If you are a landscape or architectural photographer looking for a zoom lens with the widest angle possible, your search will probably end with the Canon EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens.
Canon describes this as the widest-angle zoom lens in its class. It covers an angle of view of up to
126 degrees. There are lenses of wider focal lengths, but they are usually fish-eye lenses, such as the Canon EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM.
Fish-eye lenses tend to have a lot of barrel distortion, that is, images will show up very curved except at the centre of the image.
For this review, I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III full-frame DSLR to test the lens. With an APS-C DSLR, such as the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, the resulting focal range is 17.6mm to 38.4mm because of the image sensor's 1.6x crop factor. The focal range is not very wide. For best results, use this lens with a full-frame DSLR.
When you pick up the lens, you will be surprised by its size and heft. It is so big that it does not even come with a lens hood. The hood has to be built into the lens barrel. There is also no way you can fit a lens filter over the protruding convex lens element.
In fact, I had trouble slotting the 5D Mark III, with the lens attached, into a camera bag. I went through several of my camera bags before I found one large enough to accommodate it.
The lens weighs 1.2kg, a full 250g heavier than the 5D Mark III. But you forget all that once you start using it.
Like any Canon L-series lens, its construction and build are sturdy. The zoom slides smoothly and steadily over its focal-length range.
If you have used Canon's EF16-35mm f/2.8L lens, you will discover a whole new perspective with the EF11-24mm f/4L. With a focal length of 11mm, the coverage is more than twice the 16mm's.
In tight spaces, you suddenly realise you can get more people into a group photo or add more lines and features into an architectural shot. I can imagine sports photographers using this lens for a behind-the-goal-post shot with the ball in the net, and with the stadium as the backdrop.
The lens performed superbly under different lighting conditions. Autofocusing is quiet but speedy. Most importantly, the images are staggeringly sharp, even at the widest angle. While the edges may be a bit soft, overall image quality is almost as good as with the EF16-35mm f/2.8L.
At a focal length of 11mm, the barrel distortion is surprisingly slight. When the focal length is increased to 16mm and beyond, there is no barrel distortion at all. There is also minimal chromatic aberration.
The only downer - and this is nitpicking - is the constant f/4 aperture. A constant f/2.8 aperture would have been ideal but that would probably make the lens bigger, heavier and pricier.
It is quite pricey but it is well worth it.
Focal length: 11mm to 24mm
Aperture range: f/4 to f/22
Focusing range: 28cm to infinity
Value for money 4/5
This article was first published on Apr 1, 2015.
Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.