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Photo Review – EF35mm f/1.4L II USM

EF35mm f/1.4L II USM – the flagship model of Canon’s large-diameter prime lenses. Boasting a clear image quality that is free of aberration and beautiful bokeh circles at the maximum aperture, this lens helps to broaden the scope of the images you produce. The following is a photo review by a professional photographer on the true capabilities of the lens. (Reported by: Ikuko Tsurumaki)


New BR Lens Powerfully Removes Colour Blur

EF35mm f/1.4L II USM, the key model of Canon’s large-diameter prime lenses, was released in 2015. This is the first renewal in 17 years since the 1998 launch of the EF35mm f/1.4L USM lens, well known for its high image quality and beautiful bokeh effect.

For this EF35mm f/1.4L II USM, Canon has introduced the new BR lens element, which uses the Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics (BR) lens technology. This lens element is an organic optic material that is capable of greatly refracting the short wavelength of blue light—an action that used to be difficult in the past. It is used in combination with a convex and a concave lens to reduce chromatic aberration significantly, while thoroughly eliminating the colour blurring that is likely to appear on a large-diameter lens.

As illustrated in the photos of Hawaii below, the lens offers high depictive performance even at the maximum aperture of f/1.4. The entire image turns out clear, and this includes the peripheral areas, which tend not to be captured sharply. Meanwhile, sagittal halo has also been reduced considerably, thus allowing beautiful bokeh effects to be created at the maximum aperture. In the past, some might choose to narrow the aperture by one or two stops in order to maintain the image quality, but this is no longer a concern with the new lens, and you can carry out shoots freely throughout the entire aperture range. I really liked how it allowed me to express myself with bokeh effect so characteristic of large-diameter lenses. Also, a special SubWavelength Structure Coating (SWC) has been employed, which helps to deliver good images with minimal flaring and ghosting. This comes in very handy especially for scenes where you want to utilise the backlight or when capturing landscape shots at sunrise or sunset.

Other enhancements compared to the EF35mm f/1.4L USM include the closest focusing distance, which has been shortened from 0.3m to 0.28m on the EF35mm f/1.4L II USM, and an increase in the maximum magnification from 0.18x to 0.21x. With the total number of aperture blades increased from eight to nine, it is now possible to produce rounder bokeh circles from point light sources in the background. The dust-proof, drip-proof structure as well as fluorine coating allow you to enjoy stress-free shooting even under harsh conditions. Some other features that are appealing to both professionals and experienced enthusiasts include the excellent operability of the lens and a leather-tone coating, which adds a premium feel to it.

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF35mm f/1.4L II USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.4. 1/2,500 sec., EV+0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
Arranged nicely in a row, these mailboxes remind one of America. The soft and attractive bokeh effect in the background helps to bring out the subject.


TOPIC 01: BR Lens

BR Optics
BR optics are characterised by the ability to refract blue light (short wavelength) significantly. Combined with the use of a convex and a concave lens, it is possible to gather light at a single point, thereby reducing chromatic aberration (colour blur). The BR lens element is positioned at the centre in the lens construction of the EF35mm f/1.4L II USM.


Normal Glass
A combination that has only a concave and a convex lens is unable to correct the short wavelength of blue colour. Light falls on different positions as a result, causing colour blur to appear in the image.


BR Lens
The BR lens (BR optical element) refracts blue colour light considerably, enabling the different wavelengths of visible light to fall on a single point.


EOS 5D Mark III/ EF35mm f/1.4L II USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/100 sec., EV ±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
There are a lot of branded shops along Kalakaua Avenue, the main thoroughfare of Hawaii’s Waikiki neighbourhood. Reflection in the store window brings out the exotic atmosphere of this tropical island.


TOPIC 02: Superb image quality throughout from the maximum aperture

Although this shot was captured in a backlit condition, flaring and ghosting were effectively minimised thanks to the SWC. The bokeh effect at the maximum aperture of f/1.4 is also smooth and beautiful. As can be seen from other examples taken at f/1.4, the lens delivers high image quality throughout from the maximum aperture.


EOS 5D Mark III/ EF35mm f/1.4L II USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/50 sec., EV-1.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
A restaurant with a natural ambience that is very typically Hawaii. A couple was sitting by the window waiting for their order. Here, the 35mm angle of view conveys the relaxed atmosphere of the location faithfully.


TOPIC 03: Comparison of sizes

While the maximum diameter remains almost unchanged, there is an increase in the length and the weight of the new EF35mm f/1.4L II USM by about 20mm and 180g respectively compared to the EF35mm f/1.4L USM. With the adoption of a BR lens element, the lens construction has changed from 11 elements in nine groups to 14 elements in 11 groups. Also, the number of aperture blades is now nine (circular aperture diaphragm) instead of eight. At the same time, many significant enhancements have been made to the specifications of the new lens, including the introduction of SWC to prevent flaring and ghosting, dust-proof and drip-proof structure and the adoption of a fluorine coating.

(New) EF35mm f/1.4L II USM / (Old) EF35mm f/1.4L USM

φ80.4mm (Filter diameter: 72mm) / φ79mm (Filter diameter: 72mm)


Length: 105.5mm, Weight: Approx. 760g / Length: 86mm, Weight: Approx. 580g


EOS 5D Mark III/ EF35mm f/1.4L II USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.4, 1/500 sec., EV+0.3)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight
Eggs Benedict, a popular breakfast item in Hawaii. The presentation is exquisite and makes the dish look appetising. Here, I shot from a very close distance at the maximum aperture.


EOS 5D Mark III/ EF35mm f/1.4L II USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.4, 1/2,500 sec., EV-0.3)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight
A stamp with a motif of horses. With the closest focusing distance shortened to 28cm, I can now move extremely close to the subject. This creates a stronger impact in the resulting image, even for subjects that are small in size.


EOS 5D Mark III/ EF35mm f/1.4L II USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/2,500 sec., EV+0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
A long, narrow pavement that leads to a little white house. The window frames were painted with eye-catching colours. I narrowed the aperture by two stops to f/2.8 to blur the path in the foreground.


EOS 5D Mark III/ EF35mm f/1.4L II USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.4, 1/5,000 sec., EV±0)/ ISO 100/  WB: Daylight
To check the amount of light and image quality at the edges of the image, I intentionally photographed a shot of the blue sky at the maximum aperture of f/1.4. While slight vignetting is observed, the apparent resolution is sufficiently good.


Lens Construction Diagram

Ground and Polished Glass Aspherical Lens Element
UD Lens Element
Glass Mould Aspherical Lens Element

A: SWC / B: BR Lens Element


EF35mm f/1.4L II USM
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Ikuko Tsurumaki

Born in Tokyo in 1972, Tsurumaki started learning photography while working with an advertising agency, and became a photographer after her career as an assistant. She is currently engaged in activities including photo shoots for magazines, writing articles, and conducting photography lectures and seminars.



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