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Ultra-Wide Lens News & Thoughts: 14-24mm VS 16-35mm f/2.8?

By Matthew Saville on January 10th 2013

So, the rumored (and patented) Canon 14-24mm f/2.8 L has not yet appeared.  A rumor floated a while ago that January 8th (during the CES trade show) would be a big announcement day for Canon, but alas only point-and-shoots were delivered.  Plus a couple $4,000-$5,000 cinema lenses.

Where is the Canon 14-24mm f/2.8?  Is 2013 still going to be the year that Canon finally begins to compete with (or surpass) the legendary Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 AFS-G?

Surprisingly, Nikon just filed another patent of it’s own, for an ultra-wide lens that currently only Canon has: a 16-35mm f/2.8!



The question I started wondering about 14-24mm versus 16-35mm in general: do either companies really need BOTH a 14-24mm f/2.8 and a 16-35mm f/2.8?  This got me wondering about focal ranges in general, and the usefulness of various different lenses.  These ranges seem to overlap quite a bit, however maybe Nikon feels they still have a gap to cover that the 14-24 isn’t completely filling? (Nor the new 16-35 f/4 VR?) …Oppositely, has Canon thus far been doing so well with their 16-35 that they just haven’t felt a need for a 14-24?  Possibly.  Let’s discuss!

The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L mk2: Currently ~$1399 (On sale, $200 rebate!)
Buy now at:

The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 AFS-G ED N: Currently ~$1996
Buy now at:


In my experience, to be honest, the 14-24mm focal range is indeed slightly less useful than the 16-35mm focal range.  14mm is just so incredibly ultra-wide that it often simply wastes space around the edge of your images.  And 24mm is just not really long enough  to do anything other than the same style of wide angle compositions.  Basically for general photography the 14-24mm zoom is just an ultra-wide prime with a little bit of cropping power.  You’re hard-pressed to shoot general candids and portraits of fewer than 5-10 people.

Whereas with 16-35mm on the other hand, you still have access to incredibly wide views at 16mm, and the 35mm end becomes much more useful for general photojournalism, group portraits of 2-5 people, detail photos, all kinds of things.  This allows someone such as a wedding or event photojournalist to simply leave a 16-35 on their camera 100% of the time, when paired with a 2nd camera body that has a 70-200 or whatever other lens is necessary to cover the job.  Keep a 50mm prime in your pocket and leave your 24-70 in your bag as a backup, and you’ve got everything covered!

Don’t get me wrong, 14-24mm is a thing of beauty when you find a scene that truly benefits from that extreme wide angle.  For star trails and star time lapses, or architecture, or other things where wide angle is absolute king, the 14-24mm range takes the crown.

14mm FTW!  (Captured using a Rokinon 14mm, not a 14-24 zoom)

At the end of the day, I am happy to think that Canon may develop and release a 14-24mm f/2.8 this year, however I am even more happy to think that Nikon could be developing a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens.  I personally would rather have 35mm on the long end, as opposed to 14mm on the wide end of a zoom.  If I need 14mm, I’ll buy a 14mm prime like the very sharp Rokinon.  (Review in the works)

I simply find the 16-35mm focal range to be more useful in a zoom, for the type of photography I do.  I have previously enjoyed the older, venerable Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 and consider it a highly desirable alternative to the 14-24mm f/2.8.   (Plus, it accepts filters too, which the 14-24 does not!)  So to Nikon I say, bring on a 16-35mm f/2.8 VR!  I hope this patent becomes a reality some day soon.  For many, it could be the best ultra-wide zoom ever made…

Take care,

The Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S ED: Currently $1769
Buy now at:

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. tedtedsen

    the sigma 12-24mm is the moast insane lens i have tryed on my d800 not super duper Sharp on d800 but it is good not that bad as People says it is prettey good after af microadjustment to max sharpnes it is verey good i also have 14-24 24-120 and an 500mm and maney other but the 12-24mm compared to the 24-120 f4vr the difference is like zero

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  2. Arturo Mieussens

    As you said, the 14-24 is a specialist lens, not a general purpose  wide zoom, but an ultra-zoom for landscape, architecture and similar subjects.
    It makes a lot of sense for nikon to release a “pro” 16-35, as the 17-35 is clearly a dated design and the 16-35 f/4 doesn’t have a pro level construction. As for canon, I think the only reason they have to release a 14-24 is that nikon’s one is so good. But again, not too many people will find it a convenient lens.

    That said, I have the 14-24, and love it.

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  3. Stan Olszewski

    You’ve hit the nail on the head Matthew.  As a freelance photojournalist, I see a lot of the Nikon 14-24mm and Canon 16-35mm being used by other photographers.

    My personal preference between the two is the 16-35mm focal length.  The difference between 24mm and 35mm is huge and offers a whole new type of photo to be made.  With that said, I sold my 16-35mm f/2.8 and bought a 24-70mm f/2.8.  It’s “wide enough” but offers far more usefulness on the long end.  I haven’t missed the 16-24mm focal length much since the sale (about a year ago).

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  4. Dan Evans

    My 17-35 is by far my most used lens. As a photojournalist I live my life close and wide. But the 17-35 is looking soft on newer bodies. An update(16-35 2.8) would be an instant buy.

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  5. Mark Kauzlarich

    I used my 17-35mm lens for 80% of my journalism work in the last year. That being said, I’m considering moving to 24-70 because on full-frame cameras, its plenty wide and gives more reach. On crop bodies, 17-35 was much more useful of a range.

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    • Stan Olszewski

      I found the 24-70mm focal length to be signicantly more useful.  I can shoot 90% of my assignments (not including sports) with only the 24-70mm.  I couldn’t say that about the 16-35mm which often had to be paired up with a longer prime or a 70-200.

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  6. Gladiator_mtl

    Nikon needs a 8-15mm fisheye zoom like Canon…  When Nikon users start to buy Sigma lenses over Nikon because they have a better end result (16mm fisheye, 105mm Micro…)  it is a warning to Nikon to invest in DSLR lenses instead of wasting time with their 1 series.

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  7. Stephen Grande Jr.

    I couldn’t agree more! 

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