It is my pleasure to introduce you to the new benchmark for wide: the world's widest angle rectilinear lens with full frame 35mm image sensor coverage (as of review time) – the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens. While this lens is all about extreme wide angles, Canon has not cut any corners otherwise. Endowed with a red ring encircling the objective end and a considerably-high price tag, great things were expected from this lens and the 11-24 L has not let us down.
Eleven mm is an extremely wide focal length. There are wider angle full frame fisheye lenses available, but these lenses capture a very barrel-distorted image with straight lines rendered very curved (unless they pass directly through the center of the frame). There are wider angle APS-C lenses available, but these have a much smaller image circle producing a much narrower angle of view and are essentially incompatible with full frame cameras. Until the 11-24 L arrived, the widest rectilinear focal length available in a full frame DSLR lens was found in the Sigma 12-24mm Lens and the next widest option was found in the Canon's EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. Nikon's widest rectilinear lens (at review time) is also 14mm including prime and zoom options.
The 11mm 126° angle of view is noticeably wider than 12mm's 122° and considerably wider than 14mm's 114°. Many photographers' full frame kits do not contain a wider-than-16mm focal length and 16mm's 108°10' angle of view is considerably narrower still. To say that a 16mm max-wide lens owner will be very impressed by the 11mm angle of view is an understatement.
I knew how wide 11mm was going to be, but I was still blown away by the 11mm angle of view. Use the follow angle of view comparison to see how much wider 11mm is compared to your widest focal length.
I suggested in the Sigma 12-24 review that you might want to wear scene-complementing shoes when working at 12mm. I'll add that at 11mm, you should make sure your pants match also. Just sayin'. Keeping your own shadow from contaminating the scene is another challenge (wear a nice hat and embrace the selfie aspect).
On the APS-C side of the fence, the 11-24mm focal length range, yielding a 17.6-38.4mm angle of view equivalent, does not look so unique. There are many zoom lenses with 10mm and even wider focal lengths available with image circles large enough to cover these smaller sensors. However, there remains a position to be filled in the APS-C wide angle lineup and that is for a lens with stand-out image quality. There are some good APS-C lenses available, but none that I would consider truly amazing.
Will APS-C users pay this much for a lens? Few will. Are APS-C cameras be able to make use of the quality of this lens? Absolutely. APS-C cameras have some of the most pixel-dense sensors available, making lens quality more-potentially a limiting factor for getting the ultimate image quality from such cameras. Some of these body owners may find this lens worth the price. It has also been suggested that buying a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM Lens along with a nice full frame camera would be a better option.
Cinema EOS camera owners are a group that will find this lens very useful.
With the incredible popularity of photography today, it has never been harder to create work that is differentiated from the crowd, work that sets you apart or above. Extreme wide angles can do just that for you. However, a challenge remains and that is creating compelling compositions at these extreme wide angles.
It is easy to go out and simply shoot at ultra-wide focal lengths, but ... these snapshots will more often than not look like ... snapshots. An ultra-wide angle of view pushes the background away, making it much smaller in the frame relative to close foreground subjects. Ideal compositions will incorporate an interesting, close foreground subject along with a complementary/supporting midground and background in the scene. This image was captured at 11mm, emphasizing the words in the concrete.
Unless working in a tight space, there is going to be a lot of background in the scene and keeping the entire background attractive becomes challenging in many locations. When this lens was first announced, my immediate thought was that the big landscape of the American Southwest would be an ideal location to take this lens to. Not long afterwards, CPN posted a video of this lens being use in that specific location.
I'm not saying that this lens will not be useful in many other locations including where you live. I also should point out that the 24mm end is not extreme and is quite easy to compose with, providing the ideal angle of view for many uses.
As you likely already determined, these focal lengths will be very popular with landscape photographers. While considering this lens for landscape photography use, a detracting attribute must be understood and that is the bulbous front lens element precluding the use of standard threaded front filters, namely circular polarizer and neutral density filters. Watch for companies such as Fotodiox to implement a filter solution for this lens, but the filter holder and the filters themselves will be quite large and it is quite likely that the widest angles will not be supported (making the holders less appealing to produce in the first place). Regardless, there remains a lot of landscape photography to be done without filters and, as usual for wide angle Canon lenses not accepting front filters, a slip-in rear gel filter holder is provided (more about that feature coming later in the review).
Cityscapes are a great use for this lens as shown in the 24mm example above.
There are many other photography subjects to be captured with the 11-24mm focal length. Wedding photographers will be able to capture the big picture like never before. I'm visualizing the bouquet toss with the bride on the right, the wedding party on the left and the flowers in the air between the two (captured in a high speed burst). Or, the bride and groom coming down the aisle, large in the frame, with the rest of the ceremony small in the frame behind them.
Architecture photographers will find this lens very useful and real estate photographers will especially find this lens valuable. In real estate, bigger generally means more valuable. If you can make the real estate appear larger in photos by pushing the background deeper in the composition, more walk-throughs can be generated and more properties can potentially be sold. The latter point is what gets both realtors and photographers paid.
This lens will make a great option for a attaching to a remote sports camera, capturing the start of a race, capturing the finish of a race, covering the goal, mounted over the basket, etc. The lens will also capture the big image of the arena and will work for the overhead shot of the MVP sports figure being mobbed for interviews after a big game.
There are many additional needs for wide angle photos captured in tight spaces including vehicle interiors and large groups. When people are in the photo, care will be required to prevent perspective distortion. Noses and heads are easily able to be made to appear larger than the rest of the body parts (ears, feet, etc.) and larger than other subjects in the composition. A person closer to the camera can appear much larger than a person farther away (though sometimes this attribute can be used to an advantage).
Obviously, I made 12mm work for my selfie shown above. Learn more about this complicated capture here: 12mm Environmental Portrait and The Making of My First Selfie
What wide angles are not the best for is creating a diffusely-blurred background. The out-of-focus details in the background are not enlarged enough for a strong blur to be created with ultra-wide angles of view. And, the f/4 max aperture is only moderately wide, meaning that depth of field does not become razor thin at normal focus distances.
For purposes of shooting a great expanse of the night sky or for stopping fast action indoors, I wish this was an f/2.8 max aperture lens. Otherwise, I probably will not encounter a strong need for that wide of an aperture in this lens. Even at f/4, with angles of view so wide, star trails do not become noticeable (the earth's motion causing stars to cross enough pixels to become blurred) until longer exposure durations than with longer focal length lens options. The longer exposures can be used to brighten the image, offsetting some of the 1-stop aperture difference I'm talking about. That the Canon 11-24 aperture ranges from 1/3 to a full stop wider than the Sigma 12-24mm DG II gives the Canon a low light advantage in this comparison.
The Canon is also advantaged by having a fixed max aperture over the entire focal length range. Wide open exposure settings can be maintained over the full focal length extents.
For many (especially indoor) scenarios, adding your own light to the scene is an option. Keep in mind that, even with the flip-down diffusor in place, none of Canon's flashes will cover angles wider than 14mm. Many accessory flash modifiers are available to cover the wider angles. This diffusion of course reduces the flash's effective power level and distance.
Canon's most recent wide angle zoom L lens, the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens, amazed us with its image quality. The first question in my mind upon the 11-24's announcement was: "What is the image quality of a 2.5x more expensive, but much wider angle lens going to be?" A repeat performance would be really impressive.
The first clue to a newly-announced Canon lens' image quality is usually the theoretical MTF charts provided along with the press release. Below is a comparison that includes MTF charts for the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Lens and the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Lens.
The thick lines show contrast while the thin lines show resolution. The solid lines show sagittal (lines radiating from center to outer image circle) results while the dashed lines show meridional (lines perpendicular to the sagittal lines) results. The black lines indicate a wide open aperture while the blue lines show results at f/8. The left side of the chart shows center-of-the-image-circle measurement and the right side shows peripheral measurement. The higher the lines, the better the lens performs. When all of the lines get crushed into the top of the chart, the lens promises to be amazing.
I know, it seems strange to refer to a 24mm MTF chart as "TELE", but ... work with me here.
I think the 11-24 looks very close to the amazingness of the 16-35 IS overall and it looks considerably better than the other options including Canon's widest rectilinear prime lens, the 14 L II. As always, the full story becomes known when the lens arrives, but ... I was quite optimistic that the 11-24 was going to be a top performer and worthy of the highest-end lens kits.
With the lens in hand, reality is known and reality is that the sharpness/contrast/resolution, usually my primary concern, is of no concern. The 11-24 is impressively sharp in the center at all focal lengths and aperture settings including at f/4. Extreme full frame corner performance is practically a match for the center performance and that fact is very impressive. The only reason to choose a narrower-than-wide-open aperture is for controlling DOF (depth of field) and to reduce vignetting.
With the wider focal length full frame corners hiding under 4+ stops of vignetting as measured using a low contrast "Neutral" Picture Style setting, vignetting is a valid concern in some situations. As the focal length is increased, wide open aperture vignetting is reduced by roughly .5 stops for each marked focal length setting with little change from 20-24mm. By 24mm, the corners are darkened substantially less, by a low-for-wide-open 1.6 stops. In real life photos, the peripheral shading reduction realized by stopping down to f/5.6 is substantial (roughly 1/3 less) and very noticeable. Corners see shading ranging from 2.5 stops at 11mm down to a barely-noticeable 1 stop at 24mm at this 1-stop narrower aperture. At f/8, the shading range is 2 stops to 1 stop and at f/11, the range is 1.5 to .8.
It should be noted that these vignetting numbers are not unusual for wide angle lenses. The 17-40 f/4L L and 16-35 f/2.8L II have similar wide open vignetting at their widest angles as does the Sigma 12-24 II. The 14mm f/2.8L II has about 1/2 stop less and the 16-35 f/4L IS has about 1 stop less.
APS-C DSLR users will, as always, see significantly less shading than those using a full frame body. In this case, expect just over 1 stop of shading to show in the corners at the wider half of the focal length range using a wide open aperture. Otherwise, the vignetting is not likely to be noticeable.
While the vignetting often can improve the appearance of an image, it is not always desirable and fortunately, it can easily be corrected. With peripheral image illumination being applied in the correction process, increased noise is the penalty paid.
With focal lengths this extreme, I'm surprised by how little CA (Chromatic Aberration) this lens shows. This lens is not CA-free and you should expect mid-frame and corners to show modest amounts of CA, most noticeable at high contrast transitions on a full frame DSLR. CA can generally be removed with little degradation to image quality.
The 11-24 has barrel distortion at the wide end that transitions into no distortion and then into pincushion distortion at the long end. I can use that same line to describe the distortion profile of most zoom lenses. What differentiates lenses is how much distortion is shown.
Canon promised "Minimal distortion – ideal for architecture and interiors" and overall, I agree. I'll use "moderate" to describe the amount of barrel distortion at 11mm. While this amount is not going to provide perfection for the Canon-named uses for this lens and adds a challenge to leveling the camera, I'm pleased with this amount of distortion considering how wide this lens is. At 24mm, the pincushion distortion is only mild and the transition between distortion types is nearly linear throughout the focal length range. The distortion-free focal length is about 16mm.
At 11mm, this lens has slightly more distortion than the Canon 16 or 17 to something mm zooms lenses have at their widest focal length. The 11-24 has significantly less distortion at 16mm than these other lenses. At 14mm, the 11-24 has slightly less distortion than the 14mm L II. The Canon 11-24 and Sigma 12-24 are similar in their widest distortion profiles, but the Canon has less distortion at the shared 12mm focal length.
While our largest-sized custom distortion test chart is quite large, a lens this wide must be tested from a very close distance to properly frame the chart. A question I needed answered was: Does this lens' distortion pattern change at longer focus distances? I quickly ran into a challenge: finding a straight line large enough to completely transverse the entire 11mm angle of view at a long distance. Skyscrapers can provide this, but one needs to be positioned at 1/2 of the height of the scraper being photographed to get straight lines on both sides of the frame (and only very tall buildings need apply). The horizon over the ocean will work, but ... I'm not currently on a coast. I did find some subjects that work for this test, but ... what my challenge also shows it that many will not often encounter straight lines completely crossing their 11mm images at long distances with any frequency.
Longer distance testing reinforced the results found in the close distance testing. Here is a worse-case example showing a (hopefully) straight structural wood beam running across the top edge of the frame.
I have shot in this beautiful venue many times, but never have I fit so much of the room into a single frame.
It is not hard to get the sun or other bright lights into the frame at 11mm, so flare, one of the hardest image quality defects to correct, is a concern. With the sun in the corner of the frame and a wide open aperture, a mild amount of flare shows in a narrow strip at 11mm. The amount of flare is reduced as the focal length is increased until a very minimal amount of flare can be found against an evenly-colored background. Note that finding a completely evenly-colored background for an 11mm angle of view is a challenge with even a blue sky having some gradient to it. Add some detail and you will struggle to find any flare.
Flare usually becomes more pronounced at narrower apertures, but in the case of the 11-24, the difference is very slight. If you want to observe the worst-case flare for this lens, check out the 20mm f/8 and f/11 results in the standardized test. While using that tool, make any comparisons that interest you. You will find this lens holding up very well to the competition. Here is an 11mm sample image with the sun completely in the frame:
Coma, typically most visible in corners at wide open apertures, is remarkably well controlled on this lens. I find coma easiest to find in star photos captured on a clear night with a dark sky. While the first night that provided me this opportunity had some low altitude haze, the results were easily discernable. Coma (not to be confused with CA) is generally recognized by a sharp contrast transition towards the center of the image with a long, soft contrast transition toward the image periphery. Notice that, while some CA and minor star trails are showing, the 11mm extreme corner crop shows a relatively mild amount of coma and at 15mm, this lens turns in one of the best performances I've seen.
These are 100% crops taken from the extreme top right corner of the frame (the 11mm sample was shot in vertical orientation). These 20 second exposures were captured with an EOS 5D III at ISO 3200 (no high ISO noise reduction) with an f/4 aperture selected. Note how small stars appear at 11mm.
The EF 11-24mm L Lens has a 9-blade circular aperture that Canon promises helps "... deliver beautiful, soft backgrounds." While that statement is proving true, getting a background diffusely blurred enough to become smooth when using a stopped-down aperture (where the circular aspect matters) is challenging. To do so requires the 24mm end of the focal length in use with subject matter located opposite of the selected focus distance. Here is an f/8 example:
The out of focus highlights have a slightly bright outer ring with a relatively even fill to them – a normal/good appearance. The odd number of aperture blades insure that narrow aperture-captured points of light will become 18-point star shapes.
Rolling the 11-24mm's image quality up into a worst-case example, following is a set of 100% crops taken from the absolute top right corner of images captured using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. This location shows the worst vignetting (darkening of image), the worst CA (causing the image to appear blurred) and the worst of most other negative image quality effects. To better see through the vignetting, the widest aperture crops were increased in brightness.
These images were captured in RAW format and processed using the Standard Picture Style in DPP with sharpness set to only "1" (very low). Note that the camera was (intentionally) not leveled for these images. It was not that long ago when ultra-wide angle zoom lenses delivered corners that appeared as a messy blur. If you remove the CA from these examples, the results are very impressive.
I could share the center-of-the-frame comparison, but ... all of the images look the same - they are all razor sharp.
I don't usually spend much time talking about lens elements and coatings, preferring to let those features of a lens speak through the image quality. The results are what really matter. But, what Canon has put into this lens is worth noting.
To start, the 87mm diameter ground and polished front aspherical lens element is "the largest such lens element made." [Canon] Three additional glass molded aspherical elements are included in this lens design, minimizing distortion across the entire focal length range. Also included are Ultra-low Dispersion (UD) and Super UD lens elements, designed to significantly reduce chromatic aberration.
Three kinds of special lens coatings have been used on the 11-24: Subwavelength Coating (SWC), Air Sphere Coating (ASC) and Fluorine. Reducing flare and ghosting is the primary goal of these coatings and increasing contrast is the end result.
We have seen all three of these coatings before, but ASC is the newest. "This is a hybrid coating consisting of nano particles that trap capsule-like air between the ASC layer and conventional multi-layer coatings. The Air Sphere particles form a super low reflective coat on the surface of the lens element to reduce reflection and act as a ‘crash mat’ to slow light down to roughly the same speed as light travels through glass, thus preventing the cause of reflection." [Canon]
Two lenses get the SWC treatment which also gradually slows down the light, working in conjunction with the ASC coating to further reduce flare and ghosting with increased contrast the result.
The third coating, Fluorine, is applied to the front and rear lens surfaces. Fluorine's non-stick properties prevent dust and water drop adhesion and makes lens cleaning much easier. Fingerprints, for example, easily wipe off of lenses with this coating (many of Canon's better lenses now have this). This coating is especially valuable on a lens this wide as dirt on the front lens element can appear in images.
Normal for Canon L lenses is for autofocus to be driven by a ring USM focusing motor and the 11-24 gets the same along with a high-speed CPU and the latest optimized AF algorithms. Canon promised "silent" and "fast" focusing and they delivered. AF is nearly instant with normal subject distance changes and reasonably fast over full extent changes. Note that the longest marked focus distance on this lens is 3' (1m), so infinity is quickly reached.
The 11-24 L reliably and very accurately locks onto its subject. Because focal lengths this wide provide deep depth of field at typically used focus distances, accurate AF is not overly challenging to achieve. Only a quiet shuffling is heard during the AF process. Inner focusing means the lens does not extend or retract during focusing and the front lens element will not rotate during focusing (though with this lens realizing little benefit from this latter feature).
At the wide end of the focal length range, subjects change size noticeably in the frame during a full-extents focus distance pull. At 24mm, not so much. This lens, if not completely parfocal, is very close to it. Subjects (both near and far) focused on at 24mm remain in very good (if not ideal) focus when the lens is zoomed out to 11mm and vice versa (though critical focusing is easier at 24mm). Conduct you own test before relying on this feature, but ... it looks good to me.
FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported, meaning the lens can be manually focused even in AF mode and in this case, even when the camera is powered off. The manual focus ring is located toward the front of the lens. This is my preferred MF ring location, primarily because it avoids inadvertent focus distance changes made while holding the lens normally (especially while reframing).
The 0.76" (19.2mm) MF ring, with 106° of rotation covering only a short range of distances, makes critical focusing very easy even close-up at 24mm. This ring is very smooth, has no play and is ideally damped. Being on a slightly raised section of the lens, this ring is also easy to find.
Not close to setting a record is this lens' 0.16x MM (Maximum Magnification) spec, achieved at 24mm and 11.8" (300mm). While this spec is not going to amaze many, 11mm focusing to an 11" (280mm) MFD (Minimum Focus Distance) is good enough to create unique, strongly perspective-distorted images if desired. Here is a table comparing similar lenses.
|Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 L USM Fisheye Lens||5.9"||(150mm)||0.39x|
|Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens||8.7"||(220mm)||0.15x|
|Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens||9.4"||(240mm)||0.17x|
|Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens||11.0"||(280mm)||0.16x|
|Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG II HSM Lens||11.0"||(280mm)||0.17x|
|Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens||7.9"||(200mm)||0.15x|
|Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens||11.0"||(280mm)||0.15x|
|Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE Lens||9.8"||(250mm)||0.11x|
|Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens||11.0"||(280mm)||0.20x|
|Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens||11.0"||(280mm)||0.22x|
|Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM Lens||11.0"||(280mm)||0.23x|
|Nikon 16-35mm f/4G AF-S VR Lens||11.4"||(290mm)||0.25x|
|Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM Lens||11.0"||(280mm)||0.25x|
The MM at 11mm is 0.06x and at 16mm, the MM is 0.10x. To gain a very significant reduction in MFD and increase in MM, put a 12mm extension tube behind this lens. Though not compatible at the wider angles, this ET provides a near-macro MM range of 0.73-0.53x. This range means that subjects in focus will be limited to very short distances.
It's an L Series Lens, so we expected pro-grade build quality and Canon delivered it. The 11-24 L is designed especially for use by landscape photographers who will not only be taking this lens off road but frequently off trail in search of the ultimate shot, so it is expected that this lens is able to withstand some abuse.
Looking under the hood, this lens resembles many of the other recently introduced Canon L zoom lenses and those familiar with these lenses will be right at home with the 11-24.
Add the front-elements-encasing hood and this lens becomes quite large.
The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens has a compact barrel with a large convex front element housed within an integrated hood. The MF and zoom ring area of the lens, where the left hand naturally falls, provides the feel of a small lens.
Engineering plastic construction keeps the weight down, and in the case of the integrated hood, allows the lens to absorb/dampen shock, providing some impact protection. While relatively large on the front, the lens is nicely sized for use and the zoom ring is ideally located where I hold this lens. The raised hood area of the lens rests against the back of my left hand, adding to the control I have over the lens and assisting in a steady hold. The hood is deep enough to prevent my hand from getting in any frames.
"Because of the weight of the front optical group, the EF11-24mm f/4L USM employs a new mechanical design to ensure a smooth focus and zoom mechanism." [Canon] While the 11-24 L does not change overall size with focal length change, the substantial convex front lens element group(s) does travel inward/outward a small amount as demonstrated below.
With the front elements retracting deeper into the hood at 24mm than at 11mm, the hood can be designed to offer more-optimal shading at both focal length extents. The zoom ring has good smoothness over its 70° of rotation, has no play and has ideal rotational resistance.
In terms of weight, the Tamron 15-30 is the other lens in the following chart that compares to the 11-24L. The Tamron hit the streets at the same time as the Canon and though not quite as wide, is even taller than the Canon. Otherwise, the Canon 11-24 has the largest proportions in this list, though the front element housed in the hood is responsible for most of the increased dimensions.
|Model||Weight||Dimensions w/o Hood||Filter||Year|
|Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 L USM Fisheye Lens||19.1 oz||(540g)||3.1 x 3.3"||(78.5 x 83mm)||n/a||2010|
|Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens||8.5 oz||(240g)||2.9 x 2.8"||(74.6 x 72mm)||67mm||2014|
|Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens||13.6 oz||(385g)||3.3 x 3.5"||(84 x 90mm)||77mm||2004|
|Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens||41.6 oz||(1180g)||4.25 x 5.2"||(108 x 132mm)||n/a||2015|
|Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG II HSM Lens||23.7 oz||(670g)||3.3 x 4.7"||(83.82 x 119.38mm)||n/a||2011|
|Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens||22.8 oz||(645g)||3.1 x 3.7"||(80 x 94mm)||n/a||2007|
|Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens||34.2 oz||(969g)||3.9 x 5.2"||(98 x 131.5mm)||mm||2007|
|Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE Lens||28.9 oz||(820g)||4.1 x 5.3"||(103 x 135mm)||95mm||2012|
|Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens||38.8 oz||(1100g)||3.9 x 5.7"||(98.4 x 145mm)||mm||2014|
|Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens||22.6 oz||(640g)||3.5 x 4.4"||(88.5 x 111.6mm)||82mm||2007|
|Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM Lens||21.7 oz||(615g)||3.3 x 4.4"||(82.6 x 112.8mm)||77mm||2014|
|Nikon 16-35mm f/4G AF-S VR Lens||24 oz||(680g)||3.2 x 4.9"||(82.5 x 125mm)||77mm||2010|
|Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM Lens||16.8 oz||(475g)||3.3 x 3.8"||(84 x 97mm)||77mm||2003|
For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.
Extra care should be exercised when mounting and dismounting this lens. The wide hood diameter makes it a stretch to get my fingers around the end of the lens far enough to reach securely beyond the lens cap. The better alternative is to grasp the lens around the thinner diameter area. Because the rings turn, the thin area between the rings is where I grasp the lens for this purpose. However, when the lens is released from the camera, the front-heavy design means that gravity wants to twist the lens from your hands. Ideally, add support under the front of the lens during this process. I find the density of this lens adding to its quality feel.
Especially appreciated by landscape and other outdoor photographers is that the 11-24 L is a weather-sealed lens. Most of Canon's smaller weather-sealed lenses require a front filter installed to complete the sealing and because this lens does not accept front filters, I expected that the front lens element was not completely sealed.
That Canon omits the front of the lens in the following quote solidified my theory: " ... waterproof and dustproof construction on the mount, switch panel, zoom and focusing ring prevents dust and moisture from getting into the lens." Supporting my hypothesis is that Canon also states "The EF11-24mm f/4L USM features the same level of waterproof and dustproof construction as the EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lenses." These lenses require a front filter for complete sealing. Chuck Westfall of Canon USA later cleared up any remaining questions in this regard: "Water- and dust-resistant construction is used in the lens mount, the switch panel, the zoom ring and the focusing ring of the EF 11-24mm f/4L USM zoom lens, but not the area surrounding the front element."
The integrated hood protruding over the front lens element helps prevent water from reaching the non-sealed area of the lens, but I wouldn't position this lens upwards during a rain storm.
I have already discussed the fact that the bulbous front element precludes the use of a standard threaded front filter, but a slip-in filter holder for cut gelatin filters is provided at the rear of the lens. The white lines indicate the size the gel filter material should be cut to.
The only rear gel filters I can envision being used are neutral density filters. I have not experimented with these gel filters to date, but the Kodak 3 x 3" Neutral Density Optical Gelatin Wratten 2 Filters have my attention. The price seems high until you realize that you can make 4 of the under-1.25" square filters from each sheet (assuming that no printing on the filter interferes with such use – cut carefully). An advantage of the rear gel filters is that they are tiny and light.
A lens with this front element and integrated hood design is not able to utilize a standard thin lens cap. The Canon Lens Cap 11-24 has a deep design, permitting it to reach over the hood for full protection.
The lens cap clips to the hood for very good retention (better than many of the friction fit type of caps that tend to stay in the case when the lens is pulled out). The cap's release switches align with the top and bottom of the lens, as is typical for this type of Canon lens cap. In the past, this style of lens cap would release when the camera was placed on a table or similar firm surface, due to the pressure on one of the release buttons. The 11-24's cap releases are recessed enough that this is not an issue.
The 11-24 L ships with a Canon LP 1424 lens pouch. The pouch provides dust and light abrasion protection for the lens. For impact protection, you will want an additional case.
Let's look at some comparison images:
Above you find the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 L USM Fisheye Lens on the left with the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens beside it. The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens is next with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM Lens to its right.
Next, I'll put three other brand lenses beside the 11-24 L:
That is the Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG II HSM Lens on the left and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens on the right with the Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE Lens on the far right. Primarily because of its smaller front, the Sigma is easily the smallest of this group. The ultra-alert will notice that the Sigma is sitting slightly higher in this comparison. Due to Sigma's shallower rear lens cap design, that lens was raised the make the comparison more true to life.
While many are drooling over this lens, the price, driven by that amazing ground and polished front aspherical lens element, relegates it to enthusiast and professional kits. The 11-24's initial street price is 2.5x the 16-35 f/4L IS street price. While only 1/2 of the street price of the 200 f/2L IS, there are no Canon lenses currently priced between the 11-24 and 200 f/2L. This is not an inexpensive lens, but ... I think it is worth the price. Based on the initial demand and popularity this lens is enjoying, I feel validated on this line of thinking.
The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L Lens is compatible with all EOS DSLR cameras manufactured to date (and with the "M" series cameras via the EF adapter). The evaluation lens was purchased from an online retailer.
If you are looking for a completely-apples-to-apples comparable lens, you can stop looking – there isn't one.
If you can ease the wide end focal length requirement, the Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG II HSM Lens is available for 1/3 of the price. The Canon to delivers significantly better image quality even at f/11 and has max apertures up to 1 stop wider.
If you are using an APS-C format camera, there are many wide angle lens options available with a similar focal length range. These other lenses are far more affordable and buying a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM Lens and a full frame body would be a better option than buying the 11-24 for an APS-C body.
If 14mm is wide enough for you and a zoom range is not needed, the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens is worth considering. The 14 L II is a nice lens (smaller and lighter), but ... the price of this one is not so dramatically less than the 11-24 L. These two lenses, compared at 14mm, have similar across-the-frame image sharpness with the zoom having a slight advantage at f/4. The prime has a 1-stop wider aperture, less vignetting at comparable apertures and slightly more CA. The 11-24's zoom range provides it a strong versatility advantage.
For the severely budget-constrained, the Samyang/Rokinon/Bower 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Lens is an option. This lens is fully manual, including manual focus and manual aperture. The Samyang has a wider aperture, but it is significantly less sharp and has much more distortion (the ugly bulge-in-the-middle variety). For stopped down aperture use, this lens has decent image quality for the bargain price.
Note that I am referring to the yellow-ringed Samyang 14mm lens. That a newer red-ringed version of this lens became available went under my radar. I am told that the red-ringed version has better image sharpness (though still suffers from the strong mustache distortion). I'll pick up a copy of this lens for testing.
If 15mm is wide enough for you, the Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE Lens is a great option. Unfortunately, the Zeiss costs about as much as the Canon, has only one focal length and does not have AF. The two lenses have, overall, similar image quality with the Zeiss holding a 1-stop max-aperture advantage. Another big Zeiss advantage is the ability to use standard front filters (though they are 95mm in size).
I love the Zeiss 15 and currently have it in my kit. Before the 11-24 arrived, it was my widest rectilinear lens. My current plan is to keep it for at least the near future, primarily to use for the wider max aperture and with filters.
Another option reaching as wide as 15mm is the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens. Right out of the product name we see two advantages this lens holds: an f/2.8 aperture and VC (Vibration Control). A much lower price tag (about 40%) is the next easy differentiator. At their widest comparable focal length, 15mm, the Canon is well into its focal length range and shows far less distortion. The Tamron takes the lead for a few mm of range at about 20mm before the Canon retakes the advantage at 24mm. The Tamron has longer focal lengths to its advantage.
At their widest comparable aperture, f/4, the Tamron is a full stop into its aperture range and produces noticeably less vignetting. The Tamron is a strong performer optically, but the Canon has less CA at 15mm and produces better corner image quality over their comparable range at f/4. By f/5.6, both of these lenses turn in stellar results. The Tamron is slightly lighter and slightly longer, but it is much wider in the hand.
If 16mm is wide enough for you, go buy the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM Lens. It is an amazing lens and a very good value.
If you need even more-extreme wide angles or don't mind the fisheye look, the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 L USM Fisheye Lens is a great option to consider. The fisheye zoom lens is smaller, weighs half as much and costs less than half as much – and is a very sharp lens.
Many of you are correcting the 8-15's strong barrel distortion and are happy with the results. This correction is indeed a good option, but that this correction is a destructive process must be understood. Because corner details in a fisheye image are strongly compressed, correction (while retaining the original image's pixel dimensions) requires them to be significantly stretched. Increasing the size of an image (or portion of it) is generally not favorable to the pixel-level sharpness because details must be created by the software. Reducing image size generally has a positive effect on pixel-level sharpness and the center of the image can benefit from this (but the 8-15 is so sharp that there is little benefit actually realized). The de-fishing processing is not an all or nothing decision and reducing distortion to your taste or need is the right amount. I am not saying that fisheye images must be corrected and, again, uncorrected images from this lens are very sharp.
I've had the Canon 8-15mm Fisheye in my kit since it was introduced and really like it, but I didn't find myself pulling it out very often. The distorted look was the primary reason for that lack of use. So, while the 8-15 is a great lens and having both can make sense (the 8-15 and the 11-24 are complementary), I needed to raise funding for the 11-24 and trading in the fisheye made sense for my own kit. I preordered the 11-24 within minutes of the announcement and it is now a permanent part of my kit. I love this lens.
While the benchmark 11mm focal length is getting the most attention, this lens has a very useful focal length range that bumps right into the widest focal length found in the most common full frame general purpose lenses, 24mm. While I expect to see very few kits comprised solely of the 11-24 L lens, this lens is a great complement to those found in most kits. Take a wider view: look into your kit and decide if there is a hole at the extreme wide end. If this unique focal length range has value to you, inspiring your creativity, the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens is a great next-lens choice.
Not only does the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens set a world record for the widest rectilinear focal length available in a full frame DSLR lens, it delivers elite performance over its entire focal length range while doing so. This is a very high grade lens that can deliver set-you-apart image quality.
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