase price.

This is a must-have for Wedding shooters, whose clients demand and deserve the best quality images. A wedding today wouldn’t be complete without images taken at the most shallow depth of field possible.

Photojournalists and Event shooters might find some use for it, though I prefer the versatility afforded to me by the 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, having a few fast and sharp primes in my kit instead of a large zoom may prove to be just as useful, and by myself a look that others, also using zooms, wouldn’t be able to achieve.

Another advantage of such a fast drop-off of focus is that what’s sharp and what’s in focus – the eyes, the lips, some of the hair – is all that may need retouching, allowing other blemishes and distractions fall out of focus, saving you time in post-production and touch-ups.

Canon EF 85 f/1.2L II | ISO 100, f/2.0 1/160th

Canon EF 85 f/1.2L II | ISO 100, f/2.0 1/160th

Conclusion
The Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II is not a beginner lens, it takes some getting used to and a basic understanding of depth of field and how it changes as your subject-to-camera distance changes is important too.  I had to use it several times over a period of months to really get the feel for it. Once I did, though, it was clear that certain situations truly lend themselves to such a fine lens.

I compare the 85 1.2 to the 200 f/2 at times, that’s because similar framing can be achieved with both lenses, and with both lenses you can dramatically  throw your foreground and background out of focus.  Obvious advantages of the 85 are, of course, size, weight, and cost – all far less.  For portraits, I do like working a bit closer to my subjects, it builds a better level of trust than 200mm sniping from afar can.

The more I used this lens, the more I got to know it, the better my images became, and the more impressed I was with it.  Often relying on flash modifiers and scenes built with speedlights and strobes, I took pleasure in exploring natural light situations, and allowing focus isolate my subjects instead of contrast.  I know that if it was a regular piece in my kit I would likely bring it to every job I had just to try for some of the impressive three-dimensional feeling images it creates.

Pros

  • Bokehlicious
  • Fast aperture for low-light shooting
  • Solid construction and build

Cons

  • Quirky annoying focus ring
  • sluggish AF
  • heavy-ish

Buy the Canon EF 85 f/1.2L II
B&H Photo Err! No match for b&h. | Amazon Err! No match for amazon. | Adorama Err! No match for adorama.



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