Full-Frame State-of-the-Art Ultrawide Lens Comparison
This is a comparison of all the state-of-the-art full-frame ultrawides available today. By state-of-the-art, I mean lenses which are ultra-sharp from edge to edge even wide-open, ideal for the highest resolution digital cameras. I'm not including all the old lenses from the days of film which were nowhere near as sharp, or lenses that are good, but not incredible, like the perfectly acceptable Tokina 17-35/4 and 16-28/2.8 which can make great images, but aren't quite at the level of these below if you're shooting wide-open and looking in the corners with a microscope.
In the beginning ultrawides were always soft on the sides at large apertures, and in 2007 Nikon introduced the first one that was actually super-sharp out to the corners wide open, the Nikon 14-24/2.8G.
Since then there have been other ultrawides from Canon, Sony and Nikon which also are ultra sharp. The exception is the old Nikon 17-35/2.8 which isn't super sharp, but Nikon still sells it today because they've never updated it. While Canon is on their third greatly improved version of their 16-35mm f/2.8, Nikon has never updated their ancient 17-35mm f/2.8 from 1999. I include the Nikon 17-35/2.8 here simply out of sympathy for Nikon who has no competitive 16-35/2.8.
Format: Full Frame
These are full-frame ultrawide lenses. Don't use these on APS-C cameras, on which they become very expensive, big and heavy normal lenses. If you want this focal range on APS-C, use a kit 18-55mm lens, or for ultrawide on APS-C, use the Canon 10-18mm on Canon APS-C, the Nikon 10-20mm on Nikon DX and the Sony 10-18mm on Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras.
All these are recent cutting-edge optical designs and are all ultrasharp from corner-to-corner at every aperture, except for the old Nikon 17-35/2.8 from 1999 and still sold today.
* Actual measured.
Al these lenses (except the 1990s Nikon 17-35/2.8) are ultrasharp and have about the same distortion. The real question is what focal length range do you need, and practical considerations of size, weight, cost and filters.
Get the Canon 16-35/4 L IS. It covers the most practical zoom range, it has stabilization, it takes normal filters and it's also the least expensive. Easy choice! It's what I shoot on my Canon system.
The Canon 16-35/2.8 L III is better for shooting sports, news and action due to its one-stop greater speed, but it lacks stabilization and it's bigger, heavier and twice as expensive as the equally sharp Canon 16-35/4 L IS.
The Canon 11-24/4 L is a special-purpose lens. It's big, heavy, expensive and covers a less useful range than the 16-35s — but if you need 11mm for interiors and special effects, it's the world's best.
The Sony 16-35/2.8 GM is a bigger, faster, tougher lens better for sports and action and where you would rather have a faster lens instead of optical stabilization.
The Sony 12-24/4 G is special-purpose lens for when you absolutely, positively need 12mm for interiors and special effects. It can't use filters and has a less practical range than the 16-35s.
The Nikon 16-35/4 VR is the most practical and least expensive. It's what I use, and I own all the other Nikon lenses which stay home. Easy choice here.
The Nikon 14-24/2.8G is a huge beast that can't take filters and has a less practical zoom range.
The Nikon 17-35/2.8 is a 1990s lens with optics inferior to everything else here, but it's also the best made lens mechanically.
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22 June 2017