I purchased the Canon 17-40 mm lens in October of 2013. If you look in my gallery you will see that I tend to shoot pretty wide open on the focal length. I own a telephoto, but I pride myself in my wide angle lens selection. In October, I wanted more than what my 24-105 mm could offer.
First, I must preface this article with my camera, because this lens will have varying effects based on your camera whether it is a crop sensor or a full frame (Canon 5D Mark II & III and the 6D). All of these images were shot with the Canon 6D.
Focal Length Equivalent
Hands down I have to say this lens is incredible! In my line of work (landscape photography) it is a must! I have used many wide angle lenses in my career and find this one to be one of the best. It, of course, has quite a bit of distortion on the 17mm side, but what wide angle lens wouldn’t? I have come up with several ways to overcome the distortion in post processing so I do not lose the magic of a sweeping landscape at a wide open focal length like 17mm. One of those ways can be seen at the end of this review.
Since October of last year I think I may have only done 3 lens swaps! This has become my go-to lens because I know no matter what I am going to get something awesome at the end of the shutter click. Especially at low angles, like the image below.
The difference between the 17-40 and the 16-35:
It took me quite a bit of time to settle on the 17-40 as I was battling with the idea of the 16-35mm. Anyone who has looked into the Canon Wide Angle line knows that these two lenses are very close in focal length, but the 16-35 is twice as expensive. The major factor in the price difference is the aperture. The 17-40mm has a maximum aperture of f/4.0, while the 16-35mm boasts a beautiful f/2.8! However, the 17-40 comes in at just under $900 on Amazon, while the 16-35mm is around $1700.
I tossed around the idea of the 16-35 for quite some time. When I say quite some time, I mean it took me nearly 3 months to decide. I did a ton of research! I found a lot of helpful advice from Ken Rockwell, if you have never checked out his reviews I highly recommend them. Since I did not have the luxury of shooting with both lenses I was really at the mercy of my research and the knowledge of my camera to determine which one I should purchase.
Why I decided to go with the 17-40mm lens
After reading about both extensively on many forums and Ken Rockwell’s site, I determined 3 things.
The first was that 1 mm may not be that big of a difference on a full frame camera. My initial thought about that one extra millimeter was that I would probably just find more distortion there and would need to do more work in post processing to get it precisely where I wanted it. Wide Angle lenses produce so wicked distortion, especially on straight lines like buildings and interiors. It is easy to fix after the fact if you own Photoshop, it is just one more step you have to take.
The second thought (which was more like a novel in my head) was the maximum aperture difference, precisely, the difference between a whole stop. I battled with the f/2.8 and f/4.0 difference for hours and finally determined that with the ISO technology in the Canon 6D, I could very easily double my ISO to make up for the aperture difference. Sure, I would miss out on any bokeh that the extra f-stop would offer, but you can always fake it till you make it in Photoshop right?
The third thing that was an added bonus, but not a necessity, was that it has the same 77mm threads as my 24-105mm. Any photographer knows that filters and lens accessories can get pretty pricey. However, if the accessory can be used on multiple lenses, then you get the most bang for your buck! I also own the Lee Big Stopper with the setup for a 77mm lens and it is nice that both lens can share the pleasure of the Big Stopper!
If you are anything like me, you are probably seeing this review because you are trying to determine which lens to sell your soul to. I have had nothing but success with this lens and would buy it again in a heartbeat. This is a great lens and well worth the money for any landscape or interior architecture photographer.
Although, if I had the $1700 to drop without any buyers remorse, I would probably have gone with the 16-35mm. However, the price difference is about 31 large boxes of diapers, you can see where my priorities lie. I can only imagine how much of a beast it is if the 17-40 is such a miracle worker.
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