Lens Review – Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

To many photographers out there, unless you are a non-full frame shooters, 16mm is always a bit too wide for many things. Most amateurs will not be able to utilise its ‘wideness’ because it makes your subject too small in the picture and most importantly it can make your subject looks like frankenstein (I mean distorted).

So why this lens?

If you think I don’t like this lens, you are wrong. I love it. I love it because it distorts your subject. I love it because it makes your subject small. This is when your creativity plays the part. When shooting at 16mm, you can creative a sense of space. For instance, if you are shooting inside a cathedral, 16mm will definitely fool your viewers about the size of the cathedral. Because it makes the people look like ants and extends the columns by 400%, the viewers can really ‘feel’ the space. Also, when shooting at just below your chest level and tilt up a little, you can really extend your subject’s features (you can really make someone looks slimmer and has longer legs!!!). So this is a creative lens if you use it right. Because it’s a zoom lens, there’s a bit of versatility. 35mm is always a very good length for street photography so Henri Bresson said. That says the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM is a good street travel lens. You can do the normal street shots at keeping 35mm focal length while you are walking about and use the wider length when you are in a confined area or if you want to make something look spacious.


I’ve heard some people complaining about the size and weight of this lens. But for those who are accustomed to Canon’s professional lenses, the 16-35mm is actually one of the lightest and smaller L zoom lenses in the range. But for those who are more used to kit lenses will most definitely feel the weight. I rather like the size to weight ratio of this lens and it doesn’t hurt when you carry it around all day. To me, I think it’s like Kylie Minogue, small and sexy and very well proportioned. When I carry it with my 5D, It’s not front heavy like the 24-70mm, constantly tipping forward. But don’t be fooled by its lighter weight, it’s constructed properly, as with other new ‘L’ zooms from Canon. It’s high quality metal body and mount, together with weather seals make it one of the most robust lenses around. At the end of the day, it’s a Canon 2.8 professional zoom lens.

Using it in practice, good and bad

Because of its small size and light weight, it’s a pleasure to use all day long. But it isn’t all practical for the reasons I mentioned earlier. It isn’t a portrait lens or doesn’t have the reach for something far if you want to capture some nice details on the roof or the kid playing footballs across the street. Or even stalking your idol from distance. This is a lens for ‘close encounter’.

It’s a mixed bag with this lens’ zoom range. You use it for street, you use it for architecture and you use it for some creative madnesses. But when you use it right, this lens will produce some of the sharpest images around, even at wide open. With 2.8 aperture, you can definitely have no trouble in low light. At 16mm, the depth of view is so deep that even shooting wide open doesn’t blur anything, so it’s quite good if you want to get some large group photos while keeping everything in focus. Because of this characteristic, it’s difficult to separate your subject from the background unless you get really close. It doesn’t have Image stabiliser so it isn’t good for handheld video either.


There isn’t a perfect lens for everything. Just remember that what you want to photograph and what effect you want to achieve. I love the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM simply because it allows me get close to my subjects and in tight spaces. For my wedding work, this lens allows me to photograph the bride and groom getting ready in small hotel rooms. Cheekily, I can also make the bride look stunningly slim, if she’s a little worry about her figure. When I am traveling, it also becomes a dawn good street zoom for me, though I still carry my Sigma 50mm prime for some general shots. I would say this lens isn’t for everyone. but If you like what I describe above, then most likely you will find this lens useful. But for others, you may actually like Canon’s more consumer friendly version, the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM. It isn’t as strong and a stop slower but it’s does everything ok and just about as good. For APS-C shooters, then range will become normal zoom in 35mm terms, just like the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM or Canon EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM.

In short, I use this lens and I love it. If I have to pick something to complaint, it would be the 82mm filter size. It’s not the ‘general’ 77mm that other ‘L’ zooms use and hence you have to carry another set when you are out and about.

The products mentioned in this review can be purchased in Amazon

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM 

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG EX HSM 

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

Canon EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM

Canon EOS 5D Mark II


2 responses to “Lens Review – Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

  1. Pingback: LENS REVIEW – Sigma 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 EX DG ASP IF | talktog·

  2. Thanks for this helpful lens review of the 16-35mm lens. I have been using the Rokinon 16mm for Canon, and it’s been a fun lens to give a sense of the space for wedding ceremonies and landscape driven portraits. But it’s a bit too soft, and the manual focus at such a wide angle means I have to put the camera into live view and zoom focus- which slows me down during shoots. I’d like to add this lens to my kit!

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