Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
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822 of 836 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 2, 2006
The walkaround lens. This very topic leads to a heated discussion among DSLR photographers.

First, determine your budget, focal length, and aperture needs.

If you frequently find yourself zooming out to get everything in a frame, you will want a wide angle lens such as this. If you frequently find yourself zooming in, this is not the lens for you. On a full frame body such as Canon EOS 5D, this lens becomes ULTRA wide angle. On an APS-C crop body such as Digital Rebel XTi (which I used for this review), it becomes MEDIUM wide angle. But thanks to 1.6x crop factor, this lens expands to more usable 35mm equivalent focal length of 27 to 64mm.

Second, audition the lens if you can.

By definition, a walkaround lens should be relatively portable. At 1.1 lbs., Canon's EF 17-40mm f/4L USM is neither super light nor neck breakingly heavy. In fact, it weighs almost the same as Digital Rebel XTi -- really nice balance. The lens feels very solid with supreme build quality that only L-series lenses offer. Although this lens is weather proof and therefore sealed against liquid and dust, I strongly recommend getting a 77mm filter to protect the front lens element. With it, this lens is made to last.

In terms of looks and feel, it doesn't get much better. Its rubberized full-time inner focus manual ring USM focuses smoothly, quietly, and quickly. Since it's inner focus, the lens will not extend beyond its metal casing whether you zoom in or out. The focus window shows focusing distance from 0.28 meter (0.92 feet) to infinity. The focal length marker indicates 17, 20, 24, 28, 35, and 40mm. The lens exudes quality from tip to tip.

You may tolerate heavier lens or may not mind lesser build quality of cheaper lenses. A walkaround lens will be used very often, so make sure you will be comfortable with it.

This lens is famous for saturated color and deep contrast. Its images are simply stunning. At 17mm wide angle, barrel distortion is noticeable but relatively mild. From 24mm to 40mm, its images are distortion free and perfectly suited at capturing people.

Vignetting (corner darkness) is minimal with mild chroma abberrations (color shadows). At f/4 aperture, details become noticeably softer toward the edges. The center region is very sharp and at f/5.6, edges remain fairy sharp. Thanks to 7 diaphragm blades, this lens can produce very nice bokeh at 40mm (blur effects).

One of the most cited weaknesses is the f/4 aperture. In my experience, a bump in the ISO speed and steady hands are all you need to take well focused images indoor. On the other hand, if you are shooting with very little amount of light, you might wish for f/2.8 or image stabilizer. Although the difference between f/4 and f/2.8 is just 1 stop, my other lens, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM (too heavy to be my walkaround lens) easily outperforms in such challenging situations. But by and large, I was not handicapped by the f/4 aperture.

Some of the main competitions (sorted by price):
- Sigma AF 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC macro: Good zoom range with macro, and generally solid performance if you can get a good sample. It does suffer from a bit slow focus mechanism, soft corner, and chroma aberrations. Works only with EF-S mount.
- Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC: Very good value for f/2.8 aperture, but Tamron's 17-50mm is a bit better lens overall. Works only with EF-S mount.
- Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM: This "traveler's lens" has a wider focal range than most wide angle lenses (widest among Canon) and is equipped with an image stabilizer. While it is a Jack of many trades, it is the master of none. Every lenses on this list will perform better at particular focal length. Then again, none of the lenses on this list has as wide focal range. It is famous for extreme barrel distortion at 17mm and chroma aberrations. Works only with EF-S mount.
- Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 Di II LD Aspherical (IF): This is the most direct competitor. It takes sharper images with faster aperture while costing less. Both the build and focus mechanism are significantly worse, but should be good enough for many. Works only with EF-S mount.
- Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM: This is THE reference, if you can afford it. Its images have razor sharp details and great performance all around (minus vignetting, which is typical of EF-S lenses). The build quality is worse than L-series but still pretty good. Works only with EF-S mount. This is the best EF-S lens hands down.
- Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM: One of the most expensive wide angle zoom lenses. It's larger and heavier, but has f/2.8 aperture.

This is how Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 USM stacks up.

Pros:
- Among the very best build quality.
- Excellent, buttery smooth, super fast front-focus system.
- Top notch color and contrast. Very sharp center resolution.
- Almost non-existent vignetting, generally low distortion, and well controlled chroma abberrations.
- Ideal weight and size for walkaround purpose

Cons:
- Edge softness at f/4 aperture.
- Narrower focal length than most competing lenses.
- Slower than some third party lenses.

All in all, this is an excellent wide angle walkaround lens. It may not offer the most bang for the buck, but if you value full frame compatibility (EF lens mount) and excellent build quality, this is the default choice. This lens comes with a nice pouch and a lens hood. I find the hood to be somewhat ridiculously shaped and because the lens is resistant to flare, I do not use it often when shooting outdoor.
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178 of 183 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2006
No one lens accomplishes every photographic objective. Canon makes each lens at every price point well-suited to various tasks, but with limitations that can only be overcome by graduating to the next higher priced but similar item. A case in point: the wide-angle zooms.

The 17-40mm f/4 is one of Canon's best deals in L-series glass. You have to spend twice as much to get a lens of similar quality, but just one stop faster. Does this make the more-expensive EF 16-35 f/2.8L a ripoff? Not for its own specific use: the extra stop gives you the speed to shoot in more indoor situations. Not all photographers need this. When indoors, we're often taking pictures of people, which are better suited to lengths around 50-100mm. To capture sweeping panoramas of parlors for Architectural Digest (or Coldwell Banker) the f/2.8 is the better lens and worth the step up in price, though in many cases you could use the f/4 lens with a tripod. All this means is that the f/2.8 is priced for professional specialists whereas the f/4 is for more general use. My bigger point is that Canon has its whole lineup positioned: the differences across lenses are specific and appropriately priced, which is good news for the consumer. It's hard to make a mistake buying homegrown Canon lenses, especially L-series lenses. You just have to figure out which set of two or three suits your range of uses.

The 17-40mm is a steal for people who need a walkaround lens for travel and outdoor photography. The shorter focal lengths of the zoom are great on a digital body, with nice reach and minimal distortion; just an ability to grab up landscape and wide situations end-to-end, even when standing close. The focal lengths around 40mm are tight enough for portraits and other local detail. Colors are strong and convincing; contrast deep and impactful. The lens itself is small enough and light enough to grab-and-go, but nicely machined, with solid fit and finish. It has an instantly recognizable profile, with the added bonus of the red ring.

This lens, plus a 70-200mm f/2.8 telescope and a nice fast fixed lens in the range betwixt are all you need. On vacation, and in most outdoor situations, the 17-40mm alone suffices. It makes a good first L-lens, and a staple in the arsenal.
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528 of 568 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2006
(I really want to give this lens 3.5 stars)

This review is written from the viewpoint of someone whom has used many L-class lenses, and as such will be a little harder on this piece of glass. If you've never used a Canon L lens and you purchase this one, I guarantee you'll be quite pleased with your purchase. But this review is really meant for those who own other L glass pieces and are looking into adding this one to their collection.

The good:

L glass tends to mean some heavy-weight glass, however this lens is surprisingly light and small. In fact, it is the smallest/lightest L zoom Canon makes. You find yourself more likely to take it to places where there may not be much of a projected photo opportunity or where there is a higher risk in damaged gear due to its unobtrusive size. It really is one of those few L lenses that you can casually walk around with and not garner much for attention.

As with all L-glass, this ones very solidly constructed. It has a simplicity of design that minimizes risk to moving parts from shock. It is well-balanced and just feels like a tight glass package.

The lens performs very well in color and contrast. Natural saturation is excellent, easily on par with the L expectation. The color and saturation of this lens sits somewhere between the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS and the 24-70mm f/2.8.

I initially thought that the zoom range would be constraining (a mere 23mm of range?), but in reality the lens is fairly versatile. This especially true on a 1.6 FOVCF body (20D, 30D, 350D, 400D, etc), where the range is more like that of a normal zoom, at the cost of the super-wide advantage. The lens handles pretty much all composition tasks except those of a telephoto or 1.0x macro. You won't be disappointed in the zoom versatility.

Price. This like, what, the second cheapest L lens available. For those whom are very accustomed to purchasing/collecting L lenses, anything under a thousand dollars really is considered on the cheap side. If this is your first L purchase, this lens or the 70-200mm F/4L are your places to start.

Flare. There's practically none.

Cons: (there's only one, but its a biggie)

Sharpness. This is by far my biggest qualm, and what makes me frown a little at this lens for its L designation. It's nowhere near that of other lenses. One of the biggest uses for this lens is landscape photography, where objects appear very distant and sharpness becomes crucial. 24mm at f/4 on this lens is easily less sharp than 24mm at f/2.8 (!) on the 24-70 f/2.8L. And as a little investigation will reveal, this probelm is also somewhat appearant on the 16-35mm f/2.8L (although it seems less pronounced). 100% crop comparisons of this lens to other lenses such as the 180mm f/3.5L is simply a joke.

Other:

This lens utilizes slight movement of the front element, so it is advised by pretty much everyone that a UV filter be purchased (77mm filter size). I add to that by saying: buy only the Multi-coated from B+W or Hoya if you're shooting digital. Yes, they're usually somewhere around eighty bucks, but spending forty on something that will bring you ghosting/contrast woes is not worth it.

The hood of this lens is hilarious. It's almost five inches wide and maybe an inch and a half tall. I simply don't use it (I can't geometrically see how it helps. I think it may be something of a feel-good-hood if you're not consiencious about flare.) The lens is less conspicuous without it and I really don't have a flare problem.

Conclusion

I'm really not satisfied with the sharpness issue. It seems at least somewhat appearant on almost all Canon's lenses below 35mm. (Except for the 24-70 and 24-105, which is odd). I think they're still working out their wide-angle formula. Appearantly, the new 17-55mm f/2.8 is supposed to be sharper than both the 17-40 and 16-35, so they are probably on the right track of improving the issue.

In the end, if you've never used L glass and are considering this one, buy it. You will be very pleased, I assure you. But if you own a good deal of L glass, you may want to hold off from this one and wait for Canon to improve their optics. You may find yourself like me, using other L pieces and only using this one when I absolutely have to.
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221 of 238 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2004
Figuring out which lens to buy turned out to be more difficult than which camera to purchase! At least for me. I want my lenses to be a reasonable size (rules out the superb 70-200 f2.8 IS L), acceptably fast (at least f 4.0), preferably black (so that they are inconspicuous), not outrageously priced (admittedly this last factor being entirely subjective), and preferably a zoom for the additional flexibility.

Primes are absolutely fantastic values, reasonably priced, fast, and inconspicuous, BUT offer limited flexibility which, in my mind overrides the other factors.

I purchased this lens for the wider end of my shooting needs and I couldn't be more pleased. It takes beautiful pictures, sharp, beautifully saturated, with no discernable vignetting and little flare under normal circumstances.

This lens has beautiful bokeh IMO and is every bit the equal, again IMO, of the 16-35 f2.8 L in every respect other than speed (f 2.8 vs f 4.0). With the new digital SLR cameras you can easily make up for the loss of speed by cranking up the ISO.

The construction quality is fantastic and it is a lens that you will be able to use forever. It is an ideal lens for the current crop of 1.6 size sensors, but will also serve you well into the future whether you stick with the current size sensor or move up to larger sensors as they become more afordable.

I heartily recommend this lens.
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160 of 171 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 14, 2004
For years, I have been using my 28-70 f:2.8 Canon zoom as my "normal" lens. It is sharp (Oh baby is it!) and at 2.8,fast enough for just about any pro or serious amateur. But there were plenty of times I needed a little more coverage than the 28MM focal length provided. Since most of my work is with long-lens and fast (and expensive) zooms, I couldn't pony up the bucks for Canon's superwide f2.8 zoom. When I saw the price on the 17-40MM lens and the fact that it was the "L" flavor with pro glass, I bought it immediately. I've had it for about a year and I have already sold several pictures - published in glossy magazines with picky photo editors. And I trust it to give me sharp pictures, even at the extreme settings - wide open and at the 17MM end. You have to remember to always use the weird looking but effective lens hood to control flare and as with any very wide lens, look at the edges of the frame (your feet could be in every picture!) It's light, good enough to use as your normal lens and with their new 70-300 IS DO lens could make for an amazing and compact travel kit. So while Canon's lens experts probably built this one for the growing digital crowd, as a film user I think it's the bargain of the year and is in my camera bag every time I go on assignment. I suggest that you get a good quality "thin" UV filter and polarizer and you will be set to explore the exciting world of ultra-wide photography.

Important update: I recently returned from an assignment to Monte Carlo to test drive sports cars. Part of the deal was to get thrill rides from a pro driver up and down the French mountains above Monaco. Armed with my 17-40MM an EOS 1V, 540 flash, and Velvia 50, I clicked off a whole roll of film during my turn in the passenger's seat. The magazine editor called me when he saw the slides and said that the shots in the car were the "strongest images" in the shoot. Yup, the lens is that good.
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71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2005
I traded in my EF-S 10-22 for this one, realizing how often I switched back and forth between 10-22 and 24-70. I took some stats in fact, and it turns out I stay mostly between 17-35 range, and never really go any wider than 15-16 even with the 10-22. The wider range of 10-22 certainly gives you a lot of freedom, but I found it to be a bit too artificial due to the unavoidable barrel distortion.

Now, 10-22 is certainly a solidly built piece of glass, but 17-40 does deserve its L label and the red ring. It feels a little heavier than the 10-22, and the focus ring turns with sufficient weight (10-22 feels a little on the lighter side) you can actually fine-tune the focus with greater accuracy. Being an L-series lens, it comes conveniently with a lens pouch and hood.

Under darker conditions, the focus seems a little slower than my other faster lens, but even at f4, it takes crisp shots. I highly recommend this for anyone with a Canon dSLR. If you're planning on moving on to the 1:1 crop bodies (1d or 5d, a less expensive sibling coming out in October) 17-40 can be a good piece of glass to have, as you're going to have to let to of the 10-22 anyways.

I did have a chance to try the 16-35L, but at the smaller aperture range, the difference seems nominal, especially considering the price difference.

I use Canon EOS 20d and Elan 7, and they both pair up nicely with 17-40 4L.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2005
If you're using a DSLR compatible with EF-S lenses, Canon already has the 17-55 and 17-85/IS, but there's still plenty of reason to go for this L lens. It's an investment in the future (assuming 1.3x or full-frame crop cameras get cheaper sometime soon), and Canon's top-line lenses hold their resale value extremely well. But the biggest reason is simply quality.

Those other lenses are pretty good, but just can't quite match the wonderful color, contrast and sharpness of the 17-40 across its range. There's a touch of barrel / pincushion distortion at the ends, but barely noticeable and easily remedied.

The range is incredibly useful, whether as a 17-40 on a full-frame, 22-52 on a 1.3x, or 27-64 on a 1.6x crop camera like the Digital Rebel or 20D. On the latter, it's merely wide rather than ultrawide, but if you've been walking around with something that bottoms out at 24 or 28mm, you'll probably be surprised at how much you missed that wide angle. Yes, the long end doesn't go very long, but in my opinion the range you gain at the wide end is more valuable.

Focusing is fast and quiet, with full-time manual focusing ability (even in autofocus mode), and build quality is excellent. It feels very solid and weighty, but not at all heavy. It includes a gel holder in the rear, but can take 77mm front filters as well (and the manual recommends one in order to complete weather-sealing in the front).

I'm not really a fan of Canon's finish for black L lenses, but it looks quite impressive, and has the famous red ring of an L at the end. The big, oddly-shaped petal hood is a bit unwieldy, and has to be stored separately from the lens if you want to fit it easily into most camera bags.

An alternative would be to go with primes, which can be faster, cheaper, and even sharper, but not so much at the wider end, where they tend to be weighty and involve some major tradeoff (not the least of which is that, of course, you'll need at least a couple to cover this range). If you want a high-quality one-lens solution to walk around with, particularly for travel photography, this is it.
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2006
First off, if you're a pro with a bag full of $2000 lenses, you're probably not interested in this, the 2nd least expensive "L" lens.

Secondly, if you're going to compare this to a bunch of $2000 lenses, you're barking up the wrong tree.

My guess is the typical buyer of this lens is someone who is taking their first tentative step into the world of "expensive" glass. This lens is made to order for you. It simply blows "ordinary" lenses out of the water. If you're used to the kit lens that came with your camera, or a 3rd party lens you got for $150, you are going to love this lens. You'll find yourself taking more pictures, taking time to frame your shots and basically caring about what you shoot. This is a lens that is far more talented than you are, and you'll strive to rise to its level.

I cannot say enough good things. The sharpness ROCKS. The saturation and contrast are absolutely fantastic. The focus is instantaneous and silent, and usually dead on. And the red stripe looks really cool! :)

Its heavy, and built like a tank. If you're looking for a lightweight, this ain't it. It is lighter than most other "L" lenses, however, and not too bad to carry.

Drop the 700 bucks, and go out and take some serious photographs.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2004
On a DSLR with 1.3x or 1.6x cropping, such as the 10D or 1D, you will see no difference in the images produced by this lens and the twice-as-expensive EF 16-35 f/2.8L. So if you don't need the extra f-stop, go with this one and save yourself $700.
On 35mm film or the 1Ds, you'll see more vignetting with this lens, but the images are still excellent, and this lens has less flare than the 16-35.
The 16-35 is marginally sharper near the 35mm focal length, and does have much better bokeh, if that's important to you.
If you take lots of wide-angle shots, this lens is a must-have. It's one of the less expensive "L" lenses, making it a relative bargain.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2006
I love buying the best value lenses from Canon like the blazingly fast 50mm 1.8 or the razor sharp 85mm 1.8. The 17-40 L is no exception; in fact it's the best value lens from Canon in my opinion, how so? Consider the following features.

RANGE: I use this lens on the Rebel XT. With a 1.6 crop factor this lens will provide an angel of view of 27-64. That's a great range for taking pictures in the forest preserve for example. It would have been nice if the lens was a little longer (more like 80mm on 1.6 a body), but with 8MP and Photoshop crop function does it really matter? Not really, I always crop to create beautiful animal pictures in post processing and still maintain excellent picture quality for prints up to 8-10 inches.

SIZE & CONSTRUCTION: Yes I list this second because this lens blows away all other canon lenses that I own in construction quality. Its solid as a tank and it balances the XT so well that I can hand hold it with confidence and comfort. Although it weight 1.1 pounds the lens never felt too heavy, just right.

SHARPNESS: very sharp at all apertures, but best by 8.0. I am close to affirming that this lens will produce sharpness at par with many primes at that aperture. That's very impressive if you consider that is still a zoom even if it's an L.

CONVENIANCE: Coming from using mostly primes its so much fun to use a zoom like this one. Now I pretty much own 4 lenses in one. Yes think of it as owning the 20mm + 24mm + 28mm + 35mm none L primes for half the price combined. The only draw back is that this lens is 1-2 stops slower than those lenses. Otherwise it's almost or as sharp and more convenient to use.

FOCUS DISTANCE: Did you ever see pictures where the foreground is dominated with a small object like a flower and then in the background there is a grand scene of open land? This lens gives you the ability to take those pictures because its closest focusing distance is under 1 foot. That means you will be able to get close to objects compared to other zooms. Don't over estimate the convenience of ultra zooms like 28-300mm. Those lenses restrict your ability to crop and create beautiful composition, because their minimum focus distance is higher. With the 17-40 however, all what you have to do is focus correctly, compose with tight crop, and then shoot at f11-16.

DISTORION CONTROL: This lens doesn't come free of distortions, especially so at the wide end where you can notice some barrel distortion. But overall its very capable at controlling distortion. That includes distortions like chromatic aberation, light fall off, vigetting, and flare. It doesn't eliminate those things completely, but controls them so well that such problems will go unnoticeable. I would love to have a distortion free lens. After all, with the challenges of getting lighting and composition right who needs lens distortions to deal with on the top of those two things? But the fact to the matter is that all lenses have some level of distortion and this lens is pretty good at controlling them especially if you take its price into account and that's what I will discuss next.

VALUE: At the $600 range this lens offers an incredible value. No other lens in that price range offers the same quality build, distortion control, and image quality. The best part however, is that this lens holds its value really well. You can sell it used if you ever have to for close to what you bought it for. Now that's a lens I can't refuse!

There are many great value lenses, but each comes with a weakness. For example, the 50mm is very cheap in construction and the 85mm is soft on the wide end. The 17-40 L on the other hand is just amazing! It did not disappoint me in anyway except possibly its limited reach on the upper end (40mm only). Otherwise I see no weakness in this lens. Some people may consider the 4.0 maximum aperture too low, but it served my landscape and nature needs incredibly well. If you need an extra stop for portrait or no flash concerts get the 16-35 2.8. Otherwise this is the lens!
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