Canon EF 16-35mm F4 L IS USM Review and Samples

Brand new to Canon’s L lineup, the EF 16-35mm F4 L IS USM is a stocky addition promising improved sharpness in a slightly-weighty package.

Shooting with the Canon EF 16-35mm F4 L IS USMcanon ef16 35 lens

This lens is designed for Canon’s full-frame DSLRs.  If it’s unparalleled image quality you’re after, and not necessarily a super wide lens, it could still make an excellent companion to any Canon DSLR with a cropped sensor.  For the sake of this review, though, I matched it up with a Canon 5D Mark III and took to the streets of Midtown, heading over to Times Square to see this sharpness for myself.

The first thing that strikes me about this lens is the weight – it’s lighter than the 16-35mm F2.8 L, but heavier than the 17-40mm F4 L.  It feels like a lens should, but may not be portable enough for everyone.

The IS

One of the biggest features on this lens is the Image Stabilization, making it the first of Canon’s wide-angle zoom lenses to sport such a feature.  Obviously, this makes a difference for handheld, low-light shooting.  If you plan on slapping this puppy on a tripod (which would not be such a horrible idea, given the weight), the IS seems a little superfluous.


Holy F Stops, Batman!  Starting at F4 and working my way up to F8, I was flabbergasted at how sharp my images are.  While the bulk of my samples were street work, it was nice to see detail close in, across the frame and well into the corners.  For daylight shooting, F8 is the perfect aperture.  For less light, F4 is still workable, but a little hectic.  Aperture performance is going to hinge on the intended use of the EF 16-35mm F4 L IS USM, which brings us to our next point…

Who It’s For

Not everyone is going to love this lens.  Ain’t that always the case?  Canon is essentially courting two groups of photographers with this lens – architecture or landscape junkies, and  street photographers.

Those shooting architecture and landscapes will love the lens, and will find it most useful at F8 smack-dab on a tripod mount.  IS won’t need to be there, but it will probably be a welcome feature.

Street photographers, on the other hand, will find themselves shuffling between F4 and F8 depending on the aperture needed, and for night shooters, that IS is going to make a world of difference.  The convenience of having your standard focal lengths right there at your fingertips only sweetens the deal.

Who Should Buy It

Not sport photographers.  Sorry dudes, but you guys already have the 16-35mm f/2.8 L, and it gives you faster performance when you use that wide, wide aperture.  Instead, this lens is ideal for street work, architecture, and landscapes, and might be of interest to anyone already invested in the 16-35mm f/2.8 L, but who also might want sharper results.