My Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L review.

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by alexander_sukonkin, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. Hi everyone,
    I'm using EF EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens for about a year now.
    I'm very happy with the results and want to share my experience.

    link

    I would appreciate criticism, suggestions for improvement and other comments, so can I revise the review.
    Thank you in advance for comments.
     
  2. I'm too lazy to read it all, but you refer to the lens as an "EF EF 400mm f/5.6L USM"
     
  3. Some nice images in there. It's nice to see a review without a bunch of lens cap pics and MTF charts. Cool. My wife stole my 17-40L so I haven't seen it for the last year or so...
     
  4. Ooops, I'm sorry about the "EF EF 400mm f/5.6L USM", my mistake...
     
  5. Interesting review and very nice pictures though I notice that the camera bodies you use are all APS-C crop factor size sensors. With a full format wide angle like the 17-40L the most interesting and challenging bit of its performance is the bit you have omitted - its edge performance in full format cameras.
    I quite like the idea of one's wife stealing the 17-40L. That would give me just the excuse I needed to buy that 16-35 II L.
     
  6. With a full format wide angle like the 17-40L the most interesting and challenging bit of its performance is the bit you have omitted - its edge performance in full format cameras.
    In my experience, mostly shooting this lens on FF at smaller apertures for landscape and similar, this "problem" turns out to be a myth. There are reasons why this assumption about the way corner sharpness will play out in larger formats doesn't quite work that way.
    Dan
     
  7. I was fairly happy with the 17-40 on the 5D, but find it unacceptable on the 5D2: the corners are just too ugly at any f stop.
    Of course, the lenses that can render clean corners on the 5D2 in that range, the Nikon 14-24, Canon 17TSE, Zeiss 21/2.8, Canon 24TSEII, are expensive, heavy, awkward, inconvenient, and a general pain. Sigh.
     
  8. I enjoyed reading your review Alexander. Lots of real-world examples and tests.
     
  9. It never ceases to amaze me that two photographers can give you three different opinions. :)
     
  10. I was fairly happy with the 17-40 on the 5D, but find it unacceptable on the 5D2: the corners are just too ugly at any f stop.​
    Hmm, I thought the corners on my copy were pretty good but I was mainly using it stopped down for landscapes. Sharp or soft it's sorta a moot point as the 11x14 and 16x20 prints I made crop the corners out. Add a mat and there goes another 10% or so. Even the full frame 12x18 I sometimes print lose a lot along the mat edge. Of course, if you never print and primarily enjoy your images pixel peeping in the corners ...
     
  11. I print the whole frame, whether it's 6x6, 6x7, or digital. Maybe Canon figures that no one uses the whole frame so the corners don't matter...
     
  12. So we are all pretty much agreed that the 17-40L gives a decent edge-to-edge performance on full frame if you stop it down to f-something-or-other. My point above is that for this partcular lens, that bit of advice is fairly important to get the best out of it and a compehansive review should say that.
     
  13. Great review, thank you.
    I, too, have found that the lens hood is a nuisance since it hogs space in the bag, but I've not tried simply shooting without it. You said that you don't bother with it. Were all the shots in your review taken without the hood?
    Regarding corner sharpness, it's easy to prove to yourself in testing that they are quite sharp (even with the aperture wide open), but they don't come to focus in the same plane as the center! When you stop down, depth of field masks this. In many shots (such as interiors or near-far landscapes), this effect actually helps you because the subject matter in the corners is in fact closer than than that of the center. You need to be judicious in your selection of your focus point and the distribution of depth of field. Live view helps! The situation where you will have trouble is when shooting pictures of things like brick walls where the corners are significantly further from the camera than the center.
     
  14. Thank you all for you input!
    I don't write much about 17-40L performance on a FF body as I don't have one. I just tried to make several snapshots on my friend's 5DmkII, they seem ok, but it is not enough to make any judgement in public. So I have no intention to write about anything that I have not tried myself.
    Ken, yes all pictures in the review, and in my gallery were taken without the hood.
     
  15. sbp

    sbp

    Nice review. I agree that real world shots are more interesting than res charts. FWIW, I use the 17-40 on a 1Ds3 body and have no complaints. About that giant hood - in one dimension, it is almost exactly the size of the 24-70/2.8 hood. When I pack my bag, I mount the 24-70 to a body with the hood reversed, lay the 17-40 hood on it's back about where the mounted lens will fit, and nestle the mounted lens down into the 17-40 hood. Fits perfectly and takes up virtually no extra room.
    cheers
     
  16. I've been interested in the 17-40L for some time now. I've done my research and I'm ready to buy, but most of the information out there today is useless for this lens. The 17-40L is a full-frame lens made in the film days. When I get mine, I plan to use it for full-frame, so I am not at all concerned with its performance on a cropped sensor any more than I am with any other full frame lens on a cropped sensor. The lens is an ultra-wide on full-frame, but nothing special on a cropped sensor. It's really not that much faster and doesn't provide any extra FOV than the cheap 18-55 kit lens. The best choice on a cropped sensor is of course the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. It's faster, sharper, has an extended range, IS, and is the same price as the 17-40L. The magic for the 17-40L happens on full frame.
    This is why I'd like to see the definitive full frame review of this lens, like it deserves. You should borrow the 5D again and perform the entire extensive review with that camera (or someone should). For myself, I will be shooting the lens on film primarily, so even a 5D digital review is a little stringent for my requirements (speaking to sharpness), but the issue of corner falloff is very important.
    The Marketing Department cameraman at my job uses a 30D with the 17-40L. I laugh everytime I see him taking snapshots around the shop, knowing that he's only using half the lens (and not in it's intended way), and he's not getting the wide angles he needs. Nor is he getting the speed he needs in low-light with an L-series lens. Considering that most of his shots are at 17mm, the f/4L lens is actually SLOWER than the f/3.5 kit lens at 18mm. Talk about paying more for less. For the work he does, he'd be better off with the 10-22mm USM.
     
  17. I use a 16-35 as a primary lens on my APS-C cameras. It also is a wonderful lens -- obviously -- for my EOS 3 and 10S (2 film bodies). How do you know your Mktg Photog doesn't have a FF body at home?
    I, as I speak for many (but likely a minority), would never buy and mount an EF-S lens on any of my cameras. I'll take the 16-35 over anything that covers that range.
     
  18. The Marketing Department cameraman at my job uses a 30D with the 17-40L. I laugh everytime I see him taking snapshots around the shop, knowing that he's only using half the lens (and not in it's intended way), and he's not getting the wide angles he needs.​
    Hal B - I disagree, my 30D & 17-40mm combo provides the coverage I need. If I wanted a 10-22mm EF-S lens I would have bought one. I don't see a waste of resource here, and the IQ of my 17-40mmL smokes the 18-55mm kit lens
     
  19. I'll have to expound, as I sincerely believe there are better options for cropped cameras, and I know the guy I'm describing personally:
    First of all, he's not really a photographer at all. This is a duty auxiliary to his main job. He doesn't really know how to handle the camera at all. He doesn't pay attention to shutter speed, ISO, keeping the camera level, framing, exposure, etc. He just uses it to go *click*. Routinely, he has to take wide-angle photos in dark areas. These always end up badly framed and blurry, as he's shooting at around ISO 200, f/5.6, and 1/10 sec. He's always backing into a wall to get the whole shot, and never can frame the entire object. In short, our company's recent marketing photos are really, really bad. I've seen the photos, and this guy needs a 14mm or 16mm to get the job done.
    You can't ignore the fact that the 17-40mm at f/4 is slower than the kit lens 18-55mm at f/3.5. If you are always shooting at 17mm in dark spaces, you would be better off with the kit lens. You would also be much better off with the f/2.8 version with IS, which would gain you an extra stop for focusing in low light, and an extra 2 stops on top of that from the IS. Heck, you can even get the kit lens with IS for 1/5 the price. Also, you can't ignore that if you are always shooting wide angles, there are wider lenses available for the same money.
    The problem stems from using a very special old lens improperly on a different, new kind of camera. The 17-40 f/4L was a lower cost alternative to the 16-35 f/2.8L, both for ultra-wide angles on full frame. The 17-40 today costs just a little less than the 17-55 f/2.8 IS, not designed for wide angles, but designed for digital cameras. While the 17-40 is a great lens on full-frame, and fills a narrow niche, there are better choices for digital cameras. Whether you need a fast all-arounder or a wide-angle, there are better choices.
     
  20. If you want a more convenient hood for the 17-40 (vs the huge standard hood) use the EW-83DII. It is the hood designed for the 24 1.4L lens. It works fine. I use it on my 1D MKIII which is only a 1.3 crop (vs 1.6 crop from Rebels) with no vignetting. It will cause vignetting on full frame bodies however.
    00VRhA-207763584.jpg
     
  21. I was fairly happy with the 17-40 on the 5D, but find it unacceptable on the 5D2: the corners are just too ugly at any f stop.
    That doesn't make sense. The lens focuses the same on a 21MP sensor as it does on a 12MP sensor.
    it's easy to prove to yourself in testing that they are quite sharp (even with the aperture wide open), but they don't come to focus in the same plane as the center!
    I eventually have come to much the same conclusion - many (but not all) of the corner softness issues with the lens are more about focus than about the lens. We often ask these lenses to cover tremendous depth of field at 17mm of FF and when we look at the result at 100% magnification the natural DOF issues (coupled with the difficulty of getting excellent resolution in corners of UWA zooms) shows up "issues" that may or many not really be problems in a print.
    I like the 17-40 and use it a lot on full frame, but its usefulness depends a lot on how and what you shoot. In my view, it is at its best - and very fine - when used for stopped-down landscape and similar photography on a full frame body. I rarely shoot mine at apertures larger than f/8* and I more often shoot it at f/11 or f/16. On full frame the diffraction blur issue is generally insignificant at these apertures even in a large print, and at these apertures the corners can become quite good.
    I shot the lens on a cropped sensor body for a couple years and in the end I felt it was OK but limited. Because I didn't like to stop down on crop beyond about f/8 I could generally not eliminate the corner softness issues without introducing diffraction blur issues. Fortunately the EFS 17-55mm f/2.8 IS provides a much better option for covering this FL range on a cropped body.
    Dan
    * I sometimes use the 17-40 on FF wide open for certain types of "indoor street photography" or shooting hand held in tight areas. If part of my vision for these photographs includes a desire or acceptance of sharp center with soft and vignetted corners the lens can do a nice job of this - but it wouldn't be for everyone.
     
  22. I have used a 17-40 on both full frame and 1.6 crop. It generally stays on my 5D. If you would like to walk around with it on 1.6 it delivers the equivilent of 28-63 mm and works well. I have made and framed some very nice large blowups from both crops. I use it a lot. I have a couple of three pound L lenses and it's a relief not to carry so much weight or size. I was just looking at some work, that now deceased, Monte Zucker did with a Canon D30. I wish I could match it. Having taking a course from him I think he did beautiful work with whatever he had in his hand. I just did a job with the 17-40 and a couple of other lenses for a very particular client. I was never asked what lens I used but they were quite satisfied with the result. I think for 99 per cent of professional uses the 17-40 will be fine. And, with the continuing improvement in high ISO fidelity one stop does not mean near as much as it used to. Either 17-40 or 17-55 2.8 would work in most cases IMO. With one exception, I have never bought EF-S lenses because they cannot be used on both 1.6 and 1.0 crop. I bought the 17-40 a few years ago with that in mind.
     
  23. I'll be upgrading to the 5D MkII shortly, so I may have to revise my opinion but; althought it may be a bit soft in the corners, I've found this lens to be more than adequate with the 5D MkI, as well as with EOS-3, etc., that came before it. Truth is, the only folks I've found who look at corner detail that closely, are other photogs! I guess we'll see.
     
  24. This is going to be my next lens, and seeing how it performs on the 7D just sealed the deal for me.
    Some great photos, I enjoyed the article and it was nice not to see charts and test images for a change.
    I would say well done, and thanks for sharing.
     
  25. Nice review, nice photos. I prefer a more real world review like this over a bunch of shots of brick walls and such.
    I purchased a 17-40 used and I must say its much better then I was expecting ( used on a 5D2 ) Very sharp, amazing color and contrast and the build feels really good, its pretty compact and the fact that it does not extend out the barrel is a nice plus. However, for my shooting style I really do not need this wide a lens so I will probably sell it off but not because of the performance. If you like wide angle its a great lens.
     
  26. Hal B writes, "I've been interested in the 17-40L for some time now. I've done my research and I'm ready to buy, but most of the information out there today is useless for this lens. The 17-40L is a full-frame lens made in the film days."​
    It's actually not that old! It hit the market in 2003 and many of us bought it as the kit lens for the EOS 10D and 20D. It was among the first FF optics designed in the digital era and claimed improved coatings, etc.
     
  27. My 17-40 F4L works perfectly on my canon 5D Mark II. This lens is a hands fown excellent lens on any canon camera Crop or Full Frame.
     
  28. Alexander, I liked your review of the 400mm 5.6, and this one was excellent as well. Keep those reviews coming! How did you get so close to the crow and the squirrel?
     
  29. It's actually not that old! It hit the market in 2003 and many of us bought it as the kit lens for the EOS 10D and 20D. It was among the first FF optics designed in the digital era and claimed improved coatings, etc.​
    I second this remark. I bought my 17-40mm f/4L at that time. Somebody told me that the lens has been made in 1980! Just because that individual looked at the the first letter of the date code, as stated in Bob's Atkin's webpage.
     
  30. I don't understand the OP's post- hasn't the 17-40 been out for 6 1/2 years now? why a "review"?
     
  31. Thank you all for your responses.
    Steven, very nice idea about the hood!
    Hal, I dont completely agree here, yes 17-55 f/2.8 IS is better optically, but it is not weather sealed, so I won't trade my 17-40 for it even they were the same price. And 17-40 is still remains the cheapest high quality general purpose lens for APS-C bodies.
     

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