Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Canon Lens Comparison: 16mm F/2.8L II vs. 14mm F/2.8L II

I own both of these lenses, but I have been asked many times 'why own the 14mm F/2.8L II, isn't the 16-35mm F/2.8L II wide enough? Especially when the 14mm comes with a $2400 price tag. The answer is simple, they're different lenses used for different purposes. The 16-35mm F/2.8L II is packed with more distortion than any of my other lenses. Barrel at 16mm and pincushion at 35mm. More about distortion in this earlier post.
The 14mm has zero distortion technically, it distorts artistically. The ideal focal length for the 16-35mm is 20-24mm, where distortion is minimal. If I want to shoot any wider than 20mm, I swap to the 14mm. Most people who own the 16-35mm shoot it at 16mm 90% of the time. BIG MISTAKE. It is NOT good at 16, too much distortion, and it's not nearly wide enough. Take a look:
I stood at the same spot at Suzzalo in Red Square on the UW campus for this shot. Had the 16-35mm F/2.8L II on one of my 5D Mark IIs, the 14mm F/2.8L II on my other one.
Here is the 16mm version:
16-35mm F/2.8L II canon lens
And here it is at 14mm:
canon lens 14mm F/2.8L II
When placed on top of each other, here is the difference:
14mm f/2.8L II vs. 16mm f/2.8L II
Bottom line: two totally different lenses, used for two totally different purposes. One cannot and should not be substituted for the other. When you shoot weddings and landscapes professionally, having exactly the right lens for the job can be the difference between getting the shot and being one poor sucker.