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Canon EF zoom lenses - EF 20~35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM Ultrawide Zoom

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Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM ultra wideangle Zoom

In 1993, Canon introduced a compact companion ultrawide zoom for general consumers who may not required or be able to afford the old classic zoom Canon EF 20-35mm f/2.8L but would like to own a similar lens type in a more affordable package. Due to use of a compromise variable maximum aperture of f/3.5~f/4.5 - Canon is able to design the lens weighs merely 340g (33% lighter) and has a body length shorter at 68.9mm (but the diameter is wider as compared to the f/2.8L version:- see the reason below). It employs with a spherical 12 elements in 11 group optical formula and an internal focusing design which is a non-rotational forward lens for internal zoom and focus control, which enables users to make use of circular polarized filters (PL-C) filter.

Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM front barrel section 38k Jpeg Loading ...
Although this is a consumer class EF ultrawide zoom and may not embodies itself with features such as fast maximum lens speed or an Aspherical lens element in its optical group, but Canon has incorporated a Ring-Type USM instead of the AFD (Arc Form Drive) as used in the f/2.8L Zoom This has enabled the EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM to be able to perform Full-Time Manual Focusing should the needs arise during AF operation. Besides, the ring-type ultrasonic motor used for the inner focus resulting in high-speed, quiet AF operation.

If that is not enough, the lens can even close focus down to 0.34m - shorter than the comparing f/2.8 counterpart. At such close focus, a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.13X at 35mm setting is achievable. The front setion of the lens has a mechanism which is actually a flare cutting diaphragm (see picture at left) designed for shielding bright light source at corners. And when combining all these elements with the modest entry price; making this zoom an exceptional value. It has been more than a decade since its debut and still remaining in the Canon lens group partly mirrors its popularity as an alternate consideration to all those exotic
L-series ultrawide zoom lenses..

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Basically, the product concept of Canon is quite straight forward:- Portable, easy to use, highly affordable ultra wide-angle lens that couples with some top Canon optical innovations. Suitable applications includes achieve interesting effects with landscape, portrait and travel photography and via changing the camera angle, photographs With a highly effective perspective can be taken. The close focus ability also permits macro photography at a reasonably close-up working range with a full field of view of an wideangle without the need to purchase dedicated Macro lenses. Although it is a completely spherical lens type, but if the lighting condition is favorable, sharp, high-resolution photographs with minimal distortion is possible.

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Technically, Canon has applied a basic lens designing principle in order to ensure high-quality lens-types to be achieved at a low price; similarly, this applies very well in realizing with this compact ultra-wide zoom lens type: -

1) Although a completely spherical lens is used (to keep costs down),it is designed so as to compensate well for distortion.
(2) Using a 77mm filter, the single lens achieves the same level of peripheral light. (Compared with the image sensitivity).
(3) The lens is designed to reduce flare and greatly reduce ghosting caused by reflected light. (This is particularly effective at 20mm)

Overall, this Canon ultrawide Zoom lens offers an excellent cost-performance ratio for those who don't always required true professional grade of built quality and, arguably on par performance at maximum apertures like the f/2.8L in image resolution. Since within the EF lens group has only this lens to be self evaluate (especially when the EF 20-35mm f/2.8L was discontinued a few years later (in 1996), but commercially when the lens was first introduce back in 1993, Canon actually realized some of the third party labels like Tokina, Sigma etc. could even post a bigger threat to them in sales/revenue. As a basis for comparison (in particularly with the Sigma Ultra wideangle zoom of 21-35mm f/3.5~4.2 ZEN as it was introduced way before any of the Canon counterparts (I remember it was first introduced as early as back in 1979/1980 with a manual focus 21-35mm f/3.5~5.6 version; the f/3.5~4.2 AF version with different configuration to adapt onto major camera brands was was possibly introduced in 1992); I compiled a brief listing for cross reference: -
Comparing Sigma 21-35mm lens with Canon Sigma 21-35mm /3.5~4.2 ZEN Ultrawide Zoom Canon mount Tokina ATX 20-35mm Ultrawide Zoom lense
Credit: Image pf Tokina 20-35mm Ultrawide courtesy of Netropy@Ebay® with his Ebay Store too. Image copyright © 2006. All rights reserved.




Manual Focusing


Max Magnification

Closest focusing distance




Filter size


approx. street price


Canon EF 20-35mm f/2.8L



Full-Time Manual

6 blades









* Indicative prices on some web links

Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM



manual only

5 blades







Built-in lens hood

USD215 - 389-00*


Sigma 21-35mm f/3.5~4.2 ZEN




no info

no info







USD 100 - 150*


Official Site

Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 HLD (II)



T Micro Motor

manual only

no info

no info






non-rotating filter ring


USD150 -270-00*


Tokina AF 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro


T Micro Motor


9 blades







2 asp glass (molded), floating elements

USD 450 -577-00*


* Incidentally, the odd 21-35mm zoom range was also adopted by Leica, AG in their LEICA VARIO-ELMAR-R 21-35 mm f/3.5-4 ASPH
Above: The dimension, (length, diameter and weight) - all have the edge over a comparing lens such as a Sigma 21-35mm f/3.5~4.2 ZEN

Image Illumination: - (Level of Peripheral Light) These charts show performance level from the center to the edge. The left end is the center of the lens when performance level is 100. The little performance level declines, the better the lens is.

Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM Body barrel section 30k Jpeg Loading ... Tokina 20-35mm ATX Pro body view Sigma 21-35mm /3.5~4.2 ZEN Ultrawide Zoom
Credit: Image of the Canon EF Ultrawide courtesy of hollybrian90Ebay® <> where these images are found from his Ebay Store and for the Tokina 20-35mm Ultrawide courtesy of Netropy@Ebay® with his Ebay Store too. Image copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

One way or another - the shown Sigma 21-35mm f/3.5-4.2 was discontinued (I think). Both the original Canon offering as well as the newer Tokina ATX Pro 20-35mm Ultrawides are popular choice among many photographers. The Canon lens somehow exhibits an overall better built quality and when you take in to consideration of a better system compatibility issue, it comes out with an edge over the rivalry. Also take note of the differential locations of the respective Zoom and manual focusing rings of the two popular ultrawides.

What does all these tell you ? As I said, in this consumer class category, the Canon lense only has some third party labels to deal with. The EOS is a unique integrated system; although under most circumstances the difference may not be very significant but it can all boil down to price and whether you prefer an original Canon offering rather than an independent party made product. Overall, I think with the prevailing prices (errr.. my philosophy is always buy an "USED"); the Canon may be a better consideration as compared. It is compact, has a great working zoom range for both ambient and flash - the picture coverage of the zoom range would be sufficient for most all round wideangle usage and other than that, the USM spec and its consistent and stable optical performance across distance covered could call for a serious consideration. I am not trying to influence a buying decision but rather exercising common sense to make a judgment, that is all.

Add-on: " ...One thing that you might want to add to your description of those lenses (although I'm not sure where) is that the autofocus may not work properly with some of the newer model cameras. For example, that Tokina won't work with my D50. The AF dies if you turn off the camera or let it go into sleep mode. You can dismount/remount the lens and it will work fine, but you can't let it go into sleep. It needs a chip upgrade at ~$66 US. Anyway, thought it might be helpful to note that in some general way since a lot of people are buying these older wide angle (and zoom) lenses to use with all of the new digital SLRs that are out there now....." - Mike (Netropy@Ebay)

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Technical Specification for Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM: -

Type: - Autofocus lens type with Full-Time manual focusing mechanism
Focal Length: 20-35mm
Focus Adjustment:- Autofocus.
Manual Focusing:- possible via AF/MF switch and manual focusing ring; Full time Manual focusing possible
Zoom Adjustment:- Ring Type USM, Internal Focusing System, Dual rings rotational zoom control
Closest Focusing Distance:- 0.34m (1.1 ft)
Maximum Magnification:- 0.13X at 35mm setting
Drive System/Actuator:- Ring Type USM with Full Time Manual
Distance Scales: Provided via window on metres/feet.
Angle of View
:- 84° -54°; 62°-38° ; 94°-63° (horizontal, vertical and diagonal)

EF20-35mm f3.5-4.5 USM Optical Construction

EF20-35mm f3.5-4.5 USM MTF evaulation

EF20-35mm f3.5-4.5 USM MTF evaulation
Lens construction:- 12 Elements in 11 Groups
Aperture range:- f/3.5 - f/22
Number of Diaphragm Blades: - 5 blades
Minimum Aperture: - f/22-f/27
Filter Attachment Size:- 77mm
Filter rotation: No
Others: Concealed flare cutting diaphragm at the front
Diameter:- 83.5 x 68.9mm (3.3" x 2.7"")
Weight:- 340g (12 oz)

System Accessories:- Extension Tube EF25 II* - 0.7-0.36X; Extension Tube EF12 - 1-0.8X; II 5 I Lens Hood EW-83 II or Lens Hood EW-75II, Lens Hood EW-75BII ; lens Cap E77U; lens case LH-1214; Gelatin Filter Holder V: Vignetting may occur at widest angle. Others: - 77mm close-ups Lens 500D; 77mm Circular Polarizer PL-C; Lens Dust Cap E Rear Cap; Gelatin Filter Holder Adapter III 77; Gelatin Filter Holder Adapter IV 77; Gelatin Filter Holder Hood V; Gelatin Filter Holder IV ; Macrolite Adapter 72C; EF Adapter (The optional EF Adapter fits onto the XL1S allowing use of Canon EOS EF lenses for quality still imaging.)

NOTE:- * Extension Tube EF 12 can be used with EF lenses except the EF 14mm f/2.8L USM, 50mm f/1.0L USM, and lenses which cannot be focused manually.
** Extension Tube EF 25 can be used with EF lenses except the EF 14mm f/2.8L USM, 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye, 20mm f/2.8 USM, 24mm f/1.4L USM, 50mm f/1.0L USM, 17-35mm f/2.8L USM at the shorter focal lengths, 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM at the shorter focal lengths, TS-E 45mm, and lenses which cannot be focused manually.

Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM Rear section34k Jpeg Loading ...
Alternate Canon EF super wideangle Zoom: Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM | Canon EF 17-35mm f/2.8L USM| Canon EF 17-40mm f/2.8L USM | Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM | | Canon EF 20-35mm f/2.8L | Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM | Relative: - Canon FD 20-35mm f/3.5(L) ASPH S.S.C or browse others from the Main Index Page of Canon FD lens Resources

External Link: - Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM (linked to's Review with evaluative MTF analysis)

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