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Canon EOS 35-350

by Philip Greenspun, 1995

The Canon EOS 35-350L USM zoom lens gets me a lot of pictures that I otherwise wouldn't have gotten. What more can you ask from a lens?

I like the 50mm perspective

For a couple of years, I'd gotten into a rut of carrying one Nikon with a 20/2.8 mounted, another Nikon body with an 80-200/2.8 mounted, and a 60 macro in my pocket. I hardly ever took any pictures with the 60 because I thought I liked the dramatic perspectives offered by the other focal lengths; it turned out that I was really just too lazy to change lenses.

Queen Mary. Long Beach, California. By moving myself back and forth and zooming the 35-350, I very quickly settle in on my favorite framing and perspective. It turned out that I was a closet 50mm lover but didn't realize it. Oftentimes I look down to see what focal length I've chosen and it is in the 35-70 that I'd always ridiculed.

Above right: Great Sand Dune National Monument in Colorado, part of my Foosteps travelogue.

I like program autoexposure

Orangutan. Audubon Zoo. New Orleans, Louisiana. "What kind of brain dead person uses program autoexposure?" I always wondered to myself. Now I am one. With an 80-200, you generally know that you're taking portraits and aperture priority at f/4 is the right thing, or maybe it is sports and shutter priority 1/500th is the right thing. With a 35-350, though, appropriate shutter speeds are all over the map and it is much more efficient to let the camera pick a starting aperture/shutter speed combo then dial in with the top wheel (for program shift) and the back wheel (for exposure compensation).

Now I always switch to program mode when I mount the 35-350.

Size, weight, aperture

Size and weight are about the same as an 80-200/2.8, i.e., three pounds (1.5 kg) and big. Racked out to 350 with the sunshade, enormously long. Aperture sticks around f/3.5 until 70mm then moves to f/4.5 until about 160mm and doesn't degrade to f/5.6 until you're in the 200-350 range. EOS camera finders/screens make it tough to focus manually even with f/2.8 wide angles so be prepared for difficult focusing from 35 to 50mm.

The lens doesn't focus especially close, so it is nice to carry an extension tube. The hummingbird at left was at 200mm with extension tube, f/11 and on-camera flash. Fuji Velvia. (from my Costa Rica travelogue)

Mechanical quality is excellent and, although the weight of the lens will cause "unintended zooming" if you have it pointing down, there is a tension/locking ring that lets you prevent focal length drift.

Oh yeah, the image quality

For $2000, you're going to get a decent snapshot out of a lens. Is it really as contrasty as a 70-200/2.8? No. As sharp as a 300/2.8 at 300? No. But who cares? Any picture would be a lot better if you'd only had your 8x10 view camera handy, but you never would have so you don't even dream about it. Why then dream about how much better a shot you could have gotten with that 300/2.8 or 105/1.8. You weren't going to carry them out on the street where you thought you'd be photographing at 35mm most of the time.

The 35-350 takes publication quality images. Just keep the lens hood on and watch for flare. Bring a tripod and stop down if you're really paranoid.

At right: Wood storks in Costa Rica, 350 and f/5.6, autofocus. Fuji Sensia. Cropped.


Or "random snapshots". Take your pick.

Here are some from Cape Cod

From my trip from Boston to Los Alamos and back

Horses. Colorado. Rainbow and barn. Ontario, Canada. Horse. Colorado. Texas Falls Road. Vermont.

From Oregon...

Oregon Coast. Oregon Coast.

Text and pictures copyright 1991-1995 Philip Greenspun. Top photo from my article on California.

Article created 1995

Readers' Comments

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Agnius Griskevicius , September 30, 1997; 07:10 P.M.

This looks like a really neat lens. I use 28-70L & 70-200L lens combination most of the time; I also frequently find myself reaching for a X2 teleconverter. Also, the more gear I have, the more I realize that that stuff is HEAVY. I am thinking on adding 35-350 as my "wish I had my camera with me" lens, and use 70-200L in a studio situation. Has anyone have an opinion on my idea? I appreciate your suggestions.


jonas gjertsson , May 02, 1999; 07:00 A.M.

I bought the 35-350 - when it was brand new - for the production of a slide show for a TNC. The approach was that of a documentary and I wanted to be able to take sequences with closeups and long shots as the situations were unfolding. It worked beautifully. I've still got it - especially for traveling - and it does take "publication quality" pictures. jonas.gjertsson@createur.se

Michael Engelen , May 13, 1999; 10:31 A.M.

I tried out quite a lot (consumer) zoom-lenses and finally bought a used 35-350L. This great piece of glass is definitely THE lens for everyone willing to carry only one lens (though it is quite heavy) and still get great quality pictures. I finally saw that there is a difference between a consumer lens and a pro lens. If you are a zoom freak save your money 'til you can afford this lens (or buy a used one). It's really worth it.

Irvine Dude , August 25, 1999; 04:14 A.M.

I rented this lens from a photo-shop in Costa Mesa, CA. I used it for my Yellowstone trip. The lens was heavy. But, the range (35-350) was superb. Somehow I never really exceeded 150mm!! So, I can't comment on the lens quality beyond this, but overall, this is my lens of choice.

When I save up enough money, an A2 or EOS-3 + 35-350L would be my only photographic equipment. :)

thanks for your time.

Niels Jonker , August 28, 1999; 10:02 P.M.

I recently bought a Canon EOS3 body and the 35-350L; I have only shot a few rolls as of yet. I wanted to have a single-body, single-lens, go-anywhere setup that would take simply great pictures... That is exactly what I got. I seem to be taking better pictures now that I do not have to worry about swapping lenses. If the weight and price are not an issue for you, I would highly recommend this as your go-anywhere, do-anything camera.

Andrew Harto , October 28, 2000; 03:31 P.M.

Let's see if I can be objective.

I've owned the 35-350 for 7 years since its release, and I must admit that this lens is the jack of all trades. I carried it with me throughout Asia, California, and other places in the world, and it has taken sharp pictures with the aperture 1-2 stops down. I am less confident about sharpness when this lens is used wide open or zoomed to the max. But at 35-250mm range (f8 or smaller), this lens does quite a wonder.

Truthfully, I am contemplating of selling my 35-350 and buy a used 80-200/2.8 or a new 70-200/2.8. The two latter lenses definitely are proven to take better quality image than the first (www.photodo.se rated the 35-350 at 3.3 (out of 5 max), the 80-200 at 4.2, and 70-200 at 4.1).

All in all, however, the 35-350 is a wonderful, expensive lens. It is a multipurpose lens, and great for photojournalism. If you don't mind the bulk, it's great for travel photography too.

My personal rating for this lens...out of 5 (best). Usefulness 5; Build quality 5; USM Focus 5; Image quality 3.5 to 4

R. DM , October 30, 2000; 12:36 A.M.

I have owned this lens since it was first introduced years ago. While it is big and heavy and does not outperform other "L" series lenses in sharpness it has taken some of the best and most memorable pictures that I have taken. It is sharp enough and it's outstanding zoom range is sensationally useful when you are on the side lines of a soccer game and the ball is coming at you with players behind it. I have five other lenses, but this one is special. It is the lens to carry when you only want take one lens.

Joe Owens , July 20, 2001; 12:29 A.M.

I bought the 35-350 lens 5 years ago, after I got my first paycheck as a photojournalist for a national paper. Before i had it id been using a 50mm f1.8 and had borrowed a Nikon F90X 24-85 and 80-200 f2.8 lenses. I knew that I wasnt going to buy into Nikon because the F5 was too expensive for me at the time and the F90X didnt have as firm a control over the aperture as Canon camers did. Eventually the day came and I ordered an Eos 1nRS and the 35-350, which ended up being a dark combination, but I sent the camera to Canon Pro services in the Netherlands and had them tweak the camera's "brain" to prioritze the AF, anyway I was laughed and scoffed at by so many of my collegues who had opted for the standard kit of 4 lenses [17-35f2.8, 28-70f2.8, 70-200f2.8, 300 f2.8, 1.4x], and here was I with only one lens and one camera [Ihave since bought a cheap 20-35 and 50f1.8 type I and an old Eos 600], and in the last 5 years I have loaned the 35-350 out to selected collegues and have watched with glee the numbers who have changed their minds and bought this lens. I use it with the Eos 600 because I have a bad back and the combination of the Eos1nRS and the 35-350 is too much, and I use the 50mm with the RS because its sensational for use with flash, especially in tight situations. Its a very heavy lens but look at it this way its lighter than a kitbag with 4 L lenses and 3 bodies. At 35 it tends to be slightly dark at the edges, and at 350 its also a little dark, but inbetween its undeniably just as good as any of the other L lenses for Press work. I am living in fear that as soon as I get my hands on a D30 its 1.6x ratio will change the focal length to 56-560 which is a pain in hte ass to be honest and ill have to opt for either the 14mm or 15fisheye to get suitable wide angles, tho canon tell me that they are working on a replacement for the D2000 which will cost more than the D30 but less than the D2000 and will not have any focal length ratio, so we'll wait and see... If your considering the 35-350 then just check your priorities first if you need ultra pin sharp then dont get it, but if your happy with sharp images blown up to 12x16 [max] then this will benefit you greatly, all of the other comments are true and should also be considered. Also to R.DM Man you took the words straight outta my mouth "useful when you are on the side lines of a soccer game and the ball is coming at you with players behind it", I have had this soooo many times and I guarantee you, there might be 25 other photographers at the match and itll be me wholl get the freakyest looking shot of the match and win the hearts of all the picture editors!!!!

John MacPherson , November 12, 2001; 03:31 P.M.

If you are thinking of buying a Canon 35-350L lens just do it. I did and it is incredible. I shoot sports, wildlife and landscape, as well as travel and people. The lens covers all the focal lengths I need, is quick to use, and the optical quality is quite phenomenal for a lens of this type and zoom range. I have pictures published regularly from this lens and the clients rave about the sharpness. Whilst not as absolutely sharp as fixed L lenses, it is perfectly capable of publication quality images (although it is slightly less impressive at the 350 end, and needs stopping down). If you need to carry only one lens this is the one. Good luck!

Joel Benford , February 03, 2002; 07:06 P.M.

Wouldn't an IS version be lovely?

Stephen Lutz , February 24, 2003; 07:49 P.M.

Close up of woman at peace rally, January 2003

I have had this lens for about a year, and it is an excellent choice for photojournalism type assignments. I use it when I go to protest rallys, political events, etc. and I know I will be changing focal length a lot to capture fast moving scenes. The optical quality is quite good, on a par with other L lenses that I own (28-70 2.8, 70-200 2.8, 300 f/4 IS, 135 f/2) With the D-30 the colors are natural and the images crisp, and the ability to change ISO on the fly is a godsend with a variable aperture lens like this one. The only problem with the D-30 is that the lens becomes effectively a 56-560mm, which limits its usefulness for wide angle shots. It's great on the telephoto end though, and the images can be cropped pretty hard and still hold their sparkle and pop. Here's one I shot at ISO 400, in RAW mode, with the D-30 and the 35-350L. I cropped it to about 20% of the original. Pretty good results.

Ben Granillo , January 28, 2005; 11:24 P.M.

I have owned this lens for about a year now, and I have gotten wonderful results using it on my EOS 1, which is film. It is sharp and contrasty and convienent. However, I realized after awhile, when I looked at the photos that I shot with my 17-40L f4, on my 10D that there is a remarkable difference in the 35-350's resolving power, and that the contrast, sharpness, and over all quality isn't suited for digital as much as some of the newer lenses. I love this lense, and I still shoot digital with it, but I think that I will be saving up for a 70-200L f4 and a 1.4x extender for my digital shots in the future. Works like a charm if you will be shooting film, I keep it on my film camera most of the time.

Vijay Dixit , March 12, 2009; 02:50 A.M.

Too late a comment. I recently received this lens as a gift. And since then, this is the only lens that is on my camera. The versatility of this lens makes it hard to depart from. It is capable of capturing images in such variety of circumstances that it makes you depend on it. As someone else mentioned, in dusty situations, this is the best companion to ride with. You don't need to change lens unless REALLY required.

The only drawback is the weight but the quality and the capability just beats everything. Moreover, with appropriate settings (depends on the camera), you really don't need to carry a tripod around. But mind it, this lens is VERY heavy compared to all other.

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