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Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II review

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Coincidently, there are a couple of articles by Pete Atkinson in the latest issue of UWP Mag, that I have just downloaded, with good info on using wide angle zooms behind domes that is relevant to some of the discussion above.

 

Alex

 

While I haven't personally shot a 12-24 for a while, I did so a lot when it first came out; and I did it with a D1X, Seacam superdome, and a PVL 35. Pete was very unhappy with that combination. But, my recollection was that it was pretty nice, so I went back to my post from that era to look at some of the images in the gallery I'd posted. See http://www.seacamusa.com/1224zoom.shtml.

 

Looks like the corners are fine in retrospect, and I have had dozens of other shooters with me on live-aboards and in my classes shooting the same and I recall their corners holding up just fine. I'd have to go back to the original images to pull the EXIF, but at ISO 100 I expect I was working around F-8 for most of the shots.

 

Pete is very knowledgeable, and I don't argue with his observations. It is just that mine have not been the same. If you look at the link above you'll see some of my thoughts regarding diopters with this lens as well. Also, we've been having good luck with the wide port and a +3 with the 12-24 for situations where the shooter may not want the expense, mass, or water resistance of the superdome. The wide port has to have a diopter to function. The superdome may or may not require one, depending on subject and personal taste.

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Stephen

 

I used the 12~24 on an S2Pro with wideport and a +4 (and I think I used 35mm extension). Results were fine for subjects at reasonable distances of say 1.5m+ (I've just had one of the images used as a 6 foot high display image - not bad for 6MPixels!) but not so good at closer distances. Its a lens with a mixed reputation above water and I know photographers who won't use it. My personal opinion of the lens was that it was adequate rather than anything else.

 

Pete's article covers much of what has been stated already but it is worth realising that being over precise is pointless as extenders are only available in 5mm increments, diopters may change the optics and this needs to be taken into account, and so on - even subject distance will adjust the optics slightly. 5mm is close enough generally speaking, but this may need to be the nearest 5mm to the equipment/style you shoot for 'optimum' results. Hard and fast rules are tricky, recommendations are a better way of looking at things!

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I'm back in the studio now, thinking about getting in the water with the new 16-35 II and playing around with the housing. Interesting to note that the zoom gear for my 17-40, which is the same as one would use on the old 16-35, also fits the new 16-35 II.

 

I can't speak for all housings, but at least for Seacam, the existing zoom gear works for the new lens.

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Interesting to note that the zoom gear for my 17-40, which is the same as one would use on the old 16-35, also fits the new 16-35 II.

 

Did my pool tests today. Seacam housing, swivel 45 viewfinder (so I did not have to get my head wet during testing protocol and it would go faster), superdome and fisheye port, and the following port combinations with each port:

no extension, PVL20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60

 

Lenses tested: 16-35mm II, 17-40, 15mm with Tamron 1.4 teleconverter

 

As with topside test, I provided an impossible test on the lens. I set one of the exposure slates in the background center, and that's where the lens focused. I then put two more exposure slates at right and left upper corners, about 2 1/2 feet closer to the lens than the point of focus, and worked at only F-5.6 (aperture priority). Hard to imagine any lens being stellar in the corners under those conditions.

 

Why? That can happen on the reef. You have a central area of focus and reef rising on the periphery in the foreground. Had I chosen to shoot across a flat plane, the results would have been dramatically different. The lens would have performed far better focusing along a flat plane.

 

But, how often does that come up in normal UW imaging? Right now I only cared about what port extension would give the best results for the way I would likely shoot on a reef.

 

OK, here's the quick and dirty on what is a pretty interesting comparison. First, here is the 16-35 with no port extension and the superdome. THIS IS WHY WE TEST. It is horrible. Note also that it is not as wide as the later tests with a properly matched port extension. That was actually a surprise to me. (All distances were the same).

 

 

 

post-630-1178833222_thumb.jpg

 

post-630-1178833260_thumb.jpg

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16-35mm II, best results with Seacam Superdome and PVL 60. Note that there is distortion in the corners. That is to be expected, but note also that there is no vignetting like you'll see on the 17-40 sample in the next post. The 16-35 II has much better color and contrast as well. The lens is very sharp in the center.

 

post-630-1178833741_thumb.jpg

 

post-630-1178833785_thumb.jpg

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17-40, best results with Seacam Superdome and PVL55. Note that this trumps my previous testing where I have recommended either a PVL 30 or PVL35. This camera and lens have recently been sent back to Canon for precise calibration for a back-focusing problem. It is now very sharp with all topside tests, with all my lenses. I deduce this is the more accurate test, and the way I will shoot moving forward. Your personal cameras may differ and you should do your own tests.

 

 

 

post-630-1178834245_thumb.jpg

 

post-630-1178834278_thumb.jpg

 

You won't see massive differences from these small thumbnail images. In reality, I did not see massive differences between the 100% enlarged view in the corners of the UW shots with the 17-40 and 16-35 II either, even in PS on a 23" monitor working from the RAW images. Here's how I see it:

 

1. 16-35 II is definitely sharper than 17-40 topside. This is evident in the topside tests, both center and corners. The 16-35 II is significantly improved over the old 16-35 and 17-40.

2. 17-40 has issues with vignetting and is rather flat in terms of contrast and somewhat muted in terms of native color rendition (both easily tweaked in Photoshop).

3. 16-35 II is sharper in the center, even underwater.

4. If you think the 16-35 II is going to give substantially better corner resolution in a housing you'll likely be disappointed. This is a dome issue, rather than a lens issue.

5. Is the 16-35 II worth it? For me yes. For topside resolution, for color and contrast purity, and for the slightly wider angle of view. But, don't expect miracles in corner resolution when used with a housing. Future testing will have to look into how a diopter might affect performance.

6. Corner performance will be significantly enhanced by working at smaller apertures.

7. As expected, superdome was better for these lenses than the fisheye port.

8. Optimal resolution in the corners remains a dome issue, with refraction and virtual image making corner performance an ongoing challenge.

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15mm and Tamron 1.4 teleconverter. Superdome and PVL 20. This is an interesting concept, suggested to me by Walt Stearns. I love the angle of view and comparative lack of distortion, but find it soft.

 

post-630-1178835741_thumb.jpg

 

post-630-1178835769_thumb.jpg

 

I suspect the Tamron glass is the culprit. Canon does not make a teleconverter that would work for this application.

 

This is a very promising direction, using a fisheye lens with a teleconverter. Alex Mustard has been doing quite a bit of this with Nikon glass I think. Maybe he can offer some insights there. However, for my tests with Canon and Tamron, the results are borderline.

 

If anyone finds a better teleconverter for this aplication, let me know.

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OK, here's the quick and dirty on what is a pretty interesting comparison. First, here is the 16-35 with no port extension and the superdome. THIS IS WHY WE TEST. It is horrible. Note also that it is not as wide as the later tests with a properly matched port extension. That was actually a surprise to me. (All distances were the same).

 

Final test was with no port extension, admittedly the worst combination for the 16-35 II and superdome, but at 2 different apertures. Look at the difference F-stop makes in terms of 100% view of the corner.

 

Here is F-5:

 

post-630-1178881624_thumb.jpg

 

Here is F-9:

 

post-630-1178881660_thumb.jpg

 

Clearly, aperture is critical in working with all of the lenses tested. I predict that at F-8 and smaller, the 16-35 II will do just fine, in the centers and in the corners, for most UW imaging applications. Real in-water testing, on a coral reef, needs to be the next step. But these tests reveal the start point.

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"You might want to try the Canon EF Life Size converter for the EF 50mm Macro."

 

Whilst these physically fit together, they wont focus!

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I forgot to show the results of the 16-35 II with the fisheye port. Clearly, the superdome was better, but the best I could do with the fisheye port was with the PVL50.

 

post-630-1179533316_thumb.jpg

 

post-630-1179533348_thumb.jpg

 

I haven't found a particular Canon lens that is well suited for the fisheye port yet, but it is very good for the lens it was designed for, the Nikkor 16 (and now the 10.5). It is curious that while both the Canon and Nikkor fisheyes are nearly the same angle of coverage, they don't perform identically in the same port.

 

For Canon I prefer the superdome for 15mm and 16-35mm II/17-40.

For Nikon either fisheye port or superdome will work with both 16mm and 10.5mm.

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The entrance pupil is likely to be 5~10mm further away from the camera body as James says. ...

 

 

Well, I just purchased mine and set up the jig to calculate the entrance pupil.

 

Does this number look reasonable to anyone else who has played with the lens?

 

post-5528-1180632273_thumb.jpg

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Ok, now I've finally had a chance to do real world testing on the 16-35 II lens on a Canon EOS1DsMKII full frame camera in Seacam housing, and real world tests refute my original pool tests.

 

I couldn't decide whether PVL 55 or PVL 60 was the best results in the pool, so I had a custom port extension made at 57.5mm. Tests with that port extension and superdome were less than stellar. It did better with subjects along a flat plane, but I tried to choose set-ups that really challenged corner performance. This is about as tough as it gets, with the fish in the right corner wrapping around me, and the focus point in the center of the frame.

 

post-630-1186011147_thumb.jpg

 

 

I tried the PVL 57.5 with the wide port and that didn't work well either. Very soft in the corners.

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I tried PVL 40 and PVL45 as well over subsequent shoot days, but in the end the best I could do was the superdome and PVL35. Not perfect, actually not much better than I was able to do with my old 17-40mm Canon zoom.

 

 

post-630-1186012078_thumb.jpg

16-35II @ 16mm

 

post-630-1186012131_thumb.jpg

16-35II @ 35mm

 

The lens has more contrast (sometimes good, sometimes bad, depending on your subject and lighting) and is sharper and absent the vignetting the 17-40 sometimes reveals.

 

But, if your criteria is substantially improved corner performance relative to the less expensive 17-40mm zoom behind a dome port, I am not able to document it.

 

BTW ... to really complete the test I'd like to try it with a diopter, probably a +2. But, I can't find an 82mm diopter from a quality filter manufacturer either by means of Google search or at B&H. Anyone know who might make good glass in the 82mm thread?

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Thank you much for sharing your results here on the board!

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I am using the Canon 16-35mm II lens with a Canon 5D and Aquatica housing. My previous SLR set up was an F3 in Aquatica. So I have gone from total manual to total auto. I am currently not using strobes and freediving with the 5D and 16-35mm. This is my only lens I plan to use underwater. I am also using a green water magic filter so I have lots of light limitations.

 

Here are a couple galleries with photos from this set up.

http://www.underseaimages.com/blog/?action...p;id=1187911789

http://www.underseaimages.com/blog/?action...p;id=1187199886

 

Dave

www.underseaimages.com

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Hi all,

 

I went ahead a got the new 16-35II and after a recent assignment, I'm still not satisfied with the soft edges. However, I will say that I like it much better than the 17-40 for my topside work.

Michele Westmorland

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Thanks for the link Craig. I ordered from B&H immediately, but they are special order items and may take a couple of weeks to ship. Once acquired, I will test the +2 with Seacam superdome, wide port, and fisheye port. Nothing else in terms of port diameter or port extension has really delivered stellar resolution in the corners so far. I am hopeful the diopter will help.

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Stephen, how about SinghRay for a custom diopter. There main business seems to be neutral density grads, but they may have the wherewithal to do a diopter, and at least they are relatively local to you.

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Stephen, how about SinghRay for a custom diopter. There main business seems to be neutral density grads, but they may have the wherewithal to do a diopter, and at least they are relatively local to you.

 

Thanks for the thought Craig, but I have the Heliopan on order. It should show up within a couple of weeks so I can complete my testing. Meanwhile the 16-35II is certainly usable without a diopter. Very sharp in the 20-35mm zoom range and actually probably not a lot different in the corners than the 17-40 Canon, or Nikkor 12-24 for that matter. But definitely not perfect. Here's a shot I took last weekend. The lens does reasonably well on subjects on the same plane. (Seacam superdome, PVL35, F-6.3)

 

post-630-1188653536_thumb.jpg

 

The challenge is with a center focus point somewhat in the distance and dimensional subjects in the foreground that reveal the soft corners. That's the aberration I hope to be able to correct.

 

Also, I've ordered a manual focus gear for this lens. I think there is a sweet spot between a subject in the distance one might choose for AF, and a focal point that might hold both foreground and primary subject. Rather than constantly shifting zones of AF, I think I'll go back to CF 4-1 on Canon and MF as needed.

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Stephen,

Another diopter choice if there is no size constraint is the Century Optics 86mm +2.6 or +2. Being achromatic multi-element does lower CA and distortion, but it's thick.

You'll need a stepup ring and Cokin makes a really thin one.

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Thanks for the link Craig. I ordered from B&H immediately, but they are special order items and may take a couple of weeks to ship. Once acquired, I will test the +2 with Seacam superdome, wide port, and fisheye port. Nothing else in terms of port diameter or port extension has really delivered stellar resolution in the corners so far. I am hopeful the diopter will help.

 

I see it has now been 6 weeks since I ordered the 82mm Heliopan from B&H and it still has not arrived. Anyway, I was at our annual Shark Shootout at Stuart Cove's last week and started the week shooting the 16-35mmII on the 1DsMKII with a PVL35 and Seacam Superdome, but the corners were still not to my satisfaction. So, I revisited the custom PVL 57.5 (millimeters) that I asked Seacam to make a while back. Actually, it was not too bad ... certainly better than the PVL35.

 

Testing this lens remains a work in progress. I still don't have the 82mm diopter to try out, but I am certain that the PVL57.5 is working better than the PVL35. Probably about the time I get this one figured out Canon will start delivering the new 14mm and I can start all over again with that.

 

Here's a shot with the 16-35II and PVL57.5, part of a product shoot I was doing at the time as well.

 

 

post-630-1192482236_thumb.jpg

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I see it has now been 6 weeks since I ordered the 82mm Heliopan from B&H and it still has not arrived.

 

so sorry to hear. Mine took about the same time from my local camera shop. I ordered the "slim" version over 3 months ago (right after the lens came available).

Seems that Heliopan is backordered a bit :)

 

I'm headed to Galapagos next week with the lens and the new port extensions for my UK-Germany dome.

 

Hope to have decent luck there with this lens as I'm dissatisfied with the 14mm at this point.

Edited by hoovermd

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Stephen,

 

Thank You for posting the test results... I've learned a lot.

 

Ok, now I've finally had a chance to do real world testing on the 16-35 II lens on a Canon EOS1DsMKII full frame camera in Seacam housing, and real world tests refute my original pool tests.

 

I couldn't decide whether PVL 55 or PVL 60 was the best results in the pool, so I had a custom port extension made at 57.5mm. Tests with that port extension and superdome were less than stellar. It did better with subjects along a flat plane, but I tried to choose set-ups that really challenged corner performance. This is about as tough as it gets, with the fish in the right corner wrapping around me, and the focus point in the center of the frame.

 

I tried the PVL 57.5 with the wide port and that didn't work well either. Very soft in the corners.

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Waited 2 months for the Heliopan to arrive, but when it finally did, it vignetted badly with 16-35II @ 16mm. I remember being offered two versions, and ordered the slim version, but received regular. Sheesh ... Guess I won't be experimenting with 82mm diopter at Great Detached Reef next month.

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