Canon 16-35 and 17-40 Side by Side Comparison

I have been using the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM for several years. I liked this lens a lot, especially its color and contrast. Unfortunately, I do not use flash and even for hand hold nature shots I frequently use polarizer and therefore I prefer faster lenses. As a result, the 17-40 usually stayed at home. I recently got Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM and kept them both for few weeks to compare.

Some data from the Canon web site:

Lens EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
Lens Construction 12 elements in 9 groups 16 elements in 12 groups
Diagonal Angle of View 104° – 57° 30′ 108°10′-63°
Closest Focusing Distance 0.28m / 0.9 ft. 0.92 ft./0.28m
Filter Size 77mm 82mm, P=0.75mm/1 filter
Max. Diameter x Length, Weight 3.3″ x 3.8″, 1.1 lb. / 83.5 x 96.8mm, 500g 3.5 in. x 4.4 in./88.5mm x 111.6mm, 640g

The Testing

I compared both lenses at on 35, 24 and 17mm at f/4, the widest opening of the 17-40 and f/8, which should be close to optimal on both lenses. I also looked at performance of the 16-35 at f/2.8 and briefly compared both lenses to the EF 35/1.4L. I shot everything in raw on Canon 5D and processed in Adobe Camera Raw with sharpening turned off.

The Results

Color and Contrast

The color and contrast are excellent with both lenses. Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM shows little bit more vignetting in comparison to the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM.

Sharpness – Pixel Peeping at 100%

Focal length Center Corners
17mm The performance of both lenses is about the same 16-35 is significantly better
24mm 16-35 is slightly better 16-35 is slightly better
35mm 16-35 is significantly better. The difference disappears at about f/8 The performance of both lenses is about the same


Looking at the center at 100% magnification in Photoshop, the 16-35 performs better. The difference is most significant at 35mm, still visible at 24mm and almost non-existent at 17mm. The 16-35 performed almost as well as EF 35/1.4 at equal apertures.

Sharpness – Prints

Prints – this is where the rubber meets the road. With naked eye and 10″x15″ prints, the difference is only clearly visible at 35mm with f/4. At other f-stops and focal lengths the difference is negligible.

Click on the following image to see full size image taken with the 16-35 @ f/5.6 and 26mm. Warning – very large file.

16-35/2.8L II @ f/5.6

Further Info


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