When I upgraded to a full frame camera the first lens I had to buy was a replacement for my excellent Canon 10-22 wide angle, and naturally my lens of choice was the Canon 16mm – 35mm.
I had toyed with getting the Canon 16mm – 35mm to use on my crop sensor Canon dslr in the past, however since I wanted to go ultra-wide and I could not do this with the 16mm – 35mm the only real choice was the Canon 10 – 22, which is what I ended up buying.
When I was toying with buying the Canon 16mm – 35mm lens there was only one variant and that was the F2.8L. However, times have moved on (obviously) and there is now another variant of the Canon 16mm – 35mm L series lens, and that is the F4L IS. Double the choice means twice the headache in deciding which lens to buy, and that is exactly what it was. One big headache.
At the end of the day both the F2.8L and the F4L IS are awesome lenses that can capture high quality photos that are more than good enough for commercial purposes, and you won’t be disappointed with either of them. Being L series lenses both of these lenses are weather sealed, tough and durable, and able to withstand any abuse you (and Mother Nature) wishes to throw at them. Both of these lenses are work horse lenses and are suitable for professional use. This is all well and good but trying to decide between them was a real chore.
After a lot of research, reading, visiting the local camera shop to feel and hold each of these lenses as well as taking some test shots, and deliberation the lens I chose was the Canon 16mm – 35mm F4L IS lens and I know for sure it was the right decision, and the reasons are……….
When I was reading up on the two lenses I read somewhere, and more than once I might add, that the image quality of the F4L Is was better than the F2.8L. To be honest, I found this hard to believe because I knew from a few years back that the image quality of the F2.8L is outstanding, and I was struggling to see how it can be bettered, however I can confirm the image quality of the F4L IS is better than that of the F2.8L and the test shots I took with both lenses on my 6D show this. The difference is marginal, you have to go pixel peeping to see it and the real world it won’t matter (i.e. you won’t get any disgruntled clients using the F2.8L) but there is a difference, and the F4L IS has superior image quality.
Size and weight
The F2L is beast of a lens. It is big, it is heavy and it is cumbersome. The F4l IS in comparison is smaller, lighter and more manageable for handheld shots. You may not think the size and weight is an issue, after all it is designed for landscapes and seascapes where a tripod is used right? Well, I use my F4L IS for taking interior handheld shots (in places where tripods aren’t allowed) and I also use it for wide angle street photography (where tripods are totally impractical) therefore the size and weight is an issue for me, and the F4L IS wins here.
I appreciate image stabilisation isn’t needed for taking landscape and seascape shots using a tripod, but for hand held shots it is a useful feature. Given I wanted a wide angle lens for taking hand held shots too (interior photography, wide angle street photography and group portrait photography) the image stabilisation found in the F4L IS crucial for me.
Let’s face it – money talks, and whilst I was prepared to shell out a lot of money on the F2.8L the F4L IS is a cheaper option, which makes it top value for money.
The obvious advantage of the F2.8L over the F4L IS is the wider maximum aperture. Shooting landscapes and seascapes this is a mute point as I never use aperture wider than F8, and even then I tend to use narrower ones. The aperture does have an impact on using the lens for portraits though.
For group portraits the 2.8 aperture is too wide to get everyone in focus, but for individual portraits the 2.8 aperture is nice to throw the background out of focus. It is possible to do this using f4 however you do need more space between the subject and the background, and this isn’t always possible. One way to overcome this is to use a photography background but, again, this s not always suitable either, and in many cases this is impossible. Fortunately, I have other lenses I use for portraits so I don’t miss the 2.8 aperture.
I have had people say to me but what about interiors and low light? Surely the F4 isn’t wide enough? My response to this is Image stabilisation. The 4 stop image stabilisation on the F4L IS works very well and allows sharp handheld shots at slower shutter speeds. For the types of photography I use the F4L IS for I really don’t need the 2.8 aperture, and I am sure there are other photographers who don’t need it either.
If you are torn between the Canon 16mm – 35mm F2.8L and the Canon 16mm – 35mm F4L IS go and buy the F4L IS unless you need the 2.8 aperture for portraits that is. The F4L IS is smaller and lighter, has image stabilisation, has better images quality (only slightly, but it is still superior) and it is significantly cheaper than the F2.8L. The F4L IS is a no brainer and if you gives the biggest bang for the buck, and we all want value for money right?
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.