Monday, September 28, 2009

Film-Like Performance of the Canon 35-350 L Lens

I like the look of film. When I've used a film camera, it strikes me how different the photos look compared to the ones I normally get from my digital SLR.Film often has a smoother, "analog" look to it.

Well, this past weekend, I did a high school senior portrait session. Often I bring two DSLRs with two lenses: one covering the wider end of the spectrum (e.g. 24-70mm), and one covering the telephoto end (e.g., 70-200mm). At the last moment, I decided to just take one camera and use one lens: my Canon 35-350 L.

Sometimes I hesitate to use my 35-350 lens because it's not particularly fast (max aperture is f/3.5 at the wide end and f/5.6 at the telephoto end), and it's relatively heavy without image stabilization. (My 70-200 lens is heavier, but it's faster--constant f/2.8 max--and has image stabilization.)

I've noticed, however, if I increase my ISO setting one stop over what I would use with a f/2.8 lens, the shutter speed is usually fast enough so that blur doesn't become an issue.

So, anyway, I photographed the whole portrait session with the 35-350 attached to my full-frame 5D. (I had my 24-105 f/4 IS along in case I was having issues with the 35-350; but it stayed in my camera bag.)

Well, having the 35-350mm range available in an instance is *really* handy. No matter where my portrait subject was and where I had to stand--which was sometimes not very close due to the terrain--I could zoom out for a full body or environmental portrait; and the next minute fill the frame with a tight headshot. I love that.

Canon 5D + Canon 35-350 L

The thing I forget about is the "analog" look of the images I get when I use the 35-350. They're smoother and more film-like than the images I get with my other lenses. If you like lots of sharp detail resolution, you probably won't like what this lens delivers; stick to prime lenses.

But lots of sharp detail is often not very flattering for portraiture. A smoother film-like rendering is.

I'm not sure if Canon's newer 28-300 IS L lens (which replaced the 35-350 L) gives a similar film-like performance. I suspect it doesn't, but I may try to borrow it one of these days to compare. If you've used the Canon's 28-300 IS L, please share your experiences with it in the comments area below...:-).

Michael Grace-Martin is a professional wedding, portrait, event, stock, and fine art photographer based in Upstate New York. He is also the author of this blog. All images and text are (c) Michael Grace-Martin Photography. His main website is:

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