Canon’s Secret Weapon for Landscape Photography

Every lens manufacturer has a few secret weapons in it’s arsenal. Those hidden little gems who’s performance, quality and value far exceed their price. For landscape photographers shooting with Canon DSLRs one of these is the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM.

The build quality of this lens is nothing less than superb and the fact that it’s Canon’s smallest and lightest ultra-wide angle zoom makes this an ideal landscape lens in the field. The ring-type USM (ultra-sonic motor) focuses very fast and silently. Both the focus ring and zoom ring are firm to the touch and spaced apart enough not to interfere with one another in use. The zoom function is completely internal (the barrel does not extend) and the focus is the same. Again, both of these features are ideal for landscape photography. The image quality from this lens is nothing less than superb and the optical design uses of three aspherical lens elements and one of Canon’s “Super UD” (ultra-low dispersion) glass elements.

However, the best feature of this incredible, little landscape lens is the price. At $750 (USD) it’s half the price of it’s much more expensive big brother the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM II, priced at $1520 (USD). Yes, the EF 16-35mm is one full stop faster, but when was the last time you used an ultra-wide angle zoom wide open? I generally shoot landscape shots with my 5D Mark II at f/16 or smaller to achieve the greatest depth of field possible.

Like I said, the EF 17-40mm f/4L IS USM is a perfect landscape lens.

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

Photo & charts courtesy and copyright © Canon


MTF Charts

MTF Chart for Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (Wide)MTF Chart for Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (Telephoto)


Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 17 – 40mm; 1:4
Lens Construction: 12 elements in 9 groups
Focus Adjustment: Inner focusing system with USM
Closest Focusing Distance: ~ 1 foot
Zoom System: Internal Rotation
Filter Size: 77mm
Largest Diameter x Length and Weight: 3.3″ x 3.8″, 1.1 lbs

For More Information:
Canon USA
Canon Professional Network (Europe)
The Digital Picture’s Review

My Results

Sunshine & Blue Sky

Sunshine & Blue Sky – La Grange Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on Aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 20mm, f/18 for 1/10th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer and 3-stop graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3. Click on the image above for a larger version.

9 thoughts on “Canon’s Secret Weapon for Landscape Photography

  1. Pingback: Canon’s Secret Weapons for Wildlife Photography | Serious Amateur Photography

    • Robert,

      Thanks for reading. I shot film for 30 years and honestly don’t miss “the good old days” of working in the darkroom. Digital film is almost free and processing costs are a fraction of what I used to spend developing Tri-X or Ektachrome.


      • I don’t find that an issue at all. I care more about quality than I do cost. I’ve shot digital, but now, my DSLR sits more as a bookend than anything else. I love film, love the way it looks, love handling it …. BTW, I’ve shot film for a long as you have, it looks like; my first camera was in 1973.

  2. When I’m in landscape mode (heh) I use my 17-40 all the time. Just wondering why you use f/16. Aren’t you suffering from diffraction at that f/stop? Just askin’, mind.

    • Chris,

      I shoot with a Canon 5D2 and its full frame sensor provides a much shallower depth of field than that of a crop-body camera. To make sure my landscape shots are in perfect focus I generally shoot at f/16 and use the lens’ hyperfocal distance (roughly one-third of the way into the scene) as a focus point. This enables me to capture a scene where the foreground, middle-ground and background are all tack sharp.

      I don’t personally believe in the concept of a diffraction limiting aperture. The optics in today’s lenses are so much higher quality than what I shot with 30 years ago from Canon that I still find the largest source of “softness” in any of my images to be caused by camera shake from the wind or even the mirror-slap. Unless you pixel peep at 200% I seriously doubt anyone can detect softness caused by diffraction. But that’s just my opinion.


  3. I would have to agree with you on this one Jeff, my 17-40 was my work horse lens for landscapes, and it always had amazing results

  4. Hi,

    I agree with you. I use one as my “standard zoom” lens out in the field, if there is no space for prime lenses. stopped down a bit, it gives good results, as you said …



    • Peter,

      Thanks for reading. The only prime I use for landscape work these days is the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift lens, which I rent. I’ve found the 17-40mm to perform almost as good as the TS-E 24mm, especially if you use the Lightroom 3’s lens correction settings.


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