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Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Canon 16-35mm II

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II (metal 82mm filter thread, 22.4 oz./634 g, about $1,399 new or about $900 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.

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear, especially the older model 16-35mm L.


December 2016    Canon Reviews    Canon Lenses    All Reviews

Canon Ultrawide Lens Sharpness Comparison

How to Use Ultrawide Lenses

Canon Ultrawide Lenses Compared


NEW: Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L III (2016-today)

Canon 16-35mm IS (2014-today)

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II (2007-2016)

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

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

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.


Canon 16-35mm II Sunstars

Dawn, Mono Lake Picnic Grounds. (at 16mm, f/16, uncoated 812 filter). bigger.


Canon 16-35mm II flare

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).


Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II

Palm and Sunstar, 20 December 2016. Canon 5DSR, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II at 16mm at f/11 at 1/60 at ISO 100. bigger or camera-original file.


Sample Images from Yosemite.

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Compared to Nikon 14-24, Canon 16-35 L II and LEICA 21mm f/2.8 ASPH 16 December 2009

Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Compared to Nikon 14-24mm and Canon 16-35mm L II 15 December 2009


Introduction     top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

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I use these stores. I can't vouch for ads below.

This 16-35mm f/2.8 L II was Canon's top ultrawide for professional news, sports and action shooting. It was Canon's fastest and toughest — and most expensive — until it was replaced by the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L III at the end of 2016, The new Mark III is much sharper in the corners at f/2.8, but also more expensive, bigger and heavier.

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.

After thousands of shots, I couldn't make a technically bad shot with this f/2.8 lens on my 5D. I just kept cranking out winners. Skip to the Available Light and Flare sections to see some examples.

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.



1.) Sharp enough, better than the original 16-35mm f/2.8, same as 17-40mm f/4 L.

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).

2.) If brick walls are your thing, like all ultrawide zooms, there is plenty of distortion at 16mm. Shoot at 21mm and it goes away, or fix it in DxO.

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.


Specifications     top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations


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.


Focal Length


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.

On a 1.6x camera it gives angles of view similar to what a 26-57mm lens would give on a 35mm film camera. See also Crop Factor.


Maximum Aperture




Canon 16-35mm L II construction

Internal Construction. Aspheric and UD elements.

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.

Two elements are made of Ultra Low Dispersion (UD) glass (same as Nikon's ED glass), which helps reduce color fringing.



7 blades.

Stops down to f/22.

It's round until f/4 and heptagonal from f/8.

It gives great 14-pointed sunstars.


Filter Size


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.


Close Focus

0.92' ( 0.28m) from the image plane (the back of the camera), marked.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio

1:4.5 (0.22 ×).


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.

3.48" diameter x 4.39" extension from flange (88.5 x 111.6mm), rated.



22.375 oz. (634.3 g), measured.

22.6 oz. (640 g), rated.

The original 16-35mm weighs 1.230 oz (34.9 g) less, and the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L weighs 5.670 oz (160.7g) less.



EW-88, included.



LP1319, included.



March, 2007.


Canon Model Number



Canon Product Code






Price, USA

December 2016: $1,399 new or about $900 used if you know How to Win at eBay (230,000 yen catalog price in Japan).

August 2016: $1,499 new or about $900 used if you know How to Win at eBay (230,000 yen catalog price in Japan).

April 2014: $1,699 new or about $1,300 used if you know How to Win at eBay.

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.


Performance     top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Autofocus       Available Light       Color       Color Fringes

Construction    Distortion    Ergonomics    Eyeblow    Falloff

Film     Filters     Flare     Sharpness     Sunstars     Zooming



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   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Focusing is excellent in every way. It's much more consistent than the original 16-35mm.


What Moves

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.


Autofocus Offset

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.


Focus Breathing

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.


Available Light    back to Performance or back to Introduction.

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:

Redwood Motel, Bridgeport, California

Redwood Motel, Bridgeport, California. (at 25mm, 1/6 of a second at f/4, hand-held, ISO 3,200, 5D.)

25mm and 1/6 of a second at f/4.

Unsharpened, unaltered crop from center at 100% (44" [1.1m] wide print).

And here's another hand-held shot while having dinner:

Rhino's Bar and Grill, Bridgeport, California

Rhino's Bar and Grill, Bridgeport, California. (at 16mm, f/2.8 at 1/5 second, hand-held, ISO 800, 5D.)

Rhino's Bar and Grill, Bridgeport, California

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.


Lateral Color Fringes

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

There are none on Canon's 2012 and newer cameras like the 1DX and 5D Mark III, which correct these automatically.

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:

Canon 17-40mm LCA Canon 17-40mm LCA
Full image, 16mm
Full Image, 35mm


Canon 17-40mm LCA

Canon 17-40mm LCA at 21mm
100% crop from 5D at 16mm, f/5.6
100% crop from 5D at 20mm, f/8


Canon 17-40mm LCA
Canon 17-40mm LCA
100% crop from 5D at 24mm, f/5.6
100% crop from 5D at 35mm, f/8

On newer cameras, there won't be any color fringes.


Color Rendition   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

I see no differences from my other Canon lenses.


Construction Quality

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

It has a rubber gasket on the lens mount to keep crud out of your camera.



Plastic and metal.


Filter Threads and Hood Bayonet

Anodized aluminum.

Filters have a tendency to unscrew themselves from these metal lens threads, so keep checking to be sure you don't lose any.


Focus Ring

Rubber-covered metal.












I see mostly metal.


Noises when shaken

Klunking, which is normal.


Serial Number

Engraved and filled with black paint in an indentation of the mating surface of the mount.


Date Code

Hot-stamped in plastic on rear of lens.


Made in



Distortion   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

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:

Lee Vining Market

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.

Lee Vining Market

Red Market, at 21mm.

Brick walls worth shooting are rarely straight.

Lee Vining

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.

at 50' (15m)
+3.5 barrel.
0.0: none.
-1.2 pincushion.
-2.1 pincushion.
-2.0 pincushion.

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.


Ergonomics   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

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.

It's a good-sized lens, but lighter than it's Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 counterpart. The Canon 16-35 II is actually quite light when used on the all-plastic Canon EOS Rebel G, and delivers great results.


Exposure Accuracy   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Perfect, no problems seen.


Eyeblow back to Performance or back to Introduction.

None: no wind blows out the eyepiece as I zoom.


Falloff (Darkened Corners)

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

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.

2012 and newer cameras like the 1DX and 5D Mark III can correct this automatically.

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.)




Use on 35mm Cameras    back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Perfect. It's designed for full-frame digital and 35mm film like the EOS 1V and EOS 3, or even the earliest 1987 EOS 650.


Use with Filters   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

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!


Flare and Ghosts   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

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.

Canon 16-35mm II flare

Dawn, Conway Summit. (at 28mm, f/5.6, 77mm uncoated glass 0.6 ND grad held into front of lens.)


Canon 16-35mm II flare

Dawn, Yosemite Valley. (at 25mm, f/11, uncoated 812 filter)


Canon 16-35mm II flare

Blinding glare, Bodie. (at 16mm, f/11, uncoated 812 filter)


Sharpness  back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Sharpness is excellent at f/11. Sharpness is the same as my Canon 17-40mm f/4 L, which is also excellent.

Conway Summit

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.

Diffraction is usually the sharpness-limiting factor for all lenses, especially digital SLRs, at about f/11 and above. See also How Sharpness Varies with Aperture.

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.

Canon 16-35mm L II MTF


Sunstars   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Canon 16-35mm II Sunstars

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.


Zooming   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

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.


Zoom Creep



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.


Compared     top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

This 16-35/2.8 II is tougher, smaller and lighter than the 16-35mm f/2.8 III. The 16-35mm f/4 IS is about the same size as this Mark II lens, but much flimsier. However, the 16-35mm f/2.8 III and 16-35mm f/4 IS are much sharper in the corners at large apertures.

Canon 16-35mm lenses compared

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II, 16-35mm f/4 L IS and 16-35mm f/2.8 III. bigger.


Canon Ultrawides Compared.

Canon 20/2.8 USM, 17-40/4 L, 16-35/2.8 L II and 16-35/4 L IS. bigger.


Canon 20-35mm f/2.8

Canon 20-35 USM, 20-35mm f/2.8 L, 17-40mm f/4 L and 16-35/2.8II. enlarge.


Canon 20-35mm f/2.8

Canon 20-35 USM, 20-35 L, 17-35mm, 17-40mm and 16-35mm L II. enlarge.

Here are crops from corner areas. Click any of these for the camera-original 50 megapixel files from a Canon 5DS R:

Canon 16-35 IS sharpness comparison

Canon 16-35 III sharpness comparison

Canon 16-35 II sharpness comparison

As you can see, the 16-35/4 IS and the 16-35/2.8 Mk III are equally great, and this old 16-35/2.8 II is so blurry it looks broken.

Of course no one really shoots daylight landscapes at f/2.8 and expects the corners to be ultrasharp, but if you do, this new lens is night and day better than the old Mark II.

Since we're also dealing with depth of field and other issues, don't read much more into these shots than that this old Mk II was for news and sports, not landscape shooting, and that the f/4 IS and this new Mk III are both excellent. The IS looks a bit sharper in the corners because the depth of field at f/4 is deeper than the Mark III at f/2.8.


Canon Ultrawide Lens Sharpness Comparison.

Canon Ultrawide Lenses Compared


Recommendations     top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

For full-frame, 1.3x or 35mm cameras, use this for news, action and sports. It's lighter than you think for such a remarkable lens, and Canon's toughest and fastest ultrawide.

The newest Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L III is sharper in the corners if you're shooting test charts at f/2.8, but otherwise just bigger, heavier, more expensive, and made with a lot more plastic.

If you want the sharpest lens and worry less about toughness, the 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 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.

For a 1.6x camera, get the 10-18mm EF-S instead for ultrawide, or the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 EF-S IS if you want f/2.8.


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Thanks for reading!



Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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July 2012 , 07 November 2007