Hardly any lens has occupied us so permanently in recent weeks and months as the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens released at Photokina 2016. We were already shooting with Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS the weeks leading up to Photokina, so we had to get used to the lens. The question that arose permanently the first few weeks, do you need f/2.8 and do without the image stabilizer in the lens for it and take an extra weight? If you then compare the price difference between the two lenses, the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens had a tough start.
First impression – Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM
When using the lens during a blue hour and looking at the image quality for the first time, we are very impressed at first. We are one of those people who find a focal length of 16mm for photos particularly interesting and ever since the first pictures on Instagram, the angle from a lens with 16mm was simply a special angle and eye-catcher.
If you then see the first dawn, the still setting sun and can easily still play out the moments with a Canon 1Dx Mark II or a Canon 5D Mark IV, you start to fall a bit in love with the lens.
While for many APS-C cameras, lenses with a focal length of 10-18mm or 10-22mm are available at acceptable prices, good wide-angle lenses for full-frame cameras are directly in a different price segment and a completely different weight class.
You automatically question how often you use the wide-angle lens, do you also need to carry a telephoto lens for portraits or fashion photos on photo assignments (like the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 or Canon 70-200 f/4) or can you capture the moments with the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens as well.
For many photographers, the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L II USM lens from 2007 was the all-time classic, which was then indirectly replaced by the Canon EF 16-35 f/4 IS in 2014. A lighter wide-angle lens with an additional image stabilizer.
The problem we also faced when choosing between the two variants in each case, do you rather need f/2.8 or an image stabilizer. While in photo production one would rather tend towards f/2.8, for videos (especially in customer orders) the image stabilizer became an unbeatable argument. At the latest when you filmed videos without IS again, you were annoyed in the aftermath and still preferred to go back to the lens with f/4 and IS.
In the meantime, we have found an alternative and use a gimbal for video productions with a lot of movement, which we will present in more detail in the future.
What of course spoke for the new Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens was the background blur, which is simply much more pleasant with an aperture of f/2.8 than with an aperture of f/4. Depending on the intended use and the mood of the image, completely different effects can succeed with it, especially if you photograph in the interior area and also want to capture the mood in a restaurant by candlelight once in a while.
However, the more often we used the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens, the clearer a tendency became. Even though the lens is over 150 grams heavier, the price is twice as high and it doesn’t offer an image stabilizer, the image sharpness speaks for itself and is completely convincing and belongs to the current reference class in this area for us.
However, during our use of the lens for many videos, another aspect stood out that set the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens apart from the f/4 lens. The very good image quality can also be seen in videos, but it is the f/2.8 aperture and the large wide angle that once again set the lens apart from the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 in many usage scenarios and simply offer more flexibility. Even though the Canon EF 16-35 f/4 IS might be even better suited for some vlogs, many of our scenes are filmed on a tripod or as B-roll at 60 or 120 fps, which makes the lack of an image stabilizer far less of an issue.
Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM in use for photo and video
While you should of course be careful when panning when using 16mm in videos, as logically the lines will move faster, for vloggers it is of course important (even if tempting) to place yourself in the center of the image with face only. The face becomes rounder and more deformed, the nose larger and not perfect for a vlog scene. In this case, it is recommended to use 24mm or more and place it a bit off center.
Those who use a Canon 6D Mark II can of course easily control the image via the fold-out touch monitor. If you don’t use a full-frame camera, but an APS-C camera (like Canon 80D, Canon 77D), you can calmly use the 16mm focal length, because the crop factor of 1.6 results in a focal length of about 25mm. When using the Canon 5D Mark IV or Canon 1Dx Mark II, it is recommended to do a test shot before the first use to get a feel for the setting in the vlog.
Those who travel a lot always appreciate Canon’s L-series lenses. The lenses are very comfortable to hold (despite the weight) and, most importantly, are impervious to all weather conditions.
I always find it reassuring when you are planning a beautiful shot, the weather then spontaneously changes or you already want to capture a beautiful mood at the sea and feel the spray already in the face and would not have to worry about the equipment. Canon’s L-series is rugged, making it suitable for the tougher assignments.
Like all L-series lenses, this lens again comes with a carrying pouch and a sunshade. A diameter of 82mm is required for filters, which is something to consider directly, especially when using ND filters.
As soon as the lens is connected to the camera, you directly notice the tuning. What is always a big advantage for us in use is the manual focus ring, which can also be used when the camera has already focused on the target via the AF field. This means that the focus can be shifted or refocused slightly. This is a great help and possibility for special image moods, especially in video use.
You already have a familiar feeling with the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens the first time you use it, as if you had already been using it for years. The manual focus ring and zoom ring are easy to use, but also not too light and feel very good in the hand. You always have the feeling as a photographer or video creator that you can determine the image yourself.
Unlike its predecessor, the new Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens has 9 blades for an even nicer and rounder bokeh, allowing for special photos even at ultra-wide angles. As with all L-series lenses, the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens is of course again protected against dust and moisture and convinces all along the line.
Image sharpness – Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM
Unlike the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 II USM lens, the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens is already extremely sharp at 16mm and an aperture of f/2.8, even in the peripheral areas, and easily maintains this quality up to aperture f/11. In the outer areas, the quality at f/2.8 is clearly above other lenses with this focal length, and it is still excellent from f/11.
At 24mm, the outstanding quality and image sharpness continues and also is held across all aperture stops from f/2.8 to f/11. Again, as at 16mm, the corners are consistently sharp and are well above the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 II USM.
At the focal length of 35mm, which is also very interesting for us, the trend continues as with 16mm and 24mm and the image sharpness (also in the corners) remains consistently good.
CONCLUSION – Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM or f/4
Even though we first had to get used to the lens and missing image stabilizer compared to the f/4, it is the “always-on” lens and has long since replaced the all-round 24mm-105mm f/4 lens for us.
Whether for photos or videos, the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens is simply always part of everyday life. Even for evening situations and videos with the Canon 5D Mark IV, the 16-35 lens is often preferred over the 24mm f/1.4.
It’s a clear price difference compared to the EF 16-35 f/4, of course, but in everyday use the better light levels are simply even more fun. Add to that the incredible image sharpness right to the edges. We can understand why more and more YouTubers and videographers are also turning to the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens when they have Canon equipment and using it as their first choice in their videos.
For those who have less budget or are just starting to get into the realm with videos and wide-angle photography, the Canon EF 16-35 f/4 L IS lens is also a very good lens.
For us, the dream would be that Canon would additionally in at the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L IV IS USM lens then offer an image stabilizer for all videographers – but that is still wishful thinking, but maybe we will be surprised at Photokina 2018 or Photokina 2020 :-).
We wish all photographers and videographers a lot of fun with the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L III USM lens, always good photos and videos and are of course always available for questions – either as a comment under this blog post or again by email.