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Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

EF14
Review Date: Sep 21, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Fantastic image quality across the frame. The massive angle of view captured with this lens makes it a very creative and fun tool to use.
Cons:
The bulging front element is somewhat exposed and therefore the lens does not accept a front filter. There's probably no other way to build this kind of lens though.

My only caveat to this review is that I have only rented the lens, I do not yet own it. I have rented it twice, for a sum total of around five days of solid shooting. I do plan to get this lens but I am first holding out to see if Canon will develop a 14-24mm zoom, as this would be far more versatile. I love urban / street / architecture photography and this lens has certainly delivered me some powerful compositions.

I think the lens is amazing and very fun to use. However, it can also be frustrating to compose with but that is no fault of the lens. You need to be aware that EVERYTHING gets in the frame at 14mm - your feet, the people around you and even the buildings behind you when you're shooting towards the sky! Therefore a 14mm lens can be a challenge to get a *clean* composition with. This is the only reason I would prefer to own a 14-24mm zoom.

Both copies of this lens that I have rented have performed flawlessly and I would highly recommend this lens to anyone who, like myself, is addicted to ultrawide angle photography! A collection of my photos taken with this lens on a 5D Mk III camera body can be found here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michael_elford/sets/72157635748911705/




 
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM

EF24_14LII
Review Date: Sep 21, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,000.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Stunning image quality right to the edge, wide open in most situations. Minimal distortion.
Cons:
My version has somewhat unreliable AF when focusing more than about 10m away.

Overall

Let me start by saying that, although I have some reservations about the AF system in this lens, I think the lens produces stunning images that really "pop out" and grab the viewer. The performance at F1.4 is extremely impressive on my copy. The only exception to this is when focusing at infinity the corners are a bit soft. Vignetting is quite strong at F1.4 but I quite like this effect and it can be compensated out with the DPP software if I don't want it for a paticular shot. Anway, don't take my word - judge for yourself. Here's a bunch of my photos taken with the 24mm F1.4L Mk II lens on a 5D Mk III camera:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michael_elford/sets/72157635747950975/


Image Quality

The image quality at F1.4 is so impressive on my copy that despite having AF issues, I haven't returned my lens. This is because I'm concerned that I'll get a copy with great AF but with less image quality. The lens is tack sharp corner to corner at F1.4 at the minimum focusing distance. One caveat here is that you need to be aware of the extremely thin depth of field at F1.4 combined with the minimum focusing distance. I quite often using live view and manual focusing with 10x zoom on to nail it. The poorest performance is when shooting at infinity (i.e sky, landscape etc.) at F1.4. Generally the corner sharpness drops a fair bit but I never really find myself needing to do this so it doesn't bother me a great deal.


AF Issues

OK. So many people are going to be thinking that I don't know what I'm doing at F1.4 and that's why I think there are focusing issues. Let me dispell that myth by stating that I also own a 35mm F1.4L and an 85mm F1.2L Mk II, neither of which I consider to have any AF issues whatsoever. Sadly though, with the 24mm I do. The AF on this lens (my copy at least) is very inconsistent when shooting from about 10m to infinity. I tend not to trust the AF at all and find myself using live view a lot. The lens has even misfocused a shot at F8 (focusing in the distance). I live in hope that this problem can one day be solved with a firmware update to the lens. In the meantime I consider it an annoyance but one that I'm willing to live with given the stunning combination of wide and shallow focus that this lens gives me.

Do I recommend this lens? Yes, if you are wanting that combination of wide and shallow then there are not tool many tools that will give you than unique look. Go for it but be aware that you might be having AF issues like so many others that have reported it.





 
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

85II
Review Date: Dec 19, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Excellent sharpness wide open, stunning & unique DOF capabilities, outstanding bokeh quality.
Cons:
"drive-by-wire" manual focus system, no wheather sealing, rear element is flush with the back end of the lens which makes lens changing a daunting affair, some chromatic abberations wide open with high contrast, autofocus speed is OK but could be faster.

I have only had this lens for 4 days but I am already taken back by the amazing photos that this lens is capable of.

The minimum DOF is actually not as shallow as on my 35mm F1.4, because this lens focuses down to 30cm (min DOF for the 35mm lens is about 5.5mm at 30cm versus 8.2mm for the 85mm lens at the closest focusing distance of 95cm). This makes the 85mm lens slightly easier to focus correctly at the minimum focus distance.

However what the 85mm lens does that my 35mm does not is isolate subjects from thier background at several meters away. The images produced by this lens when used in this way are unique and stunning. See an example here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michael_elford/5273682122/

Whilst this lens is 5 times the price of the 85mm F1.8 lens, I believe it is good value, at least for me. Out of the hundred or so images I have taken I have only stopped the lens down twice. F1.2 on this lens is not a novelty, it is where the lens comes into its element and it will be the apeture at which mine is used 99% of the time.

People have commented that the autofocus is not fast however I would say that for me it is quite satisfactory. It is not the fastest autofocus I have but it is not so slow as to bother me (as the 100mm non-L macro does sometimes).

Yes the lens is heavy and expensive but you get what you pay for and there is over a kilogram of canon goodness packed into the 85mm 1.2L II.

Only a couple of things bother me about this lens, that is:

- The rear element is flush with the back of the lens and makes changing lenses a daunting affair.

- The manual focus ring is quite undamped and drives the autofocus motor electronically (no mechanical link).

- The hood rotates when focusing (but the lens does not).

- Some chromatic abberation in high contrast situations at F1.2 (unavoidable really and can be corrected by computer)

I must stress that the good features of the lens far outway these minor issues and I would recommend the lens 100%.

Thanks for taking the time to read my review and good luck if you manage to get your hands on one!