Geek Articles

Just MTF Charts: Canon Prime Lenses

Published March 25, 2019

This is the first post of a series of posts publishing all of our MTF results so that methodology is consistent, easy to find, and up-to-date. (For some of the older lenses there are graphs done with older software floating around. For a couple of lenses there are incorrect graphs done before we worked out all of the details for sensor glass in the testing pathway. These are all current.)

Otherwise, there are no comparisons, no commentary, just the test results for you to use and abuse as you see fit. The major purpose is just to get these MTF charts organized and in one place where you can find them.

Just to avoid 4,200 comments: these are all average MTFs from multiple copies. They are all measured at the widest aperture. Yes, I know you’d like several apertures. I haven’t got the time or money to do that. Sorry.

A Quick How to on Reading MTF Charts

If you’re new here, you’ll see we have a scientific methodology to our approach, and use MTF charts to measure lens resolution and sharpness. All of our MTF charts test ten of the same lenses, and then we average out the results. MTF (or (or Modulation Transfer Function) Charts measure the optical potential of a lens by plotting the contrast and resolution of the lens from the center to the outer corners of the frame. An MTF chart has two axis, the y-axis (vertical) and the x-axis (horizontal).

The y-axis (vertical) measures how accurately the lens reproduces the object (sharpness), where 1.0 would be the theoretical “perfect lens”. The x-axis (horizontal) measures the distance from the center of a lens to the edges (measured in millimeters where 0mm represents the center, and 20mm represents the corner point). Generally, a lens has the greatest theoretical sharpness in the center, with the sharpness being reduced in the corners.

Tangential & Sagittal Lines

The graph then plots two sets of five different ranges. These sets are broken down into Tangential lines (solid lines on our graphs) and Sagittal (dotted lines on our graphs). Sagittal lines are a pattern where the lines are oriented parallel to a line through the center of the image. Tangential (or Meridonial)  lines are tested where the lines are aligned perpendicular to a line through the center of the image.

From there, the Sagittal and Tangential tests are done in 5 sets, started at 10 lines per millimeter (lp/mm), all the way up to 50 lines per millimeter (lp/mm). To put this in layman’s terms, the higher lp/mm measure how well the lens resolves fine detail. So, higher MTF is better than lower, and less separation of the sagittal and tangential lines are better than a lot of separation. Please keep in mind this is a simple introduction to MTF charts, for a more scientific explanation, feel free to read this article.


Canon Prime Lenses

Canon 14mm f2.8 L MkII, 2019


Canon 20mm f2.8 USM, 2019

Canon 24mm f1.4 L Mk II, 2019

Canon 24mm f2.8 IS, 2019

Canon 28mm f1.8, 2019

Canon 28mm f2.8 IS, 2019

Canon 35mm f1.4 L

Note – this is a 5 sample chart because we didn’t have many left when we retested for proper cover glass thickness., 2019

Canon 35mm f1.4 L Mk II, 2019

Canon 35mm f2 IS, 2019

Canon 40mm f2.8  STM, 2019


Canon 50mm f1.2 L, 2019

Canon 50mm f1.4, 2019

Canon 50mm f1.8 STM, 2019


Canon 85mm f1.2 L Mk II, 2019

Canon 85mm f1.4 IS L, 2019

Canon 85mn f1.8, 2019

Canon 100mm f/2, 2019

Canon 100mm 2.8 Macro USM, 2019

Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro IS L, 2019

Canon 135mm f2.0 L, 2019


Canon 200mm f2.0L II, 2019




That’s all the Canon primes we have done except tilt-shifts, which will come out separately.

For a look at all the Just MTF Articles we’ve done so far, be sure to check them out here.


Roger Cicala, Aaron Closz, and Brandon Dube

March, 2019

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Geek Articles
  • Dimy

    Did you check if the entrance pupil, therefore the aperture, of the macro lens changed?

    Also, from my experience, a MTF chart should actually be reported with the spectrum chart of visible light used.
    I experienced myself how easy it is to alter any MTF diagram to the better simply by intruducing a filter.
    This is a minefield for all MTF graphs shown from all companies over the world that should be rid of.

  • Dimy

    When making MTF graphs i never understood why they often start at 10lp/mm. IMHO the graph shall start with min.30lp/mm and go up to 60lp/mm in 10 increments.

  • DrJon

    BTW (as I was looking for an MTF on the 200/2) the 200/2.8-II plot is titled “Canon 200mm f2.0L II”, which I assume will never exist in EF…

  • Mikhail Rusin

    Nice work Roger!
    May I advise you to add confidence intervals to your graphs? This would allow us to see sample variation for each lens

  • Ernest Green

    Agreed but I think it’s generally easier for longer lenses to achieve across-the-frame sharpness at large apertures than it is for narrower lenses. Light bending and all that. I’d love to see stop down tests for these lenses. In prior LR articles, they say they perform stop down tests from then on, but they are seemingly no where to be found on the site. I only saw one lens where they tested at f/5.6. Personally I’d be interested in seeing how lenses perform just one full stop down, not necessarily 5.6. Many large aperture lenses that are “meh” wide open (say 1.4) tend to spectacularly improve at F2.

  • Bastian Kratzke

    I think in another post I have already seen charts for the 2/200 L IS.
    Are those graphs not up to the current standard?

  • Devil’s Advocate

    Ask the manufacturers / internet for dead ones to cannibalise 🙂

  • Joe Adams


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