Canon 35mm f2 IS USM review: A great lens for video

Canon 35mm f2 IS USM review: A great lens for video


At the end of 2012 Canon upgraded their eighties-designed 35mm f2 lens by releasing the Canon EF35mm f/2 IS USM . Canon updated the design of the lens, giving it a more solid feel, and a much better focus ring. They also added USM autofocus, so no longer will you hear the squeeking sound of someone in terrible pain coming out of your lens. Optical performance has also improved across the board, but what makes this primes unique and so attractive to filmmakers is the image stabilisation (IS). A virtue that comes with a hefty price-tag, though.

Canon 35mm f2 IS USM on a Canon 600D

Canon 35mm f2 IS USM on a 600D

When Canon announced this new prime, many photographers complained that for the current price (update: the price has since come down quite a bit) they would rather have a lens that's even more light-sensitive than a lens with image-stabilisation. True, for photography image-stabilisation will only help you when photographing static subjects (because image-stabilisation can't stop subject movement). For filmmakers though, image stabilisation means that you can hand-hold the camera without the added bulk of a rig and the IS will remove all micro-jitters from your shots, allowing for much smoother hand-held shots.I love to shoot with primes, because of their light weight, light-sensitivity compared to zooms, and the way they force you to be creative when composing a shot. But up untill now the non-existence of image-stabilised primes made using my Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM zoom much more convenient, because I didn't need to setup or move a tripod, or use a rig. I have used primes for hand-held work but it really takes a lot more effort to keep the camera steady, and when editing I was often unpleasantly surprised by how shaky the footage still turned out. That's why Canons announcement of this lens triggered my interest.

The 35mm focal length makes this lens a perfect standard-lens on a crop camera like the Canon 600D, 70D or 7D (focal length equivalent of 56mm), giving you a wide view if you step back a little and a very nice portrait view if you move up closer. On a camera like the Sony A7s this lens will be even more versatile, as you can use it in both full frame and APS-C mode, giving you two very useful focal lengths (35mm and 50mm). If you already have a standard zoom like the wonderful 17-55 f2.8 IS USM, this lens would be my recommendation as a second lens because it allows you to film in low-light situations where f2.8 would not cut it, and it allows you to have even shallower depth of field. It also makes a nice small and light-weight package for filming and photographing almost any situation.

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