Two new higher-end but not top-end lenses will arrive in December, the $1,500 EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM and the $850 EF 35mm f/2 IS USM, Canon said today.
The 24-70mm f4 lens, though not inexpensive by any means, extends a Canon tradition of offering intermediate models for enthusiasts and pros who don't necessarily want to pay more for top-end lenses -- in this case, the alternative is the $2,300 Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM introduced in February, whose f2.8 aperture enables photography in low-light shooting and with a blurrier background to emphasize foreground subjects.
Unlike the f2.8 models, the new lens, though, has a very valuable feature: image stabilization -- specifically, Canon's Hybrid IS that compensates not just for lateral motion of the lens but also to changes in the angle it's pointed.
It also has a macro option when used at 70mm, enabling close focusing on subjects as little as 7.9 inches away. It's got two aspherical lens elements and two with ultra-low dispersion glass. And it's got a nine-blade aperture diaphragm.
Canon's new 35mm f/2 IS USM also adds image stabilization compared with its older and much less expensive $310 predecessor and with Canon's comparable top-end prime lens, the $1,300 EF 35mm f/1.4L USM. (An "L" in the name denotes Canon's high-end lenses, with high optical quality, full-frame image sensor support, durability, and, these days, weatherproofing. For the status-conscious, they have a red ring around the end of the lens and come at a big price premium.)
The intermediate-priced lenses are a nice alternative, but it should be noted that Canon's view of intermediate is in flux. The second-generation 24-70mm f2.8 model costs about $800 more than the $1,500 predecessor with the same wide aperture. And people are willing to pay: Canon's SLRs continue to be a bright spot in the company's otherwise gloomy financial performance.
"Demand for interchangeable-lens digital cameras continued to realize robust growth in all regions while the market for compact digital cameras shrunk due to the stagnation of the global economy," the company said in October as it reported third-quarter financial results. Canon's imaging systems division revenue dropped 7.3 percent to $4.1 billion, and its operating profit dropped 30 percent to $674 million.
Canon's top SLR rival, Nikon, has embraced the intermediate lens strategy, too. In October, Nikon introduced a 70-200mm f4 telephoto zoom that's not as pricey, bulky, or heavy as the top-end f2.8 model.