How good is the 17-40 /f/4L?

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by Robert Coe, Jun 3, 2010.

  1. Robert Coe

    Robert Coe Guest

    What do the denizens of this newsgroup (those in the Canon world anyway) think
    of the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L lens? Now that I've finally gotten my paws on the
    Tokina 11-16, I'm thinking vaguely about rounding out my collection with the
    17-40. I'd see it as an outdoor version of my current walking-around lens, a
    4-year-old Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 (i.e., not quite the latest version). Obviously
    there's no point in considering the Canon unless it's noticeably sharper than
    the Sigma (a very decent lens in its own right), but the on-line reviews are
    ambiguous. They range from "the finest lens since Brady photographed Lincoln"
    to "a lamentable piece of crap that's sharp only in the spot metering circle".
    Would someone (preferably someone who's actually used the lens) be willing to
    share his/her comments? adTHANKSvance!

    (BTW, my main body is a 50D, my backup an XTi. My wife might use the lens
    occasionally on her T2i.)

    Bob
     
    Robert Coe, Jun 3, 2010
    #1
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  2. Robert Coe

    Ray Fischer Guest

    An excellent lens for the price. Bokeh is odd but color and sharpness
    are quite good on a 7D. Solid construction. Don't miss the IS on a
    wide-angle lens.

    [...]
    You'll want to get the EW-83J (?) hood since the supplied one is
    pretty much useless for a crop sensor, and a UV filter seals the
    lens from the environment.
     
    Ray Fischer, Jun 3, 2010
    #2
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  3. Robert Coe

    eatmorepies Guest

    If you're buying from a shop - take your body and a laptop with you and
    audition the lens. I've found that my 40D and 50D bodies don't get the same
    result out of my lenses; neither is any good with my 50mm f1.4 and the 50D
    is less sharp with my 300mm f4L IS than the 40D. I've used the microfocus
    adjust (50D) to improve matters. All my Canon lenses (all L except for the
    50mm and a 100mm f2.8 macro) are properly sharp on my 5D mkII body. Next
    time I buy a camera body I'll be taking a couple of lenses and a laptop with
    me.

    John
     
    eatmorepies, Jun 3, 2010
    #3
  4. Robert Coe

    Me Guest

    I've used two, one on a 5d, another on a 5dII. The first one on a 5d
    was decentered at the 40mm end, but barely okay (not noticeably
    decentered anyway) at the wide end.
    The second I tested along with a 16-35II on a 5dII body. At f4 it was
    actually better than the 16-35 at f4 in the corners - but still not
    great at the edge of frame or corners. Neither really impressed me, but
    at least the 17-40 isn't outrageously priced.
    The lens that I've used on a 5dII that did impress me as a walk-around
    was the 24-105, it seemed sharp to the corners, fast focus, and
    reasonably light weight. So there's a gap between the OP's Tokina 11-17
    and 24mm - I think I could live with that if the 24-105 performed well
    on a crop body, and at some stage I anticipated using an FX 5d/ii again.
     
    Me, Jun 3, 2010
    #4
  5. Robert Coe

    Bruce Guest


    I used one on my 5D bodies (now both retired). It was a better lens
    than the 16-35mm f/2.8L but the current Mark II version of the latter
    comprehensively beats the 17-40mm f/4.

    As others have suggested, the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS is probably a better
    choice. The IS, extra stop of speed and extra 20mm on the long end
    are very useful attributes.

    Or you could do what I did and change to Nikon. <g>

    In most areas, Nikon and Canon lenses compete. But in wide angle
    lenses, whether fixed focal length or zoom, Nikon is a long way ahead
    of Canon. I use the AF 20-35mm f/2.8D and AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED,
    both of which perform better than all the fixed focal length Nikkors
    within their zoom ranges, and the new AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR.

    What need is there for VR (Nikon's IS) on a 16-35mm, I hear you ask?
    It is ideal for candid shots at weddings and other social events and
    is perfect for available light shooting at very slow shutter speeds.
    My assistant is the main user of this lens. She regularly shoots at
    1/4 sec and gets pin sharp results - provided that the subject doesn't
    move!
     
    Bruce, Jun 3, 2010
    #5
  6. If the OP were willing to adapt the Nikkor 14-24 (an astonishingly good
    lens), 16-35, 17-35, or 20-35 (the last mostly for crop-frame since its
    edges FF at wide stops aren't too great...), the results would generally be
    sharper even with FF than the Canon equivalents, even at wide stops.
    Many people do this, although one then gives up the auto features ('course,
    one could buy a Nikon body to work well with the lens[es]...;-).
    --DR
     
    David Ruether, Jun 3, 2010
    #6
  7. Robert Coe

    Bruce Guest


    Goof idea, but I really can't see the OP doing this. Diehard Canon
    fans don't like to admit that "their" brand cannot produce wide angle
    lenses that compete with the best.
     
    Bruce, Jun 3, 2010
    #7
  8. Robert Coe

    Bruce Guest


    A Freudian slip, perhaps! ;-)


    It seems odd for a Canon user to talk about "focusing issues" with
    other brands of lens, when there are more than enough focusing
    problems with Canon lenses ...

    When I used Canon 5D bodies, I was happiest with the results from Carl
    Zeiss (Contax) lenses used with adapters. There are many thousands of
    photographers who use non-Canon lenses on Canon DSLRs. I do
    understand that this isn't for everyone, and that manual focusing is
    beyond some people. But the results are what matters, and many people
    are prepared to accept a little inconvenience in exchange for superior
    image quality.

    I'm not a Nikon shill, either. I am currently having some off-brand
    lenses (no names!) converted to the Nikon F mount.
     
    Bruce, Jun 4, 2010
    #8
  9. Robert Coe

    Robert Coe Guest

    : On Thu, 3 Jun 2010 09:09:01 -0400, "David Ruether"
    : >
    : >If the OP were willing to adapt the Nikkor 14-24 (an astonishingly good
    : >lens), 16-35, 17-35, or 20-35 (the last mostly for crop-frame since its
    : >edges FF at wide stops aren't too great...), the results would generally
    : >be sharper even with FF than the Canon equivalents, even at wide stops.
    : >Many people do this, although one then gives up the auto features
    : >('course, one could buy a Nikon body to work well with the lens[es]...;-).
    :
    : Good idea, but I really can't see the OP doing this. Diehard Canon
    : fans don't like to admit that "their" brand cannot produce wide angle
    : lenses that compete with the best.

    Climb down off your high horse, Bruce. My wife and I have four Canon bodies
    and nine lenses, so the fact that we'd be crazy to switch doesn't make us
    "diehard Canon fans". I've posted hundreds of messages to the photography
    newsgroups over the past five or six years, and you've never seen me disparage
    Nikon gear. Indeed, I've pointed out several times that averaged over time and
    their product lines, the two companies are equally good and that their
    vigorous coompetition benefits us all.

    Besides, the 17-40 is hardly a wide-angle lens on a crop body. And if Canon is
    unable to produce true WA lenses that are both good and affordable, it doesn't
    much matter, since 3rd-party manufacturers, notably Tokina and Sigma, seem
    able to fill that niche.

    Bob
     
    Robert Coe, Jun 4, 2010
    #9
  10. Robert Coe

    Robert Coe Guest

    : What do the denizens of this newsgroup (those in the Canon world anyway) think
    : of the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L lens? Now that I've finally gotten my paws on the
    : Tokina 11-16, I'm thinking vaguely about rounding out my collection with the
    : 17-40. I'd see it as an outdoor version of my current walking-around lens, a
    : 4-year-old Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 (i.e., not quite the latest version). Obviously
    : there's no point in considering the Canon unless it's noticeably sharper than
    : the Sigma (a very decent lens in its own right), but the on-line reviews are
    : ambiguous. They range from "the finest lens since Brady photographed Lincoln"
    : to "a lamentable piece of crap that's sharp only in the spot metering circle".
    : Would someone (preferably someone who's actually used the lens) be willing to
    : share his/her comments? adTHANKSvance!
    :
    : (BTW, my main body is a 50D, my backup an XTi. My wife might use the lens
    : occasionally on her T2i.)

    I'm glad I asked. Frankly, I expected the consensus to be along the lines of:
    "Canon's L glass represents the state of the art and should be owned by any
    serious photographer. Those naysayers must be klutzes who don't know how to
    focus properly."

    Instead, several respected members of the group warned me, from their own
    experience, that the lens is at best a mediocre pretender to L-series quality
    and might well be considered unacceptable on a FF body. (I don't own a FF
    body, but one of the attractions of the 17-40 was that it would be there if I
    ever had the notion to acquire one such.) IOW, there's nothing to recommend
    it, for my purposes, over my trusty old Sigma walker.

    Thanks, guys; I think you just saved me $700!

    Bob
     
    Robert Coe, Jun 4, 2010
    #10
  11. Robert Coe

    Robert Coe Guest

    : > What do the denizens of this newsgroup (those in the Canon world anyway)
    : > think of the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L lens? Now that I've finally gotten my
    : > paws on the
    :
    : It's not great. Even stopped down to f5.6 the thing begins to blur
    : less than 1/3 out from the centre with a FF sensor. Good contrast and
    : central sharpness, but it is[n't] near as good as it should be for the
    : $1000 price.

    I wouldn't have gone near it for $1000. B&H sells it for $750 and has it
    marked down to $700 this month. But from what you and others have told me, I
    conclude that its lack of sharpness at the edges keeps it fom being an
    improvement over lenses I already have.

    Bob
     
    Robert Coe, Jun 5, 2010
    #11
  12.  
    David Ruether, Jun 5, 2010
    #12
  13. I don't own that lens, but I DO own the near- equivalent lens for
    Canon crop-frame cameras, the EF-S 10-22.

    This is a very fine lens indeed. I used it very extensively
    for my recent raft trip through the Grand Canyon (for which It was specially
    purchased). The results are excellent. In particular, the lateral CA
    is so low it is unnecessary to correct it. And it is very sharp.

    Doug McDonald
     
    Doug McDonald, Jun 5, 2010
    #13
  14. Robert Coe

    Peter Guest


    If you are using a FF lens on a crop camera you won't see the difference. I
    use the Nikon 70-200, a FF lens, on my D300, a crop camera. On a FF camera
    there will be some edge softness. However, I have never seen edge softness
    with that lens on my D300.
     
    Peter, Jun 5, 2010
    #14
  15. Robert Coe

    Robert Coe Guest

    : : > I wouldn't have gone near [the Canon 17-40mm f/4L] for $1000. B&H sells
    : > it for $750 and has it marked down to $700 this month. But from what
    : > [Rich A] and others have told me, I conclude that its lack of sharpness
    : > at the edges keeps it from being an improvement over lenses I already
    : > have.
    :
    : If you are using a FF lens on a crop camera you won't see the difference.
    : I use the Nikon 70-200, a FF lens, on my D300, a crop camera. On a FF
    : camera there will be some edge softness. However, I have never seen edge
    : softness with that lens on my D300.

    You're alluding to one of the fundamental questions of modern digital
    photography: Is a FF camera worth buying for general use, or is it a niche
    tool for which even many professionals will never actually feel the need? It's
    becoming clear to me (about time, some may say) that the additional cost of FF
    isn't just that the body costs twice as much; it's also that if you insist on
    lens performance comparable to that of a crop camera (and why wouldn't you?),
    you'll be limited to a rather small subset of very expensive options.

    In effect, I've just rejected a lens I might otherwise have bought, on the
    grounds that its performance on a FF camera is reportedly inadequate. But I
    don't own a FF digital camera, and the likelihood that I ever will is remote.
    My next camera, if there is one, will probably be a 7D, not a 5DII.

    So what is the role of the FF camera in the toolkit of the serious amateur?
    Some, myself included, thought a few years ago that FF was clearly the wave of
    the future and that crop cameras were a holding action until the major
    manufacturers (especially Nikon, in those days) got their act together. Now I
    think that scenario is much less obvious. What do the rest of you think?

    Bob
     
    Robert Coe, Jun 5, 2010
    #15
  16. Robert Coe

    Peter Guest

    I have been wrestling with that question. The main reasons I would go FF
    are:

    I like wide & low angle photography. The FF is better for that purpose
    because of the wider angle available lenses;
    The FF usually has a better low light sensor. (Yes I know if I wait, the
    crop will have the better sensor;)
    The FF is far superior for large blowups, especially of cropped areas.

    The main reasons I like crop is the telephoto equivalent; and lighter
    weight..
     
    Peter, Jun 5, 2010
    #16
  17. I think you make a very good point. A FF body is tempting for me
    since I have shelves full of selected older (mostly MF) FF lenses,
    and a FF body would make best use of these. Until recently, the
    selection of *good* super-wides for the crop-framed cameras
    was VERY limited - but this has changed. Also, even the more
    useful crop-frame bodies in terms of (Nikon) compatibility with
    MF lenses are rather expensive (and heavy) for me to deal with
    at this time (there is no FA/N8008/F100/F3 equivalent in digital
    yet, so I'm still waiting - although the D90 is tempting...;-).
    Meanwhile, my Sony 707 (with a good .8X converter for WA)
    satisfies my current limited needs...
    --DR
     
    David Ruether, Jun 5, 2010
    #17
  18. Robert Coe

    Pete Guest

    That's a tough question to answer so I'll be controversial. The
    advantages of FF cameras compared to their disadvantages make them of
    very little use to the vast majority of amateurs and professionals.

    When an amateur _would like_ something they cannot afford there are the
    option of buying from the Tokigmarom ranges and buying used amateur
    equipment.

    When a professional _needs_ more pixels they will purchase kit with a
    larger format than FF. When they _need_ a shallow depth of field they
    will either invest in a larger format or purchase a wide aperture long
    focal length lens or two. If neither option is of commercial value the
    professional will recommend an alternative supplier to meet the needs
    of the client.

    There is a significant number of amateurs and pros. that are very
    reluctant to switch away from FF format because of the tens to hundreds
    of thousand hours they invested in learning it by rote and their
    investment in FF optics over a few decades. I am one of them. Other
    factors such as viewfinder size, brightness, eye relief, and camera
    ergonomics make or break our ability to take half-decent photos. If
    that is called incompetence, stubbornness, or plain stupidity then so
    be it: thankfully for me, it is keeping the FF kit alive and kicking.

    Would I recommend that anyone should start with, or upgrade to, FF kit? No!
     
    Pete, Jun 5, 2010
    #18
  19. Robert Coe

    Bruce Guest


    The 5D II has a good reputation for focusing accuracy, as did its
    predecessor. My 5Ds needed recalibration, one taking several
    attempts, but I didn't have any problems after that.

    The problem is much more prevalent with the 1D II and IV.


    Totally agree, which is why I invested in KatzEye screens for both 5D
    bodies and now also on my D700. My back-up D300 has a standard screen
    but I only use AF lenses on it. I was going to say that I hardly ever
    focus manually with the D300 but in truth I hardly ever use the
    camera. Like my back up 5D, my back-up D300 is hardly ever needed.
     
    Bruce, Jun 5, 2010
    #19
  20. Robert Coe

    Bruce Guest


    I completely disagree.

    There is only one disadvantage to full frame, and that is cost. Apart
    from the cost, full frame is ahead in every respect.
     
    Bruce, Jun 5, 2010
    #20
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