About a year ago I was given a Leica M4-P, as it had no lens I had to make a decision on which lens would suit best.
I had been using a IIIc with 50mm F3.5 Elmar so obviously a similar lens seemed to be the ideal choice and I ended up with a 50mm F2.8 Elmar.
Fast forward a few months.
Although I enjoyed using my M4-P and it has become my 'take everywhere' camera and I enjoy using it immensely, I slowly began to find the 50mm (46°) angle of view a bit restrictive. I'm not sure why, possibly its because of the frame-lines that make you aware of the quite narrow angle, or possibly I found a lot of situations where the need to step back increasingly occurred.
So the hunt was on for a better 'standard' and like a lot of Leica M users, I decided on 35mm.
I honestly tried out quite a few, both Leica lenses F1.4 ASPH and F2 non ASPH, CV Skopar and two Canons- the 35mm F2 and the 35mm F1.8
Of course I rated the two Leica lenses and the 35 1.4 in particular is a very well corrected lens and amazingly sharp even at the edges wide open.
I did find that the Leica lenses were prone to flare in very bright light so a hood is almost essential for most conditions.
The CV Skopar is an excellent lens especially when you consider the price compared to the Leica lenses and is a very compact lens although a little slower at F2.5.But in my opinion it's size advantage is somewhat negated as it too seems to suffer from flare, so will need a hood.
The Canon 35mm F2 is also a great lens, probably marginally better than the Skopar (which is a copy of the Canon) and very similar in performance to the Pre-ASPH Summicrons of similar vintage.
I kick myself a little here, as I tested this lens, saw the results were good but when I returned to the shop it was gone!
Because these lenses are secondhand, I'd have to wait for another 35mm F2 or go for my next option.
The Canon 35mm F1.8, predated the F2 version is slightly larger and black and chrome finished rather than black and has an infinity lock.
Performance wise, it lacks wide open compared to the rest here being slightly soft and lower in contrast, but has a couple of advantages over the others.
Price! It is the cheapest lens of the bunch, the price I paid was less than the Skopar. It also seems to be less prone to flare, possibly due to the front element being recessed, acting as a sunshade.
(please excuse image quality)
My opinion of the Canon 35mm F1.8 is that it's a very good lens, cheap, of very good optical performance when stopped down a couple of stops, softish wide open (which can be good for 'retro look' shots).
So far I've found it's the lens that I keep on the camera most of the time and the extra speed over my standard Elmar means I use it for most low light work also.
Below is an example of its wide open performance, using Kodachrome 200 which is often very high in contrast is slightly softened.
1/15 sec at F1.8 Kodachrome 200
All in all a respectable performer especially when you take the cost in consideration, which for me is was less than half of the cost of a secondhand Summicron 35mmF2 of a similar vintage.
All Images and text © Mark Antony Smith