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surf monkey wrote:
From what I've tested, read about and heard, the lenses are quite similar in performance.
The big difference besides the wider FL and extra stop is the size.
The 16-35 is not only longer and heavier, but it has an 82mm filter thread.
In general, the small differences are:
1) The 16-35vII is a bit "better" on the wide end and the 17-40 is a bit better on the long end.
2) Generally the 16-35 has better corner resolution.
3) The 16-35 has slightly less distortion on the wide end, which is quite pronounced on both.
4) The 16-35 has less CA and vignetting.
I'll disagree with #1
#2 is true at f/2.8 and f/4, but not really the case at smaller apertures where the 17-40 performs very well. (This goes back to the point about, to generalize, the 17-40 being a great landscape lens and the 16-35 being a great handheld, low-light lens.) The 17-40 seems to marginally outresolve the 16-35 in the center of the frame, though perhaps not in a way that most would find significant.
#3 Basically, both ultra wide zooms deal with certain kinds of "distortion" at the wide end, though you could be thinking of a range of different things, some of which can be corrected in post.
#4 is related to #2 and really only applies at the f/2.8 and f/4 apertures.
The 17-40 is less prone to flare.
As I always write, both are fine lenses. Neither is perfect - what lens is? Either one could be the "best" choice for a particular photographer depending upon his/her needs and approach to photography. And if you shoot a cropped sensor body, there are better options than either of these - in particular the EFS 17-55mm f/2.8 IS.
surf monkey wrote:
Another consideration is the camera the lens will be used on.
The OP's profile shows the 5D, which has a lower pixel density than most DSLRs.
This will be a factor whether or not the corner resolution of the 17-40 will be satisfactory.
It's the higher pixel density of the 5D2/5D3 that shows the lack of sharpness/contrast in the corners.
Many outdoor photogs have used the 17-40 to great effect, especially with the 5D.
The camera it will be used on is really not an issue in this context. The lenses will produce the same resolution in photographic prints at a given size regardless, and all of these cameras (all flavors of 5D) have sensors that can exceed the corner resolution of these lenses.
It is also important to understand that the corner softness issue of the 17-40 is at its largest aperture. If you shoot a lot of handheld ultrawide stuff on full frame cameras, this is probably a very good reason to consider the 16-35 since is primary virtue is its corner performance wide open. However, if you mostly use an ultrawide from the tripod and tend to stop down for deep DOF (a pretty common reason to use an ultra wide in landscape photography, for example) then there is no corner softness issue here, and the lens performs well across the frame.
You are correct about the number of outdoor photographers who regard the 17-40 as one of their core lenses if not the core lens in their kit. One acquaintance of mine who is well known for his work (and teaching and writing) in a very popular western national park shoots essentially all of his work with this lens and the 70-200mm f/4. (He reports that he shares my preference for the 70-200 as our favorite landscape lens, but also says that when he thinks more about it, he probably sells more prints that were shot with the 17-40.)
Edited on Aug 15, 2012 at 06:36 PM · View previous versions