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What Is the Best Wide Angle Zoom Lens for a Canon Full Frame DSLR?

May 29th, 2017

Charlie in Scottsdale asks:

I am upgrading from a Canon 70D with a 10-22 mm lens to a Canon 5D Mark IV. My question to you is which lens you would recommend if money were not an issue? I’ve read that the 16-35mm F4 L is much better than the 17-40 mm, but is there another level up that I should consider such as the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8. Which would you buy?

You can do a lens quality comparison analysis at DxOMark.com. Here’s what the DxOMark scores for the lenses you ask about (higher is better):

  1. Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L III USM (DxOMark Score: 29) – $1999
  2. Canon EF 16-35 f/4L IS USM (DXOMark Score: 25) – $999
  3. Canon EF 17-40 f/4L USM (DxOMark Score: 24) –  $749
  4. Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L: (DxOMark Score: not rated) – $2149
  5. Canon TS-E 24mm F3.5L: (DxOMark Score: not rated) – $1899
  6. Tamron AFA012N-700 SP 15-30mm f/2.8: DxOMark Score: 29) – $1199 See comment below by David Frazer.

If this gear is primarily for real estate photography I would consider the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L or Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 (tilt-shift lenses). Many interiors photographers use these lenses because they designed explicitly for interiors and architecture.

Simon Maxwell says:

I couldn’t operate without the Canon 17mm TSE. The time you save in post not having to straighten verticals soon adds up. Sure, it’s a punchy investment but I am confident it will outlive many of my cameras.

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16 Responses to “What Is the Best Wide Angle Zoom Lens for a Canon Full Frame DSLR?”

  • I am saving for the Canon 17mm TSE. Seems like this lens wins for real estate every time. The serious pros seem to have the full set of Canon TSE lens. But what else do the big guns shooters use? Especially for the Sony A7S II ?

  • Have had three of 16-35 f2.8 II I very seldom gone lower than f5.6 loved them, it was my work horse. Last month when I broke the one of them I chose to try the new 16-35 f4. Wow what an great upgrade. With the money I saved on the cheaper version I got the $300 circular polarizer (1/3 stop down) sharp in the corners and reduced the glare on the wood floors. Now I have two of them and could not shoot real estate without them. Money was not a factor in my choice, it is smaller 77mm not the 82mm lens in the f2.8 version and yes it is made in Japan not china. You cannot go wrong with it. thank you canon.

  • A tilt-shift lens is great but is slower to work with. It’s also not a good lens for a beginner due to the increased complexity.

    I really like my 17-40mm f4L even on my Canon 50D. I picked up mine used from a friend for around $500 and I’ve seen them as low as $400. I recommend purchasing lenses in person where you can try them out, or online from a reputable shop that goes through each lens and offers a guarantee if it’s not up to scratch. The IS of the 16-35 f4 is useful for run ‘n gunners that don’t use a tripod but is best switched off when on a tripod.

    Rent the two lenses that you think you might want and spend a day or two shooting with them side by side. Definitely rent a TS lens before you buy.

  • Can a Tilt shift lens just be used like a normal lens if the settings are left at “zero” correction?

  • “Can a Tilt shift lens just be used like a normal lens if the settings are left at “zero” correction?”

    Yes… Definitely.

    I moved from Nikon to Canon to get the 17 TSE… Great lens!

  • First, a TS lens will not help you to get your verticals straight. Only leveling the camera in the field will accomplish this no matter what lens you are using without having to correct in post. The only advantage to using a TS lens is the ability to change your field of view, i.e. shifting down to show less ceiling.

    I use three lenses for REP. The 17-40mm, TS-E 24mm and a 24-105mm. I recommend the 17-40mm over the 16-35mm. I find having the additional 5mm on the long end to be more valuable that the 1mm on the short end. I rarely shoot wider than 20mm thus having the ability to go to 16mm would be a waste for me. I do however shoot quite a bit in the 35-40mm range.

    Some think you need to shoot small bathrooms/powder rooms at the widest focal length. When in reality to minimize the perspective distortion the smaller the rooms the longer the focal length you should use. Besides that when was the last time you heard of a potential buyer look at an image of a powder room and say “Wow, I’ve got to have that house!” I usually don’t even shoot them.

  • Tilt-Shift lenses do not straighten verticals. Leveling the camera straightens verticals….period. No other field technique will accomplish this, and it doesn’t matter what lens you’re using. Any lens can be used to make photos with perfect verticals, and the technique never changes — LEVEL. THE. CAMERA.

    That being said, TS lenses are way, way overkill for mainstream PFRE. They’ve become some sort of (expensive) status symbol but I sure wouldn’t recommend them until you have a specific problem that you can articulate, that can be solved with lens movements.

  • I bought a TS-E 24mm about 6 months ago for a particular job and ended up leaving it on the camera. For me the added functions mean very little if any more time on a shoot. No auto focus is a tiny bit of hassle but since I shoot tethered (w/ focus peaking) it doesn’t really matter. At this point it’s hard to imagine doing without this lens – I find it’s not really as much about ‘straightening the verticals’ as it is working at optimum elevations – especially for kitchens or big shots, like across a living room or a large master bedroom. So my answer to the question about zoom lenses is… a non-zoom lens 🙂

  • I have the 16-35 F4L and I am very happy with it.

  • I have a 17-40 on a Canon 6D. This combined with a gear head is the perfect combination. You will use the entire zoom range, plus the ability to get quick verticals. Dave.

  • 16-35 f4 here and love it. Sharp throughout with a little vignette but correctable.

  • I have the 17-40 on a canon 5d mkiii. I love it. and as David Barger said, you do use the entire zoom range. I’d love to have the TS-E 17mm, but that will have to be in the future.

  • In the original post, Simon was probably saying he likes to downtilt and fix in post when he’s not using a tilt shift.

    In any event though, I could not agree with Scott more on this one. People need to be focused way more on their technique, and much less on equipment.

  • The 17 TS-E is the most useful interior lens made, in my opinion. Although I have the 24 as well, I rarely use anything else. This lens is why I won’t change from Canon cameras.

    A lens that isn’t mentioned here is the 11-24 F4 L. It is an amazing lens. Super-wide and rectilinear at the same time. Shooting as wide as 11 mm on a full-frame without distortion is an amazing technical achievement, approaching fish-eye focal lengths but with straight lines.

    For the (rare) times when 17 isn’t wide enough for a particular situation, this lens does wonders.

  • Another lens to consider would be the Tamron 15-30 2.8 VC (DxOMark Score: 29) – $1200

    If you are comfortable with using off-brand lenses then you can save about $1000 for a similar optical performance. Plus, you get optical stabilisation (vibration control) if ever you need it.

  • @David – Thanks for pointing out the Tamron. I’ve added it to the list.

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