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Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens Review

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the second version of a 16-35mm zoom lens from Canon featuring a fast constant aperture of f/2.8.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
Price : £1,119
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
This second version of a 16-35mm zoom lens from Canon features a fast constant aperture of f/2.8, weather sealed construction, virtually silent ultrasonic focusing with full time manual override. It costs around £1120 and promises to produce higher quality images at the wide end than its predecessor.

The only similar third party offering available for Canon cameras at present is Tokina's 16-28mm f/2.8 AT-X optic, which costs around £895 but lacks weather sealed construction and full time manual focus override. Instead the manual focus ring can be moved back and forth to quickly engage or disengage manual focusing. The front element on this lens protrudes within a permanent metal hood, so filters cannot be used on this lens. Due to the lower price it looks like a very interesting alternative, if the performance is up to scratch.

Here we'll take a look at how this ultra wide offering from Canon performs.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM: Handling and features

Weighing 640g, this lens isn't overly heavy for a lens with a constant f/2.8 aperture. High quality material have been used in the construction of the barrel so the lens feel reassuringly solid as a result. A rubber gasket is located around the mount, in order to keep dust and moisture from getting inside the camera.

The front filter thread is 82mm in diameter, which may be a little awkward for those who've already invested in 77mm filters for other professional lenses in Canon's range. Focus is performed internally, so the lens doesn't extend and the front filter thread doesn't rotate, making the use of polarising filters a pleasure.

Zooming is smooth with just enough friction for it to stay where you place it in the range, but light enough for swift and accurate image composition. The manual focus ring is well damped, which makes accurate focus adjustments easy.

Focusing is quick and accurate and virtually silent on the EOS 5D MkII used for testing. A minimum focusing distance of 0.28m is handy for exploiting the distortion effects of a wide angle lens.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM: Performance

Wide open at 16mm the sharpness in the centre is already excellent at f/2.8 and improves further as the lens is stopped down as far as f/4, where it's performance in the centre is outstanding. The quality towards the edges lags behind a little, but should still be good enough at wider apertures to please most. Peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/5.6 where the sharpness in the centre is outstanding, and very good towards the edges of the frame.

At 24mm, the lens' performance is much the same as at 16mm, with excellent centre sharpness from wide open and the quality towards the edges improving as the lens is stopped down. At this focal length, peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/8, where the quality approaches excellent levels towards the edges.

Finally at 35mm, the same characteristic of excellent resolution in the centre is repeated, but the quality towards the edges at wide apertures has fallen away a little when compared to shorter focal lengths. As before, the sharpness across the frame improves as the lens is stopped down and peak quality across the frame is now achieved at f/11, where the sharpness in the centre is excellent, and the quality towards the edges is very good.

Chromatic aberrations are kept within acceptable levels. On the EOS 5D MkII used for testing, Imatest detected fringing of 1.19 pixel widths near the edge of the frame, at 16mm which shouldn't pose too many issues. This level should only become apparent in very large prints, or harsh crops taken from the edges of the frame.

Resolution at 16mm Resolution at 24mm
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Resolution at 16mm Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Resolution at 24mm
Resolution at 35mm

How to read our graphs

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Canon EOS 5D MkII using Imatest.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Resolution at 35mm

For an ultra-wide lens, falloff of illumination towards the corners is well controlled. At 16mm and f/2.8 the corners are 1.92 stops darker than the image centre. Visually uniform illumination is achieve at f/5.6 for this focal length. At 35mm the level of vignetting drops dramatically, with the corners only being 0.738 darker than the image centre at f/2.8 and visually uniform illumination being achieved at f/4.

Chromatic Aberrations at 16mm Chromatic Aberrations at 24mm
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Chromatic Aberrations at 16mm Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Chromatic Aberrations at 24mm
Chromatic Aberrations at 35mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Canon EOS 5D MkII using Imatest.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Chromatic Aberrations at 35mm

Barrel distortion can be quite pronounced at 16mm with a level of 7.41% being detected by Imatest. At 35mm the barrelling is replace by very mild pincushion distortion of 0.337%. Luckily the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame throughout the zoom range, which should make it straightforward to correct in editing software afterwards.

Canon's Super-Spectra Coating does a decent job of controlling flare with light sources in, or just outside of the frame. Shooting directly into the light will result in a noticeable loss of contrast though, especially at wide apertures. The petal shaped hood that comes supplied does an excellent job of shielding the front element from extraneous light.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Maximum magnification   Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Bokeh
Maximum magnification – ISO200, 1/125, f/11, 35mm   Bokeh – ISO100, 1/400, f/4, 35mm
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM wide   Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM longest
ISO100, 1/400, f/8, 16mm   ISO100, 1/80, f/16, 35mm

DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM: Verdict

If this lens were to be judged on the performance in the centre of the frame alone I would have no hesitation in recommending this optic. It's not that the quality towards the edges is poor, especially not when the lens is stopped down, but that for me it is below my expectations for a lens at this level, and price point. With care and understand of its limitations, and for applications where absolute edge to edge sharpness isn't critical, this lens is certainly capable of yielding higher than satisfactory results.

The build quality and design is excellent, as I would expect from a Canon L series optic. The £1000 plus price tag is to be expected for an f/2.8 L series ultra-wide and it will be interesting to see how this fairs in terms of value when compared to the cheaper Tokina optic mentioned earlier.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM: Pros

Excellent weather sealed build
Outstanding resolution in the centre
Fast silent focusing
Focuses close
Takes screw-in filters

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM: Cons

Falloff in sharpness levels towards the edges.
Awkward 82mm filter size

FEATURES Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
HANDLING Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
PERFORMANCE Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
VALUE FOR MONEY Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
OVERALL Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM: Specification

Price £1120
Contact www.canon.co.uk
Filter size 82mm
Format Full-frame
Construction 16 elements in 12 groups
Angle-of-view 108º 10' - 63º
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body) 21-36mm
Internal focusing Yes
Image stabilisation No
Minimum focus 28cm
Maximum aperture f/2.8
Minimum aperture f/22
Weight 640g
Size (lxw) 88.5mm x 111.6mm
In the box LP1319 lens case, EW-88 lens hood, lens cap

The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM costs £1118.90 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

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Comments


15 Jun 2014 5:34PM
not sure why ephotozine tested the Tokina 16 to 28mm FX on a APS-C camera instead of FF, difficult to compare the results of the 2 when they were tested on different format cameras, and the Tokina FX should have been tested on a FF too.

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joshwa e2
4 600 United Kingdom
16 Jun 2014 9:31AM
Hi Jostian,

The 16-28mm was tested with a Nikon D700 (the EXIF data in the photos will confirm this) - however there was an error in the write up where we incorrectly said it was tested with a D300, the article has been updated:
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/tokina-at-x-16-28mm-f-2-8-pro-fx-lens-review-16537

Thanks
Josh

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