Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8 L II USM Lens Review

Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8 L II USM Lens Review

The Canon 16-35mm f2.8 L II USM Lens is a very important lens for lot of photographers, be it landscapes, sports, news reporters, wildlife photographers,weddings as well as for other event coverage. I had always wanted to use the wide Canon 16-35 mm lens in wide pristine landscapes. Having owned the EF 24-70 f2.8 L USM lens and using it for wildlife, I had been thinking of evaluating the EF 16-35mm f2.8 L II USM lens. So when I could finally get the new Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8 L USM lens, it was one of excitement to put it through its paces in a place away from the ugly urban skyline.


Canon EF 16-35mm lens

Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8 L II USM

First impressions of Canon 16-35mm lens:

The weight is only 640 grams and it really feels light in the hands. The diameter of the lens is a wide 88.5mm or 3.5 inches with a filter dia of 82mm. The lens is 111.6mm or 4.4 inches longThe lens comes with a petal shaped lens hood (EW-88) which is even wider. It is a far cry from the lens hood of the EF 24-70 f2.8 L USM lens which I regularly use. Unlike the hood of the EF 24-70 f2.8 L USM (EW-83F), this hood appears much lighter and smaller. Ofcourse, when you are on a trek or climbing in the mountains, this reduction in weight will be very noticeable and appreciable too.

Canon EF24-70 f2.8 L USM lens

EW-83F Lens hood of EF24-70 f2.8 L USM lens stands by tall by side of Canon EF 16-35 f2.8 L II USM with EW-88 hood

With such a low weight and well balanced construction, my first thoughts was to check how it fares in handheld filming. Unlike the heavier EF 24-70 f2.8 L USM (950 gms) which I dont prefer if I am filming handheld without a rig, the EF 16-35mm f2.8 L II USM at 635 gms is great for filming handheld.

The lens comes with a soft case LP 1319 which is easy to carry or hang from your belt if you are not wearing a photographers vest or carrying a bag.

Canon 16-35mm f2.8 L USM Lens Specs:

This Canon 16-35mm lens has a maximum Aperture of f2.8 and a minimum Aperture of f22.

7 diaphragm blades. As opposed to the other L series lenses, the Canon 16-35 mm lens has seven diaphragm blades and coupled with the circular aperture, the bokeh is nice.

There are 16 elements divided into 12 groups with 3 types of aspherical elements (ground, replicated and glass moulded) and 2 UD (Ultra Dispersion) elements. Canon has said that this lens has Super Spectra lens coatings which helps in suppressing flare and ghosting. In field testing, this is found to be true.

The minimum focusing distance is a 0.28 meters or 11 inches offering a maximum magnification of 0.22x With this lens one can use extension tubes, however, this lens doesnt accept Teleconverters.

MTF Charts : Source Canon

Hyperfocal Distance:

Since this Canon 16-35 mm lens has got a minimum aperture of f22, whereas other lenses have more, so one may ask why not more. If you are using a Canon 1D Mark IV, at 16mm focal length the hyperfocal distance is 20 inches ie. If you use this lens at its minimum aperture of f22 and focus at an object 22 inches away, then you will have the focus till infinity.
Similarly, the hyperfocal distance with a full frame camera like Canon 1D X using this lens at 16mm is 15.5 inches at f22.

Canon 16-35 mm lens Review | Autofocus:

The autofocus is fast and locks in easily. With the Full Time Manual Focus facility, one can fine-tune the focus. As is expected, the focusing is internal which means the lens element doesnt protrude while focusing.

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, EF 16-35 f2.8 L II USM at 16mm, ISO 200, f22, 1/20


Canon 16-35 mm lens | Impressions in the Field:

While wandering in Wild India, I have been in situations where the scene is so wide and breathtaking that I have wanted to include the full mountain or gorge or river etc and have failed due to the minimum 24mm focal length of my EF 24-70 f2.8 L USM lens. In such situations, this lens comes to your rescue. After a long day in the forest, I realized how nice this lens is if all you want is to shoot or film in the wide end.

Wild India | With a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, EF 16-35 f2.8 L II USM at 35mm, ISO 200, f22, 1/40

I also used this lens in documenting an eWaste recycler. This lens at 16mm came in handy to capture from cramped quarters. It smaller size vis–vis a EF 24-70 f2.8 L USM or a EF70-200 will give an impression that you are one of those wannabe wildlife photographers. No one will realize that you are indeed doing some serious wildlife filming as the small size of this lens makes it easily handholdable. So this lens is also good for street photography where you can move in close to the action.

Wild India | Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, EF 16-35 f2.8 L II USM at 35mm, ISO 100, f14, 1/250

This Canon 16-35 mm lens due to its environmental sealing is good for dusty conditions. If you are in a trek in Wild India or climbing a mountain and face inclement weather, then this lens will not fail you.

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, EF 16-35 f2.8 L II USM at 26mm, ISO 100, f13, 1/125

Will I compromise on an f-stop and buy the Canon 17-40 f4 lens which is one mm less wide? Absolutely not. There are situations where the 1 mm is a lot and also most of the times the 1 stop faster f2.8 aperture of the 16-35 f2.8 L IS II USM lens is a significant reason to invest. Lenses retain their value for a longer time than the camera bodies. So it is better to invest more and be ready for the future when you will need this lens more, rather than buy a 17-40 F4 L USM lens now.


This Canon 16-35mm lens is a pretty good lens for still photography as well as for wildlife filming. The constant aperture f2.8 helps you shoot in situations when the light is really low. With its low weight, it is easily handholdable for stills as well as for filming. The colours and contrast are good, pretty minimal levels of barrel distortion and chromatic aberration, and it has good resistance to flare and ghosting. If you have the money, then this is the lens to buy. If you dont have the money but indulge in the low light work, then this lens will save your assignment. If you are serious about your photography and/or filming then this Canon 16-35mm f2.8 L II USM lens is a must in your kit. A bit costly, however as in most of the things in life, you get what you pay. If you have any questions about the Canon 16-35mm Lens review then post your questions in the comments below.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

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