First Impressions of the Canon 11-24mm f/4

All sorts of adjectives have been used to describe the new Canon 11-24mm f/4 lens recently announced at the top of 2015. World’s widest rectilinear lens, best of its kind, unheard of, the ultimate in wide-angle photography, etc. received its first shipment from Canon and eagerly took it for a spin. Read on to find out what we thought of the much-hyped Canon 11-24mm f/4 lens.

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With all this lens has to offer, it’s best to start with its inherent design. First and foremost it is the newest addition to Canon’s professional L series lenses and fills the gap as the widest angle rectilinear zoom lens offered by any lens manufacturer at this time. It boasts a 126° angle of view at its widest (11mm), with a fixed maximum aperture of f/4 throughout the full focal range of ultra-wide to standard angle of view.

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According to Canon, the Canon 11-24mm f/4 is designed with the largest lens element made [3/12/15], measuring in at an 87mm diameter. Additional 3 glass elements make up the lens as well as Ultra-low Dispersion and Super UD lens elements to reduce chromatic aberration and minimize distortion throughout the focal range. Similar to the other L series lenses, multiple lens element coatings have also been integrated to optimize contrast in the final image.

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Canon has suggested this lens is best suited for architecture, interior design, and landscapes due to its minimal distortion. Typically lenses of this width distort straight lines, making them appear curved if composed outside of the sweet spot of the frame. This distortion, however, is significantly reduced with Canon’s technological advancements when designing the 11-24mm f/4. When we shot at 11mm during our tests we noticed slight elongation towards the outer frame, but at 16mm the distortion seemed to completely clear up.

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We found this lens worked great in tight spaces, as Canon recommended, and really maximized the impression of the space without creating an unnatural effect. It can be an invaluable tool for interior designers, real estate agents, or those forced to shoot in very tight spaces. Keep in mind the maximum aperture of f/4 and be prepared to either have to push your ISO or use a tripod when shooting in low light.

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Luckily with post-processing software that includes a lens correction tool it is as easy as the click of a button to straighten out slight curves created by barrel distortion. Sometimes, though, the effect can be desirable and better left uncorrected!

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The Canon 11-24mm f/4 is best used when combined with a full frame body to take advantage of the full focal range that makes this lens unique. If paired with a APS-C, the focal range increases to an effective 17-38mm, at which point you may benefit more from the Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.

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The Canon 11-24mm f/4 is also good for videographers who work with the Micro Four Thirds crop factor. The lens, when paired with cameras such the Black Magic 2.5K or the Panasonic GH4 with a Metabones Canon EF Lens to Micro 4/3 Speed Booster, is a new option for an ultra-wide L series lens that will maintain some additional focal width after its 2x magnification.

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If you plan on putting this lens on a larger-sensor video camera such as the Canon C300 or Sony PXW-FS7 it is important to keep in mind that when zoomed out at its widest focal length of 11mm the level of distortion becomes more apparent because you will see the actual line in a frame bend and straighten as you are panning or tilting. The plus side to shooting with these cameras is that they include internal neutral density filters – the bulbous front end of the lens does not accept traditional front filters.

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There are some aesthetic choices that must be taken into consideration when shooting with the Canon 11-24mm f/4. The first is the amount of background that is actually included in the frame – it’s a lot! If you are shooting on a bright day it will be tricky to keep the sun out of frame unless you zoom in. The lens is also wide enough that if the sun is behind you a shadow can very easily be projected into the frame of the image or include any off camera lighting you have brought into the scene. You have been warned so plan accordingly 🙂

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This lens can also be used for many creative purposes outside of architecture and landscape photography. Consider using it for a quirky family portrait for those who don’t take themselves too seriously, as a storytelling tool to aid in your wedding photography narrative, for a time lapse of a concert in a small venue, etc. There are so many opportunities to take advantage of the unique quality this lens possesses.

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 Final Thoughts

Whether you have experience shooting with wide angle lenses or not, this lens was meant to impress. Meeting all the L series standards, the Canon 11-24mm f/4 has great hand feel. The area of the lens where the zoom and autofocus are located allow for comfortable use despite its front lens diameter. The technology employed is a great update for architecture and landscape photographers, is a nice alternative for the video shooters, and an interesting choice for the portrait and wedding crew. There are considerations to be made when shooting but planning ahead makes it 100% worth it! Although the price tag isn’t budget friendly, rest assured that you can rent it to your heart’s content at without breaking the bank.

Cortigiano is a food, lifestyle, and event photographer with a contemporary aesthetic. She received an undergraduate degree in photography at Drexel University and has gone on to work as a freelance photographer and teaching artist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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