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.
Canon 20-35mm USM Sample Images April 2012
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-)
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 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.
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 20-35 3.5-4.5. enlarge.
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.
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.
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
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.
Front, Canon 20-35mm (EF diaphragm not visible). enlarge.
Stops down to f/22-29.
Focus Scale top
The ring turns from infinity to the closest focus distance in about 110.º
Depth-of-Field Scale top
Infra-Red Focus Indices top
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
Does not move, ever.
Canon specifies 3.3" (83.5mm) diameter by 2.7 " (68.9mm) long.
It doesn't change size as zoomed or focused.
11.687 oz. (331.3g), measured.
Canon specifies 12.0 oz. (340g).
Plastic bayonet EW-83.
LH-D11 hard cylindrical case.
77mm E-77U front, included. (ultrasonic cap with gold "ULTRASONIC" and silver "Canon" logos.)
Standard EOS cap rear.
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.
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 is fast and mostly silent, except for the sound of softly sliding plastic.
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 is fast!, as Canons always are.
AF Accuracy and Consistency
AF accuracy is fine on my Canon 5D Mark II.
Manual focus is easy; just move the ring.
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 (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.
The color balance of this 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 matches my other Canon EF lenses.
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:
© 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Used on older full-frame DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mark II, it is loaded with color fringes.
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.
Somewhat grippy plastic.
Seem like plastic.
Feel like plastic.
Moisture seal at mount
Laser-melted into rear light baffle on back of lens, only visible when not mounted on a camera.
Noises When Shaken
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!
Canon's rated MTF at 20mm.
Canon's rated MTF at 35mm.
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.
AF - MF Switch
Leave this in AF.
Set it to MF only to deactivate autofocus.
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.
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.
More Information top
Help me help you top
I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.
The biggest help is when you use any of these links to Adorama, Amazon, eBay, Ritz, Calumet, J&R and ScanCafe when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.
If you find this page as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.
As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!
Thanks for reading!