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Lens Review: RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM in Landscape Photography

Canon’s f/4L zoom lenses are built to provide portability alongside professional-grade performance. Smaller, light, and versatile, the ultra-wide-angle zoom RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM, in particular, makes an ideal companion for shooting landscapes that involve rugged trails and nature hikes. Takashi Karaki tried it out, and he shares his impressions. (Reported by: Takashi Karaki, Digital Camera Magazine)

1) Size and weight: Outstanding portability
2) 14mm wide end: A huge 114° diagonal angle of view
3) 20cm closest focusing distance: More creative possibilities
4) Image quality: Beautiful colours even in backlit scenes
5) Image stabilisation: Steady handheld shots even at 2 seconds

 

Size and weight: Outstanding portability

Taking the RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM into my hands for the first time, I was astounded by how light it was. The introduction of the RF mount has enabled Canon to make tremendous progress in designing compact and lightweight lenses, and this lens is a clear beneficiary. It fits easily even into a small camera bag.


Compactness that stays even during shooting

*As measured

Canon’s f/4L zoom lenses are built for portability, and this was aided by the large diameter and short back focus distance of the RF mount. The RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM is around 13mm shorter and 75g lighter than the EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM. As the image above shows, when the lens is extended for shooting, the change in length is minimal.

 

Focal range: 2mm wider means a huge 114° diagonal angle of view

The first thing that most photographers will notice is the 14mm wide-angle end of the RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM, which is 2mm wider than its EF mount equivalent, the EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM.

On a standard lens or a telephoto lens, 2mm extra wouldn’t make much of a difference. But on an ultra-wide-angle lens, it means a lot! Besides the fact that it is a technical feat to achieve, for us photographers, it means more possibilities: we can fit more of a scene into the frame, and it also provides a huge advantage for locations where you want to include more of the foreground.

Shooting at 14mm achieves 114° diagonal angle of view, which is about 4° wider than the 15mm end of the RF15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM., and 7° wider than the 16mm wide end of the EF16-35mm wide-angle zoom lenses.
 

These two shots were framed to ensure similar composition. Does the 14mm image seem to look more dynamic? That’s because the wider angle can be harnessed to enhance perspective, creating a greater sense of depth.


EOS R5/ RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 14mm/ Manual exposure (f/8, 0.8 sec)/ ISO 200/ WB: 4,500K

When the waterfall flow is weak, the only way to create an impactful shot that makes it look powerful is to go closer. On a narrower lens, this would usually force the foliage in the sides and background out of the composition. However, the 14mm end allowed me to include them and incorporate lots of green into the image.

 

20cm closest focusing distance: A versatile feature paired with wide angle perspective

What I personally found interesting on this lens was the closest focusing distance, which is now only 20cm. It increases the range of expressions possible with one lens: not only can you use it to take close-ups like you would on a macro lens, being able to shoot closer to foreground subjects with the 14mm wide end helps to create a stronger perspective effect. That’s excellent cost performance!


Like a macro lens

EOS R5/ RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 35mm/ Manual exposure (f/4, 1/1000 sec)/ ISO 500/ WB: 4,500K

Shooting at the closest focusing distance with the 35mm long end of the lens allowed me to have fun taking closeups of the water droplets on these leaves. It was almost like shooting with a macro lens. I was surprised by the sharpness, clarity, and the dimensionality of the water droplets.


Enhanced perspective

EOS R5/ RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 14mm/ Manual exposure (f/4, 1/13 sec)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Auto

A unique-looking old tree that I chanced upon in the forest. I didn’t just want to capture the tree, I also wanted to show the surrounding context, so I set the lens to the 14mm wide end and moved in closer so that I was at the closest focusing distance. The tree looks more impactful when shot this way, and the surrounding greenery complements it and makes it stand out even more.

 

Image quality: Beautiful colours even in backlit scenes

The RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM may be smaller and lighter than its EF counterpart, but its optical design doesn’t skimp on effort to improve image quality. The 16 element 12 group configuration includes 2 UD lenses, 1 aspherical UD lens, and 2 glass-molded aspherical lenses, which correct the various aberrations that cause image quality to deteriorate. This ensures that images are clear all the way to the corners.

Just like its EF mount counterpart, two special coatings—ASC (Air Sphere Coating) and SWC (Subwavelength Structural Coating) are used to reduce flaring and ghosting, and indeed, I hardly experienced these when I shot with the lens. In fact, the lens reproduced the colours beautifully even when I shot in backlight—a quality that landscape photographers shouldn’t overlook.

EOS R5/ RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 14mm/ Manual exposure (f/4, 1/100 sec)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Auto

I made use of the Vari-angle LCD monitor on the EOS R5 to shoot this with the camera at a ground-grazing low position, pointing upward at the sky. At 14mm, the tree trunks form leading lines towards the centre of the image.

Find out how else you can maximise your camera’s Vari-angle monitor here

 

Image stabilisation: Steady handheld shots even at close to 2 seconds

The RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM is equipped with Canon’s well-regarded Optical IS (in-lens image stabilisation). When combined with the In-Body IS on the EOS R5 (and EOS R6), you can expect up to 7 shutter speed stops’ equivalent image stabilisation when shooting stills.

If you do the calculation, this means being able to use a shutter speed as slow as around 2 seconds while shooting ultra-wide angle. It removes the need for a tripod when shooting in low light conditions such as dark places and timings like twilight, increasing handheld shooting possibilities.

Also see:
3 Types of Scenes That Take Full Advantage of In-Body IS
Why the EOS R5 is My Ideal Camera for Landscape Photography


EOS R5/ RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 35mm/ Manual exposure (f/7.1, 2 sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

Shot at the 35mm end with a 2 second exposure. This is an image that displays the excellent image quality you would expect from an L series lens. I chose to shoot in high-contrast lighting that would make the waterfall and foliage seem to float up from the black. The lens rendered the detail and contrasts beautifully, resulting in an impactful shot.

 

EOS R5 + RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM

 

Key specifications

Lens construction: 16 elements in 12 groups
Closest focusing distance: 0.2m
Maximum magnification: 0.38x
No. of aperture blades: 9 (circular blade)
Filter diameter: 77mm
Size: φ84.1 x 99.8mm (at focal length 22mm)
Weight: approx. 540g

 

Lens configuration

A: IS unit
B: Aspherical lenses
C: UD lenses
D: Aspherical UD lens
E: SWC
F: ASC

 

Lens hood: EW-83P (bundled)

 

Learn more about what you can achieve with ultra-wide-angle lenses in:
Exploring Wide Angle Lenses Part 1: Photo Effects of Wide-Angle Lenses
Exploring Wide Angle Lenses Part 2: Composition Techniques for Wide-Angle Lenses
How I Nailed this Shot: Adding Impact to a Grand Forest Landscape
Over-Under: A Split Underwater Photography Concept

Find out more about RF lenses in:
In Focus: RF Lenses

 


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Takashi Karaki

Takashi Karaki

After some experience as a sports instructor followed by 10 years in magazine production and editing, Karaki moved to Yonago City in Tottori Prefecture, where he became known for his landscapes of the San’in region of Japan. His works have been published in Amazing Village, a booklet of beautiful Japanese villages produced through a CANON × Discover Japan collaboration in 2017, and his shot of the sea of clouds at Akechi Pass in Tottori Prefecture was among 12 images selected by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) to represent Japan.

Instagram: @karakky0918