Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Announcement

I am finally back in Denver after a three week-long trip to the UK and I am trying to catch up with all the news and announcements that we’ve missed. The first news items are related to Canon lens announcements from last week. Canon announced the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM image-stabilized full-frame lens for enthusiasts and professionals who want something cheaper than the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM. Usually, f/4 lenses are lighter and smaller than their f/2.8 counterparts. However, the difference between the 16-35mm f/4L and 16-35mm f/2.8L is not as big – the former is just a tad thinner and weighs 20 grams lighter in comparison. The three biggest differences are obviously the smaller maximum aperture of f/4, $500 price difference and image stabilization. With a very similar optical design featuring the same number of elements and groups, 2 Ultra-low Dispersion (UD) and 3 Aspherical elements, the 16-35mm f/4L IS seems to challenge its big brother in a number of ways, even in optical performance.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

If you take a look at the MTF graphs of both lenses, the Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS appears to be sharper and more consistent optically at f/4 than the 16-35mm f/2.8L II at f/2.8. Take a look at the MTF charts below comparing the two at 16mm (Left: 16-35mm f/4L, Right: 16-35mm f/2.8L II):

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM MTF Wide Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Wide MTF

And here is the comparison at 35mm:

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM MTF Tele Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM-Tele-MTF.JPG

As you can see, the performance differences are clear – the 16-35mm f/4L is certainly sharper. However, this does not mean that it is better than the 16-35mm f/2.8L II stopped down to f/4. Since Canon does not provide MTF charts for stopped down performance across the aperture range, only lab tests would reveal how the two compare side by side at f/4. My guess is, since the 16-35mm f/4L is a newer design, both will be very similar. Stopped down to f/8, the MTF chart shows the new 16-35mm f/4L to be superior at both 16mm and 35mm focal lengths. This gives a good advantage to the 16-35mm f/4L, since it is cheaper and has image stabilization, as already mentioned above.

Those who do not already own the 16-35mm f/2.8L II might want to take a close look at the new f/4L IS version. Since such wide focal lengths are not used for portraiture, the maximum aperture of f/2.8 does not matter, especially when the f/4 version comes with image stabilization that is supposed to provide up to 4 stops of shutter speed advantage.

Press Release

Here is the information from the official press release:

Fully compatible with all EOS Digital SLR cameras including full-frame models like the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 6D Digital SLR cameras, the compact and lightweight EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens offers high image quality and an Optical Image Stabilizer (IS) for shake correction up to four shutter speed steps, making handheld shooting possible in dimly lit scenes where camera shake can occur. In addition, an intelligent CPU in the lens automatically selects the optimal IS mode by recognizing differences between normal handheld shots and panning. This technological advancement supports a greater range of creative expression for photographers in otherwise difficult shooting situations, such as dark indoor scenes where flash photography is prohibited, or in places where a tripod cannot be used, or when shooting at low ISO speeds.

The EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens features newly developed, high quality Canon optics that incorporate three GMo (Glass-Molded) aspheric lens elements, including a large-diameter aspheric lens, which help improve image quality by correcting aberrations. Two additional UD lens elements help reduce chromatic aberration from edge to edge throughout the entire zoom range for excellent image quality with high resolution and contrast. The lens also features enhanced fluorine lens coatings on the front and rear lens surfaces to repel dust particles and help ensure superb color balance while minimizing ghosting. The inner focusing and ring USM offer silent, fast and accurate autofocusing. Full-time manual focus adjustment is available in autofocus (AF) mode. A nine-blade circular aperture creates beautiful, soft backgrounds. A new compact four-group zoom system provides a minimum focusing distance of 0.28m/11 inches throughout the zoom range and a maximum magnification of 0.23x at the telephoto end for outstanding performance.

Pre-Order Information

You can pre-order the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM from B&H Photo Video for $1,199. Expected availability is mid June of 2014.


  1. 1) Robert Slowley
    May 20, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Hi Nasim – It was great to see you at the photowalk. Will you be making a post about that / posting the group photo?

    • May 20, 2014 at 9:12 pm

      Robert, thanks for coming to the photo walk, it was great to meet you! Let me finish a couple of announcements and I will post an article about the walk :)

  2. 2) StevenP
    May 20, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    How does it compare to the EF 17-40mm f4L which it is replacing. Comparing this lens to my Nikon 16-35mm I find that the Nikon feels much more robust.

    • May 20, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      Steven, the new 16-35mm is amazing – better than the 17-40mm optically for sure! You can see the MTF charts for the 17-40mm here. Note how much better the new 16-35mm f/4 is in the corners at 16mm!

  3. 3) Steve B.
    May 20, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    My Gawd, Nasim! England has converted you to Canon!

    • May 20, 2014 at 9:18 pm

      Not really :) But I did get a Canon 6D before the trip with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4, because it was not available for the Nikon mount!

      • 3.1.1) Martin
        May 21, 2014 at 3:16 am

        Come on, then, Nasim…

        The new Sigma 50mm f/1.4: even at this early stage, are you finding that it’s living up to its billing? Is it SO much better than the competition?

        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          May 21, 2014 at 9:51 pm

          Martin, so far it looks really good. Will post an article with some early thoughts later this week!

          • Martin
            May 22, 2014 at 1:45 am

            Excellent. Thank you, Nasim. Your impressive, highly detailed, and always practical assessments of new equipment are always hugely valued, and I look forward to reading the article.

            It’s a lot of money to pay for a 50mm lens, but if the new Sigma is everything that it is supposed to be, I’ll be buying one.

    • 3.2) Andie Reid
      August 26, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      England is a mere PART of the United Kingdom chump, y’know the NATION……learn geography!

      • 3.2.1) Steve B.
        August 27, 2014 at 12:21 am

        Down boy! I believe Nasim spent much, if not all his time, in that part of the U.K. known as London. My maps show London as being in England, and thus my comment. Too specific for you? I could have said ‘Europe has converted you to Canon’ but that wouldn’t be a fair statement, just as saying the U.K. was the instigator would not be fair. Unless, of course Ireland was responsible. But then that would not be fair to England. Have I cleared things up? I’ve got a shutter button that needs pressing.

  4. 4) Larry Nieland
    May 20, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Nasim: In the Canon MTF charts, the blue lines represent F8 performance …..Clearly showing the F4 lens to be superior ! ……Larry

    • May 20, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      Larry, I meant comparison at f/4, which Canon does not provide for the 16-35mm f/2.8L. I updated the paragraph to make it clearer and added a sentence about stopped down performance at f/8. Thanks for reminding me!

  5. 5) Harish
    May 20, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    One of the advantages of a f/4 is that the ring is smaller. I am a sucker for circular polarizer (especially on wide-angle) and the price is exorbidant at 82mm compared to 77. I shoot Nikon and I picked the 16-35 over the 14-24 for that one reason.

    The one thing I did not get with Canon was that this lens is 1200 and the f/2.8 is 1400 after a 200 dollar rebate. Think they will have a tough time selling these. Just my few cents.

    • May 20, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      Harish, I agree!

      The f/2.8 is $1200, because it has been out for a long time. The f/4 version is probably going to drop down in price after a couple of years too. After the new f/4 version is out, the f/2.8 won’t sell well for sure. Canon will have to update the f/2.8 version soon :)

    • 5.2) StevenP
      May 20, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      I actually bought the 16-35f2.8 for my wife, had it home…then realized it was an 82mm ring-size. We must have spent 8hrs going over the plus/minus side of the equation. We were heading out on a photo-course and trying to find step-down rings from 82->77 was a challenge on such short notice.
      We have a lot invested in filters all of which are 77mm. It was an unfortunate decision by Canon for this, and the 24-70mm lens.
      If we decided to go with the 24-70mm we will definitely also look at the 16-35mm f2.8 as well…but I am not sure many Singh-Ray’s come in the 82mm size, and yes the price would be prohibitive. We bought some 105mm for our Cokin/Lee kits and gasped at the price.

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