Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Review

Canon has announced the EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens. While we anxiously await the expected June arrival of this lens, I'll share some information and my expectations with you.

The EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens is Canon's widest angle, smallest, lightest and least expensive EF-S-compatible (APS-C-format) macro lens. While there are many very strong advantages listed in that single sentence, the product name reveals even more, including the Hybrid IS system and the STM AF system.

Canon refers to this type of lens as a +1 lens, meaning that most will not choose the EF-S 35 macro as their sole general purpose lens, but will add it to their kits for the additional functionality it provides. And judging by its features, this lens promises to indeed be a very nice addition to the kit.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Angle

Focal Length

When considering the addition of a lens to the kit, the focal length is an important feature to consider. The focal length determines the angle of view and the angle of view in turn determines the perspective provided for the desired subject framing.

As an EF-S lens, the 35 macro is only compatible with APS-C format EOS cameras (such as the Rebel, ***D, **D and 7D-series models) and these cameras feature a 1.6x FOVCF. On these cameras, the 35mm focal length provides an angle of view equivalent to a 56mm lens on a full frame/35mm body. This angle of view provides a very natural perspective, approximating how we perceive a scene with our own eyes and provides very strong general purpose usefulness.

This angle of view will frequently find application in fashion, portraiture, weddings, parties, events, documentary, lifestyle, sports, architecture, landscape, general studio photography, around-the-house needs and much more. A number of the uses for this lens include people as subjects. Note that this focal length is modestly too wide angle for tightly framed head shot portraits (for my taste), but the APS-C 35mm angle of view is very nice for less-tightly-framed head and shoulders, partial body and full body portraits.

A lens with this focal length can be simply left mounted on the camera for whatever opportunities arise.

As already mentioned, the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens is the widest angle EF-S macro lens available. That this focal length is so wide limits the close-up capabilities to those subjects that will not be scared away by the close proximity of the lens. That this lens has macro/close-up capabilities greatly extends its usefulness, with food, small products, rings, flowers and a wide range of additional subjects easily covered.

Max Aperture

Many first-time APS-C DSLR camera buyers choose the optional kit lens when purchasing their camera. While the APS-C kit lenses are typically value-priced (at least when purchased in a kit) and they work OK, they are generally lacking in some areas to achieve the low price. One feature they always lack is a wide aperture with f/4.5 being the typical max aperture at the 35mm focal length we are talking about in this review.

With a 1 1/3 stop wider max aperture advantage, the 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens can stop action in less than one half as much light and permits handholding in similarly-lower light levels. In addition to allowing more light to reach the sensor, permitting faster shutter speeds and/or lower ISO settings, increasing the aperture opening permits a stronger, better subject-isolating background blur at this focal length. Lenses with an opening wider than a specific aperture (usually f/2.8) enable the higher precision AF capabilities (most often the center AF point) in some cameras and present a brighter viewfinder image.

Image Stabilization

While the f/2.8 aperture alone is nice for low light use, greatly aiding this lens' handheld low light performance (and overall versatility) is a 4-stop-rated Hybrid Image Stabilization system. To get a 4-stop benefit from an equivalently wider aperture would require an unavailable-anywhere f/0.7 lens.

When you need/want to leave the tripod behind, IS is there for you. Perhaps most important is that IS allows handholding of the camera in extremely low light situations with still subjects (or permits motion blurring of subjects such as flowing water with sharp surroundings). Also valuable is that IS allows handholding in medium and low light levels when more depth of field is needed, allowing narrower apertures to be used without a tripod. When using a circular polarizer filter with narrow apertures (typical for landscapes and cityscapes), IS can be helpful even under a full sun.

I find image stabilization especially useful when photographing macro subjects due to the stabilized viewfinder aiding in optimal composition.

The "Hybrid" part of this IS system indicates that the stabilization accounts for lateral motion, especially important when photographing very close subjects.

Image Quality

According to all marketing departments, every lens introduced is totally amazing and this one is promised to be the same: "The new Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM captures stunning images ..." [Canon USA press release]. I suppose that we should expect nothing different as that type of promotion is what is expected from this department – hyping products is what they do and who is going to say that a product is anything but great? Still, they may be right in this case.

Canon's similar small wide angle prime lenses perform very well and while we await test results from this lens, I would not be surprised to see a repeat performance from this one. The MTF charts should arrive soon and will hint at the final story.


The Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens is the first macro lens to receive the Lead-Screw STM (Stepping Motor) driven AF system. Based on previous STM implementations, I expect this lens to focus with decent speed and to do so very quietly. Likely so quietly that you need to put your ear next to the lens in a quiet room to hear the click sounds made during autofocusing.

Most of Canon's STM lenses are internal focusing. This is especially nice for a macro lens as the short working distance at minimum focus distance is not further impeded upon by lens extension.

All of the Canon STM lenses I've used to date have focused very accurately and I expect nothing less from this one.

STM utilizes a focus-by-wire or electrical manual focus design (vs. a direct gear-driven system). The manual focus ring electronically controls the focus of the lens. FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in AF mode with the camera in One Shot Drive Mode, but the shutter release must be half-pressed for the focus ring to become active. Note that FTM does not work if electronic manual focusing is disabled in the camera's menu (if this option is present). The lens' switch must be in the "MF" position and the camera meter must be on/awake for conventional manual focusing to be available.

With electronics driving AF, the rate of focus change caused by the focus ring can be electronically controlled and it can be variable, based on rotation speed. That was the case with previous STM lenses and I will not be at all surprised to see the same again in the 35 IS STM.

Cameras featuring Hybrid or Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Movie Servo AF make video recording very easy and the STM lenses are very well-suited for this task. Their smooth focusing makes focus distance transitions easy on the viewer's eyes and the sound of the lens focusing is not picked up by the camera's mic. Even the STM lens' aperture changes are quiet and smooth.

The EF-S 35 macro's focus ring is relatively small, but it appears to be large enough to be quite useful and manual focusing is often useful for macro photography.

Focus distance indications and depth of field marks, such as often provided in a window, have been omitted from this lens. When Canon includes "Macro" in the lens name, it is probably going to be the real deal. Delivering a full 1.00x MM (Maximum Magnification) and 1:1 RR (Reproduction Ratio), this is a true macro lens and this capability opens up a whole new world of subjects inviting capture. Here is a table comparing a handful of Canon lenses:

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens7.9"(200mm)0.23x
Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens6.3"(160mm)0.27x
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens9.1"(230mm)0.23x
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens9.4"(240mm)0.24x
Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens5.1"(130mm)1.00x
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens11.8"(300mm)0.18x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens13.8"(350mm)0.21x
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens7.9"(200mm)1.00x
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens11.8"(300mm)1.00x

What does 1.00x maximum magnification and 1:1 reproduction ratio mean? It means that you can render a subject life-size on the camera's imaging sensor. In this case, a subject measuring only .9 x .6" (22.5 x 15.0mm) will completely fill the frame. Of course, you usually view images at a much larger size than this and that means your little subject will be output in sizes ranging from your smartphone display up to your large desktop monitor or even a poster on the wall. And in that case, the 1.00x and 1:1 numbers don't seem to give justice to the results.

Magnification from wide angle through standard/normal focal length lenses is generally significantly increased with the use of extension tubes which are basically as their name implies, hollow tubes (with electronic connections) that shift a lens farther from the camera. Doing so allows the lens to focus at closer distances, though at the expense of long distance focusing. Canon lists the MM range for the inclusion of a 12mm Extension Tube as 1.41-0.34x and 1.91-0.76x for a 25mm Extension Tube. While those are very attractive numbers, I remain skeptical of the usefulness of these combinations. Because this lens has an extremely short 1.18" (30mm) working distance (front of lens to subject distance) at its MFD, it is hard to visualize an extension tube behind this lens leaving a sufficient working distance at significantly increased magnifications.

This lens is not compatible with Canon extenders.

Build Quality & Features

The EF-S 35mm macro lens, though different, bears some resemblance to the Canon EF 24mm, 28mm and 35mm IS Lenses shown below.

Canon EF 24mm, 28mm and 35mm IS Lenses

Though this lens is targeted at entry level and amateur photographers, it should have a build quality similar to the above-mentioned lenses and that is a positive attribute. Like the above lenses, this is not a weather-sealed lens and care should be taken when wet or dust could be encountered.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Side

As mentioned, the EF-S 35mm macro lens has a 1.18" (30mm) working distance between the end of the lens and the subject at its MFD. When working distances become short, lighting the subject becomes challenging and this lens incorporates some enhancements made to address this issue. First, the end of the lens is tapered to a much smaller diameter to avoid shading caused by the lens itself.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Macro Lites

And second, a pair of continuous, circular LED lights, referred to as "Macro Lites", are positioned inside the front rim of the lens. Check out that cute little light switch.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Switches

Working in conjunction with the narrowed lens diameter, the LEDs can add some light on the subject. Keep in mind that these lights are not flashes and they will not provide the level of light intensity that flashes provide. Don't expect to use them for portrait lighting, but they should be helpful and extremely convenient for close work like flowers or jewelry and they should provide the illumination needed for composition at close distances. As the lights are continuous, close-up video possibilities are promising and improved close-distance AF performance in low light is another benefit. Note that reflective subjects are going to show a circular ring of light when the Macro Lite is in use.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Macro Lite Demonstration

As demonstrated above, the two LEDs (A & B) are individually adjustable for full or half power (or turned off) and with light fall-off being strong at short distances, the unbalanced power levels can provide a shadow-with-some-fill-lighting technique. The samples below illustrate the effects of the lights.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Macro Lite Sample

Off | Left | Right | Both

This lens does not have a battery, so expect the Macro Lites to have some level of impact on the camera's battery life.

Canon has not mentioned the 35 macro's compatibility with its macro flashes, but the rim aft of the Macro Lite appears designed to hold an adapter for these.

A strong asset of the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens is its small size and light weight. This is a compact, easy-to-take-with-you lens and only a very small number of lenses are lighter or smaller.

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens9.9 oz(280g)2.7 x 2.2"(68.4 x 55.7mm)58mm2012
Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens4.4 oz(125g)2.7 x 0.9"(68.2 x 22.8mm)52mm2014
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens9.2 oz(260g)2.7 x 2.0"(68.4 x 51.5mm)58mm2012
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens11.8 oz(335g)3.1 x 2.5"(77.9 x 62.6mm)67mm2012
Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens6.7 oz(190g)2.7 x 2.2"(69.2 x 55.8mm)49mm2017
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens4.6 oz(130g)2.7 x 0.9"(68.2 x 22.8mm)52mm2012
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens5.6 oz(159g)2.7 x 1.5"(69.2 x 39.3mm)49mm2015
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens11.8 oz(335g)2.9 x 2.8"(73.0 x 70.0mm)52mm2006
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens22.1 oz(625g)3.1 x 4.8"(77.7 x 123.0mm)67mm2009

For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

Rather unique for a Canon lens is the 35 macro's 49mm filter thread size – the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens is the only Canon DSLR lens sharing this filter size as of review time. Also unique is that, with the unusual front lens design, there are no filter threads on the 35 macro lens. I know – you are wondering how the lens can have a filter thread size but no filter threads. The answer is that the filter threads are on the lens hood.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Hood ES-27

Canon historically has made lens hoods optional on all except its professional-grade lenses. I think that lens hoods are valuable and it seems to me that they can be produced very inexpensively, so I think that lens hoods should always be included and I've complained when they are not. To solve the filter attachment issue for this lens, threads were incorporated into the lens hood and with the elevated importance of this hood, Canon included the ES-27 Lens Hood in the box.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens with Hood

No case or pouch is provided in the box for this lens. Canon lists the The Lens Pouch LP1014 as their suggested solution. A small Lowepro Lens Case would be a more-protective choice for single lens storage, transport and carry.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Cap

Price and Value

As mentioned, the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens is targeted at beginner and amateur photographers and it has an accordingly-attractive price. However, many seasoned photographers will likely find this lens to be an appealing addition to their kits as well. This is a useful lens that does not require income-producing usage to make it worthwhile investment.

As an "EF-S" lens, the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens is compatible with all Canon "EOS" cameras with an APS-C format sensor including Rebel, ***D, **D and 7D-Series models (note that the old EOS 10D, D30 and D60 are not EF-S lens compatible). The EOS "M" line is also compatible via an EF-EOS M Adapter). This lens comes with a 1-year limited warranty.

A retail model of this lens will be reviewed when it becomes available.

Alternatives to the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens

There are a couple of approaches to take when considering the alternatives for this lens. The first is to compare this lens to the other macro lenses.

In Canon's lineup, the two closest macro lens alternatives to consider are the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens and the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens.

The 60mm option lacks image stabilization and is moderately larger/heavier/more expensive. The longer 60mm focal length provides more working distance and, with similar subject framing, delivers a more-compressed perspective and a more-strongly blurred background (with less background in the frame).

While the 100mm L IS option includes the hybrid image stabilization feature, this lens is over 3x heavier, is considerably larger and costs more than twice as much. The 100mm lens is very different, but those serious about macro photography will likely find the considerably longer focal length easily worth any size/weight/price inconvenience. As with the 60mm lens, the longer focal length has advantages including more working distance, a more-compressed perspective and a more-strongly blurred background (with less background in the frame), but the 100's advantages are considerably stronger than the 60's in these regards. If your subject can be scared away (think insects), the 100mm option is going to be a much better choice. Ditto for tightly framed portraits.

Sometimes, the perspective provided by 35mm is preferred over a more-distant perspective created by a longer focal length option. The closer perspective can better emphasize closer subjects and pull a viewer into the frame. And, the wider angle focal length makes it easier to keep the entire frame sharp.

If considering the 100mm option, you may also find the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens and Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro F017 Lens interesting.

While the EF-S 35mm f/2.8 is a macro lens, it is much more than that. This lens' uses are not limited to close-up photography and if the close-up capabilities are not greatly important to you, Canon and other lens makers have many options for you to consider. Two of the most-similar are the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens and the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens. Both of these very popular lenses feature very good image quality and both are full-frame compatible, so their larger image circles should show less vignetting at wider apertures when used on an APS-C format camera.

The 35mm f/2 IS has a 1-stop (twice as much light) wider max aperture, shares the identical focal length and includes image stabilization. This lens is modestly larger, notably heavier (largely due to the full frame 2x wider aperture) and moderately more expensive.

The 40mm f/2.8 features a pancake lens design. While this lens lacks IS, it is noticeably smaller, much lighter and considerably less expensive (it is one of the best bargain lenses available).

Use the site's reviews and lens comparison tools to create your own comparisons.


It will not be hard to find room in the bag for the addition of this lens, it will not be hard to find subjects for it, the impact on the wallet will be as light as the lens itself and the convenience-to-use factor is high. If the image quality delivered by this lens proves as good as Canon's most-similar lenses, it will not be hard to justify the addition of this lens to the kit. While entry level and amateur photographers are primarily targeted by the 35 macro, I'll not be surprised at all to find the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens in pro kits as well.

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