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 with 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.
But 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 & more 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.
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