A working photojournalists review of the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II review
Disclaimer: Please note before reading on: I am not a super tech focused photographer, when I find things that work, I stick to them. I rarely read gear reviews or get excited by new releases. However in June this year when my 2nd Canon EF 35mm 1.4 (MK 1) died, I knew it was time to start praying to the photo gods to birth Canon’s longtime rumoured 35mm 1.4 prime replacement.
So today when the buzzer rang and a courier told me she had a parcel. It literally felt like Christmas had come early. Luckily for me, I was out shooting today on a commissioned project here in Glasgow about reunited refugee families. So I had plenty of time to put the lens through its paces. Unfortunately for you all, I cant show the pictures, so I only have a few others taken on the way there and then coming home in the early evening.
For those of you who cant be bothered reading a few paragraphs below, essentially what I was hoping for in this lens upgrade was serious enhancements in terms of build quality/weather sealing and also auto focus. So far, so good, but I also look forward to the next few weeks of shooting here in Glasgow to see how I feel after some more time in the hands.
First impressions to look and touch
My first thought was, ‘this is heavier and longer’, so much so that it initially struck me as being more similar in length and weight to the 24-70mm 2.8 mkII as opposed to the older 35mm 1.4. Couple with the 5D series it also feels considerably heavier than I am used to shouldering everywhere and anywhere. While these were my first two impressions, my third one, was happiness at seeing a much stronger felling and weather proofed lens. Hoorah! Finally I wont have to worry about rust starting to accumulate along the exposed metal close to the contact points. Both my previous 35mm 1.4 primes developed rust spots over the years, I put it down to their exposure to a lot of salt, sand and dust from beaches, dusty cities, and spending too much time in the back of utes (aka pick up trucks). Today I was out and about for 5 hours carrying the camera and while I initially definitely noticed the difference in weight, it wasn’t something I thought about again over the day of shooting.
Auto focus in day light
While shooting all afternoon in good light and then at the home, the lens was as good as I had hoped. It felt cracker fast and was consistently finding the mark. I haven’t had a 35mm 1.4 (MK1) for the past three months so admittedly I may have forgotten a little as to how quick it was.
Albeit my worrying short term memory loss, one thing for sure is that the Canon 35mm MK1 was optically great, however there were too many times I missed things due to the focus just not being bang on when it mattered.
Auto focus at night time
Most of my auto focus frustrations with the 35mm 1.4 MK1 was when shooting at night. I will stress this lens still missed the mark a few times on the walk home, especially when we starting to explore a new back alley on the way home. However I can say that I feel I have a better product in hand than I did a year ago with the MK1. Below is a photo where the focus was good but could still have been sharper.
l know many people will ask the question, “yes, but the price?” My response, I know its a crazy amount of money and I understand it will be prohibitive compared to the sigma half its price. Personally I could justify this terribly expensive lens (Australian dollar is absolutely struggling these days) because of how much I use it for my work. In fact it doesn’t leave the camera body and on my website www.conorashleigh.com at least half of the photographs taken there were with this lens.
The photos below is why I am happy I spent the money on this lens. I just cant wait to put it to work now!
Its with sadness I write this post since receiving communication from the wonderful Sri Lestari about the current condition of her friend and client Erry.
Erry is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. She was scheduled to start her third round of treatment this week but hasn’t felt well enough to continue so it has been postponed. Sri requested a few photos from me to send to Erry to lighten her day and cheer her up, I asked if we could also put this blog post up in dedication to Erry.
Next week Sri Lestari will undertake her annual trip around parts of the archipelago of Indonesia. This time leaving from Manado on the northern tip of Sulawesi, and arriving at its southern capital of Makassar, almost 2000km and 3 weeks later. This is from Sri’s crowdfunding page her organisation UCP has set up to raises as much money as possible for the trip “I want to show Indonesia what people like me can do with access. I want to inspire and unite Indonesia on the rights of the disabled. I want to touch the communities I pass through, and demand attention for our needs with government and other major institutions. I want to take my story to the world.”
If you are interested in donating to help fund Sri’s trip this year you can do so here on her crowdfunding page. I hope Sri is successful in getting the funds to undertake her trip this year and continue inspiring people like Erry to live to their potential despite the struggles of being physically disabled in Indonesia. We live in a world where cancer is unfortunately common but I ask you all to keep Erry in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.