Did you know there’s a thin red ring on certain Canon lenses that instantly elicits nods of approval from Canonistas everywhere? This is because that red ring marks those lenses out as members of Canon’s coveted L-series, and among the highest quality lenses in the world.
Today I’m going to talk about the advantages of using L-series lenses, and take a look at two models available right here on BestBuy.ca.
“L” is for “Luxury”
The first time you hold an L-series lens you will immediately notice the superior build quality. This is a significant advantage because it protects the precious optical elements inside and it ensures that the lens will far outlast inferior models. It provides a rugged toughness that will give you the confidence to take theses lenses anywhere. Most L lenses are also sealed for dust and water resistance.
I had the unfortunate experience of hearing my first L lens, the EF 24-70mm f/2.8, land on the concrete behind me as I stood atop a utility box in London once upon a time. It equated to a fall of about eight or nine feet, and I will never forget the relief I felt when I discovered that the lens was still in perfect working order. Admittedly it took a dent to the filter ring, but I could live with that!
The White Barrel
One of the other distinctive physical features of certain L lenses, namely the telephoto lenses, is that they are white in colour. This is because Canon has anticipated that these lenses will mainly be used outdoors, possibly in hot conditions, and white is a colour which tends to deflect the sun’s heat rather than attract it. The white-barreled lenses can maintain a lower operating temperature, which is important because optical elements are prone to heat expansion.
In terms of operation, there are a number of great features that come as standard on L-series lenses. For example, on many other lenses you have to choose between manual focus and autofocus, but with an L lens when you work in autofocus mode you can always manually override the focus. Autofocus is fast and quiet thanks to the Ultrasonic Motor (USM). For those who like to use filters, it’s important to note that the front element does not rotate, because some filters are orientation-dependant. Another interesting feature is that the maximum aperture is constant throughout the focal range, whereas on most lenses the maximum aperture varies across the focal range. L-series lenses generally have low maximum apertures which give them increased low-light performance, and nicely blurred out-of-focus areas – which is one of the features that converts really love.
Superior Image Quality
But the main reason L-series lenses are so coveted by those in-the-know is because of the image quality. In terms of clarity, sharpness, colour-rendition and lack of distortion, L-series lenses are at the top of the class. Canon uses three different types of optical elements, sometimes in combination, to produce their L lenses: Ultra-low Dispersion (UD), aspherical, and fluorite. The result is images that are noticeably superior to those produced with the standard kit lens that comes with your Canon camera body.
Image Quality Relies on Sensor + Lens
Think of your camera as just two basic components; the sensor which records the image, and the lens which transmits the light from the scene to the sensor. The camera body and it’s controls are very much secondary to those, and have almost no bearing on the quality of the final image. That said the camera body does control the shutter speed, and some bodies have higher maximum shutter speeds than others, which can be advantageous when working with large apertures on bright, sunny days.
So let’s take a look at a couple of specific L lenses available here on BestBuy.ca.
EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM
The EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM is one of the most popular L-series lenses around and the first L lens that many photographers will invest in. It has a really useful focal range, suitable for landscape work, street photography, reportage or portraiture. It contains 3 aspherical elements and one UD element. In fact it’s actually a Super-UD element. It also comes with three stops of image stabilization (IS). This means that the lens can compensate for camera shake that occurs when you need to shoot at lower shutter speeds in low-light situations.
EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM
Another very popular L lens, in part because of the fact that it’s one of the most affordable. This is one of my all-time favourite lenses, and I know I’m in good company here because many pros consider this lens a gem not just because it gives you that wonderful L lens image quality at a fantastic price, but also because it’s really light in comparison to a lot of telephoto L lenses. It has to be said that for the most part L lenses are heavier as a result of that rugged build quality and high-end optics. The EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM weighs in at 705g, whereas the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM is almost double that at 1,310g. The EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM is a great portrait lens, especially when you shoot at 100mm or longer because those blurred backgrounds look spectacular. It’s also a good lens for nature and outdoor work because of that nice long focal range.
So there’s a brief look at some of the features and advantages of Canon’s outstanding L-series lenses. If you want to see proof positive of the esteem in which these lenses are held, just keep an eye out the next time you’re at a big sports event; you’ll notice just how many professional shooters carry the distinctive white-barrelled L lenses. And if you’re keen to see a significant improvement in the quality and sharpness of your own images then you should definitely consider making the investment. It’s also worth mentioning that L-series lenses have excellent resale value!