The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM is a wide-angle lens with some special qualities. This is the first wide-angle zoom to own image stabilization, enhanced optical quality, and of course, the L-series build quality. For those who shoot predominantly at the wide end of the spectrum, a high-quality wide-angle zoom provides flexibility with optical performance nearing a prime lens.
This lens would be suitable for the likes of architectural and landscape photography, but like any high-quality lens, you have to pay for this level of performance. In this regard, let’s have a look at how this wide-angle lens does overall.
As expected from an L-series Canon lens, the build quality is excellent. It features a solid metal outer barrel with a large and fluid focusing ring, ridged for easy traction. There’s no aperture ring as per modern Canon lenses, but there is the familiar distance scale, a manual and autofocus switch, and a switch for turning on image stabilization.
Image stabilization on this lens claims up to four stops and as it’s a simple on-off, it should be able to detect panning movements and switch between normal and panning modes automatically.
This lens can be used on an APS-C or crop sensor body with a focal length coming out to 24-52mm. This may not be wide enough for some applications, so the lens is best suited to a full frame camera.
As per all Canon L-series lens, the specifications are impressive. Inside are 16 elements in 12 groups, with an aperture range going from f/4-f/22. The lens weighs a reasonable 615g, which isn’t that heavy for a high-quality zoom lens. The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM also benefits from Super Spectra coatings, which maintains contrast and cuts down flare, which can be a problem with wide-angle lenses.
A shallow, petal-shaped lens hood (EW-82) is provided in the package and can be attached to the front 77mm filter thread.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM in Use
When trying out this lens for the first time, it’s immediately apparent how good the images are rendered. A few test shots show great detail in the subject matter and a good rendition of colors.
When shooting handheld, the image stabilization comes into its own, allowing for some extremely low shutter speeds. Image stabilization is a welcome addition on any lens, but if you’re predominantly a landscape or architecture shooter, most of the time your camera will be on a tripod when it’s advised to switch off image stabilization. The good thing being, the facility is there if you need it.
The autofocusing on this lens is extremely quick, due to the USM and copes very well in low light. There isn’t much hunting around for subjects and it’s very quiet in operation, which should suit the video guys.
As for anomalies, everything is well controlled on this lens. Chromatic aberration is very low and when it does stand out, it’s just on very high contrast areas and is very minimal. when the lens is set to its widest at f/4 there is only slight vignetting, with everything disappearing by f/8. As for barrel distortion, it is most evident at the widest focal length but disappears by 24mm.
If you want to get close up with this lens, it’s not exactly macro territory with the closest point being 28cm. However, the lens does a reasonable job of capturing small objects if needed.
Bokeh or background blur can be produced with this lens to a high-quality, especially with the nine rounded blades, with smooth transitions of color. This isn’t always a pre-requisite for wide-angle lenses, but it’s there if you need it.
Testing out the sharpness abilities of this lens proved that at f/4, sharpness is impressive and stopping down a little to f/5.6 looks fantastic. It’s only at f/16 that sharpness starts to drop off again. The lens does extremely well throughout its focal range for sharpness, with no complaints at either end of the spectrum. If you want to err on the safe side, the ideal is f/5.6 at 24mm.
Basically, having the use of a high quality zoom in the wide-angle range is great fun. In the real world, it’s much more convenient to set up in one spot and nail your composition. Primes are great, but this lens is closely nipping at their heels in terms of quality.
How Does It Compare?
Canon has a good range of zoom lenses, which have crossover focal lengths depending on your needs. One potential is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM, which is a workhorse zoom lens for many Canon users. It doesn’t go as wide as the 16-35mm, but has image stabilization and similar levels of optical quality.
For those wanting the ultimate in optical quality then the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM could be an option. This also has image stabilization and is a fast lens at a more affordable price point. It just doesn’t have the same L-series goodies. For an alternative brand, there is the Tokina AT-X 16-28mm F2.8 Pro FX. A high-quality lens, with similar features to the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM, but it’s the Canon which will win out for overall quality.
|Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM||Canon 24-70mm f/4 IS USM|
|Blades||9 rounded||9 rounded|
|Elements||16 elements/12 groups||15 elements/12 groups|
You cannot fault this lens for build quality, optics, and versatility. In conjunction with the image stabilization, lowlight shooting is a breeze and it feels that you’ll never be wanting for f/2.8. Image quality is also excellent, with only minimal amounts of distortion.
The addition of the image stabilization helps enormously when handheld, making the lens a fantastic bit of gear for low light. The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM does has a high price tag, but like any high-quality wide-angle lens, the years of use and high-quality images will be what you think about rather than how much you paid for the lens in the first place. In other words, highly recommended.