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

The EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens hits the streets as Canon's widest angle, smallest, lightest and least expensive APS-C-format (the EF-S part of the name) macro lens. While there are many very strong advantages listed in that single sentence, the product name reveals even more, including the IS system (a Hybrid-type especially well-suited to macro photography) and the STM AF system, providing fast-yet-smooth autofocusing.

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. While some may find this lens adequately covers their general purpose needs, it definitely fulfills its promise to be a very nice additional lens to have in the kit.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Front View on Camera

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, this model is only compatible with APS-C format Canon EOS Cameras (such as the Rebel, ***D, **D and 7D-series models) and these cameras feature a 1.6x FOVCF. That means that the 35mm focal length provides an angle of view equivalent to that of 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 it also provides a very strong general purpose usefulness.

The 35mm APS-C angle of view will frequently find application in fashion, portraiture, weddings, parties, events, documentary, lifestyle, sports, architecture, artwork, landscape, general studio photography, pets, cars, around-the-house needs and much more. A number of the uses for this lens include people as subjects, but note that this focal length is modestly too wide angle for tightly framed head shot portraits (for my taste). 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. I usually incorporate a lens that I'm testing into my daily use and this focal length works well for many of the uses I encounter regularly.

As mentioned in the beginning of the review, 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 are not scared away by the close proximity of the lens. While I would prefer a long focal length for most macro needs, primarily for the longer working distance and stronger background blur capabilities, the wider angle option has some advantages with the different/closer perspective it provides and the potentially more-in-focus background it creates.

Regardless of the focal length, that this lens has macro/close-up capabilities vastly extends its 35mm usefulness, with food, tiny products, rings, flowers and a wide range of additional subjects easily covered.

To illustrate how useful this lens was, I felt the need to spend some quality time with it around the house. I didn't have to go beyond the confines of the yard to find an afternoon of entertainment and had to force myself to let go of the further opportunities available to me so I could get the review completed.

Most insects would also prefer you to have a longer focal length, allowing you to keep a longer distance from them, but ... some do not mind the 35mm choice.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Bee on Flower Sample Picture

You likely do not want this lens if you are pursuing the 4-legged kind of tigers, and you probably do not have them in your back yard. But, you may have tiger lilies and tiger lilies attract tiger swallowtails. Either type of tiger provides a great splash of color making them very attractive subjects. Better yet are the two combined.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Swallowtail Butterfly Sample Picture

All kinds of flowers are excellent 35mm macro subjects and they attract other desirable subjects.

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

Spiders also enjoy the insect attracted to the flowers. While not everyone finds spiders attractive, macro distance images making a spider's numerous eyes visible can be highly entertaining.

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

Not sure what to do with all of the artwork your kids (or grandkids create)? Photograph it. Then you can mentally rest as you file the precious work of art, either in the long-term storage archive box or in the circular file. Either way, you will appreciate having the memories saved for easy viewing at a later time. As the artwork improves, this lens remains ready to capture its impressiveness.

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

While the 35mm APS-C focal length is a bit long for photographing the milky-way without a tracking mount (a very high ISO setting is required to avoid star trails), I even made it work for that purpose.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Milky Way Sample Photo

The bright cloud is courtesy of a bolt of lightning, a completely unexpected, but welcomed, effect that showed up in my image.

OK, enough distractions – back to the gear review.

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

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. Gaining a wider aperture is a great reason for acquiring a plus-one lens.

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 it 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.

Here is a walk-through of most of the full-stop apertures found in this lens.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Aperture Comparison Example

Here is another image illustrating the background blur this lens is capable of.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Closer Bee on Flower Sample Picture

With the bee not being close to minimum focus distance (MFD), there is much more blur waiting to be created.

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 bright viewfinder image.

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

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.

In testing the handholdability of this lens for me personally, I found that nearly all results were sharp down to 1/6 second when using the 24MP Rebel SL2. Better than 50% of the images were usable at .3 seconds with the keeper rate declining rapidly beyond this duration. This testing was done under ideal conditions – I couldn't produce the same results on unstable ground in the wind for example.

This IS implementation is extremely quiet (virtually silent) and is quite useful for movie recording. The viewfinder remains steady at startup, shutdown and during use with drifting of subject framing being a non-issue.

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

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 this department is hired to produce – hyping products is what they do and who is going to say that a product is anything but great? Still, I expected that they may be right in this case. Canon's similar small wide angle prime lenses perform very well and I was not going to be surprised to see a repeat performance from this one.

With the lens in hand, we of course immediately set out to answer the "How sharp is the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens?" question.

Wide open at f/2.8, the EF-S 35 macro has good sharpness across the frame. Stop down to f/4 and the results from this lens get very sharp throughout much of the image circle with center-of-the-frame performance becoming especially impressive. Corners improve a bit more at f/5.6 and look very good at this point. You will not likely be able to notice any improvements at f/8.

Let's take a look at some outdoor examples. These images were captured in RAW format with a Rebel SL2 and processed in DPP using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness set to "1". These near-center of the frame crops show 100% resolution.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6    f/2.8 | f/4.0

Notice that the foreground bud in the lower right of the first comparison does not show much sharpness improvement at narrower apertures while the same is not true of some of the background details, indicating some focus shift occurring. While this lens shifts the center of depth of field rearward as the aperture narrows, subjects stay comfortably within the overall depth of field.

The first example below takes us to the extreme bottom-right corner of the frame, followed by examples from the extreme bottom left.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6    f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6

If we look past the darkening effects of peripheral shading here, we see that f/2.8 is delivering good detail into the extreme corner of the frame. The f/4 result looks better, but mostly because of the reduced vignetting. At f/5.6, the corners look quite good even for a lens costing much more than this one.

While APS-C sensor format cameras have a strong peripheral shading advantage over their full frame counterparts when compared to using the same full frame compatible lens, the advantage is much reduced when using lenses designed to cover only the smaller image circle needed by this format. In this case, a not-overly-strong about-2 stops of shading is seen in the extreme corners at f/2.8. Stopping down from the wide open aperture always results in improvement in this regard and in this case, 1 stop narrower (f/4) gets us an about-1.3 stop improvement with a seldom-noticed .7 stops of shading remaining. Stop down another stop (f/5.6) and vignetting is a negligible about-.2 stops and about 1/2 that amount remains at f/8. Overall, this lens performs very impressively in this regard. Even clear blue sky panoramas captured with this lens should provide for easy stitching with no sky gradient issues.

Lateral (or transverse) CA, shows as different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) as this is where the greatest difference in the magnification of wavelengths exists. While lateral CA is easily software corrected (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide, better is not having this issue in the first place and this lens shows only a minor amount.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

Any color other than white and black showing in the image above can be blamed on lateral CA. And again, there is only a minor amount of this defect showing.

Another relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light, or more simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration, but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to look for. Axial CA remains at least somewhat persistent when stopping down with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing while the spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures. Look at the fringing color of the specular highlights in the foreground vs. the background in the following examples.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

At f/2.8, the foreground highlight blurs have a magenta border while the background highlight blurs have a cyan border. By f/4, the undesired colors have mostly left the image and the results look great at f/5.6. While these effects are often unnoticeable, they do show up in images at times with the "Example" showing another situation where the effect showed at f/2.8. The butterfly's legs are black-only.

With a very low lenses/groups count of 10/6 along with the latest optical designs and manufacturing technologies being used, it could be predicted that this lens would show a very low amount of flare and that expectation has been met. Even with greatest natural flare source available, the sun, positioned into the corner of the frame and the aperture stopped down to f/16 (narrow apertures typically create the strongest flare), this lens shows only very faint flare effects.

As mentioned earlier, this focal length will be slightly long for its f/2.8 max aperture when photographing stars (avoiding star trails and high ISO noise at bright-enough exposures without a tracking mount is the issue), but I like what photographs of stars show me about a lens. Especially interesting is to see how strong the effects of coma, astigmatism, etc. are in the corners. With a toward-the-north-star camera angle, this is what the near-top-right of the frame looks like (the extreme top right was cropped off due to lack of bright stars).

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

The brightest star in the upper-right corner has a triangular shape, but the smaller stars are not looking bad.

With only one focal length to be concerned about, prime lens designers can usually deliver a very low geometric distortion profile and that is what we find with the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens. Low distortion, but not perfect. The EF-S 35 shows some minor barrel distortion as seen in this comparison with near-perfection. Interesting is that at macro distances, this lens' geometric distortion profile changes with some pincushion distortion showing as seen below at minimum focus distance.

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

While popular image processing programs feature lens correction profiles for most lenses which mitigates the issue, distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level and this technique is seldom as good as capturing the image using a lens that is distortion-free. That said, the distortion correction profile for this lens must account for focus distance and that is a complication. Unless there are straight lines running very close to and parallel to frame borders as seen in the example above, this amount of distortion will not be noticed.

Obviously, this lens can create a very strong background blur – at least when used at a short focus distance. The quality of that blur, referred to as bokeh, is good. Here are some f/8.0 100% crop examples showing out-of-focus specular highlights.

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

One | Two

While some concentric rings can be seen around the borders of blurred specular highlights (very normal), the outer transition is smooth and the centers are quite smooth. As seen in the second example above, small circular artifacts show within the effect in a low percentage of the blurred highlights.

With an odd-numbered aperture blade count, distant point light sources captured with this 7-bladed lens using a narrow aperture will become 14-point stars.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Sunstar Effect Example

This lens creates a rather-strong star size, an attribute I generally prefer.

While this lens does not get perfect scores for all image quality attributes, it performs well overall. I'll talk about value below, but this lens' image quality to price ratio is quite high.

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

Focusing

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 expected this lens to focus with good speed and to do so very quietly. And, it readily meets those expectations. It is difficult to hear the lens elements/groups shuffling during autofocusing and subjects come into focus quickly.

Most of Canon's STM lenses are internal focusing and this one is the same. 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.

Canon STM lenses are well-regarded for their focus accuracy and this one performs consistently well on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, EOS 60D and Rebel SL2 bodies we tested it with.

STM utilizes a focus-by-wire, 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 (or Live View activated). 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 am not at all surprised to see the same again in the 35 IS STM. Unfortunately, I can't say that I appreciate this attribute.

When I first used the STM-driven AF lenses, I thought that I would adjust to the variable MF drive speed, but I instead find it increasingly frustrating. Because of the dual speed MF ring, large focus distance adjustments can be made very quickly while precise fine tuning is made available. But, an inconsistent focus ring rotation rate change can prove somewhat maddening when trying to quickly rock the focusing ring back and forth to fine tune focusing. Using marked focus ring pulls with this lens requires a skillful rate of turn, both in setup and execution of the pull. I'd rather have a single focus ring drive rate.

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 is large enough to be quite useful and manual focusing is often useful for macro photography. The ring requires only a very light rotational force, turning more easily than I prefer.

Focus distance indications and depth of field marks, such as often provided in a window, have been omitted from this lens.

Subject size changes noticeably in the frame during focus adjustments. While this attribute is not unusual, photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques involving focus distance adjustment, videographers pulling focus and anyone very-critically framing a scene should be aware.

When Canon includes "Macro" in the lens name, it is probably going to be the real deal and that is the case with the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens. 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:

ModelMFDMM
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
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens12.2"(310mm)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.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Maximum Magnification Examples

Shown above is the treasury seal from US two dollar bill. At 24 megapixels from the Rebel SL2, this small detail could be reproduced at a huge size.

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. Those are very attractive numbers, but I was very 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 was hard to visualize an extension tube behind this lens leaving a sufficient working distance at significantly increased magnifications. But, there is sufficient working distance remaining with even the 25mm extension tube in place and with the built-in ring light, lighting that extremely close subject is accomplishable.

This lens is not compatible with Canon extenders.

Build Quality & Features

The EF-S 35mm macro lens, though different, bears much resemblance to the Canon EF 24mm, 28mm and 35mm IS Lenses. This lens is targeted at entry level and amateur photographers with a mid-level build quality, one similar to the above-mentioned lenses.

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

Like the just-mentioned lenses, the EF-S macro lens is not a weather-sealed and care should be taken when wet or dust could be encountered.

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

MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    Rotated        Compare »

As mentioned, the EF-S 35mm macro lens has a very short 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 a feature that directly address this issue. This feature is a pair of continuous, circular LED lights, referred to as "Macro Lites", positioned inside the front rim of the lens (as first seen in the Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM Lens).

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

Check out that cute little light switch showing in the image below.

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

Here is a look at the lights from the objective end of the lens:

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

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

As demonstrated above, the two LEDs (A & B) are individually adjustable for full or half power (or turned off). With both lights enabled, pushing the light button turns the lights on at full power, pressing it a second time selects half power and the third press turns the lights off again. In single-light mode, pressing the light switch repeatedly spins through the 4 single light options and off. Also turning the lights off is the camera timing out or auto-powering off (setting the camera's auto power off time to a longer duration is helpful in keeping the lights on for carefully composed images).

To toggle between the dual and single light modes, press and hold the light button for 2 seconds. The lens remembers which light mode it was in prior to turning off and selects that mode if re-activated within a short period of time.

Note that the light switch is not easy to find by touch and this has been a bit of a frustration. While the flush button design is great for when the light is not being utilized, I struggle to tactiley find it. This is not an especially-easily-seen location of the lens and I oft find myself pressing various locations on the barrel until I get lights-on. A simple bump or similar texture change would have made this button much easier to locate.

How bright are the Canon EF-S 35mm macro lens lights? That is a very good question. Canon does not provide the brightness spec with this lens, and that was a good reason to perform a test.

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

The simple test I chose was to use a frame-filling grey card in complete darkness as a metering subject (at ISO 100). Milestone distance measurement selections were made each time the Rebel SL2 camera meter said there was a 1-stop difference from the previous measurement. The distance measurements are close approximates, reporting the distance from end of lens to grey card.

DistanceLuxf/2.8f/8iPhone Lux
MFD14001/501/68300
2.8"(7.1cm)4001/251/31900
4.3"(10.9cm)1601/13.6840
6.3"(16.0cm)751/61.33400
10.0"(25.4cm)28.32.5150
13.5"(34.3cm)19.6586

Increasing the ISO would of course increase the shutter speeds by the same number of stops. The low power setting is 1/2 as bright (confirmed by the light meter). The rules of light are not changed by the ring light just because it is on a lens, so go back to what you know about light and the brightness of the light reaching the subject dropping off at an exponential rate.

Here is a photo of the built-in lights illuminating a white wall from a slight angle toward the wall, showing the beam spread and light fall-off.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Light Brightness Example

There is no question that the built-in lights are not extraordinarily bright. With the iPhone 6s providing substantially more light, it becomes obvious that the ring lite is not meant to blast a subject with light, at least not from a very long distance (your phone can do a better job at that task). The location, size, shape and convenience of the built-in LED lights are this lens' big advantages.

Let's go to an example. Mushrooms are very difficult to photograph due to lighting issues. The underside of their caps are always much darker than their tops. The example below illustrates how the built-in lights resolve this problem and also illustrate how the power levels (with both lights on) can be adjusted to balance with ambient light levels.

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

Off | High | Low

If the built-in ring light is being used as the sole light source, you want to use high power. But, a great way to utilize the built-in light is to balance the lens' light power level with the ambient, providing the right balance of fill light to other light sources. My preference in the above comparison is the "Low" example, using the half-power light setting, with the underside of the mushroom brightness balanced nicely with the background brightness. The exposures used above were 1/6, f/2.8 and ISO 100. The Rebel SL2 was laying directly on the ground with a Feisol TT-15 Mini Tripod lying on its side to stabilize the camera.

An even amount of light coming from both side of the lens with the lights located nearly on-axis with the optical path is going to create flat lighting. A flat light is often ideal for fill, but it is not always ideal for main-light purposes. If you want to capture the coloration details of the subject without the texture, use both lights on the same brightness as illustrated to the right below.

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

The ambient example above utilized side-oriented window light from a cloudy day to create shadow details in this 50%-reduced crop sample (a two dollar bill). If you want to see some texture details, the ambient might be the better choice in this case. Or, choose to use only one of the ring lights.

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

By turning on only a single light, shadows can be utilized to show depth and texture.

Note that, as with any ring light, reflective subjects are going to show a circular ring of light when the Macro Lite is in use. This is a photo of black back-painted glass, which illustrates both a reflection and the nicely-even light spread showing in the lights.

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

So, is the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 IS STM Lens' built-in LED ring light bright enough? The simple answer is yes, it is adequate for close work, especially if using a tripod.

These lights are not flashes and they do not provide the level of light intensity that flashes provide, but they aid in both composition and focusing at the distance they are useful at. With the combination of the ring lite and image stabilization, this lens can be handheld for close-up work in even complete darkness at ISO 100. Don't expect to use this lens' lights for your portrait work, but they are helpful and extremely convenient for close work like flowers or jewelry (perhaps wedding rings?) and they 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. The convenience of having a ring light built into the lens is really high.

Interesting is that the rim aft of the built-in Macro Lite is designed to mount Canon's far more powerful macro flashes. No adapter is needed for the MR-14EX II to be attached to this lens. Having a double ring lite is ... amusing. An interesting advantage of the built-in ring light over the powerful accessory flash is that it is located closer to the optical path, meaning it can better-light light extremely close subjects.

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

This lens' lights are a last resort for use as a flashlight if caught otherwise unprepared in darkness somewhere.

A very 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
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens21.2 oz(600g)3.1 x 4.7"(79 x 119mm)58mm2000

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.

Here is a look at Canon's latest 35mm lenses along with the tiny 40mm pancake thrown into the comparison.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens
Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens

The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

For a different perspective, shown below are Canon's current up-to-100mm macro lenses:

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens

And, the same lenses with their hoods in place.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens to other lenses.

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 opted to include the ES-27 Lens Hood in the box.

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

While not designated for a filter, the lens itself does have threads and the size is hinted-to by the lens hood name. The 27mm threads are provided around the end of the objective lens element, just inside lights.

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

The lens cap can mount inside the lens hood threads or it can alternatively clip onto the end of the hood. The lens hood screws into these threads

The hood is all-metal constructed and it feels very solid. The hood protects the optics from flare-inducing light and from impact. The ES-27 also blocks the reflection of the white lights in reflective subjects.

No case or pouch is provided in the box for this lens. Canon lists 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 Side View

Price and Value

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, including professionals, will recognize the appeal of this lens in their kits. This is a very useful and convenient-to-have lens that does not require income-producing usage to make it a worthwhile investment. The value proposition of the EF-S 35mm macro lens is a high one.

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 very 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.

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 three closest macro lens alternatives to consider are the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens, the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens and the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 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, it delivers a more-compressed perspective and a more-strongly blurred background (with less background in the frame). These two lenses are at least similar in sharpness with the 35 results appearing slightly better at narrower apertures. The 60 will show flare more easily but has less (negligible) distortion. The 60mm lens has Ring USM AF vs. the STM AF system in the 35.

The 100mm macro lens options extend both positive and negative aspects of the 60mm lens option, with one of the two lenses still lacking image stabilization. The negative aspects include that the 100 macro lenses are considerably larger, heavier and more expensive. A 100mm lens is very different from a 35mm lens, but those serious about macro photography will likely find the considerably longer focal length easily worth any size/weight/price inconvenience. If your subject can be scared away (think insects), the 100mm option is going to be a much better choice. The longer focal length is better at maintaining pleasing perspective for tightly framed portraits. 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 100mm advantages are considerably stronger than the 60's in these regards.

From an image sharpness perspective, the 35mm macro lens slightly sharper than the 100mm non-L macro lens.

The 100mm L IS option includes the hybrid image stabilization feature, but similar to the 100mm non-L lens option, this lens is over 3x heavier than the 35, is considerably larger and costs more than twice as much as the 35. That the 35 competes strongly with the 100mm L in terms of sharpness is quite impressive.

Both of Canon's 100mm lenses will show flare more easily, but they have less distortion and far less vignetting on APS-C format cameras (typical for a full frame lens on an APS-C camera). That the 100mm lenses are "EF" models, compatible with full frame Canon EOS camera models, means that they will migrate to the larger sensor format with you. Another differentiator is that the 100mm lenses have Ring USM AF vs. the STM AF system in the 35.

If considering the 100mm options, 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.

Sometimes, the perspective provided by 35mm is preferred over a more-distant perspective required by a longer focal length for similar subject framing. The closer perspective can sometimes 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.

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 show less vignetting at wider apertures when used on an APS-C format camera.

The highly-loved 35mm f/2 IS has a 1-stop (twice as much light) wider max aperture, shares the identical focal length and includes image stabilization. The f/2 lens is slightly sharper, has less distortion and has far less vignetting. This lens is modestly larger, notably heavier (largely due to the full frame 2x wider aperture), moderately more expensive and has a Ring USM-driven AF system.

The tiny 40mm f/2.8 features a pancake lens design. While this lens lacks IS, it is noticeably smaller, much lighter and considerably less expensive. Though the lens is small and cheap, it performs very well and qualifies as one of the best bargain lenses available. From a sharpness perspective, the 40 is close to the 35. Again, the 40 has less distortion and far less vignetting. While the 40 and 35 share "STM" AF systems, the 35's system is noticeably quieter.

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

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

Summary

It is not hard to find room in the bag for the addition of the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens and especially with the built-in macro ring light and image stabilization, the 35 macro has a very high convenience-to-use factor. With its 1x/1:1 macro capability and great general purpose focal length, subjects abound for this lens. One of the best features of this lens is the wallet impact at checkout – light. Light also aptly describes the lens itself. The image quality delivered by this lens is quite good and it is not hard to justify the addition of this lens to the kit.

Entry level and amateur photographers are primarily targeted by this lens, but the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens, for the reasons listed above, is going to be found in many pro kits as well.

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My Recommended Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens Retailers

Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my own purchases. Get your Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens now from:

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