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Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5
Full-Frame EF USM
(1993-c.2007)

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

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Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5

Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 (77mm filters, 1.1'/0.34m close-focus, 11.7 oz./331g, about $200 used.) enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay) or at Amazon when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these oldies when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.

Arroyo Grande

Motel Lobby at 20mm. f/5.6 at 1/40 hand-held, 5D Mark III at ISO 1,600. Original © file.

 

Tree Bridge, See Canyon, San Luis Obispo

Tree Bridge, See Canyon, San Luis Obispo, 13 April 2012, 3:17 PM. (Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 20-35mm USM at 35mm, f/5 at 1/400 at AUTO ISO 100.) Bigger.

 

July 2012    Canon Reviews    Canon Lenses    All Reviews

 

Canon 20-35mm USM Sample Images April 2012

 

How to Use Ultrawide Lenses

Canon Ultrawide Lenses Compared

 

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II (2007-today)

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L (2001-2007)

Canon 17-40mm f/4 L (2003-today)

Canon 17-35mm f/2.8 L (1995-2001)

Canon 20-35mm USM (1993-2007)

Canon 20mm f/2.8 USM (1992-today)

Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 L (1989-1995)

Tokina 17-35mm f/4 (2011-)

 

Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

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The Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 is a very lightweight full-frame ultrawide zoom for all Canon EOS digital and 35mm autofocus cameras.

This 20-35mm has fantastic ergonomics. Nothing moves externally as it's zoomed or focused, and all the controls are exactly where they should be and feel great.

This 20-35mm has instant manual focus override simply by grabbing its focus ring at any time, while the heavier professional Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 L (1989-1995) requires moving a switch.

This Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 is marvelous for use with ultralight 35mm EOS cameras.

It works fine on Canon's smaller format DSLRs, but its focal length range makes no sense except on full-frame. Use this lens on full-frame, and use it when you need to travel light, but use any kit lens like the 18-55mm IS instead for a much more practical range on small format DSLRs.

If traveling light, consider also the current Canon EF 28mm f/1.8, which has better and faster optics, and is even a little smaller and lighter.

Used on older full-frame DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mark II, it has awful optics, loaded with color fringes. Used on a modern camera like the Canon 5D Mark III, which corrects these color fringes in-camera when a lens profile is loaded, its optics are surprisingly competitive, making this a great lens today for traveling light with great image and ergonomic quality.

 

Compatibility and Formats

This lens is optimized for 35mm film and full-frame digital, and of course works on all 1.3x and 1.6x Canon cameras.

This Canon EF EOS 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 works perfectly with every Canon EOS camera ever made, meaning every Canon DSLR and every Canon autofocus 35mm camera made since 1987.

This means of course it works great on today's 5D Mark III and Canon 7D, but it works just as well on my original Canon EOS 620 from 1987!

As a full-frame lens, this works on all Canon SLRs, regardless of format. As a full-frame lens, I will be reviewing this lens on full-frame.

 

Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5

Canon 20-35 3.5-4.5. enlarge.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

 

Name

Canon calls this the CANON ZOOM LENS EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ULTRASONIC.

EF means "electronic focus," meaning that there is an autofocus motor in the lens itself. All Canon lenses since 1987 have been EF.

ULTRASONIC means USM, which means you may grab the focus ring at any time for instant, silent manual focus override.

 

Optics       top

12 elements in 11 groups.

Internal focus and internal zoom; nothing moves externally as focused or zoomed. (The rear group moves as zoomed.)

No aspherical elements.

 

Focal Length

20-35mm.

On 1.3x Canon cameras it will see angles-of-view similar to what a 26~45mm lens would see on a 35mm camera.

On 1.6x Canon cameras it will see angles-of-view similar to what a 32~56mm lens would see on a 35mm camera.

Clearly this is a silly choice for anything other than a full-frame or 35mm camera.

 

Angle of View (on 35mm and full-frame cameras)

94º ~ 63º diagonal.

62º ~ 38º vertical.

84º ~ 54º  horizontal.

 

Close Focus       top

1.1 feet (0.34m) from the image plane, specified.

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio       top

1:7.7.

 

Extension Tubes

Use the Canon EF-12 or Canon EF12 II to get close-ups to 0.70x at 20mm.

Use the Canon EF-25 or Canon EF25 II to get close-ups to life-size at 35mm.

 

Diaphragm       top

Canon 20-35 L

Front, Canon 20-35mm (EF diaphragm not visible). enlarge.

5 blades.

Stops down to f/22-29.

 

Focus Scale       top

Yes.

The ring turns from infinity to the closest focus distance in about 110.º

 

Depth-of-Field Scale       top

No.

 

Infra-Red Focus Indices       top

Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5

Focus Scale, Canon 20-35/3.5-4.5.

Yes, marks for 35mm, 28mm, 24mm and 20mm focal lengths.

These marks are probably for the 800 nm wavelength.

 

Filter Thread       top

77mm.

Plastic.

Does not move, ever.

 

Size       top

Canon specifies 3.3" (83.5mm) diameter by 2.7 " (68.9mm) long.

It doesn't change size as zoomed or focused.

 

Weight       top

11.687 oz. (331.3g), measured.

Canon specifies 12.0 oz. (340g).

 

Hood       top

Plastic bayonet EW-83.

 

Case       top

LH-D11 hard cylindrical case.

 

Caps       top

77mm E-77U front, included. (ultrasonic cap with gold "ULTRASONIC" and silver "Canon" logos.)

Standard EOS cap rear.

 

Quality       top

Made in Japan.

 

Price, USA        top

2012 January: about $200 used.

2005 December: $350 gray, $370 USA (equivalent to $400/425 with inflation in 2011).

1995 December: $450 USA (equivalent to $666 with inflation in 2011).

1994 December: $450 USA.

 

Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh   Breathing   Color   Distortion

Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters     Flare     Lateral Color Fringes

Maximum and Minimum Apertures   Mechanics   Sharpness   Sunstars

 

Overall     performance      top

The Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 is a well-made, great-handling, plastic-barreled lens with optics easily corrected electronically in Canon's newest cameras.

 

Autofocus     performance      top

Autofocus is fast and mostly silent, except for the sound of softly sliding plastic.

 

Auto/Manual Switching

Just grab the focus ring for instant manual-focus override.

You never need to touch the AF-MF switch unless you want to lock-out autofocus.

 

AF Speed

AF is fast!, as Canons always are.

 

AF Accuracy and Consistency

AF accuracy is fine on my Canon 5D Mark II.

 

Manual Focus

Manual focus is easy; just move the ring.

 

Bokeh     performance      top

Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is a non-issue, as nothing ever gets that soft (or that sharp) with this lens.

 

Focus Breathing     performance      top

Focus breathing (the image changing size as focused) is mostly of interest to cinematographers who don't want the image changing size ("breathing") as the lens is focused among different subjects.

The image from the Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 gets very slightly smaller as focused more closely.

 

Color Rendition     performance      top

The color balance of this 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 matches my other Canon EF lenses.

 

Distortion     performance      top

This Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 has barrel distortion at every setting.

The barrel distortion is obvious at 20mm, and much less at 35mm, but it never goes away.

The distortion is complex; even with correction with Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool there is always some residual waviness, especially at the 20mm end.

Use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove most of it:

at 10' (3m)
20mm
+3.3
24mm
+1.7
28mm
+1.0
35mm
+0.9

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

For less distortion in an ultrawide zoom, chose the professional Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 L (1989-1995), which has less distortion than any of today's Canon ultrawides.

 

Ergonomics     performance      top

Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5

Canon 20-35/3.5-4.5. enlarge.

Ergonomics are perfect.

Everything feels and works great, especially the zoom ring, which is the front third of the lens. Even the stopper against which your hand lies on the zoom ring rotates with the zoom ring, while the filter thread stays put.

Brilliant.

 

Falloff (darkened corners)     performance      top

Falloff is visible wide-open at the wider end, and otherwise it's invisible.

With Peripheral Illumination Correction (an option in the Canon 5D Mark II and others), it's not a problem. My Canon 5D Mark II, as of firmware 2.0.4, has this data inside it, unlike for many other Canon lenses.

I've greatly exaggerated the falloff by shooting a flat gray target and presenting it against a gray background.

 

Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 falloff on full-frame

No Peripheral Illumination Correction

 
f/5.6
f/8
20mm Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff
24mm Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff
28mm Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff
35mm Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

With Peripheral Illumination Correction

 
f/5.6
f/8
20mm Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff
24mm Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff
28mm Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff
35mm Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Filters, Use with     performance      top

There's no problem with vignetting even with thick or rotating filters, but don't push your luck: you'll get vignetting on full-frame at 20mm if you stack filters.

The filter threads don't move.

My Hoya HD polarizer works fine, but don't use polarizers on ultrawide lenses.

 

Flare and Ghosts     performance      top

The 20-35 has a normal amount of ghosts if you get the sun in your image.

The flare-buster behind the front element is a clever idea, but can't help if a light source is part of your image.

 

Lateral Color Fringes     performance      top

Used on older full-frame DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mark II, it is loaded with color fringes.

Used on a modern camera like the Canon 5D Mark III, which corrects these color fringes in-camera when a lens profile is loaded, its optics are surprisingly good, because the color fringes go away!

 

Maximum and Minimum Apertures     performance      top

 
Maximum
Minimum
20mm
f/3.5
f/22
24mm
f/4
f/25
28mm
f/4
f/25
35mm
f/4.5
f/29

 

Mechanics     performance      top

Canon 20-35mm f/2.8

Rear, Canon 20-35 f/3.5-4.5. enlarge.

The Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 is a very well made lens. It has a metal mount, and well-made plastic elsewhere.

 

Filter Threads

Plastic.

 

Hood Mount

Plastic.

 

Fore Barrel

Plastic.

 

Focus Ring

Somewhat grippy plastic.

 

Mid-barrel

Plastic.

 

Internals

Seem like plastic.

 

Zoom Ring

Plastic, rubber-covered.

 

Zoom Cams

Feel like plastic.

 

Rear barrel

Plastic.

 

Moisture seal at mount

No.

 

Mount

Chromed metal.

 

Markings

Paint.

 

Serial Number

Laser-melted into rear light baffle on back of lens, only visible when not mounted on a camera.

 

Date Code

None found.

 

Noises When Shaken

Mild rattling.

 

Made in

Japan.

 

Sharpness     performance      top

Lens sharpness doesn't matter much, but it sure distracts amateurs who confuse lens sharpness with picture sharpness.

With that warning, it was really awful on my old Canon 5D Mark II. While usually sharp in the center, it was never very sharp in the sides and corners because of strong color fringes.

Astoundingly, my 5D Mark III can correct these color fringes, so in actual use, it's pretty good!

Arroyo Grande

Motel Lobby at 20mm. f/5.6 at 1/40 hand-held, 5D Mark III at ISO 1,600. Original © file.

 

Canon 20-35mm MTF at 20mm

Canon's rated MTF at 20mm.

 

 Canon 20-35mm MTF at 35mm

Canon's rated MTF at 35mm.

 

Sunstars     performance      top

With its 5-bladed diaphragm I expected to see clear 10-point sunstars on brilliant points of light, but in actual shooting, I see very little.

 

Compared       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Canon 20-35mm f/2.8

Canon 20-35 USM, 20-35mm f/2.8 L, 17-40mm f/4 L and 16-35/2.8II. enlarge.

 

Canon 20-35mm f/2.8

Canon 20-35 USM, 20-35 L, 17-35mm, 17-40mm and 16-35mm L II. enlarge.

See Canon Ultrawide Zooms Compared.

 

Usage       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

 

AF - MF Switch

Leave this in AF.

Set it to MF only to deactivate autofocus.

 

Focus Point

I haven't had any problem with this lens, but with my other Canon ultrawide zooms I usually get the most accurate focus with the center AF area.

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Only have $200 for a Canon ultrawide zoom?

Shooting a 35mm EOS Rebel?

Shooting the 5D Mark III?

Heading out for an around-the-world budget trip, or backpacking?

This is your lens.

If you're shooting older full frame DSLRs or shooting test targets in your mom's basement, use the Canon 28mm f/1.8, which is sharper than any of Canon's ultrawide zooms.

While I'd pass on this lens for older full-frame DSLRs, on my 5D Mark III , its low weight, fantastic ergonomics and correctable optics just made it my new favorite.

If you've found the time I've spent sharing this professional review helpful, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay) when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these oldies when you get yours through these links.

Thanks!

Ken

 

More Information       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations   More

Canon's Museum page on it.

Canon USA's page on it.

 

Help me help you         top

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Thanks for reading!

 

 

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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