Focal Point: Canon’s EF 14mm f/2.8L Review / SDCC Preview

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L with Mio Nendoroid

I just came back from a long and fun weekend of shooting and exploring with friends, which gave me lots of time to practice shooting wider and at a fixed focal length. The public broadcast production I shot behind-the-scenes photos for required ample focal coverage in tight, dimly lit spaces, so I saw fit to rent the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L lens for the weekend and take it for an extended test drive. After having a whole 72 hours with it, I can definitely vouch for its quality despite some minor hiccups and handicaps I found along the way.

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L, Lens

This 14mm lens has Canon’s ultrasonic motor drive to allow for smooth auto-focus with very little noise. Of course, being a prime lens like my 50mm f/1.2L, the 14mm did not have image stabilization. The production I was taking images of used great studio lighting in its key scenes, but everywhere else in the building was illuminated by harsh, dim yellow lighting surrounded by early 19th century interior designs. I found myself going up to ISO 800 (and sometimes 1600) and opening the aperture up to its widest point to compensate. By the end of the day, I was glad I didn’t get the EF-S 10-22mm instead.

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L, Front Glass

Two of the biggest factors in keeping this lens in its place were its spherical glass  design and the permanent petal-shaped metal lens hood. I tested the EF-S 10-22mm before and noticed significant barrel distortion, whereas the 14mm had some of the straightest lines I’ve ever seen in photos I’ve taken in the past. If I shoot super-wide again, this may very well be my go-to lens. As far as the permanent lens hood, I like how it protects the curved glass somewhat, but it does very little to compensate for flare. Shots inside the controlled production environment were not a problem, but my outdoor venture around downtown San Diego produced highly unfavorable color contrast results. I’d love to see what improvements Canon made in the second version of this lens considering all that I found, so I doubt I’ll be using the mk-I in the future.

So what does a shot actually look like from this lens? Let’s take a look:

Final Fantasy XIII - Lightning, SDCC Cosplay

Amazing! This is a photo of cosplayer Ariel who dressed up as Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph her well-designed outfit in the dealer’s hall at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, and the results blew me away. The distortion around the edges of the frame were very minimal (if at all present), and the wide focal length allowed her to direct her sword just inches away and to the left of the lens  for a rather dramatic and battle-ready post while keeping the rest of her figure in-frame. Great job Ariel!

Conclusion: For the short time I had the lens, I can definitely say that it would be worth the money sometime down the line to invest in. The photos of the production I shot for produced some nice overall frames of the cast and crew taking care of business in the rather historic-looking building we were in, and my venture into San Diego for Comic-Con yesterday proved to be very comfortable with this single lens; I didn’t even bother taking out my 50mm the entire trip! Also, the fixed length allowed me to get a little more creative with shots that I would have just zoomed in to obtain, which could take away from the dramatic viewpoint in comparison to a photo viewed at 14mm wide.

More photos of Comic-Con International 2011 pending, but here’s a link to the collection now so that you may follow it as I get around to updating and posting them later today.

Update (7.26.11): Comic-Con 2011 pics are updated! Follow the link above to find the set.


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