I picked up the Canon 11-24mm f/4 L earlier this year, and at the time it was a bit of a rushed decision. Canon was about to implement a significant price increase, and I’d had it in mind that I might buy the lens later in the year anyway. I had two worries about this lens before I bought it. Firstly, I knew it was huge compared to my other small zooms like the 16-35 f/4 L IS, and the 24-70 f/2.8 L II – lenses that are basically always in my bag. Secondly, the bulbous front glass element prevents you from using any regularly sized filters on the lens. I say “regularly sized” because there are some custom options out there from people like Wonderpana, but the filters for the 11-24 are larger than most dinner plates, and I don’t consider this to be a practical solution for my work.
My concern was that I would not be able to replace any of my lenses with the 11-24, because I would always want to have the ability to use filters, and that meant that I’d have to carry this lens in addition to the ones I already had. Not an inconsiderable thing to do when you see the size and weight of this thing (check my unboxing video).
So here we are, several months down the line and I thought I would report back!
The short story is that this lens blows my mind almost every time I take it with me. It is astonishingly sharp, and creates images that sometimes you simply wouldn’t believe to be possible. On several occasions, I’ve ushered fellow photographers over to my camera to see an image on the screen, and they just look puzzled! You can see them thinking “how did he just get that image?”.
One of my favourite features of the lens is how hard it forces you to think about composition. 11mm is insanely wide, and let’s be honest here, you’re going to be using this thing at 11mm 90% of the time! The field of view takes in an enormous amount of foreground, and that means constant small tweaks to refine the composition and remove distractions. I find that working with this lens is a much slower process, but ultimately it’s incredibly rewarding when you really nail a shot with it.
One of my concerns about the lens has definitely played out though, I do end up carrying it around as well as my other lenses in a lot of situations. I can do without ND filters and grads in many situations, but sometimes a circular polarizer makes a night and day different, and in those situations I have to have my 16-35mm f/4 L IS with me so that I can just use my 77mm polarizer. My bag has definitely been much heavier since investing in this lens, but the thing is, I’ve created numerous images with it that simply wouldn’t have been the same, or even possible, without it. For me, it’s almost always worth carrying it with me.
I have a lot of lenses in my arsenal, just check out my list, but there isn’t another lens in the kit that consistently amazes me with what it’s able to produce. There are lenses in there like the Canon 400mm f/4 DO II, which are critically acclaimed, and no doubt a technical marvel as well, but at the end of the day, the shot still just looks like any other 400mm image at close inspection. The 11-24mm is different though, this is a very special piece of glass that can actually set your photography apart. It incites creativity, and on more than one occasion I’ve found myself daydreaming about images that I could make with it. No other lens gives me this creativity boost. Simple as that. It’s a fascinating, and difficult lens to use well, but I’m so glad I ended up buying it. This one is a keeper.