Review – Yongnuo 35mm f2 (Canon)

Review – Yongnuo 35mm f2 (Canon)
9 Nov 16

Yongnuo 35mm f2 – Canon

Introduction

If someone said you can buy a prime lens with auto-focus brand new at f2 for £80 you’d probably laugh.  But that is exactly what I just did.  Yongnuo in the photography world are well known for their wireless flash triggers and flash units, but in recent years they have ventured into the world of glass as us photographers like to call it.  They started with the ‘nifty fifty’, a 50mm f1.8 which is a trusty lens in many photographer’s bags, mine included.  More recently they have added to this with a ‘clone’ of the popular 35mm f2 lens.  The Canon equivalent will set you back in the region of £250, so for £80 it is a mouth watering prospect.  But can a ‘cheap’ lens really stand up?

There is a couple of caveats I would like to point out.  Firstly I don’t have the Canon 35mm f2 to compare.  And secondly I do not claim to be a reviewer of gear.  There won’t be any whizz bang scientific tests here looking at lens fall off and chromatic aberration, just my impressions and real world usage.  So let’s dive in…

The specs

Focal length: 35mm (full frame, and will fit EF-S cropped bodies)

Aperture: f2-f22

Filter size: 52mm

Min focusing distance: 0.25m

Max magnification: 0.23x

Construction

The Canon 50mm f1.8 MKII has a plastic mount snubbed by many, but in the six years I have owned mine this has never been an issue, with the lens still going strong today.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the Yongnuo to find a metal mount.  I thought for the money plastic would be a given to cut costs.  The lens by no means feels ‘cheap’, it has a solid construction but is pretty light (155g) given how little glass (7 elements in 5 groups) is actually involved in making this lens.

Yongnuo 35mm f2

Yongnuo 35mm f2 (Canon) Construction

Focus

The lens features both auto-focus and manual focus with a switch on the lens as you would expect.  I wasn’t expecting great things of the auto-focus.  Again for the price I thought it would be relatively noisy and not particularly quick.  This is another area in which I was surprised, the noise is minimal (handy if you are in a situation which requires some silence) but doesn’t compare to the HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) type lenses that are offered out there, but this is to be expected.  It is definitely quieter than my Canon 50mm f1.8.  As for speed, again not the fastest in the world but by no means no slouch, and at 35mm this is not intended for sports/wildlife but is quick enough to catch that street shot.  In manual focus there is very little resistance on the focus ring which can make focusing easy but on the downside can easily be knocked.

Image quality

The most important aspect of any lens.  Below I did a rather crude test to show you some of the lens performance by shooting a rose in the same conditions through a range of apertures.  These images are ‘straight out of the camera’ (a full frame one) and in Camera RAW I have applied no sharpening.  I have then cropped to 100% to show you the performance at different apertures.  It is clear from the results and my real world usage that the lens is somewhat soft at f2, and this is exaggerated by the shallow depth of field.  Even as you move away from f2 the sharpness is evident even right up to f22 which can often see some falloff.  I am extremely impressed with how this lens performs for sharpness.

Yongnuo Test

Yongnuo Test

The lens even handles chromatic aberration very well, with very little evidence of CA at all in my short time with this lens.  The Robin image below is a prime example of this.  The Robin’s head against the bright contrasting sky is normally the perfect conditions for CA, but the lens nails it here.

Robin

Robin, a test in Chromatic Aberration

‘Bokeh’, how the lens renders out of focus areas of an image is pleasing to the eye.  The 7 blade aperture doesn’t give a perfectly spherical bokeh but it is nice nonetheless.

Bokeh

An example of how the Yongnuo 35mm f2 renders bokeh

The lens does have one flaw and that is shooting into bright light.  I have found the lens struggles with flare ‘washing out’ images and contrast.  I have over come this in some situations by simply using my hand as a hood and shielding some of the light entering the lens.

An image 'washed out' when shooting into bright light with the Yongnuo 35mm f2

Contrast wash out

Summary

This is a very capable lens at a price point that is accessible for many and for others means they don’t have to wrap it in cotton wall or worry about a few knocks, because if it does bite the dust it hasn’t broken the bank.

Author

Ian Lewis

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