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Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

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216 490023 Aug 17, 2014
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95% of reviewers $1,192.83
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L-series professional f/1.4 wide-angle lens with an aspherical lens element to correct aberrations. The floating system enables high picture quality to be obtained over the entire focusing range. Autofocusing is quick and quiet with rear focusing and ring USM. Full-time manual focusing is also possible.

Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 35mm 1:1.4
Lens Construction: 11 elements in 9 groups
Diagonal Angle of View: 63
Focus Adjustment: Rear focusing system with USM
Closest Focusing Distance: 0.3m / 1 ft.
Filter Size: 72mm
Max. Diameter x Length, Weight: 3.1" x 3.4", 20.5 oz. / 79.0 x 86.0mm, 580g


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Registered: Nov 22, 2006
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Jul 17, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: The most artistic lens I've seen! Unmatched wide open performance

Canon 35mm f1/.4 was upgrade for 50mm f/1.4. 50mm was already excellent lens, and price/performance factor is perfect.
I was dreaming about 35mm for quite some time, but hesitated due to the price. Also 50mm needed more space to get better shot, maybe I'm lazy or that's my style, but often did not use it due to that problem. 50mm at f/1.4 and f/2 had very low keeper rate, in my practice 1 out of 5, the lens was calibrated and successfully tested in lab... but in real life focus was often off at wide open aperture. That was some issues and reasons for upgrade...

Now about 35mm... It is perfect!!! Besides it's measurable parameters, like resolution wide open, it gives magical feel and look. This is the lens to use wider than f/2.8, and I think not many other lenses can much the result (have not tried f/1.2 monsters). I have very decent keeper rate of f/1.4 and the results at this aperture are absolutely stunning. It does make photo 3D... nothing like it I've seen from 50 or 85mm... This is the most artistic lens I've seen!!! I use it on 5D, some times on 1D, but 5D gives more `magic` Smile

This is not a simple-to-use lens at wide open aperture. Practice, practice and practice. Test it in lab to make sure AF is precise. At wide open focus-and-recompose technique does not work...

Built is robust and durable like other high-price L lenses.

72mm filter is something to complain about... Smile

Jul 17, 2007
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Mikkel Tschern
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Registered: Jul 12, 2007
Location: Denmark
Posts: 2
Review Date: Jul 12, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,780.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Great contrast and colors, great overall quality, quick and silent AF, useful at f/1.4

Jul 12, 2007
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Registered: Nov 2, 2005
Location: Australia
Posts: 5313
Review Date: Jun 4, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Everything makes images 3D. Colour ... everything
misses focus ocaasionally when wide open.

I would sleep with this lens if I could. I have built a small shrine dedicated to it in my front room.

Jun 4, 2007
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Registered: Jul 16, 2006
Location: Canada
Posts: 970
Review Date: Jun 4, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Build Quality - Tack Sharp - Punchy Contrast - Lightweight - Inconspicuous.
Slightly Overpriced...!

I initially had my reservations about paying so much for this type of focal range however i must say i followed my heart and took the plunge.WOW an exceptional must have piece of photographic arsenal its size is deceptively small in comparison to the rest of the L series family.But this lens is a serious piece of engineering excellence.
This lens along with my 1DMark IIN Are now firmly joined at the hip and make a formiddable team!
I would be lost without it...Simply stunning!

Jun 4, 2007
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Buy and Sell: On

Registered: Feb 6, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 650
Review Date: Jun 3, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Everything, sharpness, color, bokeh, weight is fine, solid build
None, If you know "L" glass price sould not even be mentioned.

I use this lens for 2/3's of my wedding shots. Awesome lens, what,? you don't have a copy yet? what are you wairing for?

Jun 3, 2007
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Registered: May 26, 2007
Location: Italy
Posts: 0
Review Date: May 29, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Everything

This lens is a must have when shooting on full frame bodies. It's my favorite lens, not only because is solid and fast, but also because it shows constant performance under any light conditions. Indoor, outdoor, day and night. A must have for street / documentary photography. I use it also for portraits, since it has a creamy and beautiful bokeh. No flare, no CA, no distorsion. Sharpness is very good wide open, gets better stopped down and at f2.8 you already reach the top. An optical masterpiece.

May 29, 2007
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Registered: May 20, 2006
Location: Canada
Posts: 47
Review Date: May 12, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Smooth silent fast focussing, rich colours, bokeh galore, built like a tank.
A tad more CA than expected in extreme contrast images, but fixable if needed.

I've had this lens about 4 months, and while i'm not sure it's perfect, it's pretty darn close.
When you have this on your camera, you know it. Not heavy, but solid. Take a look at the business end of this thing and there's a whole bunch of bit fat glass in there. I like the match with my 20D, it's probably perfect on a 5D, but might be a little nose heavy on a Rebel sized body(?).

Overall image quality at f/1.4 is to me very good.
Once in a while i'll see a little more CA on high contrast areas than i'd like (the infamous tree branches against the sky shot for example), but only under extreme high/low contrast conditions. Fixable in PP if you need that shot.
I've read many times that it's "tack sharp wide open". Maybe my copy is a little short of the norm, or maybe my idea of tack sharp is different than others, but i need f/2.0 to start getting what i feel is sharp right out of the camera. But with a little USM, there's no problem getting wide open shots as sharp as i'd ever expect them. So no issue to me, as any shot i am printing i'll be working on anyways. I look at it this way..... if I didn't have that extra stop of light in some cases when i needed it, i may well not have had the image to work on in the first place.

What impresses me most about this lens is it's bokeh and colour. If you are shooting relatively close to the subject at f/1.4, the background just melts. And it melts beautifully. It's often referred to as "creamy" and "buttery smooth", and i can't think of a better way to describe it. The background is just gone. I appreciate that an out of focus background generally is all just a matter of physics, but the quality mechanics and glass in this lens makes the theory of the physics turn into an artistic rendering.
Colour is pure and deep. I rarely need to boost the saturation to the images from this lens. And if you add a polarizing filter to the 35L, the output can almost be 3D given the right scenery/lighting. Stunning.

I found it took a while to learn this lens. And i'm still learning it wide open. I never had a f/1.4 of any kind before, and in some circumstances you are shooting with about zero depth of field. So be forewarned, this lens can be unforgiving, and attention to the focus point is critical if your subject is close. My keeper rate is a lot lower with this lens when shooting wide open, but the keepers that I do get more than make up for it. Then again, that's what this lens is all about. Shallow depth of field and low light ability.

So is it worth the pricetag?
To me, absolutely.
It's the only lens I own that can produce images that make me look like i'm a significantly better photographer than i really am.
And how do you put a price tag on that?

May 12, 2007
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Hans im Glueck
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Registered: Dec 6, 2006
Location: Germany
Posts: 17
Review Date: May 7, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharp, great colours, bokeh
e x p e n s i v e

First I bought the EF 35/2 but I soon gave it back because of bad image quality. Now I own the 35/1.4L and I'm happy with it. Sharpness is very good at 1.4 and excellent at 2.0. Colours are strong and vivid. The Bokeh is very nice. AF works fast and precise at my 5D. It is an expensive lens, but you get what you pay for.

May 7, 2007
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Husien Jahja
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Registered: Nov 9, 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 16
Review Date: May 3, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast focus, 3D effect... sharp and great detail.
a little heavy compare to 50 f1.4

All I can say is WOW... The 3D effect coming from the sharpness of the lens is just superb.

Nothing much to say except try and see the effect...

Colour and contrast also very well maintain...

Although it is a little heavy compare to the 50 f1.4 or 35 f2... I still think is worth the money to buy this lens to use for longer term.

The sharpness is second to none... it's comparable to the 135 f2L.

One of the best lens I have ever use in the L series prime lens.

May 3, 2007
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Registered: Jun 15, 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 26
Review Date: Apr 8, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness wide open, colour + contrast + focus like any other L. Not mentioning the bokeh.
Teases you to save for a 5D! Chromatic Aberration wide open (outdoor). Distortion when coming closer (problem of my cropped sensor because this is a wide angle).

I used to have my 50 1.4 as my standard lens, which was really frustrating because it wasn't acting as a 50mm on my 20D. In other means, it didn't serve me well for walkaround (though it did for portraits).

I was always willing to get a 28-35mm lens as a standard lens. Was about to purchase the 28 1.8 but then thought it's a bit wide plus I don't want to downgrade to 1.8. Anyway, I pulled the trigger and bought the 35 1.4 after months of saving and research.

My first impression was "what i was doing without this lens before". Now I feel that I got the classic 50mm with 1.4, awesome. Never used to walk around with my 50 1.4 because it was simply very tight. After getting the 35 1.4 i got to the habit of moving around with my camera.

It's not only about the focal length but even sharpness wide open. I thought that my 50 1.4 was sharp wide open, but with the 35 1.4 I knew what sharpness means!

The downside of this lens is the distortion when coming closer (when photographing people). Which in fact is the problem of my 20D, because this lens is a full-frame wide angle.

Whenever i'm not photographing people, I can go closer and get the premium bokeh quality of this lens. Can't wait to get a FF!

PS: I dont remember sticking my 50 1.4 in front my camera after getting the 35 1.4. I gave the 50 1.4 along with my film body to a friend. I am saying this to stress how much did the 35 1.4 made the change in my photograhic life + lifestyle (yah lifestyle because Ls really look good specially when walking around with them!)

Apr 8, 2007
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Rubber Soul
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Registered: Dec 11, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 636
Review Date: Mar 10, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Excellent resolving power when shooting wide open at f1.4; Beautiful bokeh; Fast and accurate focusing; Jaw-droppingly beautiful color and sharpness starting at f2.8.
Very poor color contrast and extreme levels of color fringing at f1.4; An "L" lens that is not weather sealed; An old film lens that hasn't been optimized for the digital age;

Wide open at f1.4, the lens has SUPERB resolving power in the center portion of the image. It can resolve the smallest of details, which is truly amazing. As expected for a wide angle lens at this large aperture, it is very soft towards the borders. What bothers me is the poor color contrast at f1.4. It's like you're looking through a fogged up window. High resolving power for small details, but very poor color contrast. Post processing will help the color problems, but it may look unnatural and overprocessed.

At f2, the contrast problem is halfway gone. The resolving power in the center portion is at a peak. Border sharpness improves from "very soft" to just "soft". I do not hesitate shooting at this aperture.

At f2.8, the color contrast and center sharpness is already at a peak. This is as good as you can imagine, which is EXCELLENT. The images you get from this baby at f2.8 and below are simply jaw-droppingly beautiful. At f2.8, I would term the edge sharpness as "acceptable" on a cropped camera. The edges on a full 35mm sensor would still qualify as "slightly soft." Edge sharpness doesn't really peak until somewhere between f5.6 and f8 --- depending on sensor size. But that's entering uber pixel-peeping territory. For all practical purposes, the images you get from the EF 35L is already magical at f2.8.

Focusing speed and accuracy is as good as you can get for any EF lens. Build quality is excellent... however, it is not weather sealed. In that sense, it falls short of what you'd expect from a $1100 USD lens.

The one thing that truly bothers me about the lens is the high levels of distortion at large apertures, which is VERY disappointing for such an expensive fixed focal "L" lens. This is unfortunate, because this is a lens people buy *specifically* to use at large apertures.

Chromatic abberation is pretty high at f1.4. Even worse, the color fringing and blooming are very extreme when shooting wide open. In high or medium contrast situations, it's not uncommon to see purple and green blooming surround the out-of-focus background blur. It has ruined many of my shots. And unlike chromatic aberrations, these asymmetric color bloom are NOT easily fixed in post processing. Stopping down once to f2 greatly diminishes these distortions, although they don't really completely disappear until f2.5 or so.

This 1998 lens is also getting a long in the tooth. It was designed for film, and not fully optimized for digital photography. In recent years, we've seen new versions of older lenses greatly benefit from optimization. Less flare, less color aberrations, etc. The EF 35mm f/1.4L is a great lens that could be even better.

Regardless of these flaws, there's no question the EF 35mm f/1.4L remains one of the most beautiful lenses today. The bokeh is dreamy, and its sharpness at f1.4 is as good as it gets for any lens at this aperture. I'd rate this lens 9 out of 10.

Mar 10, 2007
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Registered: Mar 29, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 30
Review Date: Mar 2, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,120.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp, good color, quick focus, small.
Lens hood, Pricey.

I have been contracted to shoot professional indoor playhouse productions. These images would then be used for newspaper and other publications. I needed the best photos so I had rented a few likely lens candidates. I had tried the Canon 85mm f1.2L and the 24mm f1.4L on my Canon 5D. These lenses were adequate for my purposes, but I found that each had its drawbacks for my uses. The 85mm was a tad too close up for stage action. The 24mm was too wide and had some vignetting issues on the wide ends. I went ahead almost blindly and purchased the 35mm from B&H.

At first I noticed that the lens cover was difficult to put on. It was more of a struggle than my other "L" lens. So I thought I practice on and off a few times. I also purchased a 72mm UV filter. At first I noticed some CA on the corners right away. Finally I took off the lens hood and UV filter. I reposition them and have had no problems.

The real test will come next week when I get to use the 24mm in a few stage productions. I am sure that all will be good.

As for as the initial results the 35mm performs very well. The images are sharp, good color, it creates a very creamy "bokeh" background. Its best when the subject is in the middle of your focus. I am not going to bore you with the MTF and other specs. To me those things are not as important as real life results.

The lens is costly, but I am positive that it will pay for its self soon enough. I have recently seen a video that illustrates how lenses are made. They claim its takes very expensive raw materails to make, and one lens takes about 6 weeks to manufactor. If you like to view the upcoming images using this lens please click on: www.afphotodesign.com

Thanks for reading...

Mar 2, 2007
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Peter Eavis
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Registered: Feb 5, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 0
Review Date: Feb 13, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Image sharpness. Colors fabulous. Records the right amount of light. Very fast focusing. Not that big (compared to zooms). Versatile in low light.
None I can see so far.

The decision for me as I move into primes was whether the much cheaper 35mm f/2 would be my 35mm lens or not. I got one and tried it out. The problems with that lens is not sharpness. Instead, it records colors overly harshly and struggles with overexposure. It also is slowish to focus and that is a real draw back with wide apertures when doing people work.

I then tried the 35mm f/1.4 and -- yes, this is a cliche, but it applies -- it was like night and day on the 80% of the shots I took. The f1/4 never fails to take the pic you want it to take. With the f/2, it was often a struggle -- it was too much work getting that (very good) lens to take shots I thought would work out great. The f1/4 makes photography a joy, not only because of the quality of the results, but also because the ease of using it makes it a joy to get those results. I feel I have more time now to concentrate on getting the next shot and positioning etc. This is key for anyone doing people shots on the streets, like I do in NYC.

I used to like the smallness of the f/2 a lot -- stuff my 5D in my jacket and go shoot. But the f1.4 is nothing like a zoom, so I am fine with it.

So, when all is said and done, it is worth the extra money.

Feb 13, 2007
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Registered: Jan 2, 2006
Location: Canada
Posts: 10
Review Date: Feb 8, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,000.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, build, contrast & AF speed

I hated the build quality and CA of my 50 f1.4. I sold it and replaced it with this gem.
It is twice as big unfortunately but worth it. I find I use lens more then any other now because of its speed and IQ

Feb 8, 2007
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Registered: Jan 27, 2007
Location: N/A
Posts: 0
Review Date: Jan 27, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: All

No one would ever need treatment for depression if their eyes were replaced by a pair of 35L's.

Jan 27, 2007
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Registered: Feb 11, 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 6
Review Date: Jan 19, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Speed, sharpness, focal length (on a full-frame DSLR), bokeh and all else that goes with L.
Price, vignetting and plastic shell.

I shoot with a 5D, and have 50mm, 85mm, 135mm and 300mm primes. What I was lacking was a fast, wide prime. The 35/1.4L filled that gap, and very nicely indeed.

I've started to get into some band gig photography, and wanted a wider view than 50mm.

The 24/1.4L and 35/1.4L were both up for consideration, but from the reading I'd done, the general consensus was that the 35/1.4L was the better lens.

I did have a chance to try a 24/1.4L, and it performed well, but I felt that 35mm would be a safer focal length. I have the 24-105/4L IS, so I have the wider FOV when I want it. However, 24mm comes with some trade-offs.

I bought the 35/1.4L without having even tried it, but I knew it would be good. What I didn't know was just how good it would be.

It has been described as one of the best Canon primes, and deservedly so.

I shot with it a lot today, and while I bought it primarily for low-light shooting, it's far more versatile, and deserves to be used even in good lighting.

It unquestionably handles low light. I look forward to using this at my next gig shoot, and for more general street shooting. I also look forward to using it in other low-light environments, and I today experienced its capability in a very dimly lit Cathedral.

What I've observed about the 35/1.4L in the weeks I've owned it is that it is very sharp straight from the camera, and requires little or no sharpening in post-processing. Colour is good, too.

The fast f/1.4 aperture allows isolation of subject from background, but with the wider focal length, there's more room to breathe as far as depth of field is concerned. Background blur is smooth and creamy, and the eight-bladed aperture ensures great bokeh.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it vignettes at wider apertures. Mind you, I do use a 5D, and even my 70-200/2.8L IS vignettes on that.

I was surprised to discover that the lens's shell is made from plastic (albeit a strong plastic) rather than metal. I was also surprised at how heavy this lens is for its size. It is a large lens for its focal length, but it does contain a lot of glass (11 elements).

Below is a gallery of some of the images I've captured with this lens:


If you want a good, wide, fast prime and need or want the 35mm focal length, I'd recommend the 35/1.4L without hesitation. I can see myself going out with just this and the 135/2L. Together, these two make for an unbeatable minimalist low-light combination. Throw in a 50mm or 85mm prime to cover the middle ground.

All in all, this is a fantastic lens, and I'm very pleased I bought it.


Jan 19, 2007
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Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
216 490023 Aug 17, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
95% of reviewers $1,192.83
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating

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