Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 as Landscape Lens?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by gary_meehan|1, Feb 11, 2013.

  1. Hello,
    How does the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L lens fair for landscape work? I'm thinking especially in terms of sunrise/sunset lighting. Is the f/4 aperture a hindrance in this regard? I would prefer the 16-35mm f/2.8L instead, of course, but it is substantially more expensive.
    The lens would be used on a Canon T3i.
    Thanks in advance.
  2. I think flare with any of these lenses with large curved front elements is more like to be a limiting factor than aperture per se. I've done sunrise/sunset work with a Sigma 15-30mm which is another of these sorts, and you have to be aware of the problems.
  3. JDM, the 17-40 holds up surprisingly well against flare. The coatings are superb.
    Gary, I prefer f/4 zooms to f/2.8 zooms for reasons of weight, size, and cost. I've never found f/4 to be a limitation, except with respect to those blurry background shots that people seem to love these days. For those shots I also have a few fast primes -- much faster than an f/2.8 zoom. I frankly can't imagine much landscape work being done with wide apertures, particularly sunrises and sunsets. I would think you'd end up stopping down quite a lot for those. Around f/8 is the sweet spot for the 17-40, BTW.
    For a crop camera, you might enjoy the EF-S 10-22 even more.
  4. Gary,
    You're much more likely to shoot landscape/sunset/sunrise images in the f/8 to f/11 range than at f/2.8 or f/4. The additional money for the faster lens would be wasted if landscapes will be the major application for this lens.
    The 17-40 is an excellent lens, and as Sarah has already mentioned, is well corrected against flare.
  5. Good lens on a crop sensor camera, but a very good lens on an FF camera. Lens is extremely well made but a bit heavy, and flare is well controlled. On a crop sensor camera, I would probably want something wider, like the 15-85 or 10-22.
  6. I prefer the 17-40 to the 16-35 actually. I use it for landscape work, which is usually stopped down and from a tripod, so the f/4 is a non-issue. Its also lighter and more compact than the 16-35. It also accepts a 77mm filter, which is much more common and cheaper than the 82mm filter required for the 16-35mm.
  7. I did not find the 17-40 to be a very great landscape lens on a cropped sensor body. (It is a fine lens for this purpose on full frame. I own a copy still and use it for full-frame landscape and similar shooting.)
    The issue is two-part. The lens has corner softness issues at the largest apertures. However, on crop - and especially for landscape - you'll generally want to avoid stopping down past about f/8 in order to minimize diffraction blur. At f/8 you can came close to reducing it sufficiently, but even here the far corners can be a bit soft. But this means that you have a very limited number of useful apertures with this lens on crop.
    A far better option is the EFS 17-55mm f/2.8 IS. Optically the lens performs better than the two L lens option on cropped sensor cameras, it goes to f/2.8, it includes IS, and it has a larger focal length range.
    Of course, none of these lenses are truly wide angle lenses on cropped sensor cameras, where 30mm or so is the "normal" focal length. If you are attracted to the ultra-wide angle of view potential of the 16-35 or 17-40 range on full frame, you almost certainly actually want something like the 10-22mm lens on your cropped sensor body.
  8. Ditto what G. Dan said. I use a 17-40mm 4.0 lens on my 5D II but I use the 10-22mm and 17-55MM ON MY T2i. The 10-22mm has the effective focal length of 16-35mm on the APS-C crop camera. These 2 lenses for me, the 10-22mm and 17-55mm, are so good they are strong reasons to still own and use the APS-C sensor format cameras. If you already have the 17-40mm by all means go ahead and use it but if you are shopping for a lens for landscape and general use for a crop sensor camera there are better choices out there including the very fine and inexpensive Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 non VC lens. Good luck!
  9. It should be great. You'll be stopped down and likely on a tripod, minimizing any issues.
    When using wide and ultra-wide zooms, be sure to use DLO (Digital Lens Optimization) software to automatically correct for geometric distortion, vignetting, softness, etc. at each focal length and aperture combination. Digital Photo Professional now has this, as does DxO Optics Pro.
  10. G. Dan seems to be suggesting that the 17-40 is diffraction limited by f/8 on a cropped body.
    I think this is too conservative, in my experience this lens is fine at least to f/11, and f/16 is probably useable.
    I'm not sure if he intended to say that the lens has worse diffraction on a cropped body than on a full-frame body but I can insure you that that is not the case. In my experience no lens will be more diffraction limited on a cropped body than on a full-frame one. If anything it will be the opposite.
  11. I kind of doubt that any of these lenses is going to diffraction limited at f/8. I routinely shot my 500/f4-IS on a 7D, with the same pixel-pitch as the T3i, and there were no diffraction issues at f/11. (I seldom shot at f/16, but most of the images were cropped and would have shown diffraction, if it were an issue).
    Pixel density does increase sensitivity to diffraction as the pixels get smaller.
  12. I've only had the 17-40 for 10 days or so, have shot a lot of pictures with it on a 5D Mark III at 2 different sunsets across the focal range and have been very happy with the images. I shot a lot of pictures straight into the sun, blocking 80% or so of it behind a foreground tree, and produced some sun stars but have had no issues with flare. I just about always shoot wide angle at apertures of f/8 and higher on a tripod, so f/2.8 versus f/4 is not a real consideration for me, particularly when the 16-35 is twice as expensive, heavier to drag around and takes more expensive filters. Just about every review I've seen says the image quality of the 2 lenses is virtually identical.
    I just switched from the T2i to the 5D Mark III and as others have noted the 17-40 is a great full frame option but there may be better options for a T3i like the EF-S 17-55. However, if you think you might go to a full frame camera in the next few years, you'll already have your ultrawide lens with the 17-40 while the EF-S lens won't work and you'll have to buy again.
  13. "I'm not sure if he intended to say that the lens has worse diffraction on a cropped body than on a full-frame body but I can insure you that that is not the case."​
    Actually, that is precisely the case. If you think about it (or just try it!) you'll see why. At a given aperture, the "size" of the diffraction blur (and other kinds of blur) is larger as a percentage of frame width on smaller sensors.
    • If you shoot full frame and your primary need is for an ultra wide lens to shoot handheld in low light conditions, the 16-35 may well be your best choice.
    • if you shoot full frame and you primary need is for an ultra wide lens to shoot at small apertures from the tripod, the 17-40 is likely your best choice.
    • If you shoot crop and you need to cover the ultra wide range, your best Canon option is likely the EFS 10-22.
    • If you shoot crop and you need a lens that goes from somewhat wide to somewhat telephoto, the EFS 17-55mm f/2.8 IS is likely your best choice.
  14. I used to have the17-40 and it was a good lens for the price. The MkI 16-35 F2.8 was not really any better, the 16-35 F2.8
    MkII that I replaced my 17-40 with is a better lens. I found the 17-40 soft at the edges especially on wider apertures.
    That said I was using it on full frame and APS-H bodies as I did not have an APS-C body when I had the 17-40. I suspect
    on APS-C the soft edges / corners will not be much of an issue. As others have said this is not really a very wide angle
    lens on APS-C. I have seen good results form the Tokina 11-16 F2.8 lens although I have never used it. I suggest you
    test the 17-40, 10-22 Canon and 11-16 Tokina (plus any Tamron or Sigma lenses people suggest).
  15. Have you considered the Tokina 11-16? Excellent build quality and a very solid performer. Also cheaper than the 17-40L.
    Just to clarify, I own (and love) a 17-40L. Really great lens.
  16. Hi G. Dan,
    I still can't get my head around your reasoning, not saying it's wrong, just that I don't understand it.
    Diffraction is related to the physical size of the aperture, not a specific f/number, so wouldn't the diffraction be the same, or at least very similar, with the 17-40 and the 17-55?
  17. David,
    Thanks for the link, I'll check it out. And I do see how sensor/pixel size can have an effect.
    But I still contend that two lenses of the same focal length at the same f/stop will display similar, if not identical, diffraction. On the same camera of course.
    I hope that I'm not on the verge of highjacking this thread so far it's been very interesting.
  18. Yes, I agree, lenses of the same focal length and same f-stop will have the same diffraction when used on the same camera. One may be softer than the other, but it's not because of diffraction.
  19. "Hi G. Dan,
    I still can't get my head around your reasoning, not saying it's wrong, just that I don't understand it.
    Diffraction is related to the physical size of the aperture, not a specific f/number, so wouldn't the diffraction be the same, or at least very similar, with the 17-40 and the 17-55?
    If you could place a very tiny "ruler" on the sensor and measure the "size" of the diffraction blur, it would measure the same on your ruler. However, in the case of the smaller sensor that "same" measurement would constitute a larger percentage of the frame width.
  20. G.Dan,.
    Got it! Thanks. Just proves that even old farts like me are trainable, although my wife may disagree with that theory.
    You're a very patient person.
  21. jje


    EF-S 10-22 is much better for crop. I had both on my crop for a while. I eventually got a 5D mark2 and that is when I really saw the value of the 17-40.
    Side by side you'll be happier hands down with the 10-22 on a crop.
  22. it


    I carry the 17-40 for landscapes. I keep meaning to upgrade to the 16-35mm, but haven't yet. I often use it with a polarizer and/or tripod. A couple of samples here, here and here.
  23. Make sure that you use DLO (Digital Lens Optimization) software with these kinds of wide zooms. The DLO module in Digital Photo Professional will adjust for CA, geometric errors, vignetting, etc. at every focal length and every aperture with your specific body. Shoot in Raw and convert with DLO enabled and you'll get prime-like results.

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