The Canon 16-35 mm f/4 has been for sale since June 2014, with a list price of € 1099. It is Canon's first ultra-wide angle lens in the L series with optical Image Stabilizer (IS) and, according to the specifications, has a 4-stop advantage over lenses without IS. The Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS is designed for use on a camera with a full-frame sensor, such as the Canon 6D. Are you considering purchasing a camera with a full-frame sensor at some point but for now are satisfied with your Canon APS-C camera? Then when purchasing a new lens, also look at the performance of the Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS on a Canon 650D:
Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS, 100 ISO, 16 mm f/4, 0.6 sec
Build and auto focus Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS
The Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS is super-solidly executed, including extra sealing against dust and moisture, as we're accustomed to with Canon L lenses. You can use this lens without problems under the most extreme circumstances. On this lens, there are two switches (on/off for AF and IS) and a distance scale. The minimum focal distance amounts to 28 cm. The Ultrasonic AF Motor (USM) ensures fast and accurate auto focus and is quiet as well, but a bit less quiet than a Canon STM lens. With the Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS, you can manually focus whenever you want without having to leave the AF mode. The length of the lens practically does not change during zooming and focusing. The focus rotation is about 90 degrees: more than sufficient to focus accurately. When you change the focal distance, you don't have to focus again, while for other lenses that is sometimes necessary. The front lens does not turn, which is nice when using filters such as circular polarization filters. The filter size of the Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS (77mm) is one size smaller than the filter size of the Canon 16-35 mm f/2.8 MK2.
Vignetting Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS on APS-C
We review lenses both without any form of lens corrections (unedited RAW files) and with all available lens corrections applied (jpg files from the camera). At the time of this review, there was not yet any lens correction available for this lens. With help from included software, you can put 20 lens profiles on your camera for Canon lenses. With the next software update, that will be the case. Then it will be possible to correct the jpg files for vignetting, but even without lens correction, the vignetting is already good—much better than when using this lens on a Canon 5D MK3, where lens correction for vignetting was available.
Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS, 100 ISO, 22 mm f/4, 1/1250 sec
Distortion Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS on APS-C
The distortion runs as with most standard zoom lenses from barrel-shaped distortion at the shortest focal distance to pincushion-shaped distortion at the longest focal distance. Usually, distortion is most clearly present at the edges of the image. Therefore, the distortion of a lens is usually less on a camera with an APS-C sensor than on a camera with a full-frame sensor. Only at 16 mm will the distortion of the Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS be sometimes visibly present, as in the example below, a practice shot made at 16 mm. This is simple to correct with software.
Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS, 100 ISO, 16 mm f/4, 1/1600 sec
Image stabilization test
Canon talks about a 4-stop optical Image Stabilizer, but our experience is that—regardless of the brand of camera or lens—at the shorter focal distances you profit by about 2 stops rather than 4. That is to say: the measured resolution of a shot made at 1/13 of a second without image stabilization is equal to the resolution of a shot made at a shutter time of 1/3 of a second with image stabilization.
Two UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) elements eliminate virtually all color deviations. Super Spectra-coating ensures an accurate color balance and improved contrast. The coatings also suppress internal reflections, where light is reflected from the sensor. Fluorine coatings prevent dust particles and droplets remaining on the front and rear lens elements and ensure optimal image quality. It really works and there are as of yet very few lenses that have a fluorine coating.
Even if you photograph directly against the sun, the chance is small that you will have trouble with flare or ghosts. Even so, a sun cap is included. Due to the small aperture that you use with such a shot, the chance is great that you will see the beautiful sun rays, which are caused by the nine-bladed aperture.
Sharpness Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS
The shot below left illustrates the difference in sharpness in the outer corners at full aperture and after stopping down 1 stop. The sharpness at full aperture is already very high (on a camera with an APS-C sensor, you only use the center of the lens), but it is even a bit higher after stopping down 1 stop. The Imatest shots are (for comparison) made with a Canon 650D. The practice shots are made with a Canon 1200D. Click on the image below right for a partial enlargement at 100%. This picture was made at 35 mm, 1/640 sec, f/4, 100 ISO. From the bokeh, you can see that this is not a full-frame sensor, but otherwise couldn't you be quite satisfied with an APS-C sensor when it comes to sharpness, color reproduction or signal-to-noise ratio?
On a camera with an APS-C sensor, you will have no trouble at all with lateral chromatic aberration (red and blue edges at sharp contrast transitions in the outer corners of the image). Here, Canon has made significant progress in the lens design with respect to the Canon 16-35 mm f/2.8, where you had to correct the chromatic aberration in-camera or afterwards.
Bokeh Canon 16-35 mm f/4
The nine rounded aperture lamellae ensure a beautiful, round bokeh for light sources that are out of focus. The Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS includes three aspherical elements. Depending on the production process, that can cause visible onion-ring patterns. That is the case here to a degree, but it is not disturbing.
Conclusion Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS test with Canon 650D
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you store the files in the camera as jpg, where you have all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens when the files are stored in the camera as RAW files. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.
Fantastically high image quality
Faultless build quality
Built-in image stabilization
Fluorine coating prevents dust particles and droplets from remaining
List price of more than 1000 euros
Are you considering ever purchasing a camera with a full-format sensor, but you're still satisfied with your Canon APS-C camera? Then it speaks for itself that you should look when purchasing a new lens at the performance of Canon EF lenses on APS-C. The Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS is expensive for APS-C, but given your possible full-frame aspirations, it's an attractive option. The build quality is perfect. There's nothing to criticize. As expected, the Canon 16-35mm f/4 scores better on a camera with a smaller sensor for vignetting, distortion and chromatic aberration than on a camera with a full-frame sensor. The sharpness in the corners is also closer to the center sharpness in comparison with our previous review of this lens on a Canon 5D MK3. On all parts, the Canon 16-35 mm f/4 scores better than the Canon 16-35 mm f/2.8, when it comes to image quality on a camera with an APS-C sensor. The built-in image stabilization of the Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS is a nice compensation for the lower brightness. If you're not planning to abandon the APS-C platform, then there are less expensive alternatives. The Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 Art scored even higher for image quality, while the built quality is comparable. The Sigma 17-70 mm f/2.8-4 DC MACRO OS HSM 'C' and the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm f/2.8 IS USM have a larger zoom range and give nothing up to the Canon 16-35 mm f/4 IS in terms of image quality.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.
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