After lots of research, I decided that I need this lens mostly for video work (C200 and a few different DSLRs if it matters) and some photo work on the side. My video work pays the bills but I gravitate heavily towards photo for my personal work.
This is an EF-S lens. Its for crop sensors and super 35 cinema cameras. This is fine by me, I love crop sensors. I have full frame (1Ds mk III) and tons of fast glass (pretty much the fastest lenses for each focal length up to 135mm) for the times I need that (weddings & portrait) but I usually lean towards the 7D mark II when I'm doing personal work. Crop cameras are so very convenient. Because this lens is designed for EF-S it is no bigger, heavier, or more expensive than it needs to be. This lens is a little firecracker... lots of "boom" in a tiny package!
The focal length is great. It is a "standard" lens on crop/super 35. Also, I like how it is much wider than the normal macro lenses so you can set up a little scene and create more impact through storytelling. Most macro work is documentary meaning someone saw a bug on a leaf and took a photo of it. Here is a milkweed bug. There usually isn't any mood or emotion involved. This focal length is more suitable for building a story to go with the subject. This might be a pro or a con depending on your priorities. For me its a pro. The macro is as advertised, 1:1 reproduction. Just be prepared to get very close to hit 1:1.
And speaking of getting very close, this is where those little LED lights come in handy. There will only be 1 inch in between the LEDs and your subject if you want true 1:1. This is going to block your light in most cases. So this lens skirts the issue by making it sown light. The lights are effective as fill lights at macro range but don't expect more than that. It doesn't put out so much light that you'll be freezing flowers that are blowing in the wind. But it will give you a little fill. I think the LEDs could be a little more powerful so that it could act as fill as you progress towards f/16 but that is getting a little unreasonable. The lens comes with a cap/hood thing. There is no lens hood in the typical sense. But there is this metal ring that comes off to reveal the LEDs. I like the fact that it is metal because I'm positive I'll be bumping the lens on things due to the short working distances. The downside is that you have to remove this protective ring in order to see the LEDs. So the times you need the protection the most (when you are so close you need the extra light) is when you have to remove the protection. Bummer. I might machine the ring to remove the material blocking the LEDs so they can shine through even when installed. Or I might just 3D print a different version that takes a 58mm lens cap instead of the 49mm-ish one that came with the lens.
The IS will help greatly with hand holding the cameras whether photo or video. I took a few 0.3" shutter photos and they turned out usably crisp. This is 4 stops of IS and I was very close to macro territory which is a torture test for IS. IS works best when you are focusing far away. But this held up very well at close range. The IS is quiet and not jumpy.
The STM works as expected. My video camera doesn't hear it and neither do I... unless I really listen for it. Some people have said that this lens focuses too slowly. I disagree. It is no 135 f/2 but it was fast enough to lock focus on a bug/flower that was blowing in a constant wind. It's good enough but no more than that. This lens did not miss focus on very many shots. I'd have to go back and look but I think I have a 95% hit rate so far. This included near 1:1 macro so I'm impressed.
The image quality is fantastic. It is pretty much as sharp as you could want (20mp 7D mk II) corner to corner straight from f/2.8 but does get a tiny bit sharper stopping down to f/4. The biggest change you'll notice from stopping down is the disappearance of the heavy vignette. The colors and contrast are great. My favorite part of the image quality is the character of the out of focus parts of the frame. At closer focus distances the background gets exceptionally creamy! I absolutely adore this and I'll definitely be calling on this feature to add character to my work. The caveat here is that you really need to watch how far away you get from your subject because there is a point where the background gets a little ugly. This is because of the 35mm focal length rather than the lens design. This is something you have to watch out for on any lens and I just need to learn how far I can push it before it gets ugly. Its all part of learning your tools, right?
I just this lens in the mail few hours ago. Despite having it for only a few hours, I have already become fairly comfortable with it; there's more to learn for sure but I feel like I have a good jump on learning the lens. I walked around and snapped a bunch of random shots, checked focus on the computer (no microfocus needed for my body), then went out for a quick dog 'shoot. Everything is as good as I expected or even better! I know its early to make final judgements on the lens but I think its great. If anything changes I'll update the review.
I won't be surprised to see this in lots of kits. Its a cheap, light, versatile lens that has great image quality. What's not to love?
- sharp from corner to corner even @ f/2.8, nearly as sharp as my Sigma 35 Art!
- focus is a little on the slow-ish side but good enough to catch the bugs as the plants blew around. So its fast enough, just not blazing fast.
- focus is dead on pretty much every single shot (7D mark II)
- IS is fantastic!!!
- I love the field of view, unusual for macro shots; including the environment allows you to build more of a story with your macro work rather than resort to strictly documentary shots. "Here is a bug on a leaf."
- colors are great
- very little CA (that I've noticed)
- STM for video work... I mainly bought this to use on my C200 so IS and STM are very important to me.
- small, light, cheap(ish)
- LED lights work OK... not super bright
- cover for LEDs is metal. This is good because I'm sure I'll be bouncing the front of this lens off of things since the working distance is so short.
- metal mount
- I feel like a dork with this PRO but... bokelicious! So creamy!
- Manual focus is a joke for macro work. It's just not responsive enough for my tastes. You can do it but come armed with patience.
- LEDs aren't that bright
- very short working distance for 1:1 macro... only 1-2 inches away from the front of the lens
- vignetting? I actually like the vignette. It is very gradual and I think it looks great. But it is on the strong side and using profile corrections will increase noise in the perimeter of the frame.
- there was one time that the lens AF drive didn't know what to do. Manual focusing to nearly correct focus then hitting AF took care of the issue. It only happened once and I'll have to keep an eye out for more.
here is an uncropped photo and a 100% crop. My standard settings for sharpening need to be reduced for this lens! the photo below has only the following:
- CA fix
- very slight HSL tweak