Canon’s EF 14/2.8L II USM was by far the best fixed 14mm lens I’ve ever used. It behaved like a princess in a royal ball with me in harsh conditions like the Faroe Islands and in dark situations like the punk festival in Manchester.
The Canon EF 14/2.8L II USM was designed for full frame cameras. Something like the Canon 5D II or III or even the 1Ds Mk III. Unfortunately, I haven’t tested on my Canon 7D to see how it would perform because Felipe was having too much fun using the camera with the other set of lenses I have. Based on that, this review will be super focused on full frame cameras + Canon EF 14/2.8L II USM .
Using a Canon EF 14/2.8L II USM
Ultra-ultra wide lenses are – probably – the most difficult lenses of all to use properly. And the Canon EF 14/2.8L II USM is the widest full format lens in the Canon EOS lens lineup. And when I say properly I don’t mean like “I’m the owner of the absolute truth and other ways are wrong!“. I’m just a bit tired to see wonderful lenses used in a way that will not get the most of it, you know?
Keep in mind that for you to enjoy this lens to the fullest, you will have to force yourself to get closer to the subject. Or compose a landscape that makes sense, since you’ll have the opportunity to capture more in one frame. Use your space wisely. Remember that wide lenses, the objects closer to the edges are the ones with more distortion. And if you do not force yourself to your (and the lenses’) limits, all you’ll get is a bunch of tiny lost objects lost in the middle of the frame.
Lenses that are ultrawide don’t go together with the mindset “getting it all in”. To be honest, this attitude will only be a shortcut to the worst pictures you can have. Think before you click.
Comparing to some other 14mm lenses
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 USM L II is a significant improvement over all the other ultrawide lenses I’ve tested. And I really mean this. All of them. So if you want to spend your hard working money on a new pair of lenses and you’re into travel, landscape or even portrait go for this one. Even though I have some reservations about portraits with ultra wide lenses, this is a good option. I will get into that later.
A good thing to add to this review is that the Canon EF 14/2.8L II USM have a completely different front cap system and it took me a few minutes to get used to it, but after a while it is all good. This may seem silly if you’re not used to 14mm lenses, but for those of us who actually are, the front cap mega important! For example, I’ve seen that Nikon uses a fake leather sock for their 14mm f/2.8 and this made me go “whaaaaaaaaat?”. I’ve also seen other photographers with a poor built fall-off cap on their 14-24mm and this made me happy to be a Canon girl. Neither of those examples are good to travel photographers, you know? You gotta protect your investment.
Overall I put the Canon EF 14/2.8L II USM L II in front of all the other ultrawide lenses I’ve tested for 2 simple reasons. It gives you a significantly sharper image (also away from the center) and the distortion is smaller than expected. I think it is also important to mention that this lens also rectifies the ghost images caused by some wide angles in the sun. Another positive point for Canon.
About using this lens for portrait, it is cool but keep in mind one thing: it is a great look but the viewer will get tired of it. Since it can be really distinctive to the observer, ultrawide lenses have to be used in moderation for portrait photographers. Again, this is my opinion and I’m not the queen of everything. If you like the look, by all means, go for it.
Conclusion: Should you buy the Canon EF 14/2.8L II USM?
If you feel it is time to invest in a new lenses and your work is demanding a new and fresh look for your photography the Canon EF 14/2.8L II USM is for you. Great quality, fast, clear, gives you super images, is portable and – once you learn – really easy to use. It is a great challenge to adapt from a 24-70mm perspective to a 14mm. I had fun with this lenses and I hope to have the chance to use it again soon. It is completely approved.