Modern Classic SLR Series : Canon EOS-1N
Additional Information on Canon EF lenses
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8
USM Ultra-Wideangle lens

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Background & Development History Canon first ultra wideangle lens was a S-mount 19mm f/3.5 rangefinder optic introduced in 1964. The subsequent FL version of the 19mm was hailed as the widest angle of view lens for an SLR camera at the time of its introduction. The first radical change was the 1973's FD mount 20mm f/2.8 S.S.C.; which later was subsequently updated as Canon FDN 20mm f/2.8 in late 1979. It was interesting to note that the next available ultrawide during the entire S-R-FL era, was an old 25mm f/3.5 before connected by a 28mm wideangle lens. The first Canon ultrawide that broke the 19mm 104° (angle of view) barrier was the FD 17mm f/4.0 in 1971 (updated in 1973 as S.S.C. equivalent); the 20mm serves in bridging between the next available option with the 84° of view of FD 24mm f/2.8 S.S.C.

So, the pre-EF era can be summarized as follow: 86° (19mm, 1964) - 104° (17mm, 1971) - 11(Canon FDn 14mm f/2.8L, 1982); the FDn 20mm f/2.8 narrows the gap between the various versions.

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Canon
EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Ultra-Wideangle Lens
Marketed 06.1992; current model

The early days of the EOS/EF systems has a weakness at the wideangle section. Canon photographers have only a wide gap in making selection as after 114
° EF 14mm f/2.8L super-wideangle, the next prime, fixed focal length wideangle was an EF 24mm f/2.8 which has a 84° angle of view. The solution Canon provided in bridging the gap was actually an wideangle zoom, the Canon EF 20-35mm f/2.8L. Seemingly the equation works as even after almost 20 years after the EOS system introduced, the EF lens family still does not has a fixed focal length ultrawide between 14mm down to 20mm; as of today, the latest, high performance professional grade Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, EF 17-40mm f/4.0L USM as well as even the consumer-grade EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM has this broken link well patched. Seemingly, all these years everyone was accepting the solution Canon provides but it does raise a question, why would anyone still bother with a prime lens of 20mm ?

Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Ultrawideangle lense
Well, the EF 20mm f/2.8 USM was introduced in 1992 at the stage where Canon underwent a second phase of lens updating process to strengthen its foothold. Perhaps it was a necessity rather than just to fill up a number. Nevertheless, it was before the EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM was made available, so the question was whether the logic of its justified existence in the EF lens group should not be questioned in this manner. But neither what you trying to ask is wrong because the biggest threat was actually posted by the equivalent of a far more flexible wideangle zoom lenses. My first ultrawide was a 20mm; it is very different from using a wideangle zoom, although technically many users would feel there are not much differences between using a prime and a zoom, but to me - I have my own intepretation. Personally, a prime lens tends to make you think more before you shoot - with a zoom that provides convenient zooming to keep on permitting you to change picture angles and perspectives, it will make you glue your feet on a same spot without attempting to move for other alternatives. Well, I am not suggesting those who uses zoom are the "squared ones", but rather, a prime wideangle does has its charm and would appeal to someone like me.

Basically, the lens has a few strong points in:-

* Ultra wide focal length, suitable for many applications
* Lightweight (405g) and compact, highly portable
* Excellent optical performance with inner and floating rear focusing system
* Ultrasonic motor (USM) for fast and near silent AF as well as permitting fine manual focus adjustment even during autofocusing.
This EF ultrawide has a very very well built physical construction and externally, dressed up with a customary Canon hard wearing semi-gloss black finishes. The manual focusing ring is reasonably wide for a good grip. Although considered to be lightweight, but the rather complex 11 elements inside adds some extra weight but the addition projects a very good and solid feel. It is not as compact as to other makes such as the comparing AF-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D (Err .. I am more impressed by that MF NIkkor more than the AF counterpart). I know some users do have reservations over justification of acquiring this ultrawide, but personally, I kind of like this lens (say anything you like - focal length to focal length, I still think a prime behaves better than some ultrawide zoom). One Canon folk recently pointed out that the lens has only 5-blades diaphragm - so what ? it is not a tele-optic, it may also be used for some creative close-up where depth of field usually will be shallow - but why would you think more rounded out of focus spots will be better in an ultrawide ? Its applications is very broad, from scenic, travel, journalism, travel and even close focuses. I would rather think its wide field and exposed front element may pose some trouble when shoot against backlit pictures. Anyway, Canon has incorporated a flare-cut diaphragm where it performs much better you thought it would cause some problems. Again, if this is an issue that you can't live with it, just buy an optional lens hood EW-75 II (come on... optional? yea ...). The EW-75 II can be inversely mounted onto the lens for space saving in your bagful of other gears. Its wide and deep pedals provides a very good shield when front light shooting is required. Trust me, the lens behaves equally well even without a hood attached (you can easily verify this through the finder). The strength of this Canon ultrawide is with its compactness as well as its entry price* as a true ultrawideangle lens.

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Unlike fisheyes lenses, ultrawide angles are linear - it will render straightline as straight in the middle. The difference is actually the background information in your picture. In many ways, the wide field of the lens provides a close relationship of the subject matter that you are intend to capture. A good application is actually not going backward but work in close - where quite a dramatic visual effect can be achieved. Once you have master the basic technique in ensuring placement of subject is not too disorted, ultrawide photography can be quite addictive. Most modern optic are well designed and taking into consideration of it commercial implication as well as ensuring its optical performance satisfying its potential owners, I so know some online reviews are quoting/picking on some optical behaviour of the lense, but I would rather use it instead of worrying the rest, haha ..

Sigma 20mm f/1.8 DG
* As at 03.2006. The new/used price range for this lens can be quite broad (via a quick Ebay Buy-It-Now price, ranges from USD390.00 ~ 510-00 (list price USD699-00). Used item should be a consideration, it may (base on luck..) fetch from USD-220-00 ~ USD350-00. A comparing Canon Ultraiwde zoom such as Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM may be ranging from USD370.00~440.00 -naturally, you have to live with an variable aperture zoom lens then ....

Third Party Label(s): This ASPHERICAL Sigma ultrawideangle lens,
SIGMA 20mm f/1.8 EX DG ASPHERICAL RF has almost a full f-stop brighter than the Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM. Brief Spec Sheet: Lens Construction 13 Elements in 11 Groups Angle of View 94.5 degrees Number of Diaphragm Blades 9 Blades Minimum Aperture F22 Minimum Focusing Distance 20cm Maximum Magnification 1:4 Filter Size 82mm Dimensions Diameter 88.6mm X Length 89.5mm Weight: 520g Lowest base price (new) @ USD360-00.
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Part II Guest review/opinion by Philip Chong

" ... When the EF lenses made for the Canon EOS cameras started to replace the FD series gradually from 1987 onwards, there was only one lens to choose from for those who wanted to use a 20mm focal length: from the
Canon EF 20-35mm f/2.8L AFD zoom lens, which has since been discontinued. Its successor is the EF 17-35mm f/2.8L USM zoom lens. In addition to this L-series version, Canon also has the reasonably-priced EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM zoom lens meant for advanced amateurs, amateurs and beginners. The discontinued EF 20-35mm f/2.8L AFD and the current EF 17-35mm f/2.8L USM zoom lenses created history in the sense that both are the first of their kind to utilize a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8 - a design that more or less reduces the professional photographer's reliance on using fast aperture, single focal length Super wide-angle and wide-angle lenses. The former has four focal lengths, 20mm, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm and the latter five; 17mm, 20mm, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm. Coupled with the constant maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout the entire zooming range of these two lenses, it is no wonder that many professional users of EOS equipment have chosen them over the single focal length versions like the EF 24mm f/2.8 AFD, EF 28mm f/2.8 AFD and EF 35mm f/2 AFD wide-angles. However, Canon had also introduced the EF 20mm f/2.8 USM, a single focal length Super wide-angle lens before the Canon EOS-1N made its debut. This 20mm USM Super wide-angle was soon followed by others, some of which are the EF 14mm f/2.8L USM, EF 24mm f/1.4L USM, EF 28mm f/1.8 USM and the EF 35mm f/1.4L USM.
Dual comparison
Why has Canon introduced a whole new fleet of fast aperture, USM wide-angle optics when both the professional and advanced amateur users have accepted its popular L-series zoom lens version? Because there remains a niche market to be filled, for those EOS users who prefer to use exclusively single focal length lenses rather than depending on zooms. There are a few advantages in using a single focal length Super wide-angle lens as compared to a zoom, which utilizes a similar range within its design.

<<< -- Overall length when focused at infinity and the length and dimension does not change even when focuses at its closest focusing distance

The EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Super wide-angle lens has a diagonal angle-of-view of 94-degrees, which are 48 more than what can be captured with a 50mm standard lens. The Super wide-angle lens has a closest focusing distance of 0.25m whereas the L-series zoom is at 0.42m. On paper, this may not seem like much but fact is, 20mm Super wide-angle gives a bigger magnification than what is possible with the zoom lens.

EF20mmfront.jpg

canonEF20mmUPA.jpg

It can't be denied that the L-series zoom offers the advantage of having five different focal lengths in one compact design, the EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Super wide-angle lens is still very much lighter in overall weight and diameter, which is 405 grams plus a filter size of 72mm vs. 545 grams and 77mm for the former. Also, while the L-series zoom is more convenient to use due to its generous zooming range available, and much more practical in actual shooting situations like unfolding news events and other dramatic scenes, the single focal length viewpoint of the EF 20mm lens allows you the flexibility for artistic compositions as you can't change your viewpoints simply by turning the ring like a zoom does

Another advantage of the EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Super wide-angle lens is its ability to use the Canon Extension Tube EF 12 (which can also be used with the
L-series zoom). The maximum magnification of this 20mm lens at its closest focusing is 0.14X. With the Extension Tube EF 12 attached, the maximum magnifications will increase to 0.60X and 0.72X when the lens is focused at the infinity and its closest focusing distance respectively. Extension Tube EF 12, when fitted and the focusing distances shifted from infinity to the closest focusing distance, the front element of the 20mm lens was just half a centimeter away from the subject for maximum magnification the lens can provide. Since it is a 20mm focal length Super wide-angle lens, most of its frequently photographed subject matters comprise landscapes and nature as well as large forms of still-life objects where narrower angle viewpoints are not wide enough to include all of them within the confines of the standard 24 x 36mm film frame. Perspective distortion is one of the benefits of any Super wide-angle and wide-angle lenses and the EF 20mm f/2.8 USM is no exception; in this aspect, it is about exaggerating it altogether, which result in the foreground subject to be larger than those in the background.

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Well, is the EF 20mm f/2.8 USM lens a better investment than any of the three EF zoom lenses that incorporate the same focal length within their zooming range? If your photography is confined to strictly landscapes and nature, including wide-angle viewpoint of close-ups, it may be worthwhile to consider buying this lens. If your specialty is either news feature or travel photography, I will recommend users to go for any of the three EF zoom lenses.....".

- my "Captain Canon" friend, Philip Chong -

Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. JIM olsonar15@EBAY ® where I found this image of this lens from his Ebay Auction Sale . Image copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

Technical Specification for Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM ultra-wideangle lens: -

Type: - Autofocus lens type with manual focusing mechanism
Focal Length: Fixed focal length 20mm
Focus Adjustment:- Autofocus ; USM with Inner and rear focus design,
Manual Focusing:- possible via AF/M switch and electronic full-time manual focusing possible during autofocus
Zoom Adjustment:- Nil. Fixed Focal Length Lens
Closest Focusing Distance:- 0.25m (0.8ft)
Maximum Magnification:- 0.14X
Drive System:- USM with full-time manual focusing
Distance Scales: Provided via window on metres/feet.
Angle of View:- 84°
62° 94° (horizontal, vertical and diagonal)
Aperture range:- f/2.8 - f/22
Number of Diaphragm Blades: - 5 blades
Minimum Aperture: - f/22
Filter rotation: No
Filter Attachment Size:- 72mm front mounting

Optical Contruction for EF 20mm f/2.8 USM

MTF for original EF 20mm f/2.8 USM

Lens construction:- 11 Elements in 9 Groups, floating lens elements

Depth of Field Chart for EF 20mm f/2.8 USM

Canon20mmf28lenshood.jpg

Extenders: not advisable
Others: - Extension Tube EF12 (II) 0.72X~0.60X; EF25 (II)
* : NOT posssible
Diameter:- 77.5mm x 70.6mm (3.1" x 2.8"); Weight:- 405g (14.3 oz)

Accessories:
- Lens Cap/pouch E-72U ; lens hard case: LP 1214 or older LH-C13 hard case; lens Hood:- EW-75 II; Gelatin Holder II/IV (hood): not compatible/0; 72mm close-ups Lens 500D; 72mm Circular Polarizer PL-C; Lens Dust Cap E Rear Cap; Gelatin Filter Holder Adapter III 72; Macrolite Adapter 72C; 72mm UV Haze (L-39 Sharp Cut) etc.

Status: Current Model (as at 03.2006)

<<<---- The lens Hood EW-75 II can be reversibly store on the lens as shown.

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.

Resources: - Alternate Canon EF super wideangle lenses: Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L | Canon EF 17-35mm f/2.8L | Canon EF 17-40mm f/2.8L | Canon EF 20-35mm f/2.8L AFD | Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5~4.5 USM | External Link: - Another opinion by www.Ephotozine.com; Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM (linked to www.photozone.de); another good review (linked to www.the-digital-picture.com); | Relative: - Canon FL version of the 19mm f/3.5 , FD mount 20mm f/2.8 S.S.C.; Canon FDN 20mm f/2.8 or browse others from the Main Index Page of Canon FD lens Resources

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