Canon 16-35 f4 L IS

Test shot with Canon 16-35 f4 L IS in the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields

London. 08 December 2015 Test shot with Canon 16-35 f4 L IS in the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields Photo: Neil Turner

A couple of months ago I cracked and bought the Canon 16-35 f4 L IS lens to replace my very elderly 16-35 f2.8L having borrowed both this one and the f2.8L MkII to see what all the fuss was about. I shoot quite a few pictures of buildings and having a 16mm lens is very useful – especially when the space is really tight.

My old 16-35 and just about every other super-wide lens I have ever used has suffered from barrel distortion, been less than pin sharp in the corners and generally required a bit of work to get great pictures that are as free from distortion as possible.

I was on a job last night in a tight space where the 16-35 f4 L IS was being pressed into service to do shots of an empty venue before an event. I hadn’t brought a tripod because I hadn’t expected to be doing these shots but I did my best with what I had. The photo above was taken hand-held at 1/60th of a second at f4 on 2500 ISO with the IS switched on with a Canon EOS5D MkIII. I have applied no correction to the uprights and the frame is un-cropped at 16mm focal length. 

It was dark down there and the white balance did need a subtle tweak but apart from that this frame demonstrates just how little barrel distortion (can you see any?) this lens has even at 16mm and it also demonstrates how good the image stabilisation is.

The 16-35 f4 L IS isn’t a perfect lens. It’s quite large for what it does and whether or not the maximum aperture of f4 is accurate is something I am still thinking about (my gut reaction is that it is actually 1/3rd of a stop slower than it claims). The lens hood seems to jump off a little too often for my liking (maybe that’s the way I carry it) and my brand new lens has quite a stiff zoom action compared to an equally new 70-200 f4 L IS.

Those niggles apart my verdict is that this is a brilliant lens and more than a match for the f2.8 MkII one that I was otherwise looking at buying. It may not be the hard news lens that the faster lens undoubtedly is but for all other uses and for anyone who doesn’t need to shoot at f2.8 I’d say that this is a better option and represents way better value for money.

How rugged it will turn out to be isn’t something that I can answer yet but the signs are good because it feels really solid and there are no exposed moving parts to get filled with dust.

The addition of this lens to my bag means that I now have a set of f4 zooms and I am very happy with all three of them. Anyone want to get me a 200-400 f4 L IS to complete THE set?

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