Review of Canon 14-35f4L for Landscape photography

A yucca plant of White Sands stands on skeletal arms as its friend is buried by the shifting sands.

Two plants, what lifted, one buried into the ever shifting sands. The skeletal underbelly of the first plant makes for an interesting image as this plant tries to lift itself from the dune.

As the title suggests, this review is not a post about how this lens works in a generic sense, but in a specific field of interest of mine, landscape photography. It will cover a broad aspects of landscape photography but won't cover astro-images since I have not done any astro-photography with it. But I have dragged it through a few national parks, used it in a variety of conditions now and I have a few thoughts on it.

Field of View

Lets start with this one because it's probably the reason why you are here anyways. What does a 14mm lens field of view look like? The answer is depends on whether lens correction is on or off. The camera has a built in lens correction so when you actually view it with your R series camera on the back of the screen, you will get one preview. When you view it in Lightroom you get the lightroom preset review, which is nearly identical to the camera. Finally, when you turn off lens correction, you get a very different image than what you might expect. Lets begin with the non corrected version because it is very dramatic.

Above is what the image looks like with no lens correction applied. Notice the hard vignette black edges on the corners? That is the actual lens. Because the lens has such a wide field of view but lacks a large bulbus element, the result is you actually record the edges of the lens in camera at 14mm. There is also a pretty strong vignette at the edge of the image. The overall result means you will need to crop or do lens correction in Lightroom to deal with this.

Below is the lens corrected version using Lightroom. It is much better, but notice that there is significant crop on the twigs coming into frame on the left and the complete loss of the small saguaro on the far right. After correction, you are no longer at true 14mm. The field of view is still wide, but not the advertised 14mm.

Is this bad though... Up to you to decide. If you feel like you are getting gipped out of that field of view, go buy a third party lens like the Tamron 15-30 f2.8 and adapt it.

Detail and Clarity

Is this the sharpest lens I have ever photographed with? I am not sure, but its not the worst. I still think the Tamron 15-30 is hands down one of the best lenses I have ever used, but this 14-35 gives it a run for its money. The image below is about a 100% crop on an image (probably more actually). The detail on these seed pods from 7 feet away is pretty darn good. I can easily see the texture on these pods (they are only 2 inches or so in size). This is center sharpness

Now lets look at another example. below is an image taken in Oregon Pipe National Monument. I provide the full view, and two views at about 100% percent crop. The first cropped view is at the center and the second is the bottom right corner.

The center is sharper, but the edge is not terribly noticeably soft either. The canon 16-35 f4L easily has softer edges. In fact I am overall very impressed with the edge sharpness. I have not come into the situation yet where I am bummed out by how soft the edges are.

Organ pipe cactus located within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monuement on the border of Mexico and Arizona. Image taken at sunrise

Full image.

Center crop of the cactus
Bottom Right crop of the image

F-stop Sharpness

Now lets bring up one more aspect of sharpness, F-stop number. If you are new to this let me do a quick run down. Lenses come with a range of f-stops. These deal directly to the little leaflets in your lens that act like your iris that expand and contract to allow various amounts of light into your eye. The smaller the F-stop number you use, the bigger the opening is and the shallower your depth of field is. The bigger the number you use the greater your depth of field is. The trade off is that as the f-stop increases in number the softer your image becomes because some properties of light get in the way.

I have not really used this lens at f4 yet so I do not have much thoughts on that F-stop number (I'll update this in the future) but I can say a bit between f11-f18. I find my lens has a sweet spot around f13/f14, and it is ridiculously sharp from front to back. Its kind of at a level I was not expecting. At f16 though this lens gets soft and worse at f18. I use to shoot a lot at f16, but not so much anymore.

Now there is a play between focal length, f-stop and sharpness that does need to be addressed. I need to sit down and do a few tests with this lens to get a better idea, but here is the run down. At 14mm f13 this lens is really sharp. At f16 or f18 not so much. At 20mm I have only really used f13/f14 but its just fine. At 24mm its pretty good at these numbers as well, but I think the lens performs better at 14mm than 24mm. With more use I will know better.

Contrast and Color Rendition

I have not noticed anything odd. I did not suddenly feel like anything changed. So don't worry about this topic just yet. Where I think you should worry is how the lens correction adjusts things. I generally like a bit of a vignette. The correction of this lens is usually quite dramatic at 14mm. Edges are brightened and there is a lot of counter warping. Toggle back and forth on having lens correction on for anything less than 20mm. at 24mm I like the vignette.

For example, in the image below is a scene of some cactus in Arizona. The clouds in the top left lost detail/contrast and color in the LR lens corrected version but still had great contrast and detail in the non-corrected version. I still used the corrected version but ended up exposure blending back in the clouds to get the detail I wanted rather than using a single frame. (Image taken at 20mm f14).

a brittlebush is blooming in the desert with saguaro cactus in the background. Image taken within Saguaro National Park.

Its Greatest Selling Point- Weight

I got this lens because it was light weight, super wide angle, light weight (wait, did I say that twice) and sharp. It also wasn't $2200 dollars. It is a bit on the higher side in price, but I shaved over a pound in lens weight plus the weight of a lens adapter. I also picked up 5 more mm of focal range. These two factors may not sound like much, but over the course of many miles, and shooting opportunities it matters. In addition, it is smaller than my huge Tamron lens, so the torque on the ball-head is less, so it's easier to set in place, adjust and fiddle with and less post adjustment drift occurs when tightening the ball-head.

I am much more excited to go backpack with this lens this summer.

Astro Image

I'll give it a shot here soon and I will let you know.

Dust Control

It was in a sand storm for a bit. No problems after. That's a good sign.

Sun Star

I have only photographed one sun star at 14mm. The result is below. Another website showed the sun star at 24mm. At 14mm and f16, the flares are a bit softer than I would like, but the 24mm example on the other site was nice at f16. In fact the 24mm lens flare looked identical to the 24-105 lens flare at 24mm and f16. So that's a good sign.

Some Final Thoughts

I am really liking this lens. I think it will become my main landscape photography lens and I might only pull out my Tamron for night shots simply because it is an f2.8. But for hiking, backpacking and every day use, I think this lens will be a godsend and will save me a lot of heart ache. This past summer I literally spent weeks trying to decide whether I wanted to bring my huge Tamron lens on a backpacking trip or sacrifice a bit of quality and field of view for my 24-105 lens but keep my pack much lighter. I don't think I will run into that problem this year. That's why I did this, to save my backpacking soul.

No regrets

A large chunk of petrified wood sits on the edge of its demise as the earth erodes around it. The large fin like hills surround...

Petrified Badlands

A large chunk of petrified wood sits on the edge of its demise as the earth erodes around it. The large fin like hills surround it.

Posted in Gear and tagged Lens, gear, canon, 14-35, f4l.