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Canon 11-24 initial thoughts

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by Brent Bergherm

I just had to get out and shoot it to see if it's all it's cracked up to be. In short, it pretty much is. The $3,000 price tag is pretty steep but that 11mm on a full-frame camera is incredible.

Mill pond at about 11mm. Whitman Mission.

Whitman Mission’s Mill Pond at sunrise.

Sharpness and more

Canon’s 11-24mm f/4 is certainly very sharp. I was actually surprised to see how sharp this lens is all the way to the corners. With such a wide angle lens you should expect some distortion and stretching of the scene, especially as you get towards the corners. It just comes with the territory. The distortion is there but it’s so minimal. While it’s a bit harder to see in this image, it’s still noticeable in other images I shot and have posted here but even with the stretching going on, it’s still maintaining integrity in the details.

Chromatic Aberration is present but very minimal for a lens like this. I only had to set Lightroom’s CA settings to “2” to make it completely disappear. A setting of 1 was likely enough for most shots, but with these shots, bare tree twigs on an even blue background, it was very easy to see. In the grasses, it was very hard to see and so you’d likely get away with a setting of “1” when you have a shot with more detail like that.

Grasses at Mill Pond, Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

11mm; 1/10 sec; f/16; 100 ISO

Weight, size, characteristics

It’s a big and heavy lens. For this shoot, I left it attached to my Induro carbon fiber tripod and ball head. I also used the Canon 6D. So my basic recommendation isn’t to think about taking this lens on a long hike. I think it’d be great anywhere you can take it, but it’s not that easy to transport long distances. With it mounted on my tripod I relied mostly on live view for framing and exposure setting. I switched to auto focus only to establish a main focus and then went back to manual to take my shots. With an optic this wide depth-of-field is not usually something you have to worry about. But with the massive separation of the elements in this scene I switched to manual focus and placed the focus ring to about 3 ft or so. The foreground grasses are about 18-20 inches away from the front of the lens, so a setting of about 3 ft on the lens puts it between the main foreground subject and the infinity mark where everything else is. I also liked the starburst created with the aperture set at 22, the smallest this lens can achieve.

Black & White conversions work for sunrises too sometimes.

14mm; 1/10th sec; f/22; 100 ISO

Final Thoughts

It’s amazingly sharp out to the corners, even better than many of my lenses at the 24mm length, though I am judging at f/8 on this image. Maybe that’s cheating a little bit. But anyway, If you’re a landscape shooter, or even if you do some architecture, you’ll likely be happy with this lens. Take a look here at the monument. It’s beautifully straight. Of course it is rather close to the center but you’ve also got the sidewalk, fence and wall that also exhibits wonderfully straight lines indicating how well this lens keeps those distortions in check. But, you simply have to be careful to make sure your camera is level otherwise you’ll quickly get the converging lines.

It’s kind of strange to be thinking that 24mm is the “zoomed in” setting and once you get used to the 11mm, you’ll just feel that 24mm or even 16mm is just too tight. Though be warned about your composition. The rules don’t really change with such a wide lens, but they do become less forgiving. If you have a boring foreground you’ll likely be saddened by your results. If you have a great foreground you might have it out of focus since it has to be so close to the lens to be properly emphasized so just watch your DOF and you’ll likely be fine.

Distortion are held to a minimum when you pay attention to getting everything straight.

11mm; 1/125th sec; f/8; 100 ISO

Try it for yourself, rent it today!

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