One of Canon's overlooked lenses. Who cares if it makes a sound when autofocusing???
I'll readily confess that I've always been partial to the look of a 50mm lens on a full frame camera so when I started buying cropped frame cameras, like the 60D and the 7D I started looking for the right "50mm equivalent" lens for those cameras. I'd already owned the Nikon version of the 30mm Sigma so I borrowed the Canon 35mm 1.4 to see what the difference might be. It never really occurred to me to look at the 35mm f2.0 until I revisited some of the work I did in the 1990's with a 35mm fourth generation Leica Summicron while comparing it to a 35mm Summilux that Leica asked me to test last Summer.
Both the Leica optics are wonderful but their just isn't that much difference between the Summicron and the Summilux when you hit f2.8, and, to be honest, the area that most photographers end up working in is usually between f2.8 and a f8.
At some point reality sinks in and you realize that you spend a lot of time shooting at f5.6 just to make sure you get both people in focus or you have enough depth of focus to get everything you need to be razor sharp, razor sharp. At a certain point, usually a few days before the next mortgage payment is due, you realize that your spent about $4500 more than you needed to for your real use profile.
If you paid cash for your house and scrapped together enough for your Lotus from the loose change in your sofa cushions you just crawl in bed and forget it. But if you're still saving for retirement and saving to put a kid thru school you probably start hitting the overdrive button on your rationalization machine or figure out a way to return the miracle lens while saving face with the sales person on the other side of the counter.
When I finished my examination of Leica files I went to my local camera store and borrowed the 35mm 1.4 L and the 35mm f2.0.
The "L" is a great lens. At its widest aperture it's just a tiny bit less potent and intimidating than the new Leica 35mm 1.4 Aspheric. You can see a difference between the two but I'll chalk up part of it to the sensor on the M9 and its lack of an AA filter. But the Canon is incredibly good, wide open and nearly one quarter the price. Case closed?
Not so fast. I shot the 35mm f2.0 alongside the 1.4L in an afternoon test and my results told me that on a cropped camera or on a full frame camera the 1.4L was much better than the 2.0 only at 1.4 and 2.0. When both lenses were shot at f2.8 and f4.0 the differences were negligible. At 5.6 they were indistinguishable.
So, how often do I shoot at f1.4 with a 35mm lens. Quick answer? Not often enough to justify the radical difference in cost. I find that when I hit the lower reaches of exposure that require those kinds of f-stops I'm reaching for a flash or other light sources because by that point it's subject movement that's become problematic. If I'm shooting at medium apertures or reaching for a flash do I really need to carry around a bigger, heavier and more costly optic to do the job? I don't think so.
I took the other lens back and wrote a check for the f2.0. And then I got busy doing something else. But a few weeks ago a friend in Istanbul wrote and asked me what to get. My first reaction was to just send back an e-mail and tell him to go for the same lens I bought. But I paused for second because I really hadn't put the lens thru it's paces over time and they are much more expensive in Turkey. I decided to take it out with a 7d and really shoot with diligence. Then I'd send him an definite recommendation.
In fact, after further testing it's become one of the basics in my Minimalist street shooter kit. That consist of the 35mm, a 50mm and the 100mm f2. Any one of these blows the doors off the 24-70m zoom or the new 70-200mm zooms that are the basis of most people's kits. Add to that the fact that they are tiny by comparison and you have a very shootable system. That's how they did it "old school" and I see why. You don't have flexibility of a zoom but you have the expertise of a single specialist. You can always zoom a bit with your feet. My next shooting iteration? One camera for each lens. No waiting.
Buy one right now before they decide to discontinue it! And if I still shot Nikon I bet my results would track pretty much the same way.
Any downside? Look at the highlight on the coffee cup on the bottom right of the photo above. The highlight has only five highly defined sides. For a thousand dollars more you can get a more rounded highlight............