Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM is one of my most used lenses and I absolutely love it. Let me start by dissecting the name.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 USM

EF stands for electro-focus; This is in reference to the innovation of electronic focusing without the use of any mechanical lenses (unlike Nikon’s AF-D lenses). All EF lenses work on all Canon’s DSLR cameras (crop sensors, the APS-C and APS-H, and full-frame sensors).

35mm is referring to the focal length. 50mm is generally considered to be a ‘normal’ focal length. Simply put, many people consider a normal lens to reproduce what humans normally see. Anything larger than this number (ie. 100mm) is considered a telephoto lens which yields a contracted field of view. This just means that it magnifies distant objects. Anything smaller than this number (ie. 35mm), it reproduces a wider field of view.

f/1.4L is referring to the f-stop, or aperture of the lens. Aperture is just a posh word for opening. The f-stop is always given as a fraction, so the smaller the number after the f/, the bigger the opening of the lens. And with a larger opening of the lens, more light is allowed to the camera’s sensor. (This definitely helps out at night when it’s really dark!). Having a fast lens helps when you’re in a situation where using a flash might be prohibited or distracting.

f/1.4 is considered a fast lens, a lens with a large aperture. By allowing more light, faster shutter speeds are allowed which decreases motion blur.

Another advantage of having a lens with a large aperture is that it provides a shallow depth of field. Depth of field is how much of the picture is in focus at one time. It should be noted that apertures can be stopped down (or made smaller) but not made bigger. By stopping down, you can have more in focus. Typically, lenses are stopped down when taking pictures of landscapes.

Having a shallow depth of field means that a small portion of the image is sharp while the rest of the image is blurred. This effect is typically desired in portraits as well as sports. By having a shallower depth of field, it removes the distracting elements from the subject.

The L at the end of the aperture dictates the “Luxury” line of lenses by Canon. Canon’s L lenses are considered to the top of the line. These lenses are of better build quality but also higher price. These lenses are distinct with a red ring around the front of the lens. Most of the L lenses have sealing that protect against dust and water. Again, L lenses are built like tanks and are built to last. There are other characteristics of these L lenses, however I will not get too technical here.

USM stands for Ultrasonic Motor; it is a technology developed by Canon that allow for faster, more accurate, and also quieter autofocusing. Non USM lenses can have a “Whrrrr” sound as it autofocuses and can be extremely distracting.

The 35mm f/1.4L is a prime lens. This means that this lens cannot zoom. Prime lenses are usually sharper than their zoom counterparts, as well as lighter and smaller in size. Lighter and smaller equates to a happy photographer after a long day. :) And many people argue that since prime lenses don’t zoom, it forces the photographer to think before capturing the image, it promotes better composition, which in turn improves the photographer.

This lens is tack sharp and I use it whenever I can. When I’m at a dark venue, I’ll usually only bring this lens and another telephoto prime.

There are rumors of a successor to this lens in the making. Only whispers so far though, but a replacement is anticipated by many people. So you should think twice before pulling the trigger and buying the lens now. But naturally, you should take these rumors as a grain of salt: if you think you need it, buy it now. if you think it’s better to wait, wait.

Lenses are more important than the actual camera itself. It’s wiser to buy better glass and skimp on the camera bodies than the other way around. Lenses are an investment and last you a good decade before a replacement comes out, unlike camera bodies which get updated every few years. Even the most professional camera bodies get updated around every four years.

I don’t have any complaints with this lens whatsoever! Hope you enjoyed what I wrote about this lens! :)

Leave a Reply