Over the years, there has been a battle of might among top camera developing companies in a bid to outdo each other on the development of lenses. And at the helm of this duel is three powerhouses – Canon, Nikon, and Sigma.
At the shortest focal length, Canon offers the widest angle of view, up to 107 degrees, through their 16-35 mm model. Sigma, on the other hand, dominates this category with a view of up to 122 degrees.
Nikon, another major company, has also been quite vocal in this lens arena. Not only does its 14-24 mm f/2.8 lens offer an ultra wide-angle zoom but also offers the best full frame capabilities. But let’s not forget that sometime last year, Tamron produced an outstanding lens too – the 98F SF69.
More notably, however, in February 2015, Canon outshone the rest by developing the EF 11-24 mm f/4L USM. It has an angle of view of up to 126 degrees. But does it deserve the hype and raving reviews it has enjoyed so far? Let’s take a look.
Even from a mile away, you can easily tell that the EF 11-24 mm f/4L USM is yet another Canon masterpiece. Well, that is going by the luminous Canon trademark insignia inscribed meticulously on its bezel.
But if you delve deeper into the specs sheet, you will appreciate the fact that it’s a wide angle zoom lens with a focal length of 11-24 mm, bolstered by a superior viewing angle of up to 126. For those interested in the physical dimensions, the lens measures 108 x 132 mm and weighs only 1180g.
Some good news to all the enthusiastic photographers out there – it comes with a carry case and a cover.
Lense Build Quality
This 11-24 mm lens has a metal mount surrounding contacts and the rear gel filter holder. The rear element, at 22 mm diameter, is positioned on the same level as the mount at 11 mm. The real lens body starts with a small ring, which is immobile and then tapers off with a polycarbonate finishing. It has a red dot that makes alignment with the camera easy. Then there is a zoom ring, 19mm in width, mostly covered with rubber and has the focal length markings. Thankfully, it incorporates a distance scale under a small window. It is expressed in meters and feet.
On a rather lighter note, on the left side of the lens, there is a switch that adjusts the focus mechanism mode marked AM/FM. Further on, there is a manual focus ring (15 mm wide). Behind it, the lens has a built-in petal-type hood. The hood has a red stripe that carries the name and parameters of the lens. The outer front element, extremely convex, has a diameter of up to 8.5 centimetres. At 11 mm, it is the most extended.
While there is a lot to be said about the image resolution and quality of the 11-24 mm lens, we shall stick to just a few strong points for now.
For starters, initial image tests done using the EOS 5D Mark III painted the picture of a ‘more than average’ lens. In short focal lengths, say 11 mm, the image seem to be a bit weaker, but only in comparison to the higher ranges, say 17-24 mm ranges. Even with these findings, the image quality with shorter focal lengths is considered to be above decent levels. Similar image tests are conducted on the APS-C and full frame sensors. The results maintained consistency based on the focal lengths consideration.
Chromatic and Spherical aberration
As far as chromatic aberration goes, the lens has no problem with the correction of longitudinal CA. But the case is different with the lateral CA. In fact, the CA distortion peaks when the lens is positioned 11mm laterally.
But it is not all doom as further tests show that the images improve as the focal length increases. Besides, the lateral CA is considered to be lowest at 24mm.
As for spherical aberration, the lens does not have any focus shift effects whatsoever. Enough tests have been done in the past few months, and it’s no secret that this lens effectively corrects the spherical aberration in a fairly good way.
As it is the case with a majority of 11-24 mm lens, the Canon USM also has the least distortion at a focus of 16 mm. Therefore for the 11-24 mm, it is safe to say that 16 mm is the distortion-free focal length. There is, of course, the usual pincushion distortion at 24 mm, but it is very mild considering how wide this lens is.
Coma, Astigmatization and Bokeh
There is no denying that this 11-24 mm lens corrects coma effectively. As a matter of fact, there is only a minimal deformation ( almost negligible ) visible at relatively shorter lengths of focus in the full frame corners.
As for astigmatism, manufacturers and third-party values are not any more than 4.8%. And bear in mind that on average, values below 5% are generally considered to be low. A majority of photographers who are well versed the astigmatism levels can also agree that such a value is decent enough to work with.
For a lens with such a wide angle of view, the out-of-focus parts of the photo are not so much below average than expected. It is common and even normal sometimes to have unimpressive blurred areas when working with such wide angle lens. Besides, you could always crop out the blurred areas of the final photo taken.
The vignetting ability of this 11-24 mm Canon lens is more impressive than what you will find in most of its peers- according to independent lens tests.
Consider this. At f/4.0 and 11 mm, which is a fairly complicated combination, the picture is observed to lose only 26% of light in corners. At f/5.6, the loss stands at 11%. Finally, at f/8.0, the loss stands at only 9%. The value gets better at even much higher lengths of focus, which is towards 24 mm. You don’t have to be an expert to know that it rarely gets better than this in Vignetting.
The 11-24 comes with an ultrasonic autofocus motor (USM). And boy, this device operates at amazing speed. The lens takes only about 0.4 of a second to find focus. One of the most impressive we’ve come across. Really, who doesn’t want a lens with such an autofocus speed?
Ghosting and Flares
Canon was ingenuous enough to use not one, but three special lens coatings in an attempt to reduce flare and ghosting. We are talking about Fluorine, Air Sphere Coating (ASC) and Subwavelength Coating (SWC) here. But as a consequence, there is a significant increase in the lens contrast levels.
SWC and ASC are applied throughout the entire lens surface, but Fluorine is used only on both the front and the rear lens surface. The only problem with such an astute lens treatment is that you can’t use it together with classic filters.
In a nutshell, this 11-24 mm lens boasts of a stellar image quality on both the frame center, on the edge of APS-C sensor and the edge of the full frame.
It has longitudinal CA backed up by an equally decent correction of SA. There is negligible coma and if I were you, I wouldn’t expect any astigmatism related problems as long I was using this lens. It also has very minimal vignetting on APS-C. But most importantly, that quick and accurate autofocus is all every enthusiastic photographer could ask for.
In as much as this lens has its own unique observable flaws, the advantages seem to be much more compelling compared to the downsides. In other words, let’s just say that our endearing Canon has once again put together another device that can easily outdo most of its competitors in the market.