Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0G VR vs Canon 17-40mm f/4.0L USM

I will be honest – doing a comparison between the Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0G VR and the Canon 17-40mm f/4.0L USM was somewhat painful. First of all, the DSLR bodies that I was using did not have the same megapixel count (Nikon D300 is 12 Mp and Canon 50D is 15 Mp) and crop factor (Nikon D300 is 1.5x and Canon 50D is 1.6x). Achieving the same field of view and having similarly sized 100% crops for accurate testing and comparison was extremely difficult and I had to move my setup back and forth to get to a similar size. Even then, I was not able to get the results I wanted in the corners, so I will be focusing more on center performance rather than corners.

The image on the left is Nikon 16-35mm and the image on the right is Canon 17-35mm. Both were shot in RAW with no post-processing in Lightroom besides adjusting white balance.

Let’s take a look at the far corners @ 17mm f/4.0:

Nikon 16-35mm @ 17mm Far Left Corner Canon 17-40mm @ 17mm f/4.0 Far Left Corner

The Nikon 16-35mm clearly has both sharper image and better contrast in the corners.

Let’s now take a look at the center @ 17mm f/4.0 where I was able to match the view:

Nikon 16-35mm @ 17mm f/4.0 Center Canon 17-40mm @ 17mm f/4.0 Center

As can be clearly seen, Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 VR is significantly sharper than Canon 17-40mm f/4.0. When compared at f/8.0 both lenses are very similar in terms of sharpness and contrast. Now let’s see the performance @ 24mm f/4.0:

Nikon 16-35mm @ 24mm f/4.0 Center Canon 17-40mm @ 24mm f/4.0 Center

Again, Nikon 16-35mm is the clear winner, delivering more sharpness wide open.

The final test is both lenses at 35mm:

Nikon 16-35mm @ 35mm f/4.0 Center Canon 17-40mm @ 35mm f/4.0 Center

As expected, there is no change – the Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 is sharper than Canon 17-40mm f/4.0 @ f/4.0 across all focal lengths.

I did not bother uploading the images at other apertures, because both lenses perform very similarly at f/5.6 and higher and at f/8.0 there is practically no difference between them. The above test is to show that the Nikon 16-35mm is sharper than its counterpart Canon 17-40mm when shot wide open both in the center and in the corners.

The above has been posted to the Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 Review on the fifth page.


  1. 1) john
    August 8, 2012 at 1:20 am

    In proper measurement and Full Frame world with comparable Megapixel 5D mark II and D3x Photozone only gives 2.5 Stars for Nikon and 3 Stars for Canon.

    The crop of 12 Mpixel and 15 Mpixel will project the corner of the lens differently. The 15Mpixel will be more at the edge than 12 Mpixel. If you compared the whole package Canon has the edge with better build quality, weather sealed, light weight 680 g vs 475 gram, and price $1160 vs $780. In real situation with the whole package for same amount of money , pairing with 5D mark II vs D700, the image quality from Canon is few steps better than Nikon package.

    By the way, you should use the comparable class of Camera body. D300 should be compared with 7D, but 18 Mpixel is even higher and cannot be compared directly.

    • 1.1) tt
      June 10, 2013 at 5:20 am

      N16-35G is clearly sharper lens comparing to the old school C17-40L. I know it, because I’ve seen their results at the same time. Just go look at on their graphs or better on DxO Mark ;) C17-40L has been designed in max 10mpx times. I can see only one drawback of N16-35G. The huge load of distortion at 16mm. But in my D800 you can activate automatic distortion control which is set for almost every Nikkor lens I know. So that giant distortion is almost gone. (Or you can fix it in Photoshop: +8.0).
      And you mentioned the build quality and weather sealing. So? They’re both from proffessional line (Canon (L) red- and Nikon gold-ring) and both does have the weather sealing – where do you see some major differences?

      • 1.1.1) jeff
        January 11, 2014 at 9:08 am

        Because he’s a canonman

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