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Keywords: Canon EF Wide Prime 35mm USM tested


Registered: April 2014
Posts: 7
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM review by MichaelShea
Review Date: 3/4/2015 Would you recommend the product? No | Total Spent: $345.00| Rating: 6 

Pros: Fast and accurate focus; sharp frame centre; attractive colour rendering
Cons: Soft corners; field curvature; colour fringing

If you were actively seeking a review of this lens, the chances are that you've already seen another one written by Mr Ken Rockwell, who I believe it's fair to say divides opinion on many photography matters. It was he who claimed this lens possesses so-called 'Intelligent Field Curvature' and that its most obvious limitations can be overcome with good composition, careful selection of focal points and then the application of modern lens profiles when post processing. Unfortunately most of this is nonsense.

It is right to draw attention to field curvature, as have also done, because it compromises the sharpness qualities and general usefulness of any given lens. There is nothing intelligent about having a focal plane that isn't straight and it's particularly inconvenient if you are predominantly a landscape photographer like me. In short, it's impossible to obtain pictures that are sharp from corner to corner with this lens.

Being pre-warned about this issue is helpful however, as it forces you to take action to mitigate the potential damage. The best thing you can do in my opinion, whether you're producing a landscape, or anything else for that matter, is not to choose a focal point that is too far into the distance, or else your foreground is going to be noticeably out of focus. But be warned that even if you follow this advice, the edge of the frame will not be sharp in the far distance anyway. Go to f11 to achieve an improvement in the corners, but the results still won't be great or even very good.

I have made a conscious decision to work within the limitations of the lens and to some degree follow Mr Rockwell's advice, by ensuring that nothing of great interest is left in the far distance especially at the corners of the frame. To some extent this will improve my photography technique, because in order to make my pictures more appealing I'll get even closer to my main subject, which is never a bad idea with a wide-angled lens anyway.

Post processing software removes vignetting at large apertures and any of the chromatic aberrations that you will surely notice at all apertures when your light contrast is high. It does absolutely nothing for the curvature issue though and you might have thought it strange that Canon would have brought a lens out in 1992 before the onset of the digital age in anticipation of such software. And of course they didn't. To be honest, the lens should be superseded by something on a quality par with the image stabilised EF 24mm f2.8 model and then everyone would be satisfied, including me.

I don't want to appear totally negative about the lens because I fully appreciate that there are other uses for it besides capturing scenery. Colours are typically Canon, focus is fast and completely reliable and it's reassuringly solidly built. The lens balances well on my 5D3, which means it's very easy to keep still. My main reason for buying it used at roughly half the recommended retail price of a new one is that I wish to keep my kit fairly light and small and it's suitable for that purpose. I don't own any Canon zoom lenses, but I'm fairly sure that optically it offers no advantages over many average to high-end zooms out there by various manufacturers.

So it's not all bad news, but this is not a lens with a perception that is going to improve with age. With Canon about to launch a 50 megapixel camera I feel its failings will be laid bare once and for all and it won't survive in general circulation for very much longer.
Creyr Glas Lightworks

Registered: July 2009
Posts: 10
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM review by Creyr Glas Lightworks
Review Date: 3/22/2010 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $450.00| Rating: 8 

Pros: fast focusing even in low light, wide, great colors
Cons: I occasionally really miss shots because of focus being off.

I shoot with it on a Canon 40D. I bought this lens for shooting nightclubs and bands, in locations I did not want to risk taking my 24-105L lens. I intended this to be a cheap purchase that I could use at F4 to F5.6 combined with a bracket mounted flash to shoot clubs and events. So far, it has delivered excellent results, even moreso than I expected. I knew I was perhaps taking a risk on this lens, but I have not been let down, and I feel the lens is a perfect choice in the end for this kind of photography. Images are vibrant and crisp, with none of the flatness my competition gets with their zoom kits. I can just fire away, and the speed (at 2.8) allows me to get a bit more out of shots in low light without using the flash. The sharpness is quite acceptable for these candid photos. The IQ is hard to judge given the conditions I shoot in. I would like to give this lens a solid 8.5, but I will settle for lowering it to an 8.

Feel free to check out the images here:!/album.php?aid=204453&id=354208885860&ref=mf

Registered: January 2010
Posts: 4
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM review by MalteR
Review Date: 1/4/2010 Would you recommend the product? No | Total Spent: $350.00| Rating: 4 

Pros: good case, fast AF
Cons: very poor corner sharpness, generally unsharp when not stopped down

Those who believe primes tend to outperform zoom lenses in general, should take a closer look on that one to find out they are wrong. Sorry, folks, this is one of the worst lenses i ever had.

I must admit i tried to use it mainly for architecture and landscape photography on a full format Canon 5D/Mk II and the first thing i demand from such a lens is sharpness. Not a good idea, you may use it wide open or stopped down, you won´t get the corners sharp while only a small area around the center looks like one expect it from such a lens, tack-sharp. It also suffers from chromatic abberations.

Okay, this might not be a problem if you use it on a body with smaller sensor and only publish your photos on a 15" screen. On the other hand, the lens is fast both in terms of AF and using it at 2.8 - but that´s not what i demand from a prime lens in this category.

I found the 17-40mm Canon Zoom outperforms this one in nearly every respect. And if you are looking mainly for a sharp superwide lens, not an extremely fast one, a Zeiss 21mm or 20mm, even an old, used one from GDR production, will demonstrate how bad this Canon is.

Kind regards,


Registered: November 2007
Posts: 2
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM review by Isaacarus
Review Date: 4/16/2008 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $340.00| Rating: 8 

Pros: nice size on a 30D, decently fast aperture, nice fast AF, the only "reasonably" wide prime for crop
Cons: not as fast as im used too(1.4) not REALLY sharp till at least f/9.0, ok from about f/4.5, vignetting is very bad at 2.8 even on crop!

i brought this lens as i definitely prefer primes over zooms and i needed something "wide" for my 30D and going by the reviews and the size of the sigma 20mm i was a tad put off.

now compared to my other two primes(50 1.4 and 30 1.4) this lens is comparably on the slow side(2.8) which is something ill need to get used too Sad at least its about the same size as the 30mm, just a little bit longer and about the same width, though im happy its a bit lighter Smile

AF is really nice! its very fast, very accurate and of course silent Wink its definitely faster than the HSM of the sigma and the micro-USM of the 50mm. it also helps that it has a fairly short focus travel to help out the speed.

of course now to the all important image quality...
at 2.8 the image isnt the sharpest obviously, but i wouldnt hesitate to print a4's from it, maybe even bigger? of course the corners are semi soft, but the center is actually quite reasonable for a lens wide open.
as you stop down to between 3.5 and 5 the image gets a lot better, and the corners come into the same league as the center at around 5.6 but they are definitely acceptable from 4.5 onwards.

Of course the further you stop down the better it gets.
between f 9 and 11 is its "sweet" spot, with both the corners and centre about the same very good res making it ideal as a landscape or architecture lens.

i tried a few shots today of my g/f and i would definitely say; do NOT use it as a portrait Wink what they say about making things bigger is true, it is not flattering for people, especially girls ;D

so if you can handle having to stop down a little bit, which is required for DOF anyway, and not using it indoors without a tripod or for where very high res is required i would reccomend it.
if you need something to use wide open all the time and still require high levels of detail, i honestly couldnt reccomend this lens.
the main reason i got it was personally i prefer primes(even this one Wink ) and also, i got it at a GREAT price 2nd hand so i couldnt resist (430NZD/340USD 2nd hand compared to over 800NZD new! :O )

if your looking for a good wide angle with good res, id suggest the tamron 17-50 as it goes wider, is the same aperture, roughly same size/weight and has probably a higher detail res from wide open... of course its not FF compatible if thats your niche.

oh well, i guess thats the price you pay for what is essentially a super wide for the 35mm it was designed for all the way back in 92 so until someone releases a sharper wide angle prime at a similar price point, guess i wont be getting rid of this one, especially not considering it may be used FF within a year and i lok forward to the super wide FOV! :D

on a side note, it makes a great compliment as a prime kit to the aforemention 30 and 50 and soon to be 85... :D


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