Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Review – Worth the upgrade?

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Canon has announced its new Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM which is the first L lens to feature Canon’s Proprietary Blue Spectrum Refractive (BR) Optics. It is a a new optical element for use in camera lenses that corrects chromatic aberrations at an extremely high level to achieve superb imaging performance. With the new optics and lens constructions design, the new Canon 35mm f/1.4 II is set to achieve superior image quality. If you compare both the old and new 35mm f/1.4’s MTF charts (see below), it is apparent that the new 35mm is optically more superior. But is this going to be noticeable in images, it remains to be seen.

In addition to BR Optics, the new lens incorporates two aspherical elements and one UD glass element in a 14 element, 11 group optical formula. The EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens also features Canon’s proprietary Sub-Wavelength Structure Coating (SWC), applied to the rear surface of the first and second aspheric lens elements to help combat flare and ghosting caused by light rays entering the lens at a large angle of incidence. The lens also offers best in class minimum focusing distance at 0.28m resulting in a slight increased maximum magnification of 0.21x (0.18 previously). Autofocusing is swift and virtually silent and features Canon’s original Ring USM focusing motor.

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens features improved durability over its predecessor.  In addition, a fluorine coating on the front and rear lens surfaces helps to repel liquids and dust particles, and makes the lens easier to clean. In terms of size, the new Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is longer but thinner and weighs about 30% more at 760g.

Pricing and Availability
The new Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens is compatible with 72mm filters and will be supplied with Lens Hood EW-77B and Lens Pouch LP1219. It is scheduled to be available in October 2015, for an estimated retail price of $1,799.00.

Should you upgrade to the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

The new Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM costs about $300 more than the predecessor. Consider that the old 35mm f/1.4L was first introduced 17 years ago (1998), it is about time to see a newer and improved version, especially Nikon’s 35mm f/1.4 is far more superior. For only $300 more, you should definitely  get the newer and better Canon 35mm f/1.4L II USM . However if you are an existing 35mm f/1.4 owner, you might want to consider whether the improved image quality is worth the extra money, considering everything else is about the same (build quality AF, etc). You are probably going to offset by $800-$1000 for the upgrade.  There is always the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 which is also optical superior but much easier on the wallet.

You can purchase the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM here [B&H | Adorama] or check out the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 [B&H]



  • L-series wide-angle single focus lens introduces Canon’s newly-developed optical element, BR Optics*, which helps produce impressively high quality images by helping to maximize performance and reduce chromatic aberration.
  • Two aspheric lenses and one UD lens help provide a high level of image quality.
  • Improved durability for use in harsh environments helps ensure reliability and dependability.
  • Subwavelength Coating (SWC) helps significantly reduce lens ghosting and flare.
  • Shortest minimum focusing distance in its class (0.28m) and increased maximum magnification (0.21x) help expand the range of expression, especially when capturing close-up subjects.
  • Fluorine coating on front and rear lens surfaces helps reduce smears and fingerprints.
  • High-grade design for optimum operability with a luxurious feel.

Here is a bit of information on Canon’s Proprietary Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics.

The new Canon-developed BR optical element offers characteristics that significantly refract blue light, which lies within the short-wavelength range, to achieve impressive levels of chromatic aberration correction for outstanding imaging performance. The BR optical element, positioned between two glass lens elements to create a BR lens, will make its debut in the new EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM wide-angle fixed-focal-length lens, which is scheduled to go on sale in October 2015.

Natural light, or white light, comprises a spectrum of wavelengths, or colors, each of which realizes a unique refractive index when passing through a lens. As all colors do not converge on the same point, this disparity causes chromatic aberrations, or color fringing, to occur in an image.

Canon develops optical elements by reviewing organic optical materials, beginning with the design of molecular structures, with the aim of achieving optimal chromatic aberration correction that suppresses color fringing. With the successful development of the BR optical element, which offers unique light-dispersion characteristics that significantly refract blue light—a wavelength that, until now, had proven particularly difficult to converge to a specific focal point—Canon is able to develop lenses that result in outstanding imaging performance by correcting chromatic aberrations at an exceptionally high level.

Here is a specification comparison between Canon 35mm f/1.4L II USM and Canon 35mm f/1.4L USM 


Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM


MTF Chart


11 groups / 14 elements

9 groups / 11 elements

Angle of view

3 degrees

63 degrees

F stop range



Closest Focusing Distance



Max. Magnification



Filter Size



Dimension (LxD)






Price (Aug 2015)



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About Kent Yu

Kent is a professional wedding and portrait photographer based in Wellington, New Zealand. He and his team specialise in modern and contemporary weddings. Kent has his work published in international magazines and is a regular author to a number of photographic publication. He is fascinated by photographic equipment and enjoys showcasing the gear used in creating his images. You can find him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google+
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