Okay, so I’m going to embark on a journey through territory that is quite new to this blog… reviewing gear.
I’ve been asked by a few folks to give my thoughts on new and old equipment I’m currently working with, so what better opportunity than the recent purchase of a new lens?
I was giddy as a schoolgirl when UPS knocked on my door last week. It has been a while since I’ve needed to order a new lens. And I really toiled over this purchse. Nowadays more than ever before, I wanted to make sure I was really getting the most “bang for my buck”. I did my research, and I pulled the trigger. And so the moment of truth; a knock on the door and a shiny new black, white, and red Canon box.
Photo courtesy Canon
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.
The information provided by the good people over there really helped me solidify my choice to go with the 17-40. With no major differences in sharpness, the fact that the filter ring is the popular 77mm (and I have three other 77mm L series lenses, so I was relieved to know that I wouldn’t have to buy all new filters for the newer 82mm on the 16-35), and not to mention the fact that the 17 is half the cost of the 16, I felt good about the choice I made.
Now the moment of truth… would I find a new, helpful tool in the 17, or would I be disappointed with its results?
Well, here’s the very first project I shot with it here in Dallas at White Rock Lake. And I was VERY happy with the versatility and clarity from my new Canon 17-40mm…
White Rock Lake Wildflowers, Canon 17-40mm f/4L, Canon 5D MKII, 1/60 sec. @ f/22, ISO 400, Singh-Ray 4×6″ Galen Rowell 2 stop Soft-Step Neutral Density filter with Cokin Z-Pro filter holder
White Rock Lake Landscape, Canon 17-40mm f/4L, Canon 5D MKII, 1/400 sec. @ f/10, ISO 400, Singh-Ray 4×6″ Galen Rowell 2 stop Soft-Step Neutral Density filter with Cokin Z-Pro filter holder
White Rock Lake Lone Tree, Canon 17-40mm f/4L, Canon 5D MKII, 1/640 sec. @ f/10, ISO 400
White Rock Lake, Canon 17-40mm f/4L, Canon 5D MKII, 1.6 sec. @ f/22, ISO 50, Circular Polarizer with Singh-Ray 4×6″ Galen Rowell 3 stop Soft-Step Neutral Density filter handheld
White Rock Lake Dusk, Canon 17-40mm f/4L, Canon 5D MKII, 1.6 sec. @ f/22, ISO 50, Singh-Ray 4×6″ Galen Rowell 2 & 3 stop Soft-Step Neutral Density filters with Cokin Z-Pro filter holder
White Rock Lake Sunset, Canon 17-40mm f/4L, Canon 5D MKII, 0.3 sec. @ f/22, ISO 50, Singh-Ray 4×6″ Galen Rowell 2 stop Soft-Step Neutral Density filter with Cokin Z-Pro filter holder
White Rock Lake at Dusk, Canon 17-40mm f/4L, Canon 5D MKII, 3.2 sec. @ f/22, ISO 50, Circular Polarizer with Singh-Ray 4×6″ Galen Rowell 2 stop Soft-Step Neutral Density filter handheld
White Rock Lake Sunset Time Lapse, Canon 17-40mm f/4L, Canon 5D MKII, 0.3 sec. @ f/22, ISO 50, Singh-Ray 4×6″ Galen Rowell 2 stop Soft-Step Neutral Density filter with Cokin Z-Pro filter holder
White Rock Lake Time Lapse, Canon 17-40mm f/4L, Canon 5D MKII, 1/25 sec. @ f/22, ISO 50, Singh-Ray 4×6″ Galen Rowell 2 stop Soft-Step Neutral Density filter with Cokin Z-Pro filter holder
Note: If using the Cokin Z-Pro filter holder, you can expect the edges of the filter to creep into your shot at focal lengths below 20mm. It’s kind of frustrating. But it’s not the lens’s fault…
Overall, the Canon 17-40mm f/4L is fantastic. Like I said, it’s versatile, sharp, fast (enough), light weight, and durable. I can already see it being an incredibly useful lens in my arsenal.
Please stay tuned… I’ll be reviewing more equipment soon! And please feel free to share your comments/ questions below!
i travel a lot. but it would be a bit of a stretch to say that my traveling is “vacation”.
it’s not that i don’t enjoy the destinations, or have real moments of relaxation, it’s just that when i travel, it’s usually with a purpose. and that purpose does not involve sitting still or vegging out.
so this year, now that i have a travel companion… we took a real vacation.
anna maria island, florida. it’s a small island south west of tampa, with caribbean clear water and white sand beaches. they say that it not very well known to outsiders, but it’s where floridians go to get away.
the beaches were uncrowded and beautiful. it was truly relaxing.
yea for real vacations! i think i’ll have to take one of these more often.
but don’t get the wrong impression….. i still had to “work” a little to keep my sanity….
note: i’m really excited about this post for a few reasons: first, because i’ve been trying to finish it for a month, so it will be nice to have it done. second, i am anxious to share mine and elle’s experience because it was so amazing. and third, because i hope it is the first of many posts that will be full multimedia extravaganzas! i have incorporated writing, photography, video (both hd and iphone quality), and music to capture a mood and create an enjoyable viewer experience. i hope it works!
so this year, my Christmas present to elle (and myself for that matter), was a trip to seattle and portland to see laura veirs. if you haven’t heard of her, do yourself a favor… seriously.
laura was kicking off her july flame tour in her city of residence, portland, oregon. july flame is her brand new album, and i can say that it is by far, one of the best albums of the last few years.
elle originally turned me on to laura by strategically placing some of her tracks on the various mix cds she made for me over the years. but i didn’t really start getting into her until recently. laura quickly latched on to the audio pleasure centers of my brain, and i am now a life-long fan. you know those artists that you can tell immediately that they have the talent, relevance, and longevity to remain in your collection forever? well, she is one of those…
for your listening pleasure, laura’s title track from her newest masterwork. enjoy!
okay, enough gushing about laura… on to our “january fan” adventure!
we landed in seattle late thursday night. we walked about downtown and found a great little italian joint, il bistro, that served food late.
waking up early friday to a typical seattle winter morning was surprisingly refreshing…
we sampled local beers and seafood at lunch in the market, and talked of quintessential seattle matters, like kurt cobain. ha ha ha.
we left seattle after lunch and began our thousand mile journey up the columbia river gorge, down the oregon coast, over to portland, and finally back up to the olympic peninsula.
our first stop was in seaside, oregon, friday night to catch some sleep.
we awoke saturday morning to the kind of weather locals dream of this time of year; 50 degrees and clear skies.
i got coffee, elle got tea, we walked out to the ocean. it was breathtakingly exciting and serene at the same time.
my heart leaps in my chest when i think of the look on her face that morning. i think it had been quite a while since elle had seen the ocean… i was so glad to share that with her.
after seaside, we snaked our way down the 101 to ecola state park. famous views of cannon beach awaited us… a real treat.
a track from another great album of laura’s, slatbreakers, also turns my mind to this fantasy we lived for a few short days…
the light was fantastic as it danced across the surf, illuminating rocks and waves without discrimination. it’s amazing how nature seems to have such an appreciation for aesthetics. i guess God too is a connoisseur of beauty…
correction: the creator and purveyor of beauty.
cat power’s the greatest was our soundtrack as we inched along the ancient forests of the pacific coast. oh that life could be this sweet always… but then i guess times like these would hold less weight…
we then parked and explored cannon beach for a while by foot.
probably mine and elle’s favorite tune from july flame…
oh laura, you’re a freakin’ genius!
elle finally took her shoes off to feel the sand in between her toes and let the cool tide wash over her feet.
we finally made it to portland around dinner time. it was the famed night for our show, the july flame tour kick-off! we didn’t know what to expect.
and oh what a pleasant surprise it was… the artistery, the venue, was a home-turned-into-an-artist-studio on the east side of the city. we walked in to find a young man on a laptop checking names. he stamped our hands as we bantered a bit, letting him know that we had come from nearly two-thousand miles away.
we cautiously walked down the narrow stairs past post-modern paintings and sketches, and followed the sweet sound of portland folk.
on the stage was justin power, a portland local. he was fantastic.
we made weird he-man self portraits in the bathroom…
we met justin in between acts and gave him our appreciation… he went to his van and gave us an album with him and the portland cello project. if you can find a way to get your hands on it, i highly recommend his music as well!
led to sea came on next, a one woman performer, songwriter, violist and multi-instrumentalist, l. alex guy. she too was fantastic, but elle and i lost our spots in the crowded basement, so i didn’t get pictures of her until later when she played with laura. watch out for alex as well… she is a very talented songwriter…
then along came laura…
she had been sitting in the back at a table where people could purchase merchandise. elle and i kept contemplating going over to talk to her, and we easily could have, but we didn’t want to be one of “those people”, gushing about how much we love her music.
“she looks pregnant,” elle said.
“don’t be rude,” i quickly returned.
well, she got up and strapped an acoustic guitar around her bulging belly and cracked a joke about how she was leaving monday to start the european leg of the tour, being 6 months pregnant.
i looked at elle and smiled. i’ll never doubt your prego radar again, i thought.
laura rocked it in her mostly-quiet way. the lyrics dripped from her lips and fell like honey into our ears. us and the fifty or so others that stood silent in the artistery. it was truly magical. a time that i know elle and i will never forget, judging by all of the glances we gave to one another as laura played on…
the next morning we woke to a lazy portland sunday. we saw mount hood for the first time. a rare site from the city in winter. a lenticular cloud hovered over.
then the rain started again. we headed north on the 5 toward the olympic peninsula.
giant trees and ferns guided us through this primeval landscape.
we camped within earshot of the sea outside kalaloch, just off the queets river. it was raining so hard that we stayed all night in the car. we played gin for hours, laughing in the dim glow of an ipod.
as we rounded the northern end of the olympic, lake crescent came into clear view. the light was less than ideal, but the view still made us gasp.
it’s funny, we took this trip on a whim not knowing where the road would take us. and up until this adventure we found ourselves constantly asking one another, “can i call you mine?”
it’s really fitting that this question is repeated over and over in the chorus to july flame, a song that we never knew until this trip. because as we drove and listened and saw everything we experienced on that long weekend, we both gained a confidence in each other and ourselves that has given us an answer to our question.