Lens comparison of the Canon 16 – 35 L II and the Tamron 17 – 35 2.8 – 4.0

I have put together a lens comparison test of the Canon 16 – 35 L II and the Tamron 17 –  35 2.8 – 4.0.  I was in the market for quite a while looking for a lens which would satisfy this zoom range.  I initially tried the Canon 17 – 40 L but I just was not happy with the sharpness nor the maximum aperture of 4.0.  I finally bit the bullet and dished out the $1350 for the Canon 16 -35mm L II.  It was suppose to be the best in its class and the price reflected this.

I received the lens and was very disappointed at the image quality and sharpness… especially at the corners.  I know that finding a wide angle zoom that performs is a challenge, but I had dished out a bunch of money and was expecting more.  I contemplated just keeping the lens, figuring it was as good as it got.  I did notice in my research that the Tamron 17 – 35mm 2.8 – 4.0 had gotten few but good reviews.  I had the opportunity to buy and return the lens within 30 days so I decided to buy it and do a lens comparison between the two lenses to see whether the extra $1,000 was worth it.

For the tests here, I shot both at the aperture of 2.8.  I did this because I knew that this is where I would mostly be shooting and also where the weakness of a lens usually is (wide open).  I shot the flowers and the sign both at 35mm @ f/4. No post processing such as brightness, sharpness, exposure, saturation, etc… was done.  The were both shot in RAW and then converted to Jpeg.

Here are the results. Click on image for large view and once the window opens up click on image again for even larger view.  If you are interested in Full Size Jpegs, email me and I will send them to you.


Click on Images for Much Larger View

Canon 16-35mm 2.8 L II vs Tamron 17-35mm 2.8-4.0 Wide open

Canon 16-35mm 2.8 L II and Tamron 17-35mm 2.8-4. comparison at 35mm

Canon 16-35mm 2.8 L II and Tamron 17-35mm 2.8-4 sharpness and bokeh at 35mm

Needless to say I was very surprised by the results.  The Tamron is very close and may even surpass  the Canon in terms of sharpness when shot wide open – especially at 35mm in which case, the Tamron definitely surpasses the Canon.  I had a hard time actually accepting my own test.  I really wanted to love the Canon. This was one of the first times I had done a lens comparison with a Canon L lens and a third party lens.  The price difference between the two was so dramatic, that I assumed the image quality would be as well.  To be honest, I was shocked.  Needless to say I returned the Canon 16-35mm 2.8 L II and kept the Tamron 17-35mm 2.8-4.0.  The only advantage of the Canon was the AF speed.  It was moderately faster … Not that the Tamron is slow, but the Canon is super fast.  Being a professional photographer, I often rely on fast AF, but when it comes to this zoom range, it isn’t as important… not to mention, not worth $1,000 over and beyond.

Although I am a Canon enthusiast, I never let that get in the way… the best zoom in this range as far as I know (untested personally) would be the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens.

I hope you have found this lens test informative.

To view other lens reviews I have done, click on the following link:

Canon, Tamron and Tokinia Lens Reviews


Here are some other tests of the lenses I reviewed here:

Canon 16-35 2.8 II from Lenstip:


Photozone review of the Canon 16-35 L 2.8 MK II



Bob Atkins review of the Tamron 17-35mm 2.8 -4.0






John Carnessali


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John Carnessali