Which Canon Wide Angle Lens is the Best ?

I help a client choose between the Canon EF 17-40 f/4L USM & the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

How to choose the best wide angle lens:

Canon has several quality levels of lenses, as well as some pretty subtle differences in features. A client asked me to help her choose between the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM and the Canon EF 17-40 f/4L USM, and here’s what I said.
The first thing to remember is that with Canon in general anything ‘red ring’ lens is the pro version and good. When you see the red ring on the lens, it has weatherproofing, better build quality, etc. Both of these lenses are part of Canon’s pro red ring line and are well reviewed for quality.
As always, you need to consider the use. If you want the lens mostly for landscape photos, the F Stop isn’t that critical, as you’ll probably be using it at F8 or 11 most often anyway. If you are indoors without flash, the F stop really matters. One other note is to remember that if your camera isn’t ‘full frame’ like Rebel series and others, you won’t get full advantage of the lens at the wide range… it’ll never be quite as dramatically wide as on a full frame like the Canon 5D series.

Saving Money on Canon Lenses:

When we buy, we like to check Canon’s official refurbished site. Same warranty, and they are OK’ing the quality. Often they are just ‘open box’ returns.
image of a black Canon lens with a red ring around the end
This is the updated version of my lens, refurb on Canon’s store: HERE. 

Image Quality is Tricky on Wide Angle Lenses:

I don’t love my lens full open at F2.8. The problem with wide angle lenses is how sharp they are at the edges, and how weird the distortion is when fully wide. I usually don’t feel my old version 1 16-35 is sharp enough at 2.8, so I usually just use it at F4 to be safe. I am happy with it though for lack of extra distortion at the full wide zoom… and some of that is watching what subject content you put at the edges of your shot. This new version II 16-35 lens gets good reviews on sharpness wide open, so you might really use it at F2.8. Both images above were taken with my 16-35 F2.8, so it’s a very useful lens, indoors and out.
If you do a lot indoors and in dim light, like we do for theatre, that extra stop might be nice. Remember, the smaller the F number, the more light it lets in.
And any lens that doesn’t change it’s F number as you zoom in (shown as like F 4-5.6) is a great plus. It’s the worst… just when you often want the most light/stable image available by zooming in on something, the lens makes it harder to get the shot by needing more light. That’s one reason those non-pro lenses are less expensive.

Why Buy the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM:

The upside is you get a stop brighter for only $80 with the refurbished… but this one on B&H (they are great, as is Adorama.com) is also well reviewed & it has Image Stabilization (shown as IS on lens info)— which can help get sharp images at slower shutter speeds. Quick note for video:  Image stabilization is NOT good to have on for video using the camera’s internal mic BTW, you can hear it working on an internal microphone. If you don’t need the audio from the camera though, it’s terrific for video as well.
Photo of a black canon lens sitting up with a red ring on the end
The Canon 16-35mm F4 has the added benefit of Image Stabilization. A great plus.

To sum up though— the Canon 16-35 F4 is a great choice:

So, technically, the refurb 2.8 is a more valuable lens, but the F4 with IS is a very good choice, and a tad less expensive— plus image stabilization that you’ll love to use if at slower shutter speeds, in dim light, etc.
The good news is, you don’t have to be afraid to get the F4— and check out the 2.8 if you’d like the extra light in a darker room… it’s the difference between using 3200 ISO at F2.8 and 6400 ISO at F4 (1 stop of light brighter for the F2.8).
A happy result… either is good, and when the refurb is available, they are even almost the same cost.
Don’t be shy about reaching out to me on social media with any questions  (Twitter).


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