Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM: an oldie but goodieTuesday February 28 2012
After looking at the Nikon AF-D series, DxOMark continues working its way through the history of photography by presenting the measurements for another “antique” lens, the Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM.
This lens is one of the oldest measured in our DxOMark database. Announced in 1993, the EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM represented a genuinely novel approach for Canon at the time — to offer a quality-built wide-angle zoom at a reasonable price.
The metal housing is indeed well-crafted, but unfortunately this lens has only 5 diaphragm blades, which can have an impact on the bokeh. (FYI, in general even today’s “entry-level” lenses use a 7-blade diaphagm.) Nor was aperture a priority back in the day: the maximum f-numbers for this lens are 3.5 for 20mm and 4.5 for 35mm — quite limited compared to recent lens offerings.
But instead of glorifying youth, let’s look more closely at the image quality measurement results for this older-generation lens….
A DxOMark score of 16 is perfectly respectable for a nearly 20-year-old lens. Note that the bar graphs indicate a high degree of uniformity for this lens, and in fact the quality achieved at 20mm is the same for the other focal lengths.
|Strong points||Weak points|
|Good sharpness||Not a bright lens|
|Light-weight lens||Very significant vignetting|
|Good quality-to-price ratio|
Respectable standalone scores, then, but now for the crucial question: how well does the Canon perform when compared to a similar but younger lens? Let’s take a look:
Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM vs Sigma 17-35mm f/2.8-4 EX DG Aspherical HSM Canon mounted on a Canon 5D Mark II
Even with a 10-year gap, there is only 6 points’ difference in DxOMark scores between the two lenses. Not bad for an old-timer!
The advantages of the Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM:
- Its resolution.
- Its quality-to-price ratio.
The advantages of the Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX DG Aspherical HSM:
- Brighter by about ½ EV.
- Better correction of chromatic aberrations.
- Better correction of distortion — but only by a little bit.
Unlike the much more recent (2003) Sigma (not an especially bright lens, to say the least), clearly the Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM still has a lot to offer.
To help you gain a broader and more accurate perspective, here’s a selection of DxOMark results for some other Canon-compatible wide-angle lenses:
- Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG HSM II Canon
- Tokina AT-X 16-28 F2.8 PRO FX Canon
- Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
- Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM