May 6, 2020

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II | Lens Review

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II lens is one of my favorite and most used lenses for weddings! As a wedding photographer, one of my primary goals is to document the countless candid moments happening around me throughout a wedding day. Though many photographers prefer the versatility of a zoom lens, as a prime lens photographer, I prefer shooting with a very low aperture as I want my photos to have a three-dimensional “pop” to them. In order to still be able to switch focal lengths rapidly, as events are unfolding before me, I shoot with two cameras on me at all times. I find that this method allows me to still shoot with the low aperture of prime lenses along with the versatility of using both a wide angle and a telephoto focal length. I usually mount my Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II on my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and either my Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L or my Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS on my Canon EOS R. Rarely throughout a wedding day does my Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II leave my side. Here are just a few reasons this lens is so incredible. 


The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II is built to last. It is constructed with a metal barrel and a durable rubber focusing ring.  I have owned it for over 3.5 years now, and it has yet to show any signs of age.  I have used this lens in the rain, snow, and wind, and have never had an issue with it. All focusing is done internally which means the front glass doesn’t extend out when focusing. This helps prevent it from damage and keeps dust out. It is probably the best dust-sealed lens I own. The lens hood has a felt interior which helps to collect dust and to block bouncing light. I almost always shoot with hoods on my lenses to help prevent damage from bumps and to stop stray light from washing out my images. 


The autofocus of the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II is incredible. It is one of the most quick and accurate lenses I have used. Because it is so fast and accurate, I often use this lens to photograph processionals and recessionals as it can easily track the bride and groom as they walk down the aisle. The quick autofocus also means I can use this lens for candids. During cocktail hour, I will quickly make my way through the crowd and capture guests talking and laughing. Using this lens, I can capture both guests and the context of the moment without disrupting the emotion! The lens also focuses great in the dark. I can photograph the first dance as well as sparkler send offs and know that my images will be in focus. 


The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II is crazy sharp. When shooting wide open at f/1.4, images are sharp not only in the middle of the frame, but also all the way to the edges of the photo! Because of this, I am able to photograph groups of people, keeping them all in focus, while simultaneously, the background will have a beautiful blur to it. This allows the people in the photo to really pop out of the image, drawing the eye to the subject and framing them with a beautifully blurry background. 

Wide Aperture

The biggest reason I love the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II is its f/1.4 aperture. While this lens is more expensive than other lenses, its f/1.4 aperture lets in so much more light that it completely justifies the price tag. When using this lens, I don’t need to use a flash in many situations, where if I were using a zoom lens with an f/2.8 aperture, I would need to use a flash. I am certainly not against using a flash when the situation calls for one, but my belief is that much of a wedding day should be documented using the light that was actually present so that the couple can remember their day as it was experienced.


The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II has been one of the best investments in gear that I have made to date. It is a must have lens for photographers capturing candid photos, group photos, and photos in low light situations. That said, there are some situations where I do not recommend using this lens, such as for headshots.  You can read more about why in my review on the best lens to use for portraits here.  One other thing to note is that because this lens is a pro level lens, it comes with a pro level price of around $1,600. If you are just starting out and need a 35mm lens at a lower price point, I would highly recommend the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 STM lens. It is a great lens for only around $500 and you can find my review of that lens here.  Overall, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II produces sharp images, perfect color, great contrast, and all at f/1.4. I couldn’t recommend it more highly!

For a detailed video review of the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II lens, along with a comparison to the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 STM lens, check out our YouTube review: