If camera gear is truly addictive, then I’m an addict. I find that it’s hard to be satisfied with a lens – it seems that there’s always a better, faster model, with just one more feature. So when I do finally find one that I’m completely happy with, it’s exciting.
A while back, you may recall seeing that I wrote about my disappointment with the Tokina 15-60mm, which I returned just a couple of days after receiving it. It was meant to be the replacement to my 17-40L, which at f/4 was just a little too slow for my indoor work.
Well, the new replacement has been here for a while now, and it’s here to stay. On the advice of a friend I found a mint used Canon 17-35mm L f/2.8, which has earned a permanent place in my bag.
The 17-35L is two generations old, since replaced by Canon’s 16-35L Mk II. What this means is that there’s some of these phenominal lenses popping up for sale used, at half the price of a new 16-35L. Which is excellent news for those of us with budget constraints.
While it may be older, it’s hardly antiquated. The 17-35L is an amazing lens, or at least my copy is. It focused nearly perfect out of the box, and a few points of micro-adjustment has it tuned perfectly now. The images display excellent color and contrast, and wide open it has a pleasant bokeh.
Most importantly, it’s sharp. Very sharp. Even wide open, which is somewhat rare, even among the L-series lenses. How sharp? Let me put it this way – anytime I share a photo, be it a print-sized file going to a client/friend, or the web-sized images I post on here, one of the final steps in my workflow before saving is a low-level pass with Unsharp Mask. With images shot with the 17-35L, I skip that step altogether – any application of USM ends up over-sharpening the photo!
I can safely say that using this lens is the most fun I’ve had with any glass in a long time. It’s just fun to work with! (My first evening out with it, I was literally charging around the park, chasing the light, and grinning like an idiot – it’s no wonder I was getting strange looks…) I find the focal range to be very useful, both for landscapes and, to a more limited extent, portraiture.
Physically it’s got the build you’d expect from an L-series lens, and while it has a bit of a reputation as a dust-sucker, I’ve yet to see any evidence of that myself. It’s nearly the same size as the 17-40L it replaced in my bag, which happens to be a size that fits well in my hand and balances well on the camera.
I find that I really can’t say enough good things about this one – it really is that amazing. It’s also the first step on my path to acquiring a full set of professional lenses, instead of working with the mid-level consumer alternatives. And now that it’s in my hands, I really am glad that I opted for it instead of the EF-S 17-55 IS; while the IS would have been handy, it’s better to have the L build and durability of the 17-35.
(The only downside to this purchase is Canon’s refusal to service this lens anymore. Goodness forbid something ever happen to mine, I’ll have to find an independent shop to fix it, or I’ll be stuck buying a replacement. Is this likely to be an issue? I certainly hope not! But it is something that you should be aware of if you’re buying a discontinued lens.)