Photography / Buying Guide

Best of 2015: Canon Lenses


Canon was fairly busy this year with the groundbreaking 50-megapixel 5DS and 5DS R DSLRs, a pair of Rebels, a plethora of point-and-shoots, and a couple of mirrorless options, but one of the highlights was the half dozen lenses that further advanced the company’s already outstanding lens lineup. Among this was a trio of EF-mount lenses for Canon’s well-regarded DSLRs, including updates for some beloved focal lengths and the introduction of the widest rectilinear zoom currently available for full-frame cameras. Also, with the release of two mirrorless cameras here in the USA, Canon has brought out a super-compact kit zoom, as well as wide-angle and telephoto options, making sure this expanding field will have all its bases covered.

An Outstanding Ultra-Wide Zoom

The first lens of 2015 and Canon’s only completely new optic for DSLRs, the EF 11-24mm f/4L USM was presented alongside the incredible 50MP 5DS and 5DS R cameras as an ideal high-resolution companion for landscapes, architecture, and more. This ultra-wide zoom marks the widest rectilinear focal length available in Canon’s full-frame lineup and, of course, it sports the red line of the signature L series, noting the highest in optical quality. Ensuring optimal performance are Super UD, UD, and aspherical elements that are packed into the lens to minimize aberrations and distortion, as well as the use of Subwavelength, Air Sphere, and Fluorine coatings to reduce flare and ghosting, improve contrast, and protect the lens. Other features include a weather-resistant design, a built-in hood, and a rear filter slot to hold gels, since the bulbous front element limits the ability to accept threaded filters.

Updates for a Pair of Popular Primes

Two prime lenses finished Canon’s trio of DSLR lenses for the year with a hotly anticipated L-series update in the form of the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM and a welcome revamp of the classic “nifty fifty,” the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. The 35mm f/1.4L is packed with the latest technology, including a brand new Blue Spectrum Refractive Optic that refracts shorter wavelengths of the visible spectrum to greatly reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing. It also benefits from improvements across the board, compared to its predecessor, including a shorter 11" minimum focus distance, the use of 9 rounded blades in the aperture diaphragm, Fluorine coatings on the front and rear surfaces, and a more advanced optical formula for sharper images with less distortion.

On the other end of the spectrum comes Canon’s nifty fifty, which received a massive overhaul in terms of handling and design. The 50mm f/1.8 has a more modern barrel that stars a larger manual focus ring than earlier models, and a durable metal mount. Along with this, the lens incorporates a gear-type STM stepping motor that is notably quieter and faster, as well as useful during video recording with Movie Servo AF. Additionally, it has a rounded 7-blade diaphragm for smoother bokeh and optimized lens coatings to limit flare and improve contrast.

Mirrorless Hits the USA

In a surprising move, Canon brought the EOS M3 to the US market, including some lenses to supplement the fairly small line. This included the ultra-wide EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM zoom and the medium-to-super-telephoto EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM, filling in gaps at both ends of the focal length spectrum. Providing 35mm equivalent focal lengths of 18-35mm and 88-320mm, respectively, these just-introduced zooms offer mirrorless shooting native options for wide and telephoto shooting. They both feature fast and silent STM stepping motors for autofocus and image stabilization, as well as rounded 7-blade diaphragms for smooth out-of-focus areas. Also, they each utilize coatings, UD and aspherical elements in their optical designs to minimize aberrations and distortion, as well as limit flare and ghosting.

More recently, Canon took steps to expand their mirrorless department with the EOS M10, an entry-level model with a slimmed-down appearance. With the M10 announcement came a compact kit lens: the EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM. This lens offers an equivalent focal length of 24-72mm, filling in the role of the standard zoom. It is also able to be retracted, which will shorten the overall length to 1.75" for travel and storage. It also benefits from an STM motor and image stabilization and has its own unique optical design with glass-molded and precision-molded aspherical elements.

Discussion 2

Add new comment

Add comment Cancel

Regarding the 15 - 45mm lens:

"glass-molded and precision-molded aspherical elements......"

What are "precision-molded" elements? Plastic molded? In the past Canon noted whether a lens contained a ground glass, replica or glass molded aspheric element. I thought plastic molded were only in point and shoot.

Precision molded elements are typically glass but could be other materials also.  In this day and age it is not uncommon for lens manufacturers to employ optical designs using materials other than glass for various technical reasons, (weight, ability to transmit light and or to keep the size small or cost to name a few).  In this case Canon has not published the make up of each element for us to confirm the makeup.