Canon’s EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Ultra-Wide Lens Page 2

There were still a few challenges in store. Whoever heard of using a 14mm lens to shoot a portrait? Well, you'll never know till you try, and I tried on more than one occasion. When I saw a young couple embracing on the tram, I lifted the camera to my eye and captured the moment. In what is known as the Vietnamese Flea Market, I saw one man sitting rather self-assuredly on a bench. I looked at him, pointed to the camera, got the nod, and made the exposure, grabbing remnants of the shop behind for atmosphere. In a souvenir shop, the puzzle-maker posed while he showed me the key to the puzzle. It was a tight space and I was thankful for the ultra-wide. And in Old Town Square, just outside St. Nicholas Church, I'd shifted my focus to an elderly gentleman who suddenly walked into the frame, keeping the historic plaza in the background. I couldn't have captured that image with the same depth or degree of sharpness with any other lens I own, except the fisheye, and that would not have been
as rewarding.

How close could I get with this lens? I approached the St. Vitus Cathedral doors on the grounds of Prague Castle, moving in as close as the lens would allow. I was amazed at the clarity of detail I was getting. But that wasn't nearly as challenging as photographing carriage horses lens-to-nose in Old Town Square. I came within inches, always vigilant of the horse "sneezing" into or nudging the lens with its snout. The problem here was that I was so focused on the horses that I didn't pay as much attention to avoid converging verticals. Fortunately, Photoshop delivered the tools to deal with that.

I brought the 14mm lens as close as I dared to capture this unusual portrait of these carriage horses. However, I was so focused on the horses, that I overlooked the backdrop of Prague's Old Town Square, resulting in some sloping verticals (top). The final image reflects corrections to purple and green fringing, perspective, and distortion (above).

In Conclusion
Okay, I did mention having to crop, and you're probably saying: then why bother shooting with a full-frame 5D? Well, when I got home I did compare this lens on the 5D and on a 30D (APS-C format, which translates into a 22.4mm lens, approximately, given the 1.6x sensor factor). The "cropped" view took some of the drama out of the shot. Back in Prague, I did make one exception about sticking to my one-lens-per-day rule when I photographed the interior of St. Nicholas Church with both lenses on my full-frame 5D: the 14mm and 24-105mm at 24mm (a near approximation to APS-C format). The 24mm image lacked depth by comparison, cutting off a portion of the cupola. So, considering the hefty price tag of this lens, I wouldn't match it up with anything but a full-frame SLR to maximize its potential, though it is one route to fast, wide angle shooting with even smaller sensor cameras.

This ultra-wide proved well-balanced on my 5D. The lens has a solid, robust feel to it. More importantly, the EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM delivered crisp images with good color, reflecting the superior optical design that went into this lens.

Technical Specifications
Lens Construction: 11 groups/14 elements
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Angle Of View (Degrees): Diagonal: 114°; vertical: 81°; horizontal: 104°
Focusing: Supports all AF functions, with manual override during AF; USM (Ultra-Sonic Motor) ensures smooth, quiet, and fast AF; also conventional MF (Manual Focusing) is an option, operating smoothly
Min. Focusing Distance: 0.7 ft
Max. Magnification: 0.15x
Filters: Rear-mounted, gelatin filter holder (the manual notes that ghosting may result)
Lens Hood: Built-in petal-shaped
Size (Diameter x Length): 3.2x3.7"
Weight: 22.8 oz
Street Price: $2199

For more information, contact Canon U.S.A., Inc., One Canon Plaza, Lake Success, NY 11042; (800) 652-2666;

A special thank you to the courteous reception staff at the Hotel Absolut in Prague for guiding me to the best places to shoot pictures for this review.

Jack Neubart is the author of "Photographer's Exposure Handbook" (Amphoto, 2007).