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EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM: Breath-taking Landscape Photography Even With Handheld Shooting

As a wide angle zoom EF lens compatible for use with full-frame cameras, the EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM is the first to be equipped with an image stabilizing system. This lens excels at handheld photography and aims to improve peripheral image quality, and its appeal will be explained using the works of GOTO AKI, a photographer who has travelled throughout Japan. (Reported by: GOTO AKI)

EOS 5DS R/ EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 16mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/11, 1/200 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight


Astoundingly high apparent resolution even at the image periphery

As a landscape photographer, my favorite lenses are wide angle zooms. I was using the EF17-40mm f/4L USM (reviewed here) for a long time. The EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, the subject of this article, has an angle of view that is 1mm wider, which allows me to capture even more of the vast landscapes I see. I shoot in harsh natural settings, ranging from Japan’s volcanoes and seas to forests and rivers, and the lens has become a major part of my arsenal.

The work above depicts Mt. Yufudake in Oita prefecture, which has 4,788 hot springs, the most out of all the prefectures in Japan. To capture the majestic sight of the towering active volcanoes between the famous hot springs of Beppu and Yufuin, I set the focal length to 16mm, and observed the details of the landscape from the rocks beneath my feet to the clouds in the sky above.

In this lens, three aspherical lens elements and 2 UD lens elements are used, which suppresses the occurrence of distortion aberrations and chromatic aberrations, etc. Also, the resolution is higher than that of even the EF17-40mm f/4L USM and the distortion of the image corners is minimal, depicting the landscape clearly.

The compatibility with my main camera, the ultra-high resolution EOS 5DS R was also exceptional. I was able to compose the shot specially to allow the intricate details of the rocks and the sky to fit into the corners of the image without having to worry about distortion, and I felt that my degree of freedom as a photographer increased dramatically.


A joy to use in both landscape and handheld photography

On the day of the shoot, because of strong winds on the mountain ridge, the camera would shake even if a tripod was used. At that point, I turned on the image stabilising system, and carried out handheld shooting while holding on to the camera firmly.

Using the PL filter, the shutter speed was slower but in exchange for shutter speed, the 4-stop image stabilising system effectively suppressed camera shaking, so I had the peace of mind to focus on the shoot.

Camera shake is less noticeable on a wide-angle lens such as this one because of the short focal length. However, when you are using a camera that has a resolution exceeding 50 megapixels, such as the EOS 5DS R, you need to all the help you can get to keep camera shake close to non-existent as possible. The IS system is thus an essential mechanism to suppress minute tremors. The fluorine coating makes it easy to clean off dirt that adheres to the front surface of the lens in such harsh shooting environments. This increased convenience in post-shooting maintenance is very much appreciated.

Japan is one of the regions that experiences the most rapid changes in geographical features in the world, as it is situated where 4 of the 10 major tectonic plates converge, and its mountains, rocks and other natural features have been carved by radical geographical changes that have taken place over tens of thousands of years. Drawing out the fine textures and intricate details of these subjects without any omissions is what the EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM excels in, which is why it is the lens I hope to have on hand in my quest to capture the details of Japan’s landscapes.

The following 3 photographs are records of my travels in the Kyushu region and they will demonstrate the excellent depictive quality of this lens.

EOS 5DS R/ EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 16mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/250 sec, EV-0.3)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight


Capturing the vast ocean landscape in a single photograph by making use of the intense perspective effect

Evenings at Amami Oshima, Kagoshima Prefecture are marked by the transition from low tide to high tide. The limestone that was visible earlier has sunk below the surface of the water in the blink of an eye. The detail of the water surface flowing in from the open ocean, the texture of the rocks, and the sky that extends deep into the image – all these details have been captured in a single photo with the intense perspective distortion effect brought about by using the 16mm focal length.

For more about wide angle lens characteristics and how to make the most of them, check out the following articles:
Exploring Wide Angle Lenses Part 1: Photo Effects
Exploring Wide Angle Lenses Part 2: Composition Techniques


EOS 5DS R/ EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 28mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/18, 30 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 50/ WB: Daylight


Simultaneously reproducing the contrasting stillness and dynamism of the rocks and the sea

A photograph taken at Amakusa Myoukengaura in Kumamoto Prefecture. For this photograph, I aimed to accurately depict the texture of the rock face carved by the forces of nature over a long period of time. The aperture was narrowed to f/18, and this was combined with a focus on the entire image. On the other hand, the tranquillity and smoothness of the sea surface was captured using 30 second long-exposure photography. Precisely because of the high-resolution EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, it was possible to reproduce the contrasting qualities of stillness and dynamism simultaneously.

EOS 5DS R/ EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 16mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/50 sec, EV-0.7)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight


Handheld photography made possible in a dim cave with the image stabilizing system

Photograph taken inside a dark cave in Miyazaki Prefecture’s Takachino Amanoyasugawara. The site was a confined space where it was impossible to use a tripod, so I shot handheld. In order to fully capture the details of the cave in a sharp image, I set the aperture to f/8. The decrease in shutter speed caused by the narrower aperture was compensated for by the image stabilizing mechanism.


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EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Lens configuration: 16 elements in 12 groups
Minimum shooting distance: 0.28m
Maximum shooting factor: 0.23X
Filter ratio: φ77mm
Maximum diameter x length: Approx.φ82.6×112.8mm
Weight: Approx.615g

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EOS 5DS R (Body)

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Born in 1972 in Kanagawa Prefecture, GOTO graduated from Sophia University and the Tokyo College of Photography. A veteran landscape photographer, he published a collection of photographs titled “Land Escapes” in 2012 and has held various photo exhibitions at the Canon Gallery since 2010. He also shot Japanese landscapes for the Canon Calendar in 2015.