Tuesday, March 24, 2015

REVIEW: Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens–One of the Best Lenses Ever (PART I of II)

Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens
Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens

Prior to this review if someone asked me what the best lens Canon has ever made was, I’d have to say either the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM or the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM.  However, this review has convinced me that the “best lens ever” discussion requires this lens to be in the discussion as it is simply amazing. We are talking Zeiss Otus good!

By now you’ve probably read other reviews that gush over this lens, so you’ve probably come here to get my real world take on it. This is where I usually get flamed for bringing all the love back to reality, but not this time. This lens is freakin awesome!!!!!

Case in point – below is a screen shot of a 100% crop of my first photo with this lens and one that I had never intended to put on the blog:

Click for full-size unedited original
Viewing this actual image like this on a UHD (4K) display shows every fiber of detail in the pollen and sharp edges of the pedals. You literally can’t see that detail this lens resolves on a display that isn’t 4k or greater

My jaw literally hit the floor, so I showed it to my wife. She isn’t a geek so she is typically not impressed, but she literally put her hand over her mouth and said OH MY GOD! This was like showing proper 4k images for the first time to someone who has never even seen 1080p – it was that jaw dropping!

Even this super boring image taken on a windy day was so amazing when I zoomed in, I thought I had a macro lens on my camera:

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Canon 1D X 1/400 sec at f/8, ISO 200 at 22mm

Click for the unedited full-size original

When I zoom in to the flower on the right the detail is incredible:

Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

when I move down to the leaf, I’m just blown away at the detail:

Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I became so obsessed with this lens that I found myself doing so many shots an a 11-24mm has no business being used for, but I couldn’t help myself – this lens is amazing!

Flare Control

This lens is going to be the new reference lens for what can be done to keep flare under control. Despite its HUGE bulging front element, I was shocked at what an incredible job it did at keeping the flare out of control. In fact, it almost made it too hard to get flare when you really want it!

Here’s a few unedited real world examples exactly as they came out of the camera:

Flare was extremely well contained despite this intentional direct into the sun shot

Even the slightest body adjustment could make most of the flare vanish, so you really had to work at getting serious flare

I kept trying to go to f/4 at 11mm and trip this lens up to show off bad flare, but it handled it extremely well

So if you are coming from any other lens where flare has been an issue, you’ll love how well this lens keeps it under control. Even when present plenty of contrast remains in the areas away from the source of the flare as shown above.

Real World Images

As my readers have come to expect, here’s my 100% unedited real world images with all their flaws and incredible detail. These are all straight out of the camera JPEG’s taken from a Canon 1D X with no cropping, rotating, etc - nothing. 

All images are copyright ® Ron Martinsen – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may click to view the in-camera originals, but you must delete them when you are done reviewing them. You may not edit, print, copy, upload or otherwise use or modify these images without written consent – yes, even the ugly ones!

f/5.6 @ 24mm is definitely the happy place for this lens - the sharpness is just insane

If you love texture, this lens is a dream lens as it is always capturing amazing texture

Even when you spread out to 11mm, the sharp image quality remains

If you can manage to get the lens on the same plane as the subject, the distortion is minimal. Here's 19mm which could be better if had used a tripod. The gallery has other exaggerated examples to demonstrate off axis distortion.

I'm not really into flower photography, but if you are then you'll enjoy this lens!

f/8 at 18mm of this tree yielded great detail

This lens is so sharp you'll constantly seek out anything you can find with lots of detail in it

The detail in the vein of the leaves and their edges was one of my may “wow” moments!

Sadly this bee wasn't around long enough for me to set my shutter speed fast enough to get a sharp shot, but I was amazed at the detail captured in the wing despite the shutter being too slow to freeze the motion

Another one of the many f/5.6 @ 22mm shots where I just get blown away by the color and sharpness of what this lens offers straight out of the camera

Even at f/5.6 the bokeh is excellent. I would normally shoot something like this at f/4, but I stayed at f/5.6 just to show off the maximum sharpness.

The old saying is that f/8 is great, well that's certainly true with this lens!

Just click and look at this shot at 100% - if you don't already own a Canon camera you'll want one now

Forget the image subject, if you have a 4k display then be sure to check out the detail of that plane flying on the left - can you imagine what's possible with this lens on a 5Ds R?!!!!

This isn't a portrait lens, but hold it head on to your subject and it will blow you away with sharp detail. Be sure to zoom in on the eye lashes!

No matter what you shoot, if you can afford this lens you will NOT be disappointed

Yeah, I lost all sense of photography and became a detail seeking junkie with this lens. Warning:This will happen to you too!

Check out the detail in the stem of this flower and the texture of the leaves

As the sun began to set, I finally hit the perfect angle to get some nice but controlled flare - notice how the contrast isn't lost in the rest of the image

Ok, I know this is a super ugly photo but I seriously was looking at this one thinking - I didn't know those leaves had that much texture when I was standing next to them!

Yes, I was shooting freakin tree bark by the end of the day! I was just having too much fun seeing what this lens can do!

I thought I had to go to medium format to get this kind of detail on tree branches like this! The DSLR is definitely not dead with this lens!

Real estate photographers will definitely appreciate the detail this lens offers

If you don't mind cropping to get the best angle on your subject, the distortion can be quite minimal (and easily correctable)

I've never bothered to take a twilight shot with a wide angle, but this one makes me wish I had the 5Ds R to do shots like this in Arizona!

You must view the images above at full size then zoom to 100% to fully appreciate them. Prints are simply incredible from pretty much any image you take with this lens.

Click here for a complete gallery of sample images.


See my conclusion in this article:

REVIEW: Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens–One of the Best Lenses Ever (PART II of II)

Where to order

Click here to learn more or order on the B&H web site. You might want to consider placing an order for a 5Ds R while you are at it as this lens definitely knows what to do with 50.6 megapixels! 

Oh, and consider getting a NEC PA Series UHD 4k display while you are at it – you’ll need a high resolution display to truly appreciate the images it creates.

Can’t afford it? Rent it from LensRentals.com at discount

This lens is a huge investment, so I realize many people won’t be able to justify the cost. The cool thing is that as of the time this was written, LensRentals.com was offering a 4 day rental for only $99!!! It’s even less with my blog reader discount!

Click here to learn about my latest discount offer from lensrentals.com, and click here to find it on their web site.

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