Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens – Product Description:
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Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens – Review:
MODEST IMPROVEMENT MOSTLY FOR FULL FRAME USERS!
I have owned both this and the original version. The new lens is better in the corners and flares less but the corners are still a little soft at f2.8 and you can get the lens to flare a little if you try. I haven’t seen the loss of clarity above 20mm that others reported. Perhaps you would see a slight difference in eyelashes if you did a lot of portraits but this is probably not the best choice for a portrait lens. It is a somewhat better lens for shooting landscapes and other shots where edge to edge clarity is important.
But the differences between the two versions are minor and in some instances irrelevant. If you don’t shoot a full frame camera the soft edges don’t appear in the photo. And flare is a minimal issue at most. It rarely appears and is easy to fix in Photoshop if it does. I would opt for the original if I didn’t shoot full frame based on the price difference alone.
My only problem with the original was when I had to shoot hand held. Sometimes you can’t bring a tripod along which rules out shooting at f16 or 22 so I occasionally ended up with shots that were soft in some of the edges. The new lens will solve that. That is the only reason I decided to upgrade.
I haven’t used many other lenses in the same range so I can’t compare quality with other makers but I’m not aware of anything reputed to be better. I have Canon primes as well as other Canon zooms and in actual use all are generally close in quality. I use the primes if possible when I plan to crop or enlarge a lot but I could still get by nicely with the zooms.
So, if you shoot less than full frame or if price is an issue, get the original. If you shoot full frame but need maximum clarity in the center (portraits for example), test both versions first. If you shoot full frame and need maximum edge to edge clarity, go with the new lens.
Update: Having shot this lens for a long period I would discount the comments about problems above 20mm. I owned the first version as well and I don’t see a difference in the 20mm to 35mm range. On the contrary, I am increasingly impressed with the image quality and sharpness of this lens throughout the range. I recently used it into a very narrow slot canyon where I couldn’t take more than the camera and the lens attached to it and took shots from 16mm up to 35mm that all came out very sharp and rich. Granted I wasn’t shooting wide open because I needed lots of depth of field but the point is the lens delivered the best shots of that trip. In terms of versatility, this lens is unmatched for wide angle use by Canon owners. I also have the 14mm f2.8 II, 17mm f4. TS/E and 15mm fisheye for comparison. This is the one wide angle lens I always take along.