Thursday, September 28, 2006

Canon 17-40mm f4 L USM

The Canon 17-40mm f4 L USM provides the wide end to Canon's f4 L series lineup. Being an L it has full time manual focus, a superior build quality, comes with a hood, and of course a big price tag. Although the 17-40mm is "cheap" for an L. The 17-40mm also sports a rubber gasket that makes a seal between the mount and the camera body.

This was the first lens I bought to go with my Canon 20D and was followed by a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L USM shortly after. Since the 70-200mm left me dazed and in awe over it's ablility to take tac sharp photos it took me some time to fully appreciate what the 17-40mm can do. So what is the 17-40mm good for?


The most obivous use of any wide angle lens is perhaps landscapes or architecture. Since both these types of photography, when done seriously, involve using a tripod the relatively slow f4 aperture of the 17-40mm is a non-issue. This is also the case for night photography where the 17-40mm is my primary working lens.

Setting sunJust up
Left to right: Setting sun, Just up
Getting up close:

The 17-40mm has a small minimal focal distance of 0.28 m (0.92 ft) and a magnifaction factor of 0.24 at 40mm. This means you can get up close and personal with your subject. For example on the left (photo by lovebottom) you can see my lens close to the minimal focal distance from a snake and on the right the resulting photo.

Ready for your close-up Mr. SnakeSmelling the air
Left to right: Ready for your close-up Mr. Snake, Smelling the air

In fact, I used the 17-40mm for most of my closeups of bugs and flowers until I got a dedicated macro lens, the Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM macro.

Ant washWhite Admiral
Left to right: Ant wash, White admiral

Getting up close at 17 mm can also provide some interesting distortion and effects. Roughly speaking the objects closest to the lens will appear over sized and the objects on edges will exhibit some curvature.

Down the drain
Down the drain

The above effects are not desirable for classical portraits mostly because people do not like there noses to look huge or their head to have some strange curvature. Which do you think is the wide angle portrait?

Photo 400Cynthia

Indoor Photography:

Indoor lighting is generally poor for photographic purposes. With the 17-40mm wide open at f4 you will be required to use ISO 1600 or 3200 to maintain a shutter speed high enough to prevent motion blur due to camera shake. This is not an available light lens, f4 is too slow.

Stuff to note:
  1. Although the 17-40's overall length does not change while zooming, the end element does move back and forth inside the lens barrel. I would suggest getting a hoya super 77mm UV filter or some other multi-coated 77mm UV filter to completely seal the 17-40mm from dust and water.
  2. The hood is big, wait, I mean massively wide compared to the lens barrel. The reason for this is to prevent the hood from causing vignetting at 17mm on a full frame camera. As a side effect the pop up flash on a 300D, 350D, 400D, 20D, or 30D is blocked by the hood.

The Canon 17-40mm f4 L USM has a slow aperture at f4 and is no where near a sharp as a Canon 50mm f1.4 USM or the Canon 50mm f1.8 for that matter but you should not expect it to be. It is also true that the 17-40mm as a macro lens is no match for the Canon 100mm f2.8 USM macro's 1x magnification but then the 100mm can not get that cool wide angle effect. Where am I going with one lens has it all but what you get in the 17-40mm is pretty darn good.

Check out more 17-40mm shots here and the 17-40 flickr group here.


Blogger Jeremy said...

I discovered your Flickr 17-40 set by chance doing a search on that lens as I'm interested in using it on my 30D. I went through your entire set captivated by your great sense of composition. Just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed looking at your images!

6:30 AM  
Blogger David Tyner said...

Thanks Jeremy!

8:40 PM  
Blogger Stuart Pearl said...

Hello David. Nice blog you have here. I see that there are at least 3 things that we have in common: Canon dSLR's, the 17-40L and the ore freighter Alcoway which I spotted on your flickr account.

The Alcoway is quite an impressive ship and I had the good fortune to capture it a couple of months ago as it was coming up the Cuyahoga River in cleveland: I also have portrait B/W rendering of it in my PBase gallery.

The 17-40L is also a really fun lens, although the Alcoway was shot with the 24-105. I've never had an UWA before on a Canon, and this lens can turn out some very impressive images especially when coupled with a circular polarizer. Keep shooting - I enjoyed looking at your work. Stuart Pearl

10:15 AM  

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