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Sharpest Canon Lenses?

Bob Prichard , Dec 06, 2005; 10:40 a.m.

I shoot mostly landscapes with my 1Ds2 and enlarge to 40 x 60. I am looking for the sharpest Canon lenses. I have seen conflicting tests on various lenses. Which do you recommend?


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Mark Chappell , Dec 06, 2005; 10:49 a.m.

Give us a break and tell us what sorts of lenses you are interested in -- wideangles? teles? intermediates? zooms? I routinely use lenses ranging from 12mm to 500 mm (sometimes to 1000 mm) for landscapes.

Affen Kot , Dec 06, 2005; 11:51 a.m.

i would recommend that you do a little bit of research and decide for yourself which lenses are the sharpest, because any advice that you get on general gear forums is usually just that...general and unqualified (mine included). and people tend to just vote for the lenses that they themselves own, e.g.,"my 85 1.8 is the sharpest lens in the canon lineup."

a good place to start (just to get acquainted with the terms and names) would be to look at michael reichmann's lens collection. a good majority of his lenses are top shelf canon glass.

then you might peruse the mtf charts at canon.com.

or you could look through the reviews at photozone.de, the digital picture.com, or photodo.com.


Sheldon Nalos , Dec 06, 2005; 12:08 p.m.

The top three lenses that I can think of would be:

200mm f/1.8 L (discontinued)
85mm f/1.2 L
135mm f/2 L

Others that would be so good you should have no occaision to complain about them:

All L series primes, with the exception of the 50mm f/1.0 (a now discontinued specialty lens), the 24mm tilt/shift (some complaints of softness and CA), and potentially the 24mm f/1.4 L.
50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro
50mm f/1.4
100mm f/2.8 Macro

Now there are lots of other lenses that are very excellent in the Canon lineup, including most all the L zooms and consumer primes. But - if you are printing to 40x60 and are shooting landscapes, then you are looking for the best of the best wide angle lenses. Canon wide angle lenses unfortunately don't really stack up to the competition.

I think you have two good options to get excellent results.

1) Buy the Canon 45mm or 90mm tilt shift lenses, and learn how to use a vertical L plate to shift-stitch a vertical composition into a horizontal composition. This will increase your resolution from 16.7mp to close to 25 mp. The shift stitch method also avoids all the paralax hassles of conventional stitching.

2) Buy third party manual focus lenses and use them on your 1Ds II with an adaptor and stop down metering. The top of the heap is the Contax/Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 distagon. Pricey and tough to find. Other good wide glass can be found in varying focal lengths from Zeiss, Leica, Olympus and Nikon.

Do a search over at Rob Galbraith's forums about wide angle lenses. There's a world of discussion over there in the archives.

Hope this helps!


Peter White , Dec 06, 2005; 12:54 p.m.

Just received the Canon TS-E 24mmL. It's quite sharp. I'm not sure what the fuss is about. And of course when you can set it to put everything along a plane from 6 inches below the lens to infinity in focus, that beats getting sharpness from depth of field any day.

Also I'm very happy with the 28mm f/1.8, the 45mm TS-E and the 50mm f/1.4. I'bve been shooting with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 since 1971 and have never thought it wasn't sharp enough. My Summicron M is certainly no sharper.

For the entire wide range the EF 16-35L zoom is terrific.

Chiswick John , Dec 06, 2005; 12:58 p.m.

I presume then that you are not happy with your present setup and expect better lenses to improve things? Are you sure the 1dS2 is the best tool to produce 40x60 inch prints of landscapes that contain a lot of fine irregular detail.

Nicholas Price , Dec 06, 2005; 01:50 p.m.

...its not an "L", but my USM 50mm f/1.4 prime lens is one of the sharpest lenses I have ever used - including amongst my Leica and Carl Zeiss lenses!

Regards, Nick.

Panos Voudouris , Dec 06, 2005; 02:17 p.m.

Easy, pick the focal lengths you want and then find the L primes or zooms that match them. If there are multiple choices, buy the most expensive one.

Sheldon Hambrick , Dec 06, 2005; 02:38 p.m.

"I shoot mostly landscapes with my 1Ds2 and enlarge to 40 x 60"


Chiswick John , Dec 06, 2005; 02:47 p.m.

"Easy, pick the focal lengths you want and then find the L primes or zooms that match them. If there are multiple choices, buy the most expensive one." - damn I knew there was an easy answer.

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