Canon K35's are cinema lenses first developed in the 1970's. They have become extremely popular lately with the help of new modern lens housings from companies like True Lens Services.
They are unique in that that the 24mm, 35mm, 55mm and 85mm cover Full Frame sensors, which made them one of the only vintage, high speed, full frame lens options available. Their hand polished aspherical optical design allows excellent performance wide open, and creates a unique bulls-eye style bokeh. Bokeh remains perfectly circular when stopped down due to their 15-blade irises.
The older coatings deliver a lower contrast image and big, beautiful lens flares and ghosts.
Moderate SA, CA throughout. Does not cover FF/VV.
Significnt SA, CA throughout. Center cleans up around T4.
Significant SA, CA throughout. Doesn't really clean up. Onion RIng.
Significant SA, Axis misaligned. Could be better.
SA, CA throughout. Cleans up around T2.8
In the late 1960s and early 70s, Canon was very much at the cutting-edge of newer optical design ideas and manufacturing techniques. They pioneered the use of artificially-grown fluorite crystal as an exotic glass type to be used in lenses, as well as introduced the first mass produced series of lenses utilizing hand and then machine-polished aspheres (first with the Canon FD 55mm AL, which then evolved to the FD-Aspherical line of 3 focal lengths, which in turn, became the basis for their “cine” K-35 line of aspherical primes).These innovations allowed Canon produce high speed lenses that still greatly controlled aberrations at wide apertures. Their proprietary SSC (Super Specta) coatings, though cutting edge at the time, by comparison to today’s multi-layer coatings, still imbued these lenses with a distinctive creamy veiling glare response. And when coupled with fast apertures, lead and occasionally thorium-doped optics, use of aspherics and an early arrangement of floating elements, this allowed for well-corrected performance that still exhibited subtle character nuances and a painterly feel.
Without question, K35s come with a lot of hype, but in my opinion it's for good reason. On paper, they are one of the only high-speed, vintage, full frame cinema lens sets available. Yes, now that many vintage full frame still photo lenses are being rehoused, there are more options than even just a few years ago, but the K35s continue to be so popular because they just have so much going for them.
Their 1970s Canon pedigree is still impressive 40+ years later: sharp on center even wide open, but with softer corners. The K35s we tested are some of the oldest you can find, and their coatings deliver very warm images, with pastel colors, and flares that are from another planet compared to modern coatings. These lenses were born to flare. K-35s are easily identified by their "bullseye" or "onion ring" bokeh. Some people love it, some don't. I happen to like it. It's another characteristic that sets them apart.
If you are shooting Full Frame the 18mm will not cover, but 24mm is quite wide in that format with almost the same field of view as an 18mm lens in Super 35! If you are shooting S35, you can take advantage of the 18mm. Even without the 18mm, full frame is where these lenses shine in my opinion. Seeing out to the edges if the lenses' image circle reveals lovely focus fall off and additional flare and ghosting that is hidden in S35 shooting.
Also, bokeh becomes even more interesting in full frame.K-35s are not a fad. There is no other lens set like them, and due to their old coatings, exotic glass, use of thorium, hand polished aspheres, and subtle imperfections, there will never be another set like them. Due to their popularity, you will hear a lot of lenses marketed as "K-35 like," but there is only one set of lenses that are K-35-like, and that's Canon K-35s.
What can be said about K35's that haven't been said yet? As probably one of the most sought after lenses in the market, the K35's redefined the way in which we value vintage glass. Canon is known for their warmer tones and rich history of classic glass. I think the K35's embody all of that for the Canon brand. Warm skin tones, gorgeous bokeh, lower-contrast, especially wide-open. You can't go wrong. Now coupled with the incredible quality of the TLS build, this lens set is a work of art.
Canon’s answer to the Zeiss Super Speeds, the K35 primes are loosely based on the Canon FD optical design which is why they cover Full Frame despite never being marketed as such since Super 35 was the go-to format when these lenses were released. The results were nearly identical to the previously mentioned Canon FD lenses but with minor variations.
Some of the variations can easily be considered a result of age and care (or lack thereof). Vintage lenses can be hard to pin down a specific definition of character for this very reason. Again, overall performance is fantastic if you’re looking for a lens that takes the edge off just enough. Focus fall-off from the center to the edge of the frame was noticeable but, again… This adds to the character of the K35 primes.
The housing by TLS is typical for their work. Simply, robust, reliable. The focus movement is well designed and operates smoothly and effortlessly.
Considered the lens du jour today, it really doesn’t get better than the Canon K35s, at least when we’re talking about digital filmmaking. While a lot of times, you are pairing your lenses to the camera, the K-35s are one of the rare lenses that I pair a camera to instead of the other way around. Interestingly, these were considered less-than-great glass when they came out, because in the ‘70s, shooting on film, it was more about getting crystal-clear glass so that the film stock truly shone. But now, our sensors are the perfect things, so we need “less-than-perfect” glass to dip into the cinematic pool of imagination.
They are one of the few sets of glass that can truly dirty up a RED camera, and on an ARRI, fuggetaboutit, you’ll never get anything creamier and mellow as this pairing. In fact, sometimes they are too funky for my Alexa Mini, quite frankly, and if I’m shooting commercial, I opt for a RED with this pairing (or cleaner glass). If shooting anything nostalgic or stylized, Alexa for sure. I will say, when they are WFO, there’s a bit of a highlight halo glow wraparound ghosting– if you like it, you like it, if not, now you know. Additionally, you have to have a rehoused set like these TLS(some of the best “rehousers” in the biz) because the vintage housings will literally telescope off your focus motor wheel – don’t ask how I know.
The Canon K-35 T1.4 super speed primes are truly a rare gem among the vintage lenses in the universe. K35’s have many qualities that makes them “one of a kind” type of optics, and its definitely in the caliber of Cooke Speed Panchros, Super Baltars, Zeiss Super Speeds and perhaps even more special then all of them combined…???
I would say that one of the most astonishing qualities of K-35 lenses are the fact that they reproduce “cream-like" images that inherently has a texture of “timelessness" to the images it photographers. This is an invaluable asset, especially when photographing faces. It's difficult to really put into words what these lenses do achieve on skin-tones and within the entire frame (absolutely amazing results) however, in order for anyone to understand the paint brush that the K-35’s offer, one must photograph with these lenses in order to experience the unique attributes that these lenses provide. Such as skin tone rendition, color rendition, contrast rendition and all around the “filmic look” that the K-35 lenses record right out of the gate. In simple terms., these lenses produce mesmerizing images.
I personally love how K-35’s render skin-tones so beautifully and its “Cream-Like" realistic color rendition, it’s stunning perfectly round bokeh, similar to anamorphic flares and ultimately the “timeless” images it reproduces. I love the fact that these lenses are Full Frame therefore it will be relevant with 8K and beyond, and these light-weight lenses are similar to Zeiss Super Speed's (in weight & size) & have better contrast (when wide open) then its vintage counterparts.
I always employ my K-35s when a project calls for it. We all know that there are very few sets available in Los Angeles and around the globe, therefore I recommend you to try these lenses when a project calls for it.
They are the King of vintage lenses for a reason. The 35mmalone is a marvel of engineering and puts this set at the top of everyone’slist. If you’ve got the budget and you don’t mind the onion bokeh, you can’t gowrong with K35s.