Full frame Canon wide angle update

The first batch of Canon’s new 16-35/2.8L II wide angle lens has been shipping, and a few reports are starting to come in. I am particularly interested in the corner to corner sharpness in the f/5.6 to f/8 range. At $1599, I certainly hope it’s sharp. The Digital Picture has posted ISO 12233 test shots from this lens — you can compare different lenses at a wide range of apertures, which is a handy feature for gear nerds. The tests are done with the Canon 1DS Mk II camera. Interestingly enough, the new 16-35mm lens doesn’t look quite as sharp as the 17-40/4L at 20mm or 24mm f/8.

In related news, the 16-9.net has posted an updated look at the Canon 17-40/4L, Nikon 17-35/2.8, and Contax Zeiss 21/2.8 distagon. This site posted a comparison of the 17-40/4L and Zeiss 21mm a few years ago where the Zeiss just destroyed the Canon. Either they had a poor performing copy of the 17-40mm, or the quality of the Canon lens has improved. The new test shows Canon performing really well when stopped down to f/11-f/16. The Zeiss is the sharpest, but with a $3000 price tag on the used market, and significant waveform distortion as a minor quibble.

Another interesting development in Canon wide angle options is the Contax 17-35/2.8 N lens. A Canadian company called Conurus converts Contax N series autofocus lenses to work with the Canon EOS mount. The conversion cost is $339, and the lens maintains autofocus. The Contax 17-35mm is reportedly an excellent performer on the wide end. Too bad it takes 95mm filters.

I’m sticking with the sharp, tiny, and affordable Olympus Zuiko 21/3.5. Eventually I will test the new version of the Canon 16-35mm zoom. I do most of my shooting with the 24-70/2.8L lens, which is quite sharp. As I mostly use the 21mm focal length for night photography, I’ve considered just getting a Hasselblad SWC for this focal length. I know some people think the Mamiya 7 with a 43mm lens is better, but I prefer the square format of the Hassie, it doesn’t require batteries, and it looks way cooler.

OK, I’m going outside to take some photos now (with a pinhole camera, no less). Happy Easter!

3 thoughts on “Full frame Canon wide angle update”

  1. Believe it or not, I’ve enjoyed the 18-55 kit lens for the Digi-Reb. For the price it’s an amazingly nice performing piece of glass. Downside: a loss of sharpness in the extremes of the f-stop range and minor distortion at it’s 18mm focal length. I can put up with these, as I generally shoot about F/16 and can use post-processing distortion fixers in Photoshop to correct for distortion.

  2. Hi Jon,

    Corner performance isn’t as much of an issue on 1.6x sensor cameras. The lens review on The Digital Picture is on point as usual.

    Shooting at f/16 actually degrades sharpness due to diffraction. The optimum f-stop for most lenses is in the f/8 range. On the wide end of the 18-55, stopping down beyond f/11 for depth of field wouldn’t usually be necessary.



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