Canon EF 20-35mm F/3.5-4.5 USM hands-on review

November 6, 2014

This lens is in no way a special lens, a matter of fact, I’d called it surprisingly normal. Actually, it’s so normal that it becomes un-normal. When I tried to look up reviews on the lens, I couldn’t really find any. Of course I found the usual tech-reviews, the ones going through the MTF values and other sharpness tests and etc. but I couldn’t find a more real-life review of it.

Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 20-35mm @ 35mm, f/5, ISO 1000, 1/60

And that’s why I decided, that if I’d get this lens, I’d write about it, hence this hands-on review.

It’s important to note that this lens has met it’s EOL from the manufacturer (EOL, End of life), i.e. Canon stopped making this lens back in 2007, they started manufacturing it in 1993, so it had a solid 14 years out on the market. What I’ve read is that this lens kind of replaced the professional equivalent, the Canon EF 20-35mm f/2.8L (produced 1987-1995), I say “kind of” because this was more of a consumer-friendly version of the f/2.8L lens (and Canon did release a replacement L-lens, the Canon EF 17–35mm f/2.8). The interesting with this tid-bit of history is that in 2007 this lens (and the replacement 17-35mm L-lens) got replaced by another L-lens, the Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L.

Whoa, that was a lot of text.

Canon EF 20-35mm and a Canon EOS 5D

So I’d like to start of with saying that if you have a crop camera, an APS-C camera that is, you shouldn’t get this lens, why? Because there’s a multitude of better lenses in this focal-length that you can get, and many times they’re a lot cheaper. I got this lens specifically for a full-frame camera, and I didn’t have, nor wanted, to spend the kind of money that Canon wants me to spend on the L-equivalent lenses (The 16-35mm or the 17-40mm, which both are over $500 a pop).

The thing that I like most with the lens is the weight, at 340g it’s easy to just throw it in the bag without noticing the weight increase.

Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 20-35mm @ 20mm, f/9, ISO 100, 1/100

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 20-35mm @ 20mm, f/3.5, ISO 100, 1/100

The lens does suffer from a lot of “haze” when shooting outside where half of the image is sunny and the other half is in shadows, as can be seen above. You can fix some of this in post, but I try to avoid situations like these with this lens i.e. inside pictures where the light is somewhat evenly distributed or outside during a cloudy day. This could also be attributed to the lens that I’m using, it’s pretty old, and it’s not really in the best shape any more.

Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 20-35mm @ 35mm, f/8, ISO 400, 1/50

I’ve also noticed that this lens has a tendency to overexpose, I usually need to underexpose with a half stop in order to not blow the highlights.

Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 20-35mm @ 35mm, f/4.5, ISO 100, 1/125

I haven’t used this lens as much as I’ve wanted, mostly because I’ve become used to the sharpness from primes, which this lens is unable to compete with.

Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 20-35mm @ 31mm, f/9, ISO 100, 1/25

Do I recommend it? If you can find one for cheap — yes, if you need a wide-zoom and don’t want to spend a lot. But for the retail price of $350-$450? Nope, I can’t say I’d pay that much for this lens which pretty much performs as a kit-lens.