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David Noton on the new EF11-24mm: taking the wider view

David Noton on the new EF11-24mm: taking the wider view

© David Noton

February 2015

Landscape photographer and Canon Explorer David Noton recently had the chance to use the new EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens. He reveals to CPN Editor David Corfield his thoughts on the world’s widest rectilinear zoom...

© David Noton

Winter light on Mupe Bay, Jurassic Coast, Dorset, England. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens at 20mm; the exposure was 1/100sec at f/13, ISO 100.

Wide-angle lenses can bring out the best in a subject. But conversely they can also frustrate photographers looking for perfect image quality. When Canon launched the EF11-24mm f/4L USM they did so in the knowledge that all eyes wouldn’t necessarily be looking at the centre of any images shot on it, to check on sharpness, but around the corners...

David Noton was one of the first photographers to use the new lens, and took a pre-production version on location to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, England, to demonstrate the new possibilities such a wide focal length offers the landscape photographer.

The glory of great glass

“My first impression was immediately the size of the front objective,” comments David. “It’s a big lens and a glorious piece of glass, beautifully polished. The front and rear elements are coated in fluorine too, which stops me worrying about needing to keep them clean and makes it very capable of being used in all sorts of situations.”

He continues: “I must admit, I assumed that I’d have no need for a lens of this focal range as I’ve got my L-series 14mm f/2.8 prime as well as my tilt and shifts, so initially I thought ‘how will I use it?’ But of course it goes wider – to 11mm – and because it is rectilinear (where barrel and pincushion distortion is corrected) ultimately it’s that quality and sharpness which makes it impossible to ignore. I couldn’t wait to get out and use it.”

© David Noton

Winter light on Mupe Bay, Jurassic Coast, Dorset, England. A portrait format this time, taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens at 21mm; the exposure was 1/80sec at f/11, ISO 100.

David is well qualified to talk about image quality and sharpness, as his considerable archive of exceptional landscape images from around the world will testify. A devout follower of the light, he is as passionate about the land as he is about his equipment, and wide-angle primes are a particular forté.

“I think it’s fair to say that the wide-angle zoom is one area where it is really difficult to get that critical edge-to-edge sharpness. But when I used this lens and saw the results on screen later I was really amazed at how good it was. The sharpness is there, no doubt at all. I used it with my EOS 5D Mark III and I was totally amazed by the clarity and depth of the images I shot.”

David is always asked to advise on wide-angle technique, which is why his photo workshops are always very popular, particularly as they are kept deliberately limited in terms of numbers (maximum of ten, so be quick!). He always encourages experimentation with short focal length lenses, and this one has masses of creative potential.

“Wide-angles are quite challenging to use creatively,” he warns. “Basically they emphasise foreground interest at the expense of distant objects. So if you have a subject that has got a very strong foreground and you want to accentuate it then wide-angle is the way to go. Get close and use that inherent depth-of-field to your advantage. The f/4 maximum aperture means that sharpness is always going to be there when you need it. And this lens being a pin-sharp wide zoom means you have that additional flexibility to zoom and crop as you go.”

Creative composing

How a landscape photographer works is a very personal thing and David’s approach to his craft is at the heart of his quality remit, as he explains: “When I am piecing together a picture I am always thinking about that relationship between foreground, middle-ground and background. Part of the huge advantage of working with the Canon DSLR system over a medium format system, for instance, is the huge flexibility of the EF lenses; from Fisheye all the way to super-telephoto, this is yet another incredible tool in the arsenal.”

© David Noton

Table for 5; a frosty dawn in Shropshire, England. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens at 11mm; the exposure was 1/4sec at f/11, ISO 100.

David went down to the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site stretching from East Devon to Dorset in southern England. It was the perfect proving ground for the lens, with all that detail and wide, sweeping, magnificent views across the English Channel.

“It’s one of my all-time favourite places,” he admits. “I never tire of it and I am so blessed to have it so close to home. I’ve photographed it so much over the years but each time I always find something new.”

“Aside from conventional landscapes, I can think of various other applications where I will really look forward to using this lens; one in particular being a night sky shoot to show the Milky Way arcing high above. This lens will be absolutely perfect for that.”

He continues: “Wide-angles have their uses but having the zoom feature will definitely help in terms of practicality. And being an f/4 is not an issue for me. Typically I very rarely shoot wide-angle with a wide aperture. The only exception really is travel portraiture when I shoot a subject in their environment; but for that I tend to go for a 24mm lens anyway.”

On the subject of lens quality, David is quick to praise the EF11-24mm in terms of its construction, weather-sealing and contrast delivery. “Like I said earlier, because it is a rectilinear lens there is virtually no barrel distortion going on at all. With any super wide-angle lens you’d expect a certain amount of distortion to come through but this was exceptionally good.”

“Each time Canon brings out a new lens, it moves the game on. When I look back at images I shot years ago, particularly with wide-angle zooms that I started using with my first Canon DSLR, I was using lenses that had been designed in the film era. But digital sensors demand so much more and this new lens is obviously a perfect match for high megapixel cameras.”

“I always have to make tough choices with the equipment I take when I travel,” he admits. “My next trip is to Saigon and deciding what kit to take and what to leave behind is always hard. But having seen the quality this amazing piece of glass is able to deliver, I will be taking it with me wherever I go.”


The EF11-24mm f/4L USM is the world’s widest angle ultra-wide zoom.*

  • World’s widest angle ultra-wide zoom with 11-24mm focal length.*
  • f/4 fixed aperture high-performance standard zoom L series lens.
  • Uses 4 aspherical lens elements and a UD and Super UD lens elements, ensuring the highest image quality.
  • Canon unique SWC and new ASC anti-reflective coatings.
  • Fluorine coating on the lens surfaces to prevents dirt sticking to lens elements.
  • Silent, fast autofocus, using a ring type USM.
  • The 9-blade circular aperture creates beautiful out of focus highlights (bokeh).
  • Full-time manual focusing.
  • Minimum focusing distance 0.28m (at 24mm zoom position).
  • Highly resistant to dust and water allowing shooting in the harshest conditions.

* Excluding fisheye lenses.

Biography: David Noton

David Noton

Born in England, David Noton is an award-winning landscape and travel photographer. After setting up his photography business, in 1985, his career developed within the landscape and travel arenas and he won awards in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in 1985, 1989 and 1990. Over the years he has travelled extensively to almost every part of the world, exploring deserts, rainforests, mountains, islands and ice caps. In 2008 his first book ‘Waiting for the Light’ was launched to critical acclaim and in 2010 his book ‘Full Frame’ was published alongside his second film ‘Photography in the RAW’. His pictures are published all over the world and he writes for a broad range of media, including photographic magazines and websites. He became a Canon Explorer in July 2012.


Winter light on Mupe Bay, Jurassic Coast, Dorset, England. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens at 14mm; the exposure was 1/125sec at f/11, ISO 100.