Canon is on a roll with its updated Mark II lenses and scoring bullseyes with pretty much every shot. New versions of key focal lengths are being rolled out across the range, with fully revised optics and mechanical construction. Most are class leading, often setting new standards in one area or another, and the Canon EF 35mm F1.4L USM MkII is no exception – it is sharp, very, very sharp!

The MkII model launched last year replaces the elderly MkI of 1998. That lens was originally designed for film SLRs, but it won many digital hearts, including some on the DPReview team and several articles have already been published, looking back at the old lens and forward to the MkII with sample galleries, user reports and comparisons.

One thing missing from those articles though, is the close scrutiny of DxO Mark’s lab tests, with full analysis of MTF (Modulation Transfer Function) sharpness performance, and other important aspects of image quality that can only be properly assessed under controlled conditions. So now we’re putting that right, and the resolution of this lens on a 51 megapixel Canon 5DS R is something to behold. The new Canon 35mm F1.4 MkII shares headline specifications with the MkI, and most key features are the same or similar. It’s all-change under the skin though, with more of everything in the quest for quality, including a significant increase in size, weight and cost.

Key specifications

  • New optical design with 14 elements in 11 groups (MkI version has 11 in 9)
  • One UD glass element added, and two aspherical surfaces (MkI has one aspherical)
  • New BR Optics layer reduces CA
  • Nine rounded aperture blades (MkI has eight)
  • Weight goes up 31% and length 23% (compared to MkI)
  • Sealed, weather resistant construction (MkI is not weather resistant)
  • Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price $1799USD (MkI $1479)

Canon has paid close attention to the optical redesign and the mechanical construction, and both raise the bar. No stone has been left unturned, and just about the only thing that stays the same as the MkI is the 72mm filter size, and the minimum focusing distance is also very similar at 28cm (11in).

There is no image stabilization, with that option already very effectively covered by the Canon 35mm F2 IS USM. Purists will welcome the decision to concentrate on sheer optical quality, and it helps to keep complexity and the burgeoning weight in check.

Angle of view

35mm focal length delivers a 63° field of view on full frame cameras, measured conventionally across the diagonal, from corner to corner. Image corrected for lateral CA, distortion and vignetting in Lightroom, at default sharpening. Canon 5DS R (51mp), 1/2500 sec, F4, ISO 100, mirror lock-up.
On APS-C format, the 35mm focal length’s field of view is narrowed to 42° (56mm equivalent). This is a digital simulation, cropped 1.6x (20mp) from the full frame image above. Shire Hall, Cambridge, UK.

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