Let’s start talking Canon: My review of the 17-40mm L Series lens

Richard Charpentier Canon Cameras, Tech Reviews 2 Comments


A look into the filled Pelican Case. The 5D is out to take the picture!

Tonight I decided to crack open my Pelican case and fish a lens out.  It’s about time I started filling you in on my gear with some greater detail.  With some good experience under my belt given the equipment upgrades I’ve done recently I figured it’s time to share what I’ve learned.

The 5D has forced some changes in my gear

Picking up the 5D Mark II several weeks ago has led to some necessary changes for me.  Change number one, the most important change, was the addition of a new wide angle lens.  See, my 10-22mm EF-S lens couldn’t make the transition.  I still own it for my 40D (now the backup camera).  That lens has been responsible for some of my favorite images.  It’s one that didn’t hit E-Bay or Craigslist.

Since I enjoy wide angle scenes I knew I would be getting a new wide angle.  With 2 choices availabe, the 17-40 or the 16-35, I set out to read reviews like a mad man.  The 16-35mm Canon lens is a 2.8, while the lens I selected is an F4.  Why not get the faster lens?  I’ll get into that below.  Suffice it to say for the moment, I selected the 17-40mm as the first lens I had to get for my new camera.

Practical experience with the 17-40mm F/4 L series lens

Since the return of my 5D some weeks ago I’ve finally had the opportunity to “shoot around” with the new camera and the new lens.  Results have been impressive from both the camera and the lens!


The 17-40mm siting on my table in the Airstream.

On the last trip to Sunset Crater and the Sinaguan ruins I had the opportunity to use the 17-40 for many frames.  Following that trip we had the big Zion outing which spanned several days, and each day saw use for the 17-40mm.  Since returning from Zion I’ve also managed to take images in town, at the Motor Lodge, and finally on a quick trip to the Grand Canyon.  Over the course of shooting with the 17-40 I’ve also broken out my 40D and the 10-22mm to draw some comparisons for myself.

What I’ve found quite simply is that the 17-40mm is an excellent lens.

Shooting with the 17-40mm I’ve discovered the following:

  1. Light weight.  This thing feels like it’s nearly the same weight as my 10-22mm that’s been on my 40D for the past year.  I know it’s slightly heavier, but not in a noticeable way.  It’s super light when compared to my 24-70mm F/2.8 L lens (more on that one at a later time).
  2. Image quality has been on the mark across shooting scenes.  I haven’t seen variation no matter the lighting situation the lens has been in.
  3. Aberrations are pretty rare.  When dealing with a wide angle like this lens I expected more vignetting, and while I get some it is less perceptible than my 10-22.  I also really expect issues when creating HDRs, and while some vignetting does occur it’s extremely manageable!
  4. Extremely sturdy lens.  It can handle the places I hike, the dust cloud that is Arizona at times, and it can take rough outdoor handling.
  5. I like the hood that came with it.  I don’t like how the hood fits in my packs, but ah well.  There’s always somewhere to cram the plastic ring, just have to repack until you work it out.
  6. Focusing is quick, and accurate in good lighting.  Low light focusing is a different story, but I think that’s a Canon thing overall.
  7. The Zoom to 40mm is interesting, and functional.  It’s nice to have a little zoom at times when I’m not faced with a large vista.  I’ve found that I don’t have the urge to swap lenses quite as much when changing venues.  That’s a HUGE plus for me.  Liking that a lot.
  8. Getting the 2.8 for a lens like this is unnecessary (for me).  In my case, wide angle use is normally during higher light hours, and I’m usually looking at a narrower aperture in order to get the depth of field I want.  I’m honestly not sure that a 2.8 on a wide angle would get me much for my style of shooting.
  9. The money involved when compared to the 16-35 F/2.8 L lens is a big deal.  My lens was a good bit cheaper, and it accomplishes all I need it to.  Why pay for that extra stop when it won’t bring enough benefit to my particular shots?
  10. I’ve found the images produced are sharp.  Sharper than my 10-22mm on the 40D.  I can see the difference pretty quickly while comparing images in Lightroom.  This point probably goes along with point 2, but I think it’s worth restating.

My Bottom Line with the 17-40mm


Shot at 17mm, ISO 200. The watch tower at Desert View, Grand Canyon

The bottom line here is pretty simple.  The 17-40mm has replaced my 10-22mm as my wide angle of choice.  Yes, I’ll still use the 10-22 when shooting with the 40D, and no, not throwing it under the bus.  But I’m finding with each frame shot that I really like the sharpness of this lens.  I didn’t know how much difference there would be until I first started checking images against each other in Lightroom.  And yes, I know, no comparison shots here.  There are plenty of those types of shots out there, so why replicate work?

The decision to get the 17-40mm and not the 16-35mm was based on reading many reviews that currently exist on this lens.  A favorite review was at Ken Rockwell’s site (a favorite for the scoop on equipment).  In addition I checked the forums at DPReview, as they’ve always got the insights of owners of the equipment in question.  There’s a lot of positive feedback on the lens.  Additionally, before purchasing from B&H I checked the reviews on the lens.  Some stellar comments there.

Based on everything I read I expected positive results.  After my own shooting time with the lens I can tell you that my expectations have been exceeded.  If you’re looking for a good wide angle to compliment a full frame Canon camera, this lens is a great little workhorse.  If you’re not like me, and you really want the 2.8, look into the 16-35mm.  In my case, this fits all my needs currently, and I think will cover my future needs of a wide angle for my 5D.

Comments 2

  1. I think you are subliminally trying to convert us to upgrading to the 5D with all of its new and improved goodies! I still an secretly coveting the 10-22 – it’s on my wish list for any whom like to grant those types of wishes…

    Over all, it sounds like the 17-40 will become one of the staple lenses in the stable.

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