Our Review of the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II Camera Lens
Of all the lenses in our standard wedding day photography kit, the Canon 24mm f/1.4 II prime lens stands out in terms of it's intended use, artistic and stylistic opportunities, and simply beautiful image quality. This was actually our first prime camera lenses, with all others before it being standard kit lenses - you know, the ones that come along with cameras for free to get you started. As a result, it has a special place for us, and it's value has shown itself time and again in a variety of different photography uses.
What role does the Canon 24mm f/1.4 II play in a wedding photographers toolkit?
Given that our specialty is in wedding photography, this sort of often high stress environment is actually perfect for provided an authentic review of our lenses. On one hand, it is important to know the quality of your lenses and obviously practice and be familiar with them prior to shooting a wedding, but it is also important to know how camera lenses help to shape the wedding day storytelling.
Often, this 24mm prime lens is one of the first we put on our cameras. The reason for this is because, often, the first thing we shoot on a wedding day are overall, environment shots. This might include an overall shot of the wedding ceremony location, or maybe a picture of a large country club. While maybe not the most important shots of the day, they provide value to our clients because it showcases - clearly - where the event is being held. Like in a good movie, it is this series of shots that set the stage for the rest of the day when a couple looks through their wedding gallery or album sometime down the road. In our experience, a 24mm provides ample ability to capture most medium-to-large scale venue locations. Only really large (tall or wide) locations would require a wider lens for this purpose.
Uniquely, the 24mm also functions for us to capture wider portrait shots, and from time to time even tighter shots on the dance floor. While there is some warping around the edges of the image, it adds a dynamic that is partly artistic preference, but can also convey a sense of movement that may be lost with lenses around 50mm - 80mm where little image warping occurs as a result of the lens shape.
How about non-wedding applications?
Another reason we really like the Canon 24mm f/1.4 II lens is because it is not just a one-trick pony we pull out on the wedding day and never again. It's value has been seen time and again for us as we photograph an array of non-wedding sessions, as well as personal projects such as can be found in our trip to Iceland. As a wide angle lens, this suits many landscape and environment photographs well, and can help to capture immense locations well without having to feel like your miles away.
One of the key elements of this lens, in particular when compared to other wide angle lenses or even the previous version of this lens, is the enhancements made to the clarity of images. Many photographers know that, especially when shooting at low f-stops (in this camera's case - around f/1.4), clarity can take a toll, as well as the likelihood of an image being effected by movement. In reality as we have experienced, this camera lens provides some of the most clear and crisp images we have taken. While longer focal length lenses are necessary to use as a part of our normal photography work (whether in weddings or not), anytime we feel we can utilize this 24mm lens, we do. We often shoot wide open at f/1.4 - f/2.8 with great success. Shooting big landscapes, couples dancing, the movement of water, etc. all have experienced similar and great quality.
Summing it up
The Canon 24mm f/1.4 II camera lens is a prime example of an excellent quality lens. The build, design, weight, and image quality are top tier. As long as you understand the use cases where a 24mm would be useful (again, capturing wider shots of environments or unique portraits with some level of contortion), this is a fundamentally beautiful lens. Given what we know and would expect from a wide angle lens, there are really no inherent flaws that we have noticed with this lens. The only downsides would be those stemming from misunderstanding of what this lens offers - for example, if you are looking for images with a deep depth of field (where there is a lot of separation between the subject and the background, and a lot of background blur), you will not find this with a 24mm (at all), instead you would prefer to check out some longer focal length lenses such as the Canon 50mm f/1.2 II lens or Canon 85mm f/1.2 II lens.
The Canon 24mm f/1.4 II lens will remain a staple in our photography kit for years to come. Until there is a significant upgrade (it's hard to image what this would look like, by the way!), this lens has some serious longevity for us. It is one of our best camera lens purchases based on how significant of a role it plays in shaping our photography style.