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Gear Reviews

Canon’s New 16-35 F/4L IS Initial Thoughts: Cautiously Optimistic

By Anthony Thurston on June 28th 2014

A new toy arrived late yesterday afternoon and I couldn’t wait to get it out of the box and onto my camera(s). That item is the brand new, now shipping, Canon 16-35mm F/4L IS – a lens that many are scratching their heads over.


Heading into my review, I had a few things that was curious about with this lens. Mainly in regards to the image quality, since given its “L” status, you can almost be assured the build quality will be up to par. What, if anything (besides the obvious focal range difference), sets this lens apart from the 17-40mm F/4, and how does the image quality stack up to the 16-35mm F/2.8L II? Unfortunately, I don’t have either of those lenses to do a direct comparison, but I am still looking forward to seeing how this lens performs.

Being as I just got the lens, as is our custom, I wanted to share my initial thoughts on it. So, let’s get to it…

Initial Thoughts On the Canon 16-35mm F/4L IS


My overall initial impression is that this is a well built lens. I would expect nothing less from an L lens. The plastic used doesn’t feel like the highest quality, but at the same time it doesn’t feel flimsy either. The weight also surprised me, feeling heavier than I was expecting, but not too heavy.

The zoom and focus rings are true to their Canon nature and are both smooth and feel well secured to the lens. The switches for AF/MF and the Stabilizer control feel solid and provide a nice hard *click*, and while it’s nice that they won’t be moved easily, I feel like they may be a tad bit too tight.

[REWIND: Canon’s 16-35mm F/4L Is Now Shipping]

The lens mounts well on the Canon 70D as well as my EOS M, and overall operation on both cameras is good. The AF is quick and snappy in general daytime conditions and the Image Stabilization works wonderfully.


I am excited to give this lens a thorough run through here over the next month or so. I am cautiously optimistic that this lens will meet my expectations and who knows, may end up being worth a buy over something like the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II or the Canon 17-40mm f/4L.

Now for a quick recap of my initial thoughts in list form, for easy consumption…

  • Good Build Quality, though plastic doesn’t seem to be highest quality
  • Focus and Zoom Rings are smooth and feel well secured to the lens
  • AF and IS switched are solid, well built, but may be a tad bit tight
  • AF works well on both the Canon 70D and EOS M
  • IS works great in both video and still images
  • Lens is heavier than I was expecting, but not overly heavy

For those interested, this new Canon 16-35mm F/4L IS just started shipping this week, so if you like what you see you can head over to B&H now and get your order in.

That is about all I have for initial thoughts on this lens so far. As always, if there is anything you want me to specifically look into with this lens or include in my full review, please leave a comment below.

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Fotograf Nunta Brasov

    As i read on other forums and reviews – this new Canon lens is super sharp but it has f4… is this good for weddings? What do you think?

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  2. Robert Benda

    I’d love to know how the video live focus tracking does with lenses. We own two of the 70Ds and have found that smooth focusing, like the kind we need as we film a bride walking down the aisle, is lacking in several of our lenses.

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  3. Kristoffer Sandven

    Anthony, your website is down (or the link in your bio is wrong) ;)

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  4. Ed Velez

    Must be the same head scratchers that were hoping for a 24-70 2.8 L IS which never came about. I get the impression that some would like to have the 2.8 for their bokeh as well as IS for ??? Not sure why a wide angle or super wide angle would really need IS other than to get a few extra stops while shooting indoors in low light. Guess its a matter of preference…if you do low light or indoors and cant always use flash, go with the 4 IS and get the extra stops or go with the 2.8 if you like to get the best DOF options.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      IS these days, at least at wide focal lengths, is mainly a video feature, and is less about low light shooting than it is about getting a smoother shot.

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  5. Mads Helmer Petersen

    Looking forward to see some test shots

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  6. Servando Miramontes

    I’ll take the strap, you can keep the lens…

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  7. Ben Perrin

    I still don’t understand why so many reviewers are scratching their heads over this lens. It’s a replacement for the 17-40 and a perfect lens for landscape. It’s sharper and better in most respects compared to the 17-40 and out does the 2.8 for image quality in most circumstances. Not everyone needs or wants 2.8 or wider on every lens. It’s been selling very fast and many landscape and travel photographers have been really excited to get this lens.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I should note that I am not one of the head scratchers, just a lot of that going around though so It needed to be mentioned.

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    • Ben Perrin

      I’m not having a go at you either Anthony. I hope my post didn’t come across that way :)

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