|Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM||1550||31||19|
|Samyang 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC Canon||600||31||14|
|Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM||800||29||19|
|Carl Zeiss Distagon T 25mm f/2 ZE Canon||1700||27||17|
|Canon EF 24mm f/2.8||356||24||17|
The ultra-high speed Canon EF 24mm f1.4L II USM lens has an outstanding reputation, and it comes as little real surprise to see it as the best performing lens of its type on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
Revised six years ago now, this mark II model features 13 elements in 10 groups, including two molded aspherical elements and, unusually, two UD (low dispersion) glass elements to minimize CA. It was one of the first models to use the firm’s Sub-Wavelength structure Coating (SWC) in addition to the usual Super Spectra Coating (SSC) and also has a ‘floating’ mechanism to improve image quality at close range – it focuses to just 9.9’ (0.25m).
It’s a beautifully made lens with very good sharpness wide-open though inevitably the outer field is softer till f2.8 where it’s not far behind. Optimum performance is achieved between f4-5.6. It has some slight barrel bordering on complex distortion and heavy vignetting, but it’s no different in that respect to rivals. Suppression of chromatic aberration in a high-speed lens like this is a major concern for makers, and this model has slightly more in the outer field than you might expect.
In joint first place is the Samyang with a 31-point DxOMark score but the lower peak sharpness places firmly it in second place overall. It has unusually low chromatic aberration at the initial aperture – there’s some noticeable in the corners but it’s slight. However, wide-open sharpness is lower than we hoped for – we’ll have more to say later.
In third place is Canon’s totally revised EF 24mm f2.8 IS USM. Not only does the new model feature 4-stop image stabilization (with the firm’s auto panning detection), making it suitable for video capture amongst other disciplines, it has a revised optical formula including a molded asphere and a minimum focusing distance of 7.87’ (0.2m).
At around $800 the revised model is not inexpensive but it’s a well-rounded lens in performance and features. It can match the EF 24mm f1.4L II USM for peak sharpness and performs similarly at every comparable aperture. That means wide-open, at f2.8, it has high sharpness across the image field.
In fourth place is the manual focus Zeiss Distagon T* 25mm f2.0 ZE. This model with its all-metal construction including a brass helicoid is a heavy if exceptionally well-made lens. Although it has an advanced optical construction of 11 elements in 10 groups, including four anomalous partial dispersion glass elements and one aspherical element, image quality still can’t quite match the others, although it has superior sharpness compared to the Samyang.
Full aperture performance is impressive. Although it has heavier vignetting, it has lower CA and better peripheral sharpness than the Canon at f2.0. Somewhat surprisingly, one stop down at f2.8 the outer field lags behind and doesn’t recover till f5.6 where it has excellent uniformity from there upwards.