Canon 16-35 F4 Review vs. 17-40 Shootout


Canon 16-35 F4 IS Review Overview

The Canon 16-35 F4 IS is Canon’s newest Ultra-Wide Angle Zoom with F4, Image Stabilization and like the 17-40, has an all-internal focusing design.

The 16-35’s optical design incorporates new optical elements, image stabilization and more. But does all of this actually translate into significantly better performance over the Canon 17-40 F4 in the real world as the marketers at Canon would have you believe? That’s what this review is all about.

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Key Features

  • F4 to F22
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • USM AF Motor
  • Full-Time Manual Focusing
  • L-series Weather-sealing (with UV filter)
  • Nine Round-Bladed Circular Aperture
  • MFD of 11″
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Canon’s official verbatim feature list:

  • High performance L-series ultra-wide zoom lens in a compact design and Optical Image Stabilizer for up to four stops of correction.
  • Three aspheric lens elements, including a large-diameter aspheric lens, help correct aberration.
  • Two UD lens elements help reduce chromatic aberration from the center to the periphery throughout the entire zoom range for excellent image quality with high resolution and contrast.
  • Optimized lens coatings help provide excellent color balance while also helping to minimize ghosting.
  • Highly resistant to dust and water intrusion, enabling shooting even in harsh conditions**.
  • Inner focusing and ring USM for silent, fast and accurate autofocusing.
  • Circular aperture (9 blades) delivers beautiful, soft backgrounds.
  • Minimum focusing distance of 0.92 ft/0.28m across entire zoom range.
  • Full-time manual focus allows manual focus adjustment while in AF Mode.

MTF Chart

Canon 16-35mm F4 IS MTF Chart Sharpness Test

Tech Specs

Focal Length 16 – 35mm
Aperture Maximum: f/4
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Canon EF
Format Compatibility 35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
Angle of View 108° 10′ – 63°
Minimum Focus Distance 11.02″ (28 cm)
Magnification 0.23x
Elements/Groups 16/12
Diaphragm Blades 9, Rounded


Filter Thread Front:77 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.25 x 4.44″ (82.6 x 112.8 mm)
Weight 1.35 lb (615 g)

16-35 F4 User Manual

Click here to download the Canon 16-35mm F4 IS User Manual PDF

Canon-16-35mm-F4-IS-Review-Hands-On-vs-17-40-sharpness-design-11-back-of-lensDownload 35.7GB of Canon 16-35 F4 Images & Video

Due to all of the images on the internets being highly compressed and optimized, and simply because you’re awesome, I have uploaded a majority of the images that are in this review. If you’re reading this review you’re probably interested in knowing what the optical performance of this lens is like, and there’s no better way to determine that for yourself than to see hi-res images captured with the lens at actual size on your computer.

In the past when I’ve uploaded hi-res images for reviews and photographers loved them, but I’ve gotten quite a few emails asking for different filetypes, so this time around I’ve uploaded original RAW files (.CR2/.ARW), 16-bit TIFFs, DNGs and Original Size JPEGs.

A majority of the tests were shot with a Sony A7R, simply due to the 36MP sensor. With nearly double the available resolution of my Canon 6D and 5D3, I’m able to deliver to you incredibly clean 100% close-up images that are almost twice the size – unencumbered by a low-pass filter. This is review is based on my hands-on experience and results – results that you can download and confirm for yourself.

Canon 16-35mm F4 IS vs Canon 17-40mm F4 Review Side-by-side sharpness test6-Section Review

1. Optical Performance: Sharpness Shootout Part 1

In the first part of the Sharpness Shootout I’ll present the first set of results between the 16-35 F4 vs. 17-40. We’ll dive into center-to-corner sharpness, chromatic aberration and more to see which performs best in the center of the image, and at the extreme corners.

2. Optical Performance: Sharpness Shootout Part 2

In the second part of the Sharpness Shootout I’ll present the second set of results between the 16-35 F4 and 17-40, focusing on sharpness at various F-numbers throughout the focal range to determine at which focal lengths and F-number combinations resolve sharpest.

3. Optical Performance: Landscape Photography

Ultra-Wide Angle Zooms are undoubtedly more essential to landscape photography than any other niche. Although still a complete amateur when it comes to shooting landscapes, in this section I’ll present to you images that I captured in landscapes, from the sea to the mountains, throughout the USA. This section is all about real-world test results from 16mm to 24mm, and I’ll present results for sharpness, color renditionchromatic aberration, thoughts on how it handles for landscape photographers and more.

4. Optical Performance: Travel Photography

Here I’ll present results from images taken with the Canon 16-35 F4 IS on my journeys throughout China and Hong Kong to see how it performs as a travel and street photography lens – without a tripod. I’ll also share my completely unsolicited thoughts on the use and function of this lens without a tripod while using Autofocus and Image Stabilization. I’ve included results on what you might be able to expect using IS, and even some photographs that can only be captured critically sharp with the use of IS at better exposure settings than otherwise possible.

5. Design & Build Quality

After 10,000 shots with the 16-35 F4 and close to a quarter million from the 17-40, I’ll lay down some thoughts on the design of this lens, materials, construction quality, weather-sealing, image stabilization and other features worth mentioning, and how thoughts on how they may different in both good and bad ways from the 17-40.

6. Conclusion

Skip to the conclusion if you only have 60 seconds or less – here I’ll distill all the details down into my completely unsolicited opinion of the 16-35 F4, why you might want to buy it, or skip it altogether.

Canon 16-35mm F4 IS Autofocus USM
What’s an Ultra-Wide Angle Zoom Anyways?

Ultra Wide angle zooms have been an essential tools for photojournalists and landscape photographers ever since the early 1990’s. Expansive landscapes, ease of operation in tight quarters and small lens construction are hallmarks of Ultra Wide Angle Zooms.

On a 1.6x crop factor camera 16mm translates roughly into 25mm – not so wide. So if you’re a cropped sensor user interested in ultra-wide angle zooms, you should know upfront that the 16-35 F4 is not your best choice for going super wide. Look for a cropped-sensor specific wide-angle lens. Although it won’t likely resolve as sharp as an L-series lens, it’ll give you the field of view you’re looking for.


Note: to prevent reader fatigue from this point forward I’ll refer to the Canon EF 16-35 F4 IS L simply as 16-35 F4 and the Canon EF 17-40mm F4 L simply as 17-40. (If Canon ever releases a 16-35 F4 non-IS, I’ll come back and update this review!)


Canon 16-35 F4 Review Overview

Optical Performance: Sharpness Shootout Part 1

Optical Performance: Sharpness Shootout Part 2

Optical Performance: Landscape Photography

Optical Performance: Travel Photography

Design & Build Quality






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45 Comments on “Canon 16-35 F4 Review vs. 17-40 Shootout

  1. Fantastic review Graham! Very thorough and well produced. I upgraded from the 17-40 to the 16-35 shortly after release, and I agree with your findings…. it’s a fantastic lens.

  2. Loved your review Graham! Thanks for delivering all the important details in a very efficient manner. Confirms what I had hoped to hear about the 16-35 f4 and definitely keeps it on my radar.

  3. Great review, Graham. Love the detail and comparisons. Quick question – do you keep your UV filter on your lens all the time, even when using a graduated ND filter? I always thought you should remove the UV filter when shooting with a GND for best results. Thanks.

    • Hey Dan, thanks!

      I don’t, I remove the UV filter when using ND filters, so as to reduce the chance of vignetting.


  4. Thank you Graham, extremely helpful review of those two lenses. I had a lot of questions regarding this lenses, but now you answered them! Keep up. Thanks again, great job!

  5. Graham,

    Your expertise shines again! Very through job on the review.

    Of course the up coming Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC may be heating up things for the new Canon 16-35……..hope you get a copy and do a review on it.

    • Thanks so much! Glad that you could find it useful.

      as for the Tamron, i’d be interested in getting a copy to take a look at. However the F2.8 doesn’t look ideal from a weight standpoint.


  6. Great review! It’s now on my list.
    If you would, I’d like to know what adapters were used to mount the Canon lens to the SonyA7R.

    • Hey Don,

      Thanks! Glad that you could at least find it useful.

      The Metabones III – which is a decent one, far from perfect.


  7. Very good review, useful, real-world info, and I appreciate that you’ve made a lot of pictures with it before posting your overall thoughts on it. Thank you for all the good work you put in this and thanks for posting!

    I recently bought a used 17-40, as the 16-35 F4 is financially out of my reach. In theory I’d have chosen it anyway over the 16-35 F4 for my amateur photography because I don’t need perfection, and the extra reach (40mm) helps me settle with a 2-lens kit (together with the 70-200 L IS) for my Canon 6D.


  8. Another very useful review. I bought my sony a7r after your review and love the IQ with my canon 24-70 2 & 70-200 2 Thanks!

    • I have a Sony r 7 and cannon 70-200 lense can you suggest me an suitable adaptor

      • Metabones III is widely used & it has worked well for me.

      • Hey Madhavi,

        Sorry for the late response I’m on the road traveling.

        The metabones III as Richard recommended is what I use. It’s pretty bad but there’s nothing else better (that I have been able to find) unfortunately.


  9. Hello Graham, I just bought this lens and wanted to ask if when the IS is on a noise is heard. I recorded the sound on youtube, so you can hear better. I do not know if it is normal or is damaged. Noise/sound is heard when focusing and 2 seconds later.Thank you very much.

    • Hey! I also bought this lens, and have exactly the same sound. This is IS turns on/off. I noticed it yesterday evening, while at home, in quiet. I tried two copies of this lens while in store, but I cannot remember this sound, may be IS was off… So, I’ll go check another copy today. However, from what I read in the web it is normal, just strange I do not remember it straight from the beginning.

      • Ok, If you do not mind, then you tell me what happened. Many thanks mate.

      • So, I went to the store and check the second copy. It makes the same sound :)

  10. Hi Graham……. Great review. I appreciate the time and effort! From an architectural photography POV, specifically interiors, how might you compare these two lenses? I do a fare amount of stitching interior images together, wondering how the edge sharpness might affect these results (or not).

    Thanks again!


  11. Very good video and excellent shots! After reviewing this and being honest about my non-professional intentions, this helped me go with the 17-40. Not that the 16-35 isn’t an amazing lens, but rather this shows that my extra $600 could likely be spent elsewhere. I’m curious why you tested the lenses at F22 considering that DLA plays a part in the IQ. Why not cap it at F11?
    Lastly, any chance you intend to test the upcoming Tamron 15-30 2.8? With your Lee Filter set up that could be an absolute dream pairing.

  12. I’m not very technically proficient in photography, but I understood practically everything you said. I felt not only that I got a great review of the lens, but also great pointers on areas to be more aware of and to learn more about. Wonderful.

  13. Great review! What do you recommend for weddings? 2.8 or the lens you reviewed f4? All i care about is the center sharpness – but the f2.8 L II versios has a huge gap from 20-30 mm is not so sharp, even in the center. What do you think? Thanks again for this great review!

    • I don’t know anything about wedding photography other than that all the working wedding photographers I know live by the Canon 24-70 2.8 and 50 1.2 or 85 1.2


  14. Hi Graham, greetings from sunny Manchester. Thanks for a great review and excellent, balanced comments. I’ve been looking at getting into some landscape photography and a few of the guys from my Camera Club suggested both these. Cost wise I suspect the 17-40 might get the edge as I want to get the 100mm 2.8L Macro too at some point too.

    Interestingly the Pro wedding Photographer who did my niece’s wedding stuck with the 24-70L and the 17-40 and the quality of the images for the group shots with 17-40 was superb.

    I look forward to having a look at your other videos now.

  15. I plan to use the “Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II (Tilt/Shift, obviously). Is it possible that this Lens, with the Metabones Adaptor, would function effectively on a Sony 7r ? || Your Total Presentation is “1st Class”, Of course, in addition to your excellent Photography.

  16. Great video. Thank you so much for researching and explaining what you’ve found! I am not a tech-savy photographer and I learn a lot from your videos..and of course your photos are stunning.

  17. which filter you used for that lense one more thing which is good for my 70d (24 70 f4 or 16 35 f4 )looking for l lense

  18. Graham, thanks for the great review. Just what I needed to read before buying. I went with the cheaper 16-35. Most of my work is in the studio.

  19. Thanks for the great review, i bought the 16-35mm 2.8 mkii which also a good lens i would like to see a comparison of the F4 and the F2.8