There are some lenses I just feel bad for. They’re neglected, under appreciated, under utilized all while the stars (like the 70-200 2.8 IS II USM) get all the love. Well, today I’m going to give a little ode to my unsung hero: my Canon 17-40 f4L USM.

It may seem a slightly unlikely fellow to win my affections. Certainly other photographers raise an eyebrow at me when I tell them how much I love it. Why not the 16-35 2.8 L they ask? Why? I’ll tell you why!

I’ve tried the 16-35 from time to time. I want to like it. I really do. But every time I play PJ faves 024with it, I feel the distortion is a little too much coupled with the bokeh of the 2.8.  Something about how they match up doesn’t quite sit well with me. And frankly, if I’m using a wide angle lens, I’m using it to be WIDE. If I want a 35 or 40 mm focal length, my 35 prime is going to get the love.

The 17-40 gives me just the right amount of distortion to accentuate what I’m looking to do. Whether it’s elongating tree branches, accentuating a long train of a bridal gown, capturing the undulating curves of the shoreline, my 17-40mm nails it.

PM Formals 085But Lisa, what about utilizing the fastness of the 16-35mm? Getting to 2.8 is wayyy better than f4. FALSE. Not everything needs to be shot wide open to awe and inspire. When I choose to use my 17-40, it’s because I want to capture the sweeping beauty of something–not blur it to high heaven with bokeh. I don’t need that extra stop.

The only weakness I find in my 17-40 is that it tends to give me more chromatic aberration than other lenses. Logically, this makes sense with the wider angle lens & EL Bride Groom Formals 008more distortion of light so I can forgive that weakness. Thankfully though, Lightroom, Aperture, and a zillion different plug ins have made dealing with chromatic aberrations pretty darn easy.

The best part of my unsung hero? While the 16-35 clocks in at $1699 retail, the 17-40 is a cool $840. That’s over 50% LESS. I like my lenses and I can be a gear nerd, but sometimes, you just have to do what makes plain old business sense. For the applications I utilize this focal length for, the 17-40 has my vote.

Angela and Ryan

Lisa is a D.C. based wedding photographer. Get the latest on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

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Join the conversation! 13 Comments

  1. I shoot sports and architecture. And, the 17-40 is my primary lens for architecture. It’s also the lens I go to for wide stadium shots at sporting events. F4 is plenty wide for me, since I’m typically shooting between f8-11 when I use it. I only paid $625 for it when it came out, but it’s actually appreciated in value!

  2. I’ll have to agree that this is a fantastic lens for the price and it’s really versatile. I love to take it when I travel. I just wanted to add from my experience when shooting architecture or landscapes the corners are pretty soft. Not a big issue for portraits but sometimes frustrating when I need the details in there.

  3. I LOVE THIS PHOTO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The color, the happiness, the “cowboy” the boots-everything. I love it!

  4. I had one of the 17-40 F4L lenses, great little lens and it was a big step up from my Canon kit lens that I had been using for so long. Got it off eBay for a bargain, sold it on for the same amount a few months down the line. It was my first experience with the Canon L series lenses and it highlighted to me how good they are optically, a very nice introduction indeed.

  5. […] Read the original post: Canon 17-40 f4L USM: My Unsung Hero | Photofocus […]

  6. […] Read this article: Canon 17-40 f4L USM: My Unsung Hero | Photofocus […]

  7. I like my experience so far with my 17-40, I think. I use it on my 5D III and compare it to my Sigma 10-20 4.0-5.6 on my trusty old 40D. The Sigma / 40D combo is pretty sweet – sharp, great for 3 exposure HDRs for landscapes. I think my only concern is some funky results using a circular polarizer on the 17-40 – I probably maybe need a thinner, wider circ PL. If I am out shooting a full day of landscapes, I will take the 40D with the Sigma 10-20 lens and the 5D with the 24-105 4.0L lens. Those cover a lot of ground, literally and figuratively.

  8. No question, the 17-40L is on my 5DmkII much of the time when I’m out doing landscapes.

  9. […] .Lisa is a D.C. based wedding photographer. Get the latest on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.This Post Sponsored by:Photoshop World , the ultimate Photoshop, Photography & Lighting Conference. Atlanta GA, April 8-10. Use the promo code Read full article […]

  10. what about closest focus distance? is lowest for the 16-35 or for the 17-40? I use an old 20-35 Canon but the closest focus distance is something around 50 cm… too much!

  11. Agreed! The 17-40L is a great lens, and a great value as well. A classic for landscapes.

  12. […] child standing on me). I was anxious at first as this is totally unorthodox to ME, but I put on my trusty 17-40 and let it do it’s magic. By lowering the camera body but still keeping the angle of my lens […]


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About Lisa Robinson

Co-Founder and Lead Photographer of SoftBox Media Photography d.b.a. Lovesome Photography in 2006. We provide top-notch, award winning wedding & portrait services to the D.C. area & beyond.


Gear, Photography, Wedding