Canon 17-40mm f/4 L
September 29, 2006 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for opinions on the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L series lens.

Does anyone here own, and enjoy using, this lens? Would you say it performs better than the lenses mentioned in the last Wide-Angle Lens thread? Are there other lens you think are worth checking out in its place? I've been reading reviews online, but am looking for opinions from people here.
posted by chunking express to Shopping (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's a good lens but the low end of the L series and not really great for a do-everything walkaround lens (of that quality) since it's only f4. I've found myself using the 20mm f1.8 Sigma I mentioned in the other thread almost exclusively where I would have used the 17-40mm before, since it's lighter and faster and I have enough pixels to crop if needed - even on a 10D.

On a non-1.6X camera I'd probably move to the 30mm version, which is a better lens in a few other ways anyway. The same goes for the 17-40mm - the 24-105mm IS L makes more sense for a walkaround on a fullframe camera if you can stand the slow maximum aperture.
posted by kcm at 8:17 AM on September 29, 2006

That is to say, it's a good lens, but more of a sucker bet because it has a red ring on it while being much cheaper than most that do. I don't find it particularly worth of that ring, but it's not unworthy either. It's the Mercedes C230 of Canon lenses. Same goes for the 70-200mm f4L.
posted by kcm at 8:23 AM on September 29, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks KCM. I found one used for a good price, which is why I am thinking hard about getting it. It'd be replacing my kit lens.

I'd like to get the 16-35mm f/2.8, but you aren't allowed to sell your kidneys here in Canada.
posted by chunking express at 8:28 AM on September 29, 2006

I have the lens in question, and I really love it. On the lower-end digital SLRs like the Digital Rebels, 10D/20D/30D, it acts as a nice walk-around lens since the 1.6x crop makes it one of the only real wide-angle lenses avaliable.

However, it should be noted that it is my first L series lens, so I don't have a huge range of experience on the matter, I just know I love mine :)

Some (slightly adjusted) example shots here.
posted by patr1ck at 8:51 AM on September 29, 2006

My friend has one and likes it. As long as you're doing relatively long exposures, it's fine. I have the 16-35, and it's a great lens but I tend to shoot landscapes with it, more in the f22 range. If you're going to try to do wide angle action shots (like skateboarders or something), than the 17-40 might not be fast enough in anything but broad daylight.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:58 AM on September 29, 2006

the 17-40 is the everymans alternative to the 16-35. it's good, as everone else noted, unless you intend to shoot action or sports stuff in low lights.

but if you have another $1000 to spring, go for the faster 16-35.
posted by krautland at 9:33 AM on September 29, 2006

You don't mention what body you have, but I have heard a lot of good things about the 17-55 /2.8 EF-S. It is more expensive, but I have heard it compares favorably to L's in both build quality and image quality. If you are looking for an all-purpose lens, 40 mm might be too short (even on a crop-sensor body) and an extra f-stop is nice.
posted by TedW at 10:33 AM on September 29, 2006

I agree with KCM that the 24-105L is also a good walk-around lens; that is what I use on my 20D. Canon's CMOS sensors have good enough high-ISO performance (especially with a little Noise Ninja in post-processing) that I can often compensate for f/4 by bumping up the ISO. On both the lenses I have mentioned the IS may be worth the added price; it is for shakey old me.
posted by TedW at 10:38 AM on September 29, 2006

Best answer: I happen to love this lens. For me, speed isn't an issue-yes its 'only' F4 but you can get by with some pretty low shutter-speeds at the wide-end. You can always bump up the ISO as well. In broad daylight, I've gotten some GREAT skateboarding and snowboarding shots. Its a terrific walk-around lens for travel as well.

Here are some examples

And a few more

mefi police: I hope posting self-flickr-links are ok
posted by neilkod at 10:39 AM on September 29, 2006

Response by poster: I have a 350D; I should have mentioned that. I think i'm going to get the lens.
posted by chunking express at 10:54 AM on September 29, 2006

Best answer: User Reviews for the 17-40 at Overwhelmingly positive.

It's a very popular lens on 1.6x cameras for a slew of reasons: great optics (on 1.6x crop bodies), extremely robust build, fast and foolproof AF, and also being one of the most reasonably priced L-series lens that Canon offers. Picking up this beauty is almost never an outright bad investment for anyone.

However, there are a few niggles with this lens you may want to keep in mind:

a) Speed. There's no getting around it -- f/4.0 is on the slow side for a zoom, and you will bump up against it no matter what you shoot. There are third party options here that have worse builds and also have less consistent AF's, but they'll also give you that extra speed when it counts. (Sigma 18-50/2.8, Tamron 17-50/2.8, etc.)

b) Reach. 17-40mm comes out to roughly 27-64mm FOV on a 1.6x crop body, which many find too short as a general-purpose lens. Again, many third party options here offer more reach for same or lower prices.

c) Full-frame performance. Many claim that the 17-40's edge/corner performance is dismal compared to the much pricier 16-35/2.8, and this may be issue should you ever think about venturing beyond the 1.6x crop. Then again, most of the other lens choices will lock you in to 1.6x crop anyhow, so...

As long as you're willing to give up "bang for the buck" (in terms of specs), you'll enjoy the 17-40's robustness, ease of use, extra features, and eventual resale value. If you're a so-called "pixel peeper" trying to get the most performance for your dollar though, you may want to take a closer look at the third party alternatives to see if there isn't something that fits your needs better.

Oh, if you ever do much indoor shooting, the 17-40 will make you ache for either a wide prime, flash(es), or both. However, the 17-40 is still a superb daylight and/or tripod lens, as long as you're comfortable with its limitations.

As a caveat: I went from the 17-40/4, to the 16-35/2.8, and now I'm using the 21/2 and 24/1.4 primes -- even with flash, you can never have too much light at indoor venues! So for my shooting needs I'm a bit biased against the 17-40 and similar slowish zooms.
posted by DaShiv at 1:53 PM on September 29, 2006

If you're not in a hurry to get a lens, you might consider tracking down a 17-35mm f/2.8 L (which was replaced by the 16-35mm f/2.8 L). I recently saw one in the classifieds at for $700, I believe.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:41 PM on September 29, 2006

Love my 10-22 efs.
posted by SirStan at 6:55 PM on September 29, 2006

Response by poster: I have to thank everyone for the responses. I snatched up the lens on Friday because the price seemed right and the lens seems to be well liked.

For those curious, I used the lens over the weekend at a breast cancer fund-raiser walk: photos on Flickr. It does look like it'll be too slow for use indoors, but I did snap this shot at lunch that turned out nicely: Shima Indoors. (Here is a shot outside for comparison: Shima Outdoors .) I'm liking the lens so far.
posted by chunking express at 9:01 AM on October 2, 2006

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