Canon’s EF 16-35mm F/2.8L III USM is a Premium Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens with Superb Image Quality

Ultra-wide zoom lenses don’t always get the attention they deserve, as compared to their sexier long-telephoto cousins. But when it comes to versatility under a wide range of shooting conditions, lenses in this category can’t be beat.

And when it comes to a premium ultra-wide lens like Canon’s EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM, versatility is only a small part of the story. With its superior build quality, fast maximum aperture, high-speed autofocus capability, and refined optical design, this is an ideal choice for both professional photographers and discerning amateurs who demand a lens with both high optical performance and durability under harsh conditions.

As its name implies, the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM is Canon’s third version of this highly regarded lens, featuring a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture for both depth-of-field control and handheld shooting under low-light conditions. Canon says there have been significant upgrades in this latest version, designed to meet the demands of ever-evolving high-resolution DSLR cameras.

Optical Quality
The optical design of the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM incorporates 16 elements in 13 groups, including two ultra-low dispersion (UD) elements, and two large-diameter double-surface aspheric glass molded (GMo) elements. This lens also utilizes Canon’s proprietary SWC and ASC coatings to minimize flare and ghosting.

The promise of all this optical technology is an ultra-wide zoom lens that delivers superb color rendition, contrast, and sharpness, while controlling distortion and other aberrations common to lenses in this category. And the nine-bladed circular aperture design of the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM enables you to achieve soft out-of-focus backgrounds with nice bokeh when that’s what you’re after.

We shot with this lens under a variety of conditions, including harsh midday sun, and were very pleased with the results. In fact, the clean, crisp images we achieved, meant the bare minimum of post-processing, with a bit of cropping to refine composition to suit our preference.

Rugged Construction
Landscape and nature photographers will be among the primary users of this lens, and Canon built it to withstand harsh outdoor shooting conditions. The EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III is fully sealed to resist dust and moisture, with even the zoom and focusing rings, lens mount, and switch panel being protected.

To further safeguard the lens from oily fingerprints and other contaminants, Canon also applied a non-stick fluorine coating to the front and rear elements. We’ve used other Canon optics with this coating, and it really makes cleaning lenses a safe and simple process.

It short, while it’s always a good idea to baby your gear whenever possible, it’s a pretty sure bet that the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM can handle the shock and abuse of the outdoors, and emerge unscathed.

Autofocus Capability
While autofocus performance is somewhat less critical with wide-angle lenses than it is with telephotos, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM delivers impressive AF speed and precision when you need it. We photographed static subjects for this report, like we typically do when using wide-angle lenses, but a few test shots of a skittish dog running around the neighborhood proved that this lens is a swift and accurate performer.

The EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM has an AF/MF switch on the body, and employs Canon’s ultrasonic AF system that has long set standards for excellence in a wide range of their lenses. Autofocus is virtually instantaneous when going from the minimum focusing distance of just under three feet to infinity, and the internal focusing mechanism of the lens is great when you want to use rotating filters like a polarizer.

At a price under $2,000, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM ultra-wide zoom, is a high-performance lens for discriminating landscape and nature photographers, as well as street shooters and even sports photographers looking for a unique perspective.  It may even lighten your load, by replacing a couple prime lenses—with no compromise in image quality.

In fact, for many situations you can simply mount this versatile lens on a camera and head out for a full day of shooting without carrying anything else. It will give you a wide view of the world, as well as some very outstanding images.