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The canon 17-40 f4 L is the lightest, and cheapest L series lens you can buy, it's so light I thought I'd received a fake without glass! At f4 it's not the fastest lens in the world, but if you're shooting landscapes at f8-f11 then it doesn't matter and you can save more than half on the cost of a 16-35 f2.8. f2.8 can be useful for really low light shooting, and especially for low light time lapse, but for day to day shooting sometimes f2.8 can have too little depth of field, so you'll be stopped down anyway. The 17-40 also uses 77mm filters where as the 16-35 uses rarer and more expensive 82mm filters, if you already have a stack of 77mm filters the 17-40 is a clear winner. The 16-36 does have some advantages though, of course it's an f2.8 so the viewfinder is brighter, AF is quicker, you can shoot in half the light, more bokeh, and it's also much sharper in the corners, that is the biggest flaw of the 17-40 it never really sharpens up in the corners at 17mm, so think of it more as a 20-40mm. 20mm on full frame is still very wide, but if you want wider the samyang 14mm would be a good option to go with the 17-40. AF speed is fine, and the build quality is great (also weather sealed)
This is one of the cheapest L series lenses that Canon has in its lineup- a snip at about £500. The L classification that Canon uses is for its Pro set of lenses- these are for the professionals and are build for that purpose. With a UV filter on the end, this lens is weather sealed, which means it should be able to put up with anything that is thrown at it. Can be used on full frame cameras like the 5d (&mark2) and 1d series, which means the wide 17mm means its perfect for landscape photographers. On the other hand, if this is used with a crop sensor body (the xxD or xxxD series) then this will make the lens a 27mm - 64mm. Not so useful for the landscape photographer- but perfect for the average walkabout lens. The weight has been kept down on this lens, so you shouldn't feel it too much walking around. The only downside is the rather disappointing F/4.0- but really you can't have everything.
You expect a good quality lens from a quality manufacturer such as Canon to be of exceptional quality and I have always found this to be the case. The Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM certainly doesn't let the side down. I purchased this lens a while back now to use with my Canon 400D and I have been really pleased with its performance. The 17- 40mm is probably one of the most popular lenses in the Canon line but at over £500 it is a bit on the expensive side and so might be a bit too ambitious a move for many people although you might pick up a good second hand one for less than £450. Nevertheless, for the price you still get a very well built lens that takes excellent pictures. The Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM is an L-series ultra-wide-angle zoom lens that's ideal for both film and digital SLRs. The manufacturers lay claim to the superior optics that consist of three aspherical lens elements, in addition to a Super UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) glass element. Optical coatings are also optimized for use with digital cameras. This lens focuses as close as 11 inches (0.28m), and offers both Canon's full-time manual focus and a powerful ring-type USM for fast and silent AF. There is a constant and what some might consider a limiting f/4 maximum aperture, and a choice of either a screw-in 77mm filter or a holder in the rear of the lens for up to three gel filters. As with other high-end L-series lenses it has a weather-resistant construction. I found this lens a good option for the likes of open scenery, architecture and tight spaces. I have also used it as all round lens at social gatherings but at 40mm the focal length is just not long enough and trying to take pictures of people on such occasions can be tricky because you have to get up quite close which can be rather intimidating. One important aspect I did like about using this lens in such settings is that it is nice and light. I think that the lens is excellent for taking pictures outside. Outdoor landscapes can be especially impressive if you want to emphasize the sky or the scope of the land. The images have a lovely deep quality with beautiful colours and image sharpness. Here the lens manages to capture a lot of colour at the wider vistas. Only at the very edge of the frames will you see some curvature and this is only noticeable when you're shooting tall thin objects. I personally did not find the f/4 too limiting when combined with the great high ISO performance of my Canon 400D SLR. I was a bit surprised that it performed quite well for me as an indoor lens, especially when used with a bouncing flash. I also found uses for the lens indoors without the use of flash, but in this case a tripod is usually required. Some professionals might argue that because the aperture is limited to f/4, indoor shots are not favoured and that this aperture limitation is not acceptable for standard portraits. However, for my humble needs I really could not find fault with its performance. Overall, the pictures I have managed to capture so far with this lens have been excellent. With black and white photography the contrast was excellent and with colour shots there was outstanding colour rendition. As always it is recommended to have a screw on UV filter as a permanent feature in order to protect the lens when working outdoors. Important Technical Details Mounting Type: Canon EF Lens Aperture: F/4.0 Focal Length: 17 mm - 40 mm Min Focus Range: 28 cm Focus Adjustment: Automatic, manual Lens Construction: 9 group(s) / 12 element(s) Special Functions: Wide angle, zoom Filter Size: 77 mm Length: 9.7 cm Weight: 500 g Price £509.99 at Amazon. © Zmugzy May 2007