Canon 10-22 EF-S Lens

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Canon 10-22mm EF-S Lens

Anyone who’s shot with a mid-range digital SLR – such as the Canon D30, D60, 10D, 20D, Rebel or the Nikon D100 or D70 – knows that, although these cameras can shoot exceptional images, and offer a full assortment of great features, their focal length multipliers mean that shooting wide angle is really a pain. Canon’s new 10-22mm EF-S lens, then, is a great pain reliever.

With their Digital Rebel, Canon introduced a new lens mount, the EF-S. Because of the small size of the image sensor, it’s possible to have a smaller mirror and pentaprism configuration inside an EF-S SLR. This creates a little more space behind the lens, and thus makes it possible to engineer lenses with rear elements that sit closer to the sensor. (The “S” in EF-S stands for “short back focus.”) Because lens engineering becomes easier as the lens moves closer to the focal plane, this configuration makes it possible to build high-quality lenses that are smaller and cheaper than lenses engineered for a normal 35mm body.

Canon 10-22mm EF-S

Canon’s new 10-22 offers excellent, extremely wide images. 10mm is surprisingly wider than the 12 and 14mm lenses that are its closest competitors. Click to view full-size image.

Canon’s latest EF-S lens offers a 10-22mm focal range, making it the equivalent of a 16 to 35mm lens on a 35mm or full-frame digital camera. At $799, the lens is not cheap, but you get a lot of lens – and a lot of field of view – for that price.

Small and Wide

One problem with extremely wide angle lenses, whether zooms or primes, is that they’re very large and often very heavy, thanks to their preponderance of glass. Thanks to their simplified optical arrangement, Canon S lenses are smaller than their EF and L cousins.

Measuring 3.5” long, with a diameter of a little over 3 inches, the lens is only about an inch longer than a more “normal” lens such as Canon’s own 24-85 EF. Weighing in at 13.6 oz, the lens is very light (it actually weighs the same as the smaller 24-85 EF) while build quality is sturdy and creak-free. The 10-22 doesn’t have the same “cheap plastic-y” feeling as some of Canon’s other S lenses. The lens is small enough that it doesn’t cast a shadow when used with the 20D’s built-in flash, a problem that can occur on larger wide-angle lenses such as the Sigma 15-30.

Three aspherical elements help control distortion while one Super UD element serves to dampen the frequency dispersion that can cause chromatic aberration. (Canon claims that a single Super UD element is equivalent to a more expensive Flourite element, in terms of clamping chromatic abs.)

The zoom mechanism is entirely internal, meaning the lens doesn’t get longer when you zoom. What’s more, unlike many super-wide zooms, such as the Sigma 12-24 or Sigma 15-30, the front element of the Canon 10-22 is not a tremendously bulbous affair.

Sigma 14mm comparison

On the left, the Sigma 14mm with it’s protruding front element. On the right, Canon’s smaller-diameter, lighter 10-22 EF-S.

This lower-profile front end makes the lens less likely to scratch, less prone to flare and, most importantly, means you can actually use regular threaded filters, rather than being limited solely to gel filters (though a gel filter holder is available). The 10-22 uses 77mm filters.

Canon 10-22mm EF-S

The lens uses Canon’s USM focusing mechanism which means autofocus is speedy, quiet, and precise. The zoom ring is mounted frontmost, with the focus ring behind it. The usual autofocus/manual switch allows you to switch the lens into completely manual focus. However, the 10-22’s manual focus ring is always active, meaning you can manually focus while in full autofocus mode. For close-ups, or rapidly-changing focus situations, this can be a very handy feature.

Though not tremendously speedy, the f3.5-4.5 aperture range is perfectly acceptable, particularly given the low-noise, high-ISO capabilities of Canon’s current generation of cameras.

Canon 10-22mm EF-S

One nice surprise with the 10-22 is the close focusing distance of the lens., which allows you to get within roughly 9 inches of your subject. (Click to view full-size, 8-megapixel JPEG image.)

In typical stingy fashion, Canon does not include a lens shade with the 10-22. Though this is not a painful omission on a normal lens, a wide angle lens is much more susceptible to flare. At $799, it seems like a small lens shade isn’t too much to ask.


Output

Though build quality and features are nice, for 800 bucks you want really good image quality and fortunately, the 10-22 delivers. The lens yields very good sharpness throughout its focal range though it softens up a bit at extreme apertures, as one would expect. However, you’ve got to look real close for softening below f5.6, and you can probably take care of this with a simple unsharp mask.

Distortion is surprisingly low, although when shooting at 10mm, images are inherently a little weirdly distorted. However, I was very surprised to find that you’ve really got to look hard to discern distortion, even at the extremes of the camera’s zoom range.

Canon 10-22mm EF-S

The 10-22 delivers excellent sharpness throughout its focal range. Click to view full-size image.

Most surprising, though, are the lens flares. Surprising in their absence, that is. It’s downright hard to get this lens to flare. The flatter front element helps, and when compared to any other super-wide angle lens I’ve used, the 10-22 wins hands down, flare-wise.

Color rendition is very accurate, though different from what I’ve been used to, as we’ll see below. Packing an almost completely round iris, the 10-22 yields very nice bokeh, although shallow depth of field can be a little difficult to achieve with a lens of such short focal length. Overall contrast is also excellent.

Comparison

When I got my D30 several years ago, I opted for Sigma’s 15-30 to handle the wide end of things. Canon’s options were more than I could afford, and the Sigma offered very good image quality. Unfortunately, the monstrous lens almost required an entirely separate bag, and was far too heavy to carry on an extended expedition.

Realizing that I was mostly using the lens for its wider end, I replaced it with Sigma’s 14mm prime. This has been my wide-angle option for the last year or so.

Obviously, these two lenses are not direct competitors. A better mach up would be Sigma’s 12-24, a $669 (street price) lens that is larger and heavier than the Canon. But, the Sigma 14 is what I have handy, and it proves an interesting point of comparison. However, if you’re trying to choose between the 10-22 and the Sigma 12-24, you can find some comparison pictures here and here.

Sigma 14mm

Canon 10-22mm

On the top, the Sigma 14mm. Below, the Canon 10-22mm zoom. Click images to view full-size JPEGs.

Sigma 14mm

Canon 10-22mm

On the top, the Sigma 14mm. Below, the Canon 10-22mm zoom. Click images to view full-size JPEGs.

The 10-22 holds its own very well, detail-wise, against Sigma’s 14mm prime.

In comparing the 10-22 with the Sigma 14, two things are immediately interesting. First, detail-wise, the 10-22 holds its own with no problem. At extremely high magnification, perhaps the Sigma has a slight sharpness edge, but it’s very slight, and nothing you can’t compensate for with post-process sharpening. Granted, the Sigma is a cheaper lens (roughly $450-500) but it is a prime lens, and the Canon stands up to it very handily.

The other interesting difference is overall color temperature. The Sigma is a much warmer lens. Color accuracy is a very subjective quality, so it’s difficult to say which is more accurate. What’s more, which is more desirable depends largely on subject matter. For these exterior shots, I find the Sigma’s warmth to be a little more inviting, however the difference is so small, you can easily make up for it with some simple color adjustments.

I was very surprised to find the 10-22 standing up so well to this prime lens. Its competitive sharpness, combined with its lack of flares (it’s very difficult to avoid flaring with the Sigma, even on a 20D, which crops the lens’ field of view), slightly smaller size and noticeably lighter weight – and, of course, the fact that it’s a zoom – make the Canon a better wide-angle choice, if you can afford it.

Conclusion

Even if you’re not interested in the lens, the fact of its excellent performance should be of interest to camera nerds as it simply shows the advantage of the optical configuration provided by Canon’s S-mount. Simply put: the S system does live up to its promise of delivering smaller, lighter lenses of excellent quality, even at wide angles.

Many people are concerned about whether it’s worth investing in S-series lenses. They wonder if the format will still be around in the future. I cover this topic in more detail here.

The 10-22 EF-S is a very good lens. Yes, it’s pricey, but for what it delivers, it’s an ideal wide-angle choice for your Digital Rebel or EOS 20D.

Canon 10-22mm EF-S

Click to view full-size

[Updated 1/11/05] In a recent meeting with Canon, it was brought to my attention that the 10-22 EF-S actually uses all L-series glass. Canon does not want to give the L moniker to any lens that isn’t full-frame, so the 10-22 is labelled an EF series lens, but optically, Canon considers it L-quality. The “L” classification does not automatically mean “perfect, flawless lens,” but most the superior L-series glass does go a long way to explaining the quality of this excellent lens.

Related Links:
Should you upgrade your 10D to a 20D?
Canon EOS 20D Review
Sigma 14mm f2.8 lens Review
Should you buy a Rebel XT or EOS 20D?





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