Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM: Quality and Affordability

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Image

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM DEALS

The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM was released back in 2012. In general technology terms, this lens should be drawing its pension. But in the world of camera lenses, this Canon 35mm has just hit maturity and has a good idea of its own capabilities. The lens has also lost some of the limelight to the likes of the faster Sigma Art series offering, which we will discuss soon. But as we will see, this lens still has some trick shots of its own.

There are lots of plus points that weigh in favor of the Canon, not just from a technical point of view, but also from the final image rendition. Therefore, let’s have a closer look at what this lens can offer and whether it can still hold up as a quality standard view prime lens.


Firstly, the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM is quite a short lens compared to the latest crop of prime lenses. The dimensions of the Canon come in at 77.9×62.6mm, with a total weight of 335g. The lens barrel is made from rock-solid plastics and, although it’s not officially weatherproofed, it should be able to handle the odd drop of rain.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Image 2

There are two main switches on the lens barrel. One is for standard AF/MF switching, while the other is for turning the stabilization system on and off. A focusing distance window has also been included, with a manual focusing ring, which has a nice, rubberized texture.

The close focusing distance is very respectable at 24cm, which also makes the lens great for very close-up shots. If you don’t have a macro lens with you at all times, the Canon can get all those nice, close-up shots that are needed from the likes of a wedding shoot.

Optically, the lens features a reasonably-fast f/2 aperture, with eight, rounded diaphragm blades and an optical makeup of 10 elements in eight groups. Accompanying this arrangement is a glass-molded aspherical element to reduce lens aberrations and increase sharpness. A Super Spectra coating has also been applied to all lens elements to reduce the likes of lens flare and ghosting.

One aspect that will appeal to a lot of 35mm lens owners is the inclusion of image stabilization for extremely low shutter speeds. The system officially offers up to four stops of compensation, which should allow the lens to go into very low-light conditions. Lastly, Canon’s Ultrasonic motor has been included to cover auto focusing duties, which also features full-time manual focusing override.

The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM in Use

Anybody who has the slightest interest in the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM will want to know if it is as sharp as its counterparts. With the aperture wide open at f/2, the Canon is very sharp in the center and only gets better when stopped down. The edges of the frame are just the merest touch behind with the aperture wide open.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Image 1

Although the Canon may not be as ultimately sharp across-the-board as some of the more modern counterparts, it’s hard to find fault with it for the majority of situations.

Lens Anomalies

The lens does display obvious vignetting in the corners with the aperture wide open, but this quickly dissipates by f/4. The lens also handles chromatic aberration very well, with only tiny amounts of green or purple fringing being seen on the highest of contrast areas. As usual, this can be quickly removed in most post-processing software.


Usually, a 35mm prime lens is used for more wide-angle, environmental shots. But as the Canon can focus quite closely, it’s very easy to throw out the background with close-up subjects. Highlight balls look very rounded in the middle of the frame, only starting to look slightly squeezed at the very edges of the frame.

Autofocusing speed is as you would expect from a native Canon lens. The lens is extremely quick to lock into focus and when you do need manual focus override, the focusing ring is very precise. There is a slight audible sound heard when the lens is snapping into focus. Which is an area you may need to check out more closely if you are thinking of using this lens for video applications.

The image stabilization system is another bonus that is not always needed on a 35mm lens. In this scenario, it’s very easy to achieve shutter speeds around a 10th of a second, which opens up lots of creative possibilities for shooting with natural light where you would normally need to reach for a strobe or Speedlite with a similar type 35mm prime.

How Does It Compare?

One 35mm prime lens that is getting lots of press is the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. The Art series, in general, brought professional optics at an affordable price point, making many people turn to this option over camera brand versions. In terms of overall sharpness, the Sigma 35mm is more clinically sharp than the Canon at f/2 and also benefits from a wider aperture. This alone can make the difference if you regularly work in low-light conditions.

However, the Canon features image stabilization, and although it is not as ultimately sharp as the Sigma, it’s sharp enough even with the aperture wide open for most scenarios. The Canon also renders images with a more filmlike look than the Sigma and it has the smoothest bokeh. The Canon is also slightly cheaper in price these days, which may be the winning factor for some in the 35mm prime lens arena.

 Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USMSigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
Aperture Rangef/2-f/22f/1.4-f/16
Close Focusing Distance24cm30cm
Image StabilizationYesNo
Filter Size67mm67mm

The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Still Has a Lot of Living to Do

If you read most modern reviews, the Sigma 35mm Art clearly overshadows the Canon for its ultimate sharpness and neutral image rendition. However, the Sigma can be said to be very clinical with its image reproduction, while the Canon can be argued to produce a more artistic look. The image stabilization may also benefit the video guys, as long as their copy is quiet enough.

Considering the current price point of the Canon, it’s now reasonably-priced and is a good middle ground between the sharpness of the Sigma and some of the painterly look that, I daresay, is more akin to a ZEISS lens. You’re not going to get the same ZEISS look by any means, but if you want a nice balance between sharpness and a filmlike rendition, the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM should at least be on your shortlist for a possible 35mm prime lenses.

The Review

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM

The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM may be an older lens, but its budget-friendly price and artistic renditions keep it high up on the list for today's photographers.


  • Build quality
  • Sharp at f/2
  • Smooth bokeh


  • Vignetting at f/2
  • Only an f/2
  • No weather sealing

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM DEALS

Review Breakdown






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