Canon 16 - 35mm f/2.8L - school
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Photos and review by Chris Skopec, SmugMug QA Tester. Thanks to our friends at  BorrowLenses.com for supplying the gear for these reviews! 


What motivated you to choose this lens?

I rented a package from BorrowLenses, which included several items that I've never used before. Most of my photographic work is landscapes so the name "Landscape Package" had me intrigued. The 16-35mm f/2.8L lens was just icing on the cake (very, very nice icing at that).

I’ve never used an L series lens before let alone such a wide angle lens with such a wide aperture so it was definitely a treat to have such a nice lens in my camera bag.

What lenses of this type do you normally shoot with?

Lenses I currently use that are similar in range to the Canon 16-35mm are:

•  Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6

• Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6


What did you like about this lens?

Everything. I was thrilled. But that’s a horrible review so I should admit that I wasn’t as excited to use this lens as I was to use the other items I rented. I knew it was a superb lens and that it’s gotten lots of good reviews and so on but I’ve really been quite happy with the performance of my Sigma 10-20mm and haven’t felt the need for another wide angle lens. The faster aperture (f/2.8 constant vs f/4-5.6 on my Sigma) definitely had me intrigued, especially for night/star shots but really, my expectation for how I would feel about this lens was “Oh yeah, it’s definitely a nice lens, but I already have a wide angle and this one isn’t better enough to justify buying it.”I could not have been more wrong.

My Sigma is an ultra wide and intended for use on APS-C size sensors, so the crop factor doesn’t affect the image as much as other lenses, giving an incredibly wide field of view. As much as I like the wide angle perspective, I occasionally find this ultra wide view to be too wide, even at 20mm. The Canon 16-35mm is designed to work with full frame sensors as well so the 1.6x crop factor applies to images taken with this lens on my 7D.

With that, this lens perfectly fit a perspective that’s been missing from my camera bag. It wasn’t always wide enough to fit what I wanted, but was perfect for images that needed to be wide, but not ultra-wide.

I’m absolutely not an expert in lens sharpness or measuring and comparing it to other lenses so I won’t try faking it (I’m sure there’s plenty of reviews and comparisons dealing with those factors out there on the web if that’s what you’re looking for). In comparing images taken with the 16-35mm lens and my normal 10-20mm, the ones from the 16-35mm are definitely sharper throughout. The autofocus on this lens (and the 8-15mm as well) was incredibly quick. Much faster than I’m used to and the ultrasonic motor was so quiet I had to double check more than once that autofocus had actually worked because I didn’t hear it. I’m used to my lenses (they are of the less expensive variety after all) taking at least a little time to hunt for focus in high contrast situations and I can hear the AF motor going while it searches. That just wasn’t the case with this lens and it was a nice change.

As I said, I was intrigued with the f/2.8 aperture on the wide angle lens and it definitely came in handy for the image above. At f/2.8, I was able to use a lower ISO to capture the static stars above the valley instead of streaking star trails. I certainly could have captured the static stars at f/4 with my Sigma 10-20mm lens, but I would have had to push my ISO higher than I would like to achieve a short enough exposure time. With the 16-35mm I was able to shoot at 1600 ISO (which yields extremely manageable noise levels on the 7D) with an exposure time of 10 seconds, avoiding all but the smallest of trails on the stars.

What didn’t you like about the Canon 16-35mm lens?

There really isn’t much to not like about this lens. If I absolutely had to find something wrong with the lens, I would say it is heavy compared to my Sigma 10-20mm and it’s much more expensive.

The expense concerns me the most because I now feel the need to own this lens.

Are specific situations in which you’d use it?

The Canon 16-35mm, if I were to buy it, would probably become my standard “always-on-the-camera” lens. I just tend to see images better at the wide end of the spectrum and the perspective on this lens would fit perfectly with what I was visualizing. My Canon 55-250 is already a “backup” lens for when something in the distance catches my eye, and I could see my Sigma 10-20 becoming a “backup” lens to this one and only used when the scene I wanted to capture was a little too wide for the 16-35.

Would you buy it?

Oh how I enjoyed shooting with the Canon 16-35mm. Oh how I would love to give it a home in my camera bag. I loved the perspective the lens offered, I loved the f/2.8 aperture once the stars came out and was blown away by the image quality so of course I want this lens. Sadly, based on how much money my photography adds to my overall household budget (which is approximately $3.21/year due to my total lack of desire to market my work) I don’t see a $1700 lens becoming a part of my regular kit. If I win the lotto, this will probably be my first purchase (or at least a part of my first purchase). In the meantime, I’ve heard good things about Sigma’s 18-35 f/1.8 lens and at less that half the price, that may be the lens that ends up in my camera bag instead of Canon’s. If that does happen though, the 16-35mm f/2.8L will still always hold a special place in my camera bag.


Who's Chris?

I’m just a guy that loves my job as a SmugMug QA Tester and loves to get out in nature to capture the beauty of it with a camera. (And the fact that my job also involves my hobby, just makes me love it even more.) As a photographer I would say that I’m daring and adventurous, in a “Let’s-take-thousands-of-photos-and-not-process-any-of-them” kind of way, because more often than not I would rather go out and capture more images than sit and process the ones I already have sitting on my hard drive.

I’m definitely not a gear guy. Of course I care about the quality of my equipment, but I’m not about to start paying attention to every minute detail of my equipment or every spec that most review sites throw at their readers. I care about my equipment being able to capture the scene and being able to represent the feeling I had while I was there. I’ve often found that I’m able to do that with the “budget” camera kit I own. 

I would much rather use perfectly good equipment instead of incredibly good equipment and put the money saved towards trips to great photographic locations. With the right light and location I was able to capture some great images with just a Canon XTi and an old Tamron 19-35mm wide angle lens my dad found on eBay for me. And to this day that camera/lens combo still dominates the images on my SmugMug site. So I definitely believe it’s best to be in the right location with camera gear you know how to use than to just buy the most shiniest, expensive equipment you can find.


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