Canon’s New EF 16-35 f/4L // Field Review

Affordable, super sharp (even called ‘the sharpest Canon has ever made’), and sturdy.  Did I mention it also has IS?  Oh yeah, and a 77mm filter ring. It wasn’t all that long ago (2 years or so) that I posted a review of the Canon EF 17-40 f/4L.  And I liked it.  But let me just say, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the new Canon EF 16-35 f/4L (US $1099).

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 The toil I went through was over whether I should purchase the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L (US $1699) or the 17-40mm f/4L (US $839).  Both are “L series”, Canon’s best glass, and as a professional I generally don’t buy anything less.  As the saying goes, “you’re only as good as the glass you use.”

So I really had a decision to make.

For me, this lens will fill a big gap in my repertoire of focal lengths.  And as more and more of my business is landscape/ cityscape/ architecture, I am in desperate need of a quality super-wide zoom.

Now, just by the nature of super-wides (and zooms for that matter), some sharpness is sacrificed on the edges for the sake of versatility.  If you need tack-sharp, you need a standard prime.  Wide focal lengths will also cause some distortion on the edges… nothing that can’t be easily corrected in post.  Already knowing these drawbacks, I began to research.

Aside from the obvious difference in focal length, the 16-35 is a full stop faster.  But do I need that full stop?  I decided no for the majority of its use.  I would primarily use it as a landscape lens… so shooting outdoors, it’s nearly inconceivable I would need (or want) f/2.8.  And the second most useful application for me is interior architecture.  But again, I typically light the spaces and rarely shoot wider than f/8.  Okay, so is there a sharpness difference between the two?  Well, without having both lenses in front of me to do my own tests, I had to rely on the careful data of others.  I found a fantastic technical analysis of this very comparison on Luminous Landscape.

As you can see in my earlier post, I couldn’t find too much of a difference between the two former Canon super wide zooms, other than price. But this new 16-35, though slower than its big brother at f/4, is sharper and feels even sturdier.

And the main thing other than price that bothered me about the f/2.8 was the fact that it had an 82mm filter threading. Which means having to buy all new filters. Huge headache… when almost every other one of my lenses use the 77mm.

Now I’ve taken the new EF 16-35/4 with me as my primary landscape lens on my last three trips; Wyoming/ Montana/ Colorado, Pacific Northwest, and Florida. So far, this lens has met all my expectations, and more. I’ve never seen a zoom lens with this kind of sharpness, even at the extreme edges.

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A man hiking the rim at sunset in Crater Lake National Park

Massive old-growth trees in Humboldt Redwoods State/ National Park

Dusk falls on Bandon Beach

Sunset over Trillium Lake

People admiring the majesty of Wahclella Falls

Canon got it right on this lens on all accounts in my book. The autofocus works like a charm, color rings true, the hearty build makes me feel like I’m not going to just snap it in half on accident (like the 17-40), and as I’ve said before, the f/4 works just fine for me with what I shoot.

And if you’re looking for a more technical review, please check out Ken Rockwell’s site.  This guy is amazing and will give you all the tech specs you need!

I can tell you though, If you spend the $1100 USD on this lens, you will not be disappointed.

— andrew


 
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