Spoiler : This lens is awesome! Go buy it — today!
Prior to owning this lens, I have owned and used the Canon 35mm f/1.4L, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art, and the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZE. Without a doubt, this new lens smokes them all. The original Canon 35mm f/1.4L was forgettable. I originally came from Nikon and loved their 35mm f/1.4G lens. The Canon was a poor substitute, but there was nothing better when I first bought it. Sigma’s Art lens is nice, sharp, built well, and contrasty. Up until this new Canon, Sigma’s offering was my top choice followed by the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZE. Zeiss’s offering has wonderful bokeh, but lacks autofocus. Now onto the review (I prefer summary lists than wordy and boring dissertations).
- Optically awesome — Sharp, great bokeh, bright, and contrasty. It actually shows more detail than the Sigma, is brighter than the Sigma at the same settings, and the bokeh is the best I’ve seen from any 35mm f/1.4 lens. Also, the lens seems to handle harsh broad day lighting conditions very well.
- The lens hood — Finally! Finally, Canon has included a decent lens hood! So many of Canon’s lens hoods have been awful over the years. They would wobble, not attach very securely, no clear locking mechanism, and felt cheap. This new lens hood is every bit as good as Nikon’s lens hoods. I’ve been complaining about this for years! Now their lens cap and hoods are as good as Nikon’s. This might seem like little things, but they are a step in the right direction. I use lens hoods all the time to protect against damaging the lens. If you don’t use a lens hood, you should start.
- Built well — Supposedly weather sealed.
- The autofocus — it’s OK, not as good as the 24–70mm f/2.8L II or the 70–200mm f/2.8L II. It’s reasonably quick though. Also, I had to dial in a +3 micro focus adjustment on my 5DS. Out of the box, it was front focusing — noticeably so. For an $1,800 lens, I expect it to be perfect out of the box. It could be my camera, some of my lenses like the 24mm f/1.4L II have needed adjustments. Perhaps it’s the 50 megapixels, the camera body, etc., but still I think the lens should be perfect out of the box with my camera. Also, I the AF isn’t 100% spot on. Granted f/1.4 has a narrow depth of field, but again this isn’t the best Canon AF lens I have ever used in this regard.
- It took them long enough!
All of the photos below were edited in either Lightroom, or using a combination of Iridient Developer and Alien Skin Exposure. They were all shot at f/1.4 (the that says “have a great day” was shot at f/1.8) and are uncropped so that you can see how the bokeh looks, as well as the light falloff, and vignetting. All photos were shot on a Canon 5DS.