I was such a big fan of the YongNuo 50mm f/1.8 and so I was super stoked when they announced the YongNuo 35mm f/2 (Amazon). I love my Sigma 30/1.4 and was happy to find a similar, more affordable option. Sure it’s got a 5mm and a stop difference, but aside from the discontinued Canon 35mm f/2 there’s not much in the way of affordable 30/35mm primes at the moment for Canon.
Nikon has the amazing 35mm f/1.8G for APS-C cameras, but to date Canon doesn’t have much of an alternative. The 24/2.8 STM and 40/2.8 STM are nice and affordable, but IMO there’s a world of difference between an f/1.8 or f/2 lens, and 2.8
So I went out with Aleey this weekend, took a nice hike into the wilderness, and took some pictures to test the lens out.
Original image here.
I found out in the clinical tests that the lens was quite a bit softer than its Canon counterpart. I went into the portrait session knowing and anticipating this. Since most of the stuff I shoot gets printed at double truck at best (though print is about 5%, the other 95% is web) overall sharpness isn’t a big concern of mine for environmental portraits. If it is ‘adequately sharp’ at f/2, I’m happy. It picks up sharpness at f/2.8, but I’ve got a sharp 17-50/2.8 I could use instead if I can live with 2.8.
I don’t shoot in the 35mm range often though. I prefer tighter lenses, and in the shot immediately above, I’d prefer to use 100mm or longer for compression. In the main image above, though, fitting in the environment makes 35mm quite nice.
It is soft at f/2. Though all the shots I have taken with it in this session, it was adequate for general use. With all lenses there are tradeoffs. In this shoot, I wanted the extra shallow depth of field f/2 gives over f/2.8 (22″ vs 33″ at ten feet) for a little more background blur. Had 35mm been a requirement, I’d have to live with a softer image if I needed f/2 within this pricerange.
Shot to shot, the lens performed as I had expected from the aesthetics test. Softer than the Canon, though in a practical setting it was firmly in the ‘good enough’ range wide open, I think. I like these images, Aleey loves them, and they’re getting a lot of love on social media where we’ve shared them. I think that’s what counts sometimes. Not “is it a super sharp image where every eyelash is discernable?” but “is it a picture that you like?”
Aleey – Canon T5 – YongNuo 35/2 – Neewer TT850 – 86″ Shoot through
Wardrobe: La Perla
COLOR, CONTRAST, AND OTHER AESTHETICS
This is a big win area for the YongNuo. Color and contrast are very nice. Colors are punchy, the contrast transition from highlight to shadow is smooth. I’ve got nothing to complain about in this area, and love the images. I’ve been shooting a lot of HSS lately, so keeping colors vibrant in the background when I push down ambient is pretty important.
For general aesthetics, the YongNuo is a solid performer. Its better than the Canon, which was a little washed out when compared side by side.
OUT OF FOCUS / BOKEH
Being a wider lens, the DOF is not as shallow as the longer lenses that are more popular with portraits. As such, backgrounds stay more in focus, and bokeh, general out of focus details are less pronounced, and considered less. Take the two above water shots. The bikini one, cropped as such, I was maybe ten feet from Aleey. The background blurs a bit, and isn’t as harsh as I expected, it’s fairly nice. But in the green skirt shot above, even 5 feet further away, the background becomes much less blurred.
That having been said, when the lens is used in such a way to allow for background blur, it’s pretty nice. Nothing to call home about, but not haggard like the Canon and Nikon 50/1.8s can be. Decently soft and blurred, without any distracting elements. Similar to the Canon when shot wide open.
They’re still in the new-hype phase, so prices are jumping around wildly. When they do even out, and supplies are more readily available, it will be a solid “recommended” for those who need a 30/35mm lens wider than f/2.8. There are better options available for wider and tighter focal lengths, and better options if you can manage with f/2.8 – but even so, all of those are either slightly more expensive (40/2.8 and 28/2.8) to double or more the price (Tamron 17-50/2.8).
If 35mm-ish range with wider aperture than f/2.8 is what you need, there aren’t many options at the moment. The Canon 35/2 at double the price with marginal improvements in some IQ elements, or the 35/2 IS at 4-5x, or the Sigma 30/1.4 (which is amazing, save up for it if you shoot crop) at about triple… It all boils down to price vs performance. And in that regards, the lens is adequate to more than adequate for a lot of outdoor portrait use, at a very affordable price.