Trophy Ceremony

The scores tally as follows:

Canon 24mm f1.4 L
Nikon 17-35 at 24mm
Olympus 24mm f2.8
25 points
9 points
16 points

In a way, I’m glad the Canon L scored so consistently across the board: because how do you factor in the very real, but untested, advantages it has over the competition? How many points does it deserve for doing everything the Zuiko does, but with auto focus? And how should it be rewarded for being able to get a picture at all at f1.4? That’s a whole stop faster than even the f2.8’s faster f2 sibling, which could equally well have taken its place in the final. Unlike the fast Sigmas, the Canon 24L’s widest apertures aren’t just there for show: in the last few months, I’ve obtained critically sharp images on full frame bodies hand held at f1.8 and f2 – even wide open it shines. Just for fun, see the Sigma 24/1.8 v Canon 24/1.4 test here.

It’s not perfect, of course: there’s its weird centre frame performance at wide apertures, and the worse-than-expected lateral CA, but on a full frame sensor, it clearly delivers higher resolution, right into the corners, than anything else you can put in an EF mount. Let’s also not forget that it makes a highly versatile 35/1.4 (with sharp corners?) on an APS-sensor body.

Inevitably, hovering above the results, is the spectre of sample variation. The US-spec lens I tested (sample 26686, UV marked on the rear element housing US0901) was not only a different lens from the one tested by photozone and castleman and Rob Galbraith, it may as well have been a completely different design. Where photozone found sharp centres and soggy corners at wide apertures, I found the reverse; and there’s no doubt in my mind that this 24L, at least, would flat out murder the 24mm Tilt/Shift I once owned. But such is the lottery of ownership: you pays your money; you take a chance.

The bald tally doesn’t also tell the story of how the Olympus and Nikon compare. The Olympus is astoundingly good at f5.6-8 at distance, and produced the highest resolution captures of anything shot thus far at 24mm. However, the Nikon gets is own back at f11 where the Zuiko is over the hill in diffraction terms.

We should also mention that the stellar little Olympus 24mm thrashed every other lens it encountered in the group stages of the 24mm World Cup, can be bought used for less than a decent filter for the 24L, and fits in the palm of your hand with room to spare. It’s a gem.

However, the day surely belongs to the Canon f1.4 L, undisputedly the finest 24mm on earth.
At least my one is.
Until the Zeiss ZF 25mm becomes available . . . .