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Canon Ultrawide Lenses Compared (Full-Frame)
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Canon 20-35mm f/2.8

Canon 20-35 USM, 20-35mm f/2.8 L, 17-40mm f/4 L and 16-35/2.8II. enlarge.

 

Canon 20-35mm f/2.8

Canon 20-35 USM, 20-35 L, 17-35mm, 17-40mm and 16-35mm L II. enlarge.

 

Canon Ultrawides Compared.

Canon 20/2.8 USM, 17-40/4 L, 16-35/2.8 L II and 16-35/4 L IS. bigger.

 

July 2014    Canon Reviews    Canon Lenses    All Reviews

NEW: Canon Ultrawide Lens Sharpness Comparison.

See also:

Canon 16-35mm f/4 L IS (2014-today)

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II (2007-today)

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L (2001-2007)

Canon 17-40mm f/4 L (2003-today)

Canon 17-35mm f/2.8 L (1995-2001)

Canon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM (1993-2007)

Canon 20mm f/2.8 USM (1992-today)

Canon 20-35mm f/2.8 L (1989-1995)

Tokina 17-35mm f/4 (2011-)

 

Canon Ultrawide Comparison Table        top

 

 
16-35 IS
16-35 f/2.8 L II
16-35 f/2.8 L
17-40 f/4 L
17-35 f/2.8 L
20-35 f/2.8 L
20 USM
20-35 USM
Tokina 17-35
Anni
2014-
2007-
2001-2007
2003-
1995-2001
1989-1995
1992-
1993-2007
2011-
Maximum Aperture
f/4
f/2.8
f/2.8
f/4
f/2.8
f/2.8
f/2.8
f/3.5-4.5
f/4
Instant manual-focus override?
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
no
Yes
Yes
no
Build Quality
Good Consumer
Pro
Pro
Near Pro
Pro
Tough Pro
Pro
Good Plastic
Tough Plastic
Filter Threads
plastic
Metal
Metal
plastic
Metal
Metal
Metal
plastic
plastic
Filter Size
77mm
82mm
77mm
77mm
77mm
72mm
72mm
77mm
82mm
Length
113mm
112mm
103mm
97mm
96mm
89mm
71mm
69mm
94.5mm
Center Sharpness Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent* Excellent Excellent
Corner Sharpness
Excellent
Very good
Good
Very good
Good
Good
Excellent
Good
Good
Ergonomics
Very good
Good
Very good
Very good
Very good
Good
Excellent
Excellent
Good
Distortion (W~T)
+3.5 ~ -2
+3.5 ~ -2
+4.5 ~ -1.25
+3.5 ~ -2
+2 ~ -2.3
+2.5 ~ -1.0
0.0
+3.3 ~ +0.9
+2 ~ -1.1
Focus
USM
USM
USM
USM
USM
motor
USM
USM
motor
AF/MF switch
slide switch
slide switch
slide switch
slide switch
slide switch
slide switch
slide switch
slide switch
pull ring
Color Fringe correction on 5D Mk III
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
no
Yes
Yes
no
Diaphragm Blades
9 rounded
7
7
7
7
6
6
5
9 rounded
Sunstars
nearly none
14 points
14 points
14 points
14 points
6 points
6 points
10 points
18 soft points
Weigh**t
616g
634g
599g
474g
534g
549g
394g
331g
592g
Made in
Japan
Japan
Japan
Japan
Japan
Japan
Japan
Japan
Japan
Price, 1/2012
n/a
$1,530
$1,000 used
$750
$600 used
 
$200 used
$720
Price, 5/2012
n/a
$1,580
$1,000 used
$780
$800 used
$600 used
 
$200 used
$660
Price, 7/2012
n/a
$1,580
$1,100 used
$780
$740 used
$640 used
$325 used
$200 used
$600
Price, 7/2014
$1,200
$1,500
$850 used
$740
$600 used
$500 used
$300 used
$175 used
$490

*Corners are sharper than even the newest 16-35 f/2.8 L II, but look out: the 20mm f/2.8 USM's deliberate field curvature will make the region midway between corners and center less sharp for flat subjects, but make then even sharper for subjects which get closer to the camera in that region.

** Actual measured weight, which can differ from Canon's claimed weights.

 

Recommendations       top

For light weight and fantastic ergonomics, I love the Canon 20-35mm USM (1993-2007). Used with a lens profile on my 5D Mark III, its optics are better than ever.

For a much tougher professional lens at about the same size and weight, the 20mm f/2.8 USM (1992-today) is excellent with a lens profile on my 5D Mark III. The 20mm f/2.8 USM is the smallest and lightest Canon ultrawide sold today.

The Canon 17-40mm f/4 L is unbeaten optically, and the lightest of the zooms sold today.

If you demand the best and don't mind the size, weight and expense, the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II (2007-today) is the best that Canon's ever made.

 

Canon 16-35mm L II16-35mm f/2.8 L II (2007-today)

The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II is the biggest, heaviest and most expensive lens here, and the best optical performer. It's the best ultrawide zoom available for Canon, but still soft in the corners at f/2.8. If you need better, use Zeiss fixed lenses.

 

Canon 16-35mm16-35mm f/2.8 L (2001-2007)

The previous Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L is even softer in the corners, but it's not that big a deal unless you're a pixel counter, as opposed to a professional photographer. All of these lenses are best in the corners stopped down to about f/11.

 

Canon 17-40mm17-40mm f/4 L (2003-today)

The Canon 17-40mm f/4 L (2003-today) is Canon's lightest current ultrawide zoom, and has optical performance as good as the newest Canon 16-35mm L II, but it's only f/4, not f/2.8.

 

Canon 17-35mm17-35mm f/2.8 L (1995-2001)

The Canon 17-35mm f/2.8 L (1995-2001) is Canon's lightest f/2.8 ultrawide zoom ever, has a metal filter thread and great ergonomics with instant manual-focus override and a great focal length range. Its optics are about as good as the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 (2001-2007).

 

Canon 20-35mm L20-35mm f/2.8 L (1989-1995)

The 20-35mm f/2.8 L (1989-1995) is the smallest and toughest Canon professional ultrawide zoom ever — with the least distortion. It's the only all-metal lens here, but since Canon offers no lens profile for use with the 5D Mark III, its uncorrected lateral color fringes will degrade its optical performance compared to all the other Canon lenses. For use on 35mm film, this of course doesn't matter; but the lack of instant manual focus override might.

 

Canon 20-35mm USM20-35mm USM (1993-2007)

The Canon 20-35mm USM (1993-2007) is the lightest and smallest lens here, but that's because it's built instead to very good amateur standards instead of pro. It has the best ergonomics of any lens here, and with full automatic lens profile correction on the 5D Mark III, suddenly offers similar optical performance to the heavy and expensive pro lenses. With the ultra-high ISO capability of the 5D Mark III, f/2.8 is no longer needed for low-light use, so this older consumer lens suddenly is much more useful than ever.

 

Canon 20mm USM20mm f/2.8 USM (1992-today)

The 20mm f/2.8 USM (1992-today) is a professionally tough lens, as well as being small and light and fast. If you don't need to zoom, want small and demand a well-made lens, this enduring classic is also much less expensive than any of the other Canon ultrawides today. With a lens profile on the the 5D Mark III, it is excellent optically.

 

Tokina 17-35mmTokina 17-35 (2011-)

The Tokina 17-35 is an off-brand lens. It's built out of tough plastic and offers good enough optical quality, but there is no lens profile available for use with the 5D Mark III, so its performance probably will be worse than the Canon 20-35mm USM.

 

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