Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II (metal 82mm filter thread, 22.4 oz./634 g, about $1,699 new or about $1,300 used if you know How to Win at eBay). enlarge. I got mine at this link to it at Adorama; getting it at Amazon is also highly recommended, as well as this link directly to them used at eBay. My biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep adding to this free website when you get anything through these links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you take the chance of buying elsewhere. Thanks for your support! Ken.
NEW: Canon 16-35mm IS (2014-today)
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II (2007-today)
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L (2001-2007)
Canon 17-40mm f/4 L (2003-today)
Canon 17-35mm f/2.8 L (1995-2001)
Canon 20-35mm USM (1993-2007)
Canon 20mm f/2.8 USM (1992-today)
Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 L (1989-1995)
Tokina 17-35mm f/4 (2011-today)
Canon 10-18mm IS vs. 16-35mm f/2.8 L II 12 June 2014
Sample Images (more throughout the review)
Moonrise over Mono Lake, 6:48 PM, 18 October 2013. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II at 21mm, f/8 for two minutes, Canon RS-80M3 remote cord with lock used to hold-open the shutter in Bulb. Yes, the moon moves in two minutes, but since this was only a digital camera and blows-out the disc of the sun or moon without detail even when shot as CR2 as I did here, you can't see it.) bigger.
The Milky Way as seen from Bridgeport, California, 8:12 PM, 22 October 2013. Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II at 16mm, f/2.8 at 32 seconds at ISO 6,400 (LV -8), Canon 5D Mk III with Canon RS-80N3 remote cord, shot as CR2, processed in Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6. Bigger.
Dawn, Mono Lake Picnic Grounds. (at 16mm, f/16, uncoated 812 filter). bigger.
Dawn, Yosemite Valley. Canon 5D, 16-35mm f/2.8 L II with Tiffen 812 warming filter at 16mm, f/11 @ 1/80 (Av mode), -0.3 exposure compensation, ISO 100, hand-held (tech details). Exactly as shot in JPG. Camera-original file © (6MB).
Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Compared to Nikon 14-24mm and Canon 16-35mm L II 15 December 2009
This 16-35mm f/2.8 L II is Canon's top ultrawide for professional news, sports and action shooting. It's Canon's fastest and toughest — and most expensive.
For photographs of things that are not moving, the newer 16-35mm f/4 L IS is much sharper on the sides and corners at large apertures, as well as less expensive and it adds image stabilization (IS) so you can shoot at hand-held at 1/2 to 1/4 second just as sharp as if you had a tripod.
If you want the best ultra-wide zoom on the planet for your Canon full-frame camera for news, sports and action, then just get one of these now. It is significantly sharper in the corners over the awful previous 16-35mm f/2.8, and focuses much more consistently. This f/2.8 lens is much tougher mechanically than the new 16-35mm f/4 IS.
When I use any of these lenses, I'm usually using them at the 16mm or 17mm end. The 16mm end of the 16-35mm lens is much wider than the 17mm end of the 17-40mm lens, and is close enough that I no longer bother carrying my fixed 14mm f/2.8 L lens.
If you have an APS-C camera (Rebel, 70D, etc.), get the Canon 10-22mm EF-S instead for wide angles, or the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 EF-S IS if you want f/2.8. You pay a premium for either of the L lenses because they are much larger to cover the larger sensors of full frame cameras, something you don't want if you're shooting a smaller-format camera.
2.) Easy operation; just works great and never gets in the way of a great photo.
3.) 7-bladed diaphragm for great sunstars.
Bad: Not much, but if I have to find something:
1.) Larger 82mm filter thread so you'll have to buy a bigger filter than the old 77mm filter you might have form another pro lens. (I can hold 77mm filters in front of the 16-35mm and they work fine).
3.) A little bigger and heavier than the previous big and heavy 16-35mm, but it's still quite reasonable to carry. It's a few ounces (100g) less than my 70-200mm f/4 L IS. It's comfortable to lug my 5D Mark III and this 16-35mm II around my neck all day.
Canon calls this the Canon Zoom Lens EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM.
EF: Electronic Focus. All modern Canon lenses focus with a motor in the lens.
L: Expensive as L. No exact meaning other than this being Canon's lingo for lenses with extra durability and weather sealing. L lenses work on all cameras including film and full-frame digital. Canon puts a red band around the front of these. See also Canon L Lenses.
USM: Ultra-Sonic Motor: The focus motor operates silently.
Used on a 1.3x camera it gives angles of view similar to what a 20-44mm lens would give on a 35mm film camera.
16 elements in 12 groups.
Three of these elements are aspherical: one is an expensive custom-ground aspherical element, another is a replica (plastic) aspherical element and one is a glass-mounded (GMo) element.
Stops down to f/22.
It's round until f/4 and heptagonal from f/8.
It gives great 14-pointed sunstars.
In the days of film this non-standard size would mean I'd have to buy another dozen filters just for this lens since today's pro standard size is 77mm, but for digital, all I'd have to buy is an 82mm Tiffen grad ND 0.6.
Don't buy a polarizer; polarizers rarely work well on ultra-wide lenses.
0.92' ( 0.28m) from the image plane (the back of the camera), marked.
Focus Distance Scale
Depth of Field Scale
Infrared Focus Index?
Only at 16mm.
3.486" diameter x 4.394" extension from flange (88.54 x 111.60mm), measured.
22.375 oz. (634.3 g), measured.
Christmas 2013: $1,549 at checkout. final price after mail-in-rebate: $1,349.00.
July 2012: $1,619.
Late 2007-13 January 2008: $1,399 after rebate.
The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II is a great lens that just works. When mine arrived, I took it out and shot with it for two weeks in California's Eastern Sierra and Yosemite before I bothered to pick it apart with any formal tests.
The results for real photos are simply stunning. You ought to see them on a 30" monitor or in print! All I can show on your screen are much smaller vignettes.
Focusing is excellent in every way. It's much more consistent than the original 16-35mm.
The focus is entirely internal. Nothing moves externally when autofocused.
Ease of Manual Focusing
Excellent. Just grab the ring. Manual focus requires no switches.
AF speed, like most wide lenses, is just about instantaneous.
I get dead-on focus on my 5D.
Autofocus Consistency (how often is it in focus?)
I get perfect focus every time on my 5D. This is much better than the original 16-35mm f/2.8, with which I got a disturbing few percent of images that were simply out of focus, even though the AF system confirmed that it was locked on.
We pay for the speed of the Canon AF system in that a small percentage of shots, even when the AF system confirms perfect focus, are simply out of focus. Nikon may be a little slower, but it never misses.
The percentage of misses varies with lens and camera, from 100% OK, as I get with this 16-35mm II and my 5D, to several percent bad, as I get on my Rebel XTi and some other lenses as mentioned in their respective reviews.
Breathing is a motion picture term which refers to what happens as you pull (change) focus from near to far while the camera and subjects remain in the same place. I list this for people putting these lenses on their Canon XL-1s for shooting video.
At 35mm there is no breathing.
At shorter settings like 16mm, the magnification reduces as one pulls focus closer. This is the opposite from most traditional lenses. Also, with a fixed camera and subject, the distortion becomes more barrel as one pulls focus closer.
f/2.8 lenses are more than fast enough for hand-held night shooting with digital cameras. f/1.4 lenses are for shooting my favorite ISO 50 Fuji Velvia.
With digital cameras, ISO 3,200 is eminently usable, and even f/5.6 lenses are fine.
Here's a hand-held grab shot:
Unsharpened, unaltered crop from center at 100% (44" [1.1m] wide print).
Unsharpened, unaltered crop from bottom right at 100%. (44" [1.1m] wide print).
This is a huge improvement over the original 16-35mm f/2.8, which got very soft and fuzzy in the corners at 16mm and f/2.8.
For use on older cameras, this lens is approved by the PPLFPA, Professional Patio and Lawn Furniture Photographers' Association, with a grade of "A-."
You really have to go out of your way to see any, and even if you do, they are only at the widest end. There are none at the longer end.
Here are the full guide images from which the crops are taken:
On newer cameras, there won't be any color fringes.
I see no differences from my other Canon lenses.
It has a rubber gasket on the lens mount to keep crud out of your camera.
Plastic and metal.
Filter Threads and Hood Bayonet
Filters have a tendency to unscrew themselves from these metal lens threads, so keep checking to be sure you don't lose any.
I see mostly metal.
Noises when shaken
Klunking, which is normal.
Engraved and filled with black paint in an indentation of the mating surface of the mount.
Hot-stamped in plastic on rear of lens.
Wide angle lenses are supposed to stretch round things, like people's heads, out towards the edges of the frame . This sucking is why we love ultra-wide angle lenses.
Straight lines should always remain straight. When they curve slightly, that's the undesirable distortion of which I speak.
The distortion of the Canon 16-35mm II is typical for any ultrawide zoom: complex barrel distortion at the widest end and pincushion at the longer end.
If you waste your time shooting brick walls straight-on, an ultrawide is the last lens you'd want. Like most ultrawide zooms, shoot in the middle of the range to get the least distortion. Shoot the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II at 20mm and the distortion goes away for shooting straight lines parallel to the frame edges.
The proper way to shoot walls is at an angle, in which case distortion is invisible:
Red Market, at 16mm.
If you shoot head-on, you'd better make sure it's an interesting wall. Shoot at 21mm and there's no problem.
Red Market, at 21mm.
Brick walls worth shooting are rarely straight.
Brick wall, at 21mm.
If you're silly enough to shoot a blank wall straight-on at 16mm, you'll get this:
Wall of Shame at 16mm.
Roll mouse over to see after correction in Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter at +3.5.
Plug these figures into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter to correct the distortion.
Even after this simple correction in Photoshop, some waviness will remain if you're looking for it. If this is you, use DxO for better correction.
Excellent. Nothing gets in the way of a great photograph.
There are no switches required for macro ranges or manual focus.
The only switch on the 16-35mm II is a switch marked AF-MF, but manual focus is available any time you grab the focus ring. The switch's only purpose is to deactivate AF when set to MF.
Perfect, no problems seen.
None: no wind blows out the eyepiece as I zoom.
I saw no falloff in any of the thousands of real photographs I made with the 16-35mm II, even at 16mm at f/2.8 in dark interiors with old cameras.
If I deliberately look for it, yes, it's got a lot of falloff at 16mm at f/2.8. Otherwise, I never noticed it.
The shots below of an Expodisc greatly exaggerate falloff. I never saw this in thousands of real shots.
Uncorrected Falloff. (2012 and newer cameras can correct this in-camera.)
It works perfectly on full-frame with any traditional old, thick filter. I tried it with my 7.2mm (0.28") thick traditional Hoya polarizer.
There is no need for expensive thin filters.
You will get some vignetting with two thick stacked filters. Zoom to a longer focal length if you insist.
As you can see below, I was able to drop my 77mm circular grads into the front of the 16-35mm II and hold them with my fingers. When I did, I got no vignetting even at 16mm, except if my fingers got in the way!
You really have to push the 16-35mm II to get ghosting. You can do it, but you're on the verge of going blind. All these shots were made with completely uncoated Tiffen glass filters, either a two-stop grad or an 812. The Tiffen 812 filter is a mild warming (magenta/amber) filter. I used it because it was the only 82mm filter I had handy to protect this borrowed 16-35mm lens.
Dawn, Conway Summit. (at 28mm, f/5.6, 77mm uncoated glass 0.6 ND grad held into front of lens.)
Dawn, Yosemite Valley. (at 25mm, f/11, uncoated 812 filter)
Blinding glare, Bodie. (at 16mm, f/11, uncoated 812 filter)
Sharpness is excellent at f/11. Sharpness is the same as my Canon 17-40mm f/4 L, which is also excellent.
Unsharpened crop from left side of 100% full-frame 5D image from Conway Summit above. This is equivalent to a crop from a 44" (1.1m) wide print. (at 28mm, f/5.6, 1/60, had-held, uncoated glass 0.6 ND grad.)
When compared to the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L, which lens is sharper depends on which corner you are comparing! Normal slop in the position of zoom lens elements means sharpness will vary from shot-to-shot and corner-to-corner more than any sharpness difference between these two lenses
This 16-35mm II and the 17-40mm L are much sharper in the corners at wide settings and larger apertures than the original 16-35mm f/2.8 L, which was awful at 16mm and f/2.8 if you were looking hard. The original lens, designed in the days of film, could be so sloppy in the corners on digital cameras if used improperly (shot at f/2.8 for sharpness tests) that many people mistakenly thought their lenses, or Canon's full-frame cameras, were defective. In fact, it was the photographers who were defective.
It's also extremely sharp on 35mm Fuji Velvia 50, as well as digital.
My particular sample has what seems like the usual manufacturing variation, and has its field shifted a little such that if its focused at infinity on the right, the left side is focuses a little closer at 16mm.
If shot at f/2.8 and you're counting your pixels in the corners, it's very soft. It's not as soft as the original 16-35mm f/2.8 L, but if you're looking at 100% shot wide-open, the new 16-35mm f/4 L IS is much, much sharper. Only amateurs shoot wide open and look in the corners for sharpness at 100% — but if you do, get the 16-35mm f/4 L IS instead. Get this f/2.8 II lens if you want a tougher, faster lens than the IS version.
Dawn, Mono Lake Picnic Grounds. (at 16mm, f/16, uncoated 812 filter)
I love the 14-pointed sunstars caused by the 7-blade diaphragm. The effect is strongest at small apertures like f/16, and less at large apertures like f/4.
The zoom range is evenly-spaced along the zoom ring. It's trivial to set precise composition holding the camera in one hand and using one finger to zoom.
Focus Shift while Zooming
I can't see any focus shift. Feel free to zoom after you've focused.
Focal Length Encoding Accuracy
The EXIF data agrees with the settings marked on the lens at 16, 20, 24 and 35mm.
I have not correlated the accuracy of the markings with actual focal lengths.
If you want the sharpest lens and worry less about toughness, the new 16-35mm f/4 L IS is better for nature and landscapes because it's sharper in the corners and adds image stabilization.
If you have limited funds, your money should always be spent on great lenses like this and not spent on cameras. For instance, I only paid about $1,400 for my 16-35mm L II back in 2007, and today in 2014, it sells for that much used. Great lenses go up in value over time, while cameras only go down. Back when I bought this lens for $1,400 in 2007, I used it on my Canon 5D for which I paid $3,200. Today I could sell my lens for what I paid for it, while my 5D is worth only a few hundred dollars. The smart money is always spent on lenses; this lens is still state of the art today.
Maybe $1,699 new or $1,300 used seems expensive today, but a few years from now when it's $1,899 new, you will have wished you got one today and could have been making great images with it for two years instead of having waited.
If this 16-35mm II was available in 2006 when I bought my Canon 17-40mm f/4 L and 14mm f/2.8 L, I would have bought this 16-35mm II instead. The significantly wider 16mm setting versus 17mm would have saved me having to buy the $2,400 14mm f/2.8 L with which I can't use filters!
If you aren't as addicted to the 16mm end as I am, the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L is just as sharp, weighs less and costs half as much.
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July 2012 , 07 November 2007