Canon 16-35mm f/4 L IS
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NEW: Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L III (2016-today)
Canon 16-35mm f/4 L 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-)
Desert Sunrise. 30 October 2016. (Canon 1DX Mk II, Standard Picture Control with +4 Saturation and 7/5/5 Sharpening, Canon 16-35mm L IS at 35mm, f/10 at 1/200 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear.) bigger or © camera-original JPG file (image size L, JPG quality 5) to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display the full resolution properly.)
Inside the Barn, October 2015, 9:23 A.M. Canon 5DS R, Canon 16-35mm L IS at 16mm, 68 seconds at f/11 at ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full 50 MP (20MB JPG) file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display this resolution properly).
I love my Canon 16-35mm L IS, whose stabilization is so good I can handhold it at night — no tripod needed.
I shot at f/22 to emphasize the sunstar.
Palms at Indian Wells, 28 August 2016. Canon 5DS R, Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS at 30mm, f/11 at 1/250 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original JPG to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolution images properly.)
Hand-held at 1/3 of a second and sharp in the corners wide open! This is shot at LV -1.5, which means super dark.
The old 16-35/2.8 L II isn't this sharp in the corners at f/4, and it has no IS for sharp shots this slow hand-held. With the 16-35/2.8 L II you'd have to use a tripod, with which then you'd shoot at f/2.8 at 30 seconds at ISO 100 — but wait, at f/2.8 the old 16-35/2.8 L II isn't sharp, so to use the exposure you'd really want, f/11 at ISO 100, you'd need a remote release and an 8-minute exposure!
The 16-35mm f/4 L IS is Canon's best ultrawide lens for nature, landscape, interior, real estate, general architecture and outdoor photography because there is no sharper Canon ultrawide, and it's the only Canon ultrawide with Image Stabilization (IS) so you can leave your tripod at home. It's also the lightest and least expensive of Canon's three sharpest ultrawides. The only other Canon ultrawides as good optically as this IS lens are the exotic 11-24mm and the new 16-35mm f/2.8 III — but neither has stabilization, and each is bigger and costs over twice as much!
While Canon's 17-40mm f/4 L and 16-35mm f/2.8 L II were the standards of the professional nature and landscape photography for years, they weren't very sharp in the corners — especially at large apertures. We always had to shoot them at f/11 for the best corner results. Many landscape professionals adapted the Nikon 14-24mm and Nikon 16-35mm lenses to their Canon cameras, or hauled the huge manual focus Zeiss lenses instead. This new lens ends all that; it's sharp down to the pixels even in the corners.
Grab the manual focus ring at any time for instant manual focus override.
Formats and Compatibility
This works on all Canon EOS cameras, meaning all Canon DSLRs and all Canon 35mm EOS autofocus SLRs.
While it works on all these, this is a full-frame lens and it is silly to use it on Canon's APS-C cameras. For these cameras, even the 18-55mm kit lenses work better because of their broader zoom ranges more appropriate for those cameras.
On APS-C, this is a normal, not wide angle lens. For a wide angle lens on APS-C cameras, use the Canon 10-18mm EF-s. It costs only one-fourth as much, and goes much, much wider than this lens does on those cameras.
This is a superior full-frame lens, and as such, I'll be testing it on full frame.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS. bigger.
Canon 16-35mm IS.
Canon calls this the Canon Lens EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS.
EF: Electronic Focus. All modern Canon lenses focus with a motor in the lens.
L: Expensive as L.
USM: UltraSonic ring autofocus Motor.
16 elements in 12 groups.
Three Glass-Molded (GMo) aspheric lens elements and and two UD glass elements.
Front and rear dust-resistant fluorine coatings.
Four-group zoom system. The barrel doesn't move while the front and rear groups slide in and out.
Internal focus. Nothing moves externally.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS (EF diaphragm not visible).
9 curved blades.
0.92 feet (0.28m).
Maximum Reproduction Ratio
Angle of View
63º - 108.2º diagonal on full-frame.
Rated four stops improvement.
Canon 16-35mm IS with EW-82 Hood.
EW-82 hood included.
It has a lock with a release button.
3.3" (82.8mm) diameter x 4.4" (112.8mm).
21.745 oz. (616.5g), actual measured.
Canon rates it at 21.7 oz. (615g).
13 May 2014.
I got the first one on 01 July 2014.
Canon Item Number
$999, December 2016.
$1,100 after rebate, March 2015.
$1,200, May-July 2014.
Box, Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS.
The Canon 16-35mm f/4 L IS is optically superb.
AF is virtually instantaneous, and also silent and accurate.
As expected for an ultrawide lens, AF is essentially instantaneous.
Just grab the focus ring anytime for instant manual-focus override.
To lock it into manual mode, move the switch on the lens.
Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, isn't visible. There is rarely anything out of focus except at macro ranges, where bokeh is excellent.
The color balance of this 16-35 seems the same as my other Canon EF lenses.
The Canon 16-35 IS has moderate barrel distortion at 16mm, and little distortion from 20-35mm. Bravo!
For critical use, use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove the distortion. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.
© 2014 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
* slight waviness remains after correction.
The best news is that the distortion is of a low order, so it usually corrects completely with Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool, no fancier software needed.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS.
Ergonomics are easy: it's a big lens with big focus and zoom rings.
Focus is easy; a fingertip will suffice.
Zoom is stiffer; you'll want to use at least two fingers.
Falloff is negligible, even without a profile.
It's barely visible wide open at 16mm, and goes away a stop or two down.
Longer focal lengths don't have any significant falloff, even wide open.
There's no problem with vignetting, even with thick or rotating filters.
There's no need for thin filters; regular thick and rotating filters work great.
Even at 16mm I get no vignetting on full-frame with my Hoya HD polarizer and another regular filter.
I only grabbed my Hoya HD polarizer because it was handy for this vignetting experiment; don't use polarizers at the 16mm end because they make skies look funny.
I'm not a fan of the plastic filter threads. A $1,200 lens should have metal threads. They feel pretty loose; the filter has some play left and right.
Focus breathing (the image changing size as focused) is mostly of interest to cinematographers who don't want the image changing size ("breathing") as the lens is focused among different subjects.
The image from the 16-35 IS gets smaller as focussed more closely.
There are no ghosts. I had to go way out of my way to shoot directly into the noontime summer sun and then add a lot of exposure, process in Perfectly Clear and put a dark tree in the area where I expected ghosts in order to to see any.
These are the worst I could do:
Shot directly into the sun at 35mm at f/10, 17 July 2014. full resolution.
There's no problem with flare or ghosts.
In actual use, there will be none.
This is excellent performance.
Image Stabilization works great. Presuming you know how to shot a rifle and thus shoot a camera properly at slow speeds, I get perfectly sharp shots most of the time at 1/4 second, and can get sharp shots at 1/2 if I shoot a few frames and pick the best.
I use a simple technique when I'm on the edge: just shoot several frames, and one is usually much sharper than the others. Use that, and delete the rest.
Even without an in-camera profile, there are no color fringes except for the tiniest bit of red-cyan at 16mm.
This is much better than any other Canon ultrawide lens, and of course it will correct with a profile.
Macro gets close.
It's rated as 11" or 28 cm, but that's from the image plane at the back of the camera.
I measure its close-focus distance as 4.5" (11 cm) from the front of the lens!
Here's what you get zoomed at 35mm on full frame:
GPW Watch at close-focus distance at 35 mm at f/4 on full-frame (would be even bigger on APS-C).
Crop from above 6MP image at 100%. If this is 6" (15cm) on your monitor, the complete image printed at this same high magnification would be 30 x 20" (75 x 50 cm) at this very same sharpness. Only the face is in focus; there is so little depth-of-field that the hands and bezel are out of focus.
Not only does it get close, it's sharp, too — even at full aperture as I've shown here!
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS. bigger.
The Canon 16-35mm IS L is all plastic on the outside, and metal on the inside. It's not as tough as the 16-35mm f/2.8 L II.
Painted on front plastic ring inside the filter threads.
Rubber covered plastic.
Moisture seal at mount
Laser-engraved into plastic lens barrel, 180º behind focus window.
See Canon Date Codes.
Noises When Shaken
There is no sharper ultrawide for Canon, however image sharpness depends more on you than your lens, and lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers. It's the least skilled hobbyists who waste the most time blaming fuzzy pictures on their lenses, while real shooters know that few photos ever use all the sharpness of which their lenses are capable due to subject motion and the fact that real subjects are rarely perfectly flat.
Shot at the test range at infinity, the 16-35 IS is ultrasharp at all apertures, all focal lengths and at all points in the image. It is a little less sharp in the last couple of millimeters in the full-frame far corners at f/4, but it's so good and so much better than anything ever made by Canon that I'm not complaining. The 16-35mm IS brought state-of-the art sharpness to Canon ultrawides for the first time. Only the newer 11-24mm f/4 and 16-35mm f/2.8 III are as sharp; everything else is inferior.
Even at f/11, older Canon lenses couldn't do this:
Here are Canon's MTF curves, which look excellent as well:
Canon 16-35mm sunstar at 19mm at f/11. bigger.
Canon 16-35mm sunstar at 16mm at f/11. bigger.
GL550 headlight at 35mm at f/13. Full Resolution.
With its rounded 9-blade diaphragm, this Canon 16-35mm IS makes only muted sunstars at most apertures.
Use f/22 for the best results:
Click any to enlarge.
The good news is that the 16-35's sunstars are very symmetrical. If you can get them, they look great.
Compared to Canon
This IS lens is without question Canon's very best ultrawide lens for photographing things that hold still. The old 16-35mm f/2.8 L II was much less sharp, and while the newer 16-35mm f/2.8 III is as sharp, it lacks stabilization and is much bigger, heavier and more expensive. The 11-24mm (not shown here) is an exotic that's also ultrasharp, but can't be used with front filters (no grads), covers a less useful zoom range and is very big, heavy and expensive. If you don't worry about price, weight, filters or stabilization then the 16-35mm f/2.8 III or 11-24mm also have superb optics; they just don't make as much sense as this ultra-high performance and practical 16-35/4 IS.
The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II and all the other older lenses are much softer in the corners at f/2.8.
Here are crops from corner areas. Click any of these for the camera-original 50 megapixel files from a Canon 5DS R:
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 the 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. This IS lens 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.
Compared to Nikon
Nikon's 16-35mm f/4 VR is very similar.
There a many problems using the Nikon lens on a Canon camera with an adapters: the Nikon lens has no autofocus, no VR, no IS, feeds no lens data to the EXIF, has no lens profiles available, and most critically, has a completely manual diaphragm. You'll have to open and close the diaphragm by hand for each and every shot.
People used to mess with this before the introduction of the Canon 16-35 IS, but now that Canon offers essentially the same lens in a native Canon mount, forget about using the Nikon 16-35 or 14-28 on a Canon. The optics are all as good, and the Canon 16-35 IS has ergonomics a zillion times better for use on Canon.
Compared to Zeiss
I'd likewise forget the huge manual focus Zeiss lenses.
Before this 16-35mm the manual-focus Zeiss lenses were the smartest choices if you needed the very best optical performance for an ultrawide on a Canon DSLR, and again this new lens makes the Zeiss lenses completely obsolete.
The Zeiss lenses are too big and heavy and focus too slowly manually and don't zoom. Forget them today.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS. bigger.
Leave the STABILIZER ON all the time. You ought to turn it OFF if you're on a tripod, but it shouldn't cause any problems even if you leave in ON.
For nature, landscapes, fine art and architecture, this is Canon's best ultrawide lens ever. There's no question about this; the only other lenses as sharp are the 16-35/2.8 III which is bigger and heavier and has no stabilization; the 16-35/2.8 III is for action, news and sports — not nature and landscapes. The 11-24mm is a huge exotic lacking stabilization and you can't use front filters with it. The 11-24 is for special effects where you need unreasonably short focal lengths. The 11-24 is a great lens, just not as useful as a 16-35.
For news, action, astronomy and sports, the much more expensive 16-35mm f/2.8 L III is a stop faster. Image Stabilization is of no help if the subject is moving or on a tripod, but f/2.8 will let you use a faster shutter speed or lower ISO for sharper pictures when things are moving or extremely dark.
For everything else, this 16-35mm f/4 L IS is the best there's ever been — and it's much less expensive today than when it came out in 2014. It's the only lens besides a telephoto zoom that you'd need to be ready to shoot anything.
I bought mine at Adorama. I'd also get it at Amazon, at B&H or at Crutchfield. My biggest source of support for this free website is when you use those links or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything. Unlike a bottle of milk or a CD, DVD or Blu-Ray disc, Canon doesn't seal its boxes so you have no idea if you're actually getting a used product if you risk buying at retail. Never buy at retail.
© Ken Rockwell. All rights reserved. Tous droits réservés. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.
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09 December 2016, 08 July 2014, 13 May 2014