The new Canon EF 24mm f1.4 L II USM lens sets out to achieve the gold standard for wide-angle prime lenses. As the amount of pixel-power available in our cameras continues to grow, great optics become essential to get top quality images. The release of this upgraded lens is superb timing from Canon, as the 20+ megapixel horizon becomes reality for more photographers thanks to the EOS 5D Mark II.
The Canon EF 24mm f1.4L II USM lens features 13 elements in 10 groups. This layout has changed from the previous edition which had just 11 elements in 9 groups. Light passing through a greater number of lens elements tends to produce lower image quality. However Canon has made this change with a purpose: By doubling the number of aspheric and UD elements to two apiece, it reduces distortion and chromatic aberration.
Further enhancements include a new lens coating to reduce flare and ghosting. This new coating doesn’t have the catchiest of names: ‘Sub Wavelength structure Coating’ (SWC). Presumably if one were a physicist you’d be thinking “Yes, but it does what it says on the tin.”
The refinements to this remarkable lens from Canon only serve to strengthen its raison d'être: a fast aperture wide-angle lens for low-light photography and obtaining an extremely shallow depth of field (DOF), yet with the image quality of slower aperture lenses. What an experience it would be trying to find anywhere too dark to use this lens wide open with Canon EOS 5D Mark II at ISO 25,600. A true challenge. You’d probably have to be on the dark side of the moon…