Now that I’ve had a good 5-6 months of working with Canon’s new 11-24mm, I thought I would give my final thoughts on how this unique lens fits into my own particular workflow and also how its super-wide perspective opens up new creative possibilities for photographers.
Last March I received the 11-24mm just as I was heading into Yellowstone for a couple weeks in early spring and had the chance to work a few landscapes in and around the northwest corner of the park. This was my first experience with the lens and my first experience with that initial jaw-dropping moment when you look through the viewfinder to see what 11mm really looks like.
Having used a variety of wide-angles over the years, I hadn’t really ventured beyond my 16-35mm or 15mm fisheye. I’ve done some pano work with tilt shifts giving wider perspectives, but really going past 16mm with a rectilinear lens was new territory for me.
After getting over the whole coolness factor of the super-wide, I was surprised in the difficulty I had trying to compose certain compositions, especially going wider than 14mm. Arranging the scene took a little more creative thought and also the acceptance that too wide is too wide for certain scenes. A good friend of mine also reminded me about the “wide-itis” you can get when you have something like this in your bag.
Over the course of the next few months I worked this lens in Oregon’s waterfalls, Washington’s rainforests and up though the Rockies into Glacier National Park. Over these trips I learned when to pull out the 11-24mm and when not to. When appropriate, these extra-wide focal lengths create amazing images and open up the doors for creativity in compositional arrangements and new ways to think outside the box. They also allow for immense foreground inclusion and add increased dimension to the scene.
Beyond the 11-24mm’s unique perspective, the optics are superb. I’ve been nothing but pleased with sharpness and resolution across the whole range of focal lengths. Corners look good, chromatic aberration is almost non-existent and really, I can’t find anything negative to say about its optics. I will also add that Canon has done an amazing job with its new coatings. Fingerprints and cleaning are excellent to deal with and I’m feeling much more confident running around with its massive protruding front element.
A couple weeks back I was shooting in a field of fireweed in Glacier National Park and stepped away from my tripod only to look back in horror and see it, my 1DX, and the 11-24mm go crashing front element first into the ground. Fortunatley, the patch of fireweed cushioned the fall, but there was a whole bunch of leaves, pollen and other stuff mushed into the lens. After a good cleaning, not a single scratch, again impressed at these tough coatings Canon is working with.
The only negatives I have to say on the lens as reported previously are its weight and price. It’s a big heavy lens that takes up a lot of room in the bag and adds extra heft when trying to travel light. This is probably the biggest negative to me, but it is the price you pay for this focal length range. Speaking of price, at $3000 it’s also a big hit to most photographer’s wallets and hard to swallow for a lot of us, but all in all, I think its worth the cost of admission for the quality and opportunity it provides.
Even with its size and price, the 11-24mm still has found a permanent spot in my camera bag and has become a working part of my landscape arsenal. It has allowed me to capture compositions and perspectives that normally would have been impossible and it’s spurred new creativity for more unique landscapes. Overall it is a remarkable engineering achievement by Canon that delivers superb results. I highly recommend this lens to anyone looking for the ultimate in sharpness and super-wide perspectives for their landscape work.