Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens Review
If you are looking for an extremely sharp ultra-wide angle zoom lens, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens should be at the top of your consideration list. This lens delivers prime-grade image sharpness right into full frame corners and it has the overall performance to match, including AF speed and accuracy. A stellar-performing image stabilization system makes this lens even more useful. The price, though not cheap, makes this lens a great value.
Nearly 3 1/2 years prior to the announcement of the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens, in a What I Want from Canon for Christmas post, I asked for a Canon EF 16-50mm f/5.6L IS USM Lens. I was looking for a landscape-specific lens that I could carry to the tops of mountains and shoot incredible-quality, deep depth of field imagery in strong winds without the use of a tripod – even when using a circular polarizer filter. I wanted wide angles, but was willing to sacrifice wide apertures for lighter weight and ultimate image quality. The image stabilizer would add something to the price tag, but my hope was that the narrower aperture (requiring less glass) would offset the stabilization addition for a great-value street price. While not cheap, the latter hope has been realized and based on this lens’ performance, the spirit of my request has been fully captured.
Focal Length Range
A just-over-2x focal length range is not going to get much attention from the marketing department, but this range is normal compared to other full frame lenses sharing these ultra-wide angles of view. The 16-35mm focal length is not a stranger to me and it is one that I find integral to my kit. Here are two examples of what this focal length range looks like on a full frame DSLR:
In general, the wider the angle of view, the more challenging it is to compose a great image. A telephoto lens is relatively easy to compose with as there is less background included in the image and that background can be more easily blurred into obscurity. A wide angle of view takes in a big scene and allows unique perspectives with more background showing – and that background is less-easily blurred away. This means that more attention must be paid to the composition. However, a well-composed ultra-wide angle image can be very impressive. I love the challenge and I especially love the results.
Following is a series of images that help illustrate wide angle perspective.
The first row of mouseover links above will show you the 16-35mm angle of view as seen by a Canon EOS 5D Mark II from a stationary position (similar to the above focal length range example). Link rows 2 and 3 show perspective change – the subject distance is changed to retain similar framing of the SUV at each focal length. While not extremely precise, these examples show how relative distance to objects affects the appearance of those objects. For example, at 16mm, the tail light appears huge relative to the rest of the vehicle due to its relatively close distance to the camera.
Since wide angle lenses emphasize the closest in-focus objects in the frame, making a compelling ultra-wide angle image often involves placing an attractive subject in the foreground. Since an ultra-wide angle of view includes lots of background that tends to remain at least partially in focus and recognizable, that attractive foreground subject will ideally be in front of a large, attractive background. A beautiful bunch of flowers in front of a large mountain range (with a lake between them) is a good example of this concept.
What you do not (usually) want in the foreground of your ultra-wide composition is a person’s nose. We don’t typically look at people from really close distances (that other person will become uncomfortable with us being in their personal space) and when we look at photos of people captured from these distances, certain body parts (often the nose) start to look funny. Unique portrait perspectives can be fun, but don’t overuse them as they get old fast – and your subjects may not be very happy with you. Get the telephoto lens out for your tightly-framed portraits.
Or move back and include your human subject in a larger scene for an environmental portrait. Especially at the 35mm end, this lens makes a great full-body portrait lens choice. This focal length range also works well for small up to very large group pictures.
The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens is a great option for the wide work at a wedding and for other photojournalism needs. While the f/4 aperture is not as adept at stopping action in low light as the f/2.8 counterpart, IS has great value in these venues. Consider allowing subject movement to show action in some of your venue photos. A flash as a main light (or when using second curtain sync) may also be able to counter low light issues at some events. Similar additional uses for this lens include indoor events such as stage work and brightly-lit parties.
Architecture and real estate photography often have large subjects needing wide angle lenses and the 16-35 L IS is be a great option for these captures. Going underwater? The 16-35mm focal length is a great choice for down there, allowing framing of your subject from a close distance, minimizing the image degradation caused by water clarity issues. Use this lens for shooting in a vehicle, inside of a large product … let your imagination go wild.
If your needs dictate wider angles of view, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens could make a good primary general purpose lens for you – especially if using a 1.6x/FOVCF body where this lens provides a 25.6-56mm full frame angle of view equivalent. I more-typically use a longer focal length zoom for general purpose use.
A great option is to combine this lens with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens or Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens for an incredible pro-grade, lightweight kit for many needs. Drop a small 50mm lens in your bag if you are concerned about the 35-70mm focal length gap.
Landscape photography, as I mentioned from the start of this review, is where my primary interest for this lens lies. This lens deserves to be in all full frame format landscape kits and the two combinations just mentioned are likely going to be very frequently found in my outdoor adventure packs.
An f/4 max aperture is medium fast/wide. That this max aperture remains constant over the entire focal length range of the lens is especially nice. Wide open exposure settings remain the same when zooming from wide angle to not-as-wide angle focal lengths.
As already alluded to, an f/2.8 aperture is preferred if capturing action in low light.
Some say that IS is not needed on wide angle lenses. I will agree that telephoto lenses are generally more improved by including IS, but I know that IS is important for wide angle lenses also.
While tripods are extremely important to me, I am not always able to make use of them. Certain active pursuits (including running, biking, long hikes, traveling, etc.) sometimes need to be done without the additional weight/bulk of a tripod. When you are not able to hold the camera steady enough for a sharp picture (for reasons including wind, tiredness, unstable footing, the shakes from stress & age, etc.), image stabilization can make the difference needed for sharp image capture.
For example, imagine that you are tired and out of breath because you just climbed a big mountain. The wind is always blowing strongly at the top of mountains and you of course need to use your 1-or-2-stop-light-reducing circular polarizer filter to really make the scene pop. With f/11 shutter speeds landing in the 1/15 to 1/30 range, higher ISO settings are needed for motion-free images. IS can allow these images to be captured at ISO 100, giving you the cleanest, sharpest images possible in those times where a tripod is not practical.
The same need may occur at the beach. Or, the situation may be only a low light issue. Perhaps you are shooting in a modestly-lit building where tripods and flash are not allowed or desired (such as a museum). Perhaps you are shooting a landscape scene after the sun has set. Perhaps you are walking around a big city at night. Or perhaps you simply want to maximize the quantity and variety of compositions you can get within a time constraint (such as during a sunset or your family’s patience duration) without tripod setup slowing you down.
For those shooting handheld video, image stabilization is practically a must-have feature.
To me, IS is one of the most attractive features of this lens. The 16-35 L IS is, by far, the widest angle full frame image stabilized lens Canon makes as of announcement time, making it one of the most hand-holdable lenses Canon makes. How does a usably-sharp handheld 2.5 second exposure sound?
The image stabilization example above was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and, of course, the EF 16-35 L IS lens. Canon’s DPP was used to process the raw image with the Standard Picture Style and the normal sharpness setting of 3 being applied (sharpening is apparently slightly too strong as some aliasing is showing). The inset image shows a 100%-sized crop from a 2.5 second exposure captured at 16mm and f/13 (yes, a small amount of diffraction is effecting the sharpness). The outer image is a 100% crop from a 1 second exposure captured at 35mm and f/8. The non-stabilized images captured at these settings were completely unrecognizable blurs.
These are two extreme examples of what this lens is doing for me, but there is no question that IS is aiding handheld image sharpness in this ultra-wide angle lens. Canon claims 4 stops of assistance from this IS implementation. I said that I would be very happy with over three stops of assistance at such wide angle focal lengths and with four or more, I would be thrilled.
It had been a very long day and I was tired, but IS testing was remaining on my to-do list and I was determined to mark that item completed (mostly, I was anxious to see what this lens could do). It was nearly midnight until the nearly-4-hour-long, grueling process of wringing out the lens’ shake reduction capabilities was completed. Part of the problem was that I kept thinking that I was finished, but after loading the test pics into the computer, there continued to be sharp images at the longest exposures I tested. It was hard to believe … I finally quit testing 16mm beyond 3.2 second exposures after getting only 1 image that was nearly sharp. Holding the camera still for an exposure that long is very strange and you become very aware of your heartbeat causing movement.
Under ideal conditions (standing indoors on a solid floor) and shooting completely freehand, at 16mm, I obtained a decent sharp image percentage down to about .6 seconds for just over 3 stops of assistance. A very slow trail-off in keeper rate ensued and with an occasional sharp image at exposures as long as an unreal 2.5 seconds (as shared above and a new record for me). At 35mm, I had a decent sharp image percentage down to about .4 seconds (just under 4 stops) with a few sharp images remaining at exposures as long as 1 second.
Don’t expect to get this performance in the wind after climbing a tall mountain, but in a museum and similar, you might be able to pull off these long exposures, especially if bracing yourself against something solid or using a monopod. The bottom line is that I’m very happy with the shake assistance built into this lens and will make very good use of it.
This lens’ measured image stabilization performance is very good, but so is the overall IS design. There is no shake in the viewfinder during startup or shutdown and I do not find myself fighting against IS even when panning rapidly. This lens does not include an IS mode switch, but “An intelligent CPU in the lens automatically selects the optimal IS mode by recognizing differences between normal handheld shots and panning.” [Canon]
From an audibility perspective, you will hear a light “cssp” at IS startup and again at shutdown, but IS operation is nearly silent during use – even when panning rapidly. Note that this IS implementation is not tripod-sensing. IS should be turned off when a tripod is being used.
For this lens to be the huge success I wanted it to be required impressive image quality. The image quality coming from Canon’s most recent L series lenses has been extremely good. Some of these notable lenses include the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens and EF 24-70 f/2.8L II USM Lens. Especially for landscape photography, I was looking for a repeat performance in the 16-35 L IS. And based on the theoretical MTF charts, I really liked what I saw.
It is perhaps easiest to use known lenses to base MTF impressions from. Below is a comparison that includes MTF charts for the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens and the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Lens. The 16-35 L IS shares the focal length range of the 16-35 L II and the max aperture of the 17-40 L.
The left side of the chart represents the center of the frame and the right side represents the periphery of the image circle. Higher lines are better. What I saw were very nice improvements at both ends and across most of the frame, but especially wide angle corners were showing great improvements. I anxiously awaited a production lens to see what reality brought us, but based on these charts, the 16-35 L IS appeared to be an excellent-performing lens from an image quality perspective. I had strong confidence in what Canon was going to deliver.
Image quality testing was my primary objective upon receiving retail copies of this lens and the news is good. This lens is very sharp across the entire full frame angle of view (including corners) and throughout the entire focal length range even with a wide open f/4 aperture. On the resolution chart, stopping down to f/5.6 adds a touch of improvement to 16mm results (mostly full frame corners show improvement) and on one of two lenses tested, at 35mm, but very slight differences are seen at f/5.6 over the balance of the range or at 35mm on the other tested lens. Describing the results of a great lens is very easy compared to conveying the performance of a deficient lens. You will be challenged to see sharpness benefit from stopping the 16-35 f/5 L IS down to f/8.
Outdoors, shooting a more typical scene, you will be pressed to see any sharpness/contrast difference made by stopping down from f/4. This lens delivers impressive to-the-corner image quality at all focal lengths and apertures (until diffraction kicks in). I’ll show you some examples.
If you want to make even a good zoom lens look bad, you show the extreme corners of the frame. The worst image quality a lens delivers is generally in the corners and zoom lens corners frequently have a level of mushiness to them. The good news is that the corners of the 16-35 f/4L IS are very impressive – prime-like. Click on the following image to open a comparison (in a new window) that will show the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens performing clearly superior to the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens and comparing remarkably well even against the excellent Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE Lens.
The image sharpness delivered by this lens is going to place it in a huge number of kits.
The 16-35 f/4L IS’ vignetting performance is good, but it is not vignetting free. At 16mm with a wide open aperture, expect about 2.5 stops of peripheral shading to show in a full frame image. While this amount is noticeable, it is significantly less than the about 4 stops of shading produced by the 17-40 L. Wide open vignetting reduces to about 1.5 stops at 20mm and then slowly increases until just over 2 stops at 35mm. In comparison, the 17-40 has twice as much corner shading at 20mm, but the difference declines as the focal length increases until the 17-40 has slightly less f/4 shading at 35mm.
Reducing the aperture opening, as usual, reduces the peripheral shading. The difference seen at each full aperture stop of reduction from this lens is not dramatic, with about 1.4 to .8 stops remaining at f/8. Little difference is seen between f/8 and f/11.
The 16-35 f/2.8L II has the advantage of a 2x larger aperture opening, which results in less vignetting when stopped down to the 16-35 L IS lens’ comparable f/4 setting. At f/4, the 16-35 f/2.8L II has about .5 stops less shading than the 16-35 f/4L IS at the 16mm end and closer to 1 stop less at the long end. The difference is about .2 stops over the entire focal length range at f/8.
APS-C format DSLR owners will not likely notice shading from this lens except possibly a very small amount (1 stop) at 35mm corners.
The 16-35 L IS controls CA (Chromatic Aberration) very well. I am seeing a small amount of CA in 16mm full frame corners, but very little at other focal lengths.
With the sun in the corner of the 16mm frame, a modest amount of flare shows with narrow apertures having the most noticeable artifacts. The 24 focal length is nearly flare-free. Expect to see a small but interesting shape of flare in the opposite-the-sun corner at 28mm. This effect is most prominent at f/4 and f/5.6 with greatly diminshed size and shape apparent by f/16. At 35mm, flare ranges from barely visible at f/4 to modest at f/16.
The 16-35 L IS is an ultra-wide angle lens and distortion should be an expected component of the image quality of such a lens. A moderate amount of barrel distortion is present at 16mm (the amount is similar to or very slightly less than the 16-35 f/2.8L II). The barrel distortion diminishes until negligible at about 22mm. Slight pincushion distortion is present over the longer range of focal lengths.
Unless you have straight lines toward the edges of your frame (especially very long ones), you will not likely notice the distortion from this lens. Walls and flat horizons such as an ocean are two examples of such straight lines that may be noticeable when distorted.
I tend to use the 24mm focal length the most for landscape photography. The reason for this fact is is two-fold. First, 24mm provides a great landscape perspective while remaining easy to compose with and retaining deep depth of field. And second, this is the widest focal length on my most-carried landscape lenses, the 24-70mm or 24-105mm L IS zooms. Wider focal lengths are sometimes desired, but simply not available on these lenses. So, 24mm is a commonly used focal length for me.
At 24mm, these two referenced lenses have moderate barrel distortion and oceans and other large bodies of water are frequently featured my frame. While the 16-35 f/4L IS has the same distortion problem at 16mm, the distortion issue at my most-frequently-used 24mm focal length is resolved. Will 24mm remain my most-used when carrying this lens? Time will tell.
Distortion is correctable by software, but the process is destructive at the pixel level.
An f/4 max aperture lens is not often the best choice for night sky photography, but stars provide a great test subject for coma. Coma causes point-of-light stars located in the peripheral image circle to stretch outward. The above three 100% crops were captured using 10 second exposures (short to prevent star trails from obscuring the results). Absolute full frame corners are shown with the exception of the 24mm results which were cropped from very slightly inward from the corner to pick up more stars. Likely obvious to you is that the 16mm results are from the top right corner while the 24mm and 35mm results are from the bottom right corner. The corners were selected for highest star density. This lens does show some coma, but the results are very good in comparison to other lenses including the 16-35 L II.
The 16-35 L IS has 9 rounded aperture blades (the 16-35 f/2.8L II has 7), which will create 18-point stars from specular highlights when very narrow apertures are used. An ultra-wide angle lens with an f/4 max aperture is not going to deliver the strongest background blur you have ever seen.
The 16-35 L IS incorporates “Two UD elements and three aspherical elements, including one large-diameter aspherical element, have been incorporated into the optical design to minimize aberrations and distortion throughout the zoom range” and “A fluorine coating has been applied to the front and rear lens surfaces to reduce ghosting for maintained image contrast and color fidelity.” This lens features Canon’s Super Spectra Coating.
The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens utilizes Canon’s excellent Ring USM (Ultrasonic Motor) AF. Fast, quiet and accurate AF, including AI Servo mode AF, has been the rule for Canon’s Ring USM AF implementations and I expected this lens to deliver nothing short of this performance. My expectations were met.
For comparison, the focus speed of this lens is similar to that of the 16-35 f/2.8L II and the sound level is even slightly lower.
The focus accuracy this lens is delivering is very impressive. Granted, an f/4 max aperture ultra-wide angle lens is not going to stress an AF system, but this lens is nailing AF nonetheless. Nearly 100% of my one shot mode images are focused where I intended.
AI Servo performance is equally impressive, but again, it is hard to stress AI Servo AF with ultra-wide focal lengths and an f/4 max aperture. There are not many fast-moving subjects that I want approaching to a close enough distance to fill a 16-35mm frame without some personal protection in place (like a concrete wall). I opted to have the girls repeatedly gallop their horses past me at 3-5′ (1-2m) as shown below (EOS 1D X, 35mm, f/4).
This lens performed remarkably well on this challenging subject. I had the luxury of being very selective on the images I keep out of the 900 or so images captured on this evening as practically all of them are in sharp focus.
This is an internal focusing lens with FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing supported. Supporting CPOL filters use on this lens is the non-rotating front filter threads.
This lens is very nearly parfocal if not completely so. It is hard to discern any focus adjustments needed even when making full extent focal length changes while viewing at 10x Live View. During focus adjustment, subjects change size modestly at 16mm, but only very slightly so at the 35mm end.
The properly-damped focus ring has a just-right amount of rotation (90°) for its function, though I would prefer a slightly less aggressive focus adjustment rate at 35mm for ultimate precision focusing.
Like the previous two Canon 16-35 L lenses, the 16-35 f/4L IS has an 11″ (280mm) MFD (Minimum Focusing Distance) which delivers a 0.23x MM (Maximum Magnification). This magnification amount will not cause this lens to be confused with a macro lens, but the specification is decent by comparison with similar lenses. Perspective distortion-inducing close-up perspectives are quite possible from this lens.
ModelMFDMM Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens13.8″(350mm)0.21x Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens11.0″(280mm)0.22x Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM Lens11.0″(280mm)0.22x Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens11.0″(280mm)0.23x Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Lens11.0″(280mm)0.25x Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens13.8″(350mm)0.16x Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens15.0″(380mm)0.21x Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens7.9″(200mm)0.70x Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II Lens10.6″(270mm)0.22x Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II VC Lens11.4″(290mm)0.21x Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro FX Lens11.0″(280mm)0.19x Tokina 17-35mm f/4 AT-X Pro FX Lens11.0″(279mm)0.21x
Note that the Canon EF-S and Tamron lenses listed above are not full frame compatible, but they do share a significant amount of focal length range overlap. Many more comparisons can be made using the site’s Lens Spec tool.
The 16-35 f/4L IS lens is not compatible with Canon extenders, but focus distance reduction (with the loss of infinity focusing) can be achieved using extension tubes – though not at the widest focal lengths. Adding the Canon EF 12mm Extension Tube II takes magnification range to 0.63-0.36x and adding the Canon EF 25mm Extension Tube II takes the magnification range to 1.12-0.80x.
The Canon 500D Close-Up Lens is compatible with the 16-35 L IS, but with a magnification range of 0.07 to 0.28x, I don’t see much value in adding this accessory.
Build Quality & Features
It is not hard to recognize the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens’ lineage. This lens shares similar design qualities with Canon’s most recent mid-range focal length L Series zoom lenses, most-closely resembling the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II shown in the comparison below.
This is a great design. The zoom ring is ideally sized and positioned (zoom ring in the rear) with just the right resistance and zoom rate (56° of rotation). As already discussed, the focus ring is equally well designed. Both rings feature Canon’s usual rubber grip surface with the focus ring having slightly less-aggressive ribs. The overall physical shape of this lens is very comfortable and smooth, stepping to very slightly wider diameters from the mount to the objective end. The fit and finish are worthy of the red L ring and the looks reflect the professional use it is suitable for.
The size and weight of this lens are ideal for long term carry and fixed-size lenses are very nice to use. While the overall size of this lens does not change, the lens elements extend and retract inside the lens barrel during focal length change with 16mm being the most extended and 24mm being the most retracted focal lengths. Here is an example showing this:
Important for outdoor use (and occasionally important for indoor use) is that this is a weather-sealed lens. Note that a protection filter is needed to completely seal the front of this lens.
The 16-35 L IS gains a small amount of size and weight over the max-aperture-sharing 17-40 f/4 L, nearly matching the focal length range-sharing 16-35 L II. Basically, you can choose the wider aperture or image stabilization with a similar resulting size and weight.
ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens22.6 oz(640g)3.5 x 4.4″(88.5 x 111.6mm)82mm2007 Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM Lens21.2 oz(600g)3.3 x 4.1″(84.0 x 103mm)77mm2001 Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens21.7 oz(615g)3.3 x 4.4″(82.6 x 112.8mm)77mm2014 Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Lens16.8 oz(475g)3.3 x 3.8″(84.0 x 97mm)77mm2003 Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens22.8 oz(645g)3.3 x 4.4″(83.5 x 110.6mm)77mm2006 Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens28.4 oz(805g)3.5 x 4.4″(88.5 x 113mm)82mm2012 Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens21.2 oz(600g)3.3 x 3.7″(83.4 x 93mm)77mm2012 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II Lens15.3 oz(434g)3.2 x 2.9″(81.7 x 74mm)67mm2006 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II VC Lens20.1 oz(570g)3.1 x 3.7″(79.6 x 94.5mm)72mm2009 Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro FX Lens33.5 oz(950g)3.5 x 5.2″(90.0 x 133.3mm)n/amm2011 Tokina 17-35mm f/4 AT-X Pro FX Lens21.2 oz(600g)3.5 x 3.7″(89.0 x 94mm)82mm2011
Again, for many more comparisons, review the complete Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens Specifications using the site’s Lens Spec tool.
Utilizing 77mm filters means that this lens will share nicely with many Canon and other brand lens models. This is not a small filter size, but being able to share CPOL and other filters is a great benefit – especially when hiking and/or traveling. With a standard thickness circular polarizer filter ring causing a slight increase in vignetting, I recommend using a slim CPOL filter (such as the B+W XS-Pro series).
The 16-35 L IS ships with a Canon EW-82 Lens Hood. This is a new hood model designed specifically for this lens. The EW-82, like most Canon lens hoods, features black flocking inside for complete elimination of light reflection.
I’m a big proponent of using lens hoods and I especially cringe when I see one mounted reversed on a lens that is in use. But, I have to admit that I do not use hoods on the 17-40 L and 16-35 L II very often. The EW-83E and EW-88 lens hoods are huge and offer little in terms of protection. These hoods are so wide that storing them reversed on the lens takes up a significant amount space in a bag/pack and a significant upgrade in case size is required compared to the bare lens. Here is a comparison with the 16-35 IS’ EW-82 positioned between the EW-83E and EW-88.
Though still shallow, the EW-88 provides some protection (including from rain) and the narrower width stores much more comfortably in your case. This is a hood I will use.
A thin Canon LP1219 Lens Pouch is also included in the 16-35 L IS box. Canon’s pouches protect against dust and scratches, but a better storage option should be used for protection from impact.
Below is a visual comparison between the following lenses:
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Lens Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens
The same lenses are shown below in their fully extended states with their lens hoods in place.
With the hoods removed, the 16-35 f/4L IS is slightly larger than the other L lenses in this comparison. Add the hoods, extend the 24-70 f/4L IS to 70mm and the 16-35 f/4L IS appears considerably smaller in comparison. Really, none of these lenses are very large.
Compared to the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Lens
The 17-40 L’s biggest advantage over the 16-35 L IS is price. It is also, as illustrated above, smaller and lighter, but these differences are not big. The 16-35 L IS delivers better image quality including notably sharper corners and less vignetting at wider apertures. The 16-35 L IS’ image stabilization feature alone is worth more than the price differential to me. These focal length ranges are similar, but not identical. Both have an advantage, but I expect more to prefer the 16-35’s extra 1mm on the wide end than the 17-40’s extra 5mm on the long end.
Compared to the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens
The lens I see best competing against the 16-35mm f/4L IS from an overall quality perspective is the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens. The III indeed delivers slightly better image quality at f/2.8 than the f/4L IS does at f/4 and that is very impressive. Stop down and I don’t see image quality factoring into the decision process. The f/2.8 L III has a twice-as-wide max aperture, a roughly twice-as-high price and lacks the versatile IS feature. An f/2.8 lens usually has a larger size and heavier weight than an f/4 lens and in this case, the f/2.8 III is 6 oz (175g) heavier and measures 3.5 x 5.0″ vs. 3.3 x 4.4″.
As a generalization, sports photographers, event photographers and similar will want the f/2.8L III. Landscape photographers will more frequently prefer the f/4L IS for most of their needs, but … they too may want the f/2.8L III in their kits for astrophotography purposes and perhaps for cityscapes as the wider aperture lens can create a stronger star effect from lights in the frame.
Compared to the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
The 16-35 f/4L IS and 16-35 f/2.8L II lenses are very similar, but there are three significant differences: max aperture, image stabilization and price. If you need to stop action in low light, the 16-35 f/2.8L II is the right lens to get. This lens can also create a modestly stronger background blur with that aperture advantage. Otherwise, the 16-35 L IS has better image quality, costs notably less and has image stabilization. Some prefer the f/4’s 77mm filter size over the f/2.8’s 82mm size.
When I received the 16-35 f/4L IS product announcement, I was excited. This was definitely a lens I was interested in adding to my kit. When I saw the MTF charts, I was even more excited. But, I had not been given the street price, and the lack of that price left a big question in my mind.
The good news is that the answer to that question left me pleased. This lens costs more than the 17-40 L (this was to be expected), but the price is very significantly less than the 16-35 L II’s regular street price. I think that many are going to find the 16-35 L IS to be a very good value – not inexpensive, but not crazy expensive either.
The 16-35 f/4L IS lenses evaluated for this review were retail models, one of which I am keeping (full street/online price paid).
This is the lens I requested from Canon. I would like to think that Canon designed this lens at my request (sometimes being delusional makes one happy). More arguable of course is that there was a demand for an image stabilized full frame-compatible ultra-wide angle zoom lens and Canon moved to meet that need. I think they made the right move.
Canon’s ultra-wide angle zoom lenses have long been very good performers. I have them and use them, but I was never overly excited by them – until now. The focal length range is not new and the max aperture in this range was already covered by another high quality lens. But, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens adds one critical feature – image stabilization. That feature alone gives this lens a huge value to me. Equally or more exciting is the image quality being delivered by this lens. If prime-lens-grade corner-of-the-frame image quality is something you appreciate in your ultra-wide angle lens, you are going to love this lens. Add a state-of-the-art AF system and the 16-35 f/4L IS becomes a must-have lens.
With over 2,000 images captured from two lenses by review time, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens very quickly found a solid home in my kit. It is going to see a lot of use. No other Canon or Canon-mount ultra-wide angle zoom lens can touch this one.
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