Disney Photography Blog

Gear Review – Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

By Cory Disbrow on November 3rd, 2011   |    Posted in:  Camera Gear   |    1 Comment

Hello readers! For today, I’m going to review one of my lenses, the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM.

Let’s start off with the lens itself. As a member of Canon’s L Series, it is top notch in build quality. It feels like you could very easily drop this lens and have nothing happen to it. When you buy a lens with that red ring around it, you’re getting what you paid for, which is usually quite a bit! Surprisingly though, this one is one of Canon’s best values for an L lens, only coming in at $797 at the time of writing. It comes with the lens, front and rear caps, a hood, and a little carrying pouch.

This lens is sharp. Very, very sharp. All throughout the zoom range. It also has great color and contrast. It focuses very quickly and very accurately thanks to Canon’s USM system. These are all things you expect when you buy a Canon L lens. In fact, the only negative thing I can say about the lens is that its maximum aperture is only f/4. For those who shoot in low light often, this might not cut the mustard. Those people will want to check out the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM.

I use this lens primarily for landscapes. That is because on my full frame Canon 5D Mark II, this lens falls into the Ultra Wide Angle category. That means you can get shots like this from the Flame Tree Barbecue area:

On an APS-C (crop) camera, it is the equivalent of a nice general purpose walk around lens. If you’re looking for an Ultra Wide and you shoot with a crop camera, there are several options, like the Sigma 8-16 and 10-20, the Canon 10-22, and the Tokina 11-16. Out of those, the Tokina is my favorite. That said, where I feel this lens really excels in terms of Disney Photography is at night, when all the crowds have left. That is when you can get shots like these two:

Like I said, this lens can create some pretty special results. But, I do have a few warnings about using an ultra wide like this.

I am a firm believer of using this lens only when I need to. I used to shoot with it almost exclusively, and when returning home discovering that in most cases, I shot ultra wide for literally no reason. Then I would have to crop excessively to get what I wanted, and at that point, I could have framed a better shot and gotten to use all 21.5 megapixels of my camera by using a more normal focal length.

Distortion is also an issue when shooting at the wide end. When you get too close to something and shoot ultra wide, you can get a very distorted look from the way the lens is built. In some cases it works and can look really cool, but in a lot of others, it’s just silly. No one wants a shot of the Imagination pavilion that looks like it had a little too much for dinner and now is bloated. That said, distortion can be corrected in Photoshop, and can save a shot, but not all of them!

In conclusion, this lens rocks. It’s super sharp, has beautiful colors, and is a wonderful landscape lens, especially on full frame cameras. I would not hesitate in recommending it to any full frame shooter. For crop shooters though, I would recommend the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 if your intention is shooting Ultra Wide. It’s one of the lenses I’ve had in my bag the longest, and is always there to perform when I get in a spot where I need that extra width. Hope you guys enjoyed this one. And don’t worry Nikonians, we plan on doing some Nikon reviews in the near future. Thanks for reading, see ya real soon!


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1 Comment

  1. Katie Marino   |   Nov 3, 2011

    Not fair, Cory- last night I was about 10 seconds away from placing an order for a new lens (not this one) but I convinced myself I didn’t need it. Then you had to do a gear review this morning and now I want to buy a new lens again!

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