Move over, F/2.8
Rock the house
Adam Elmakias captured the rock act Asking Alexandria at the Academy in Dublin, Ireland last January. He used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 17–40mm f/4 zoom (at 17mm), exposing for 1/125 sec at f/4, ISO 1600.
Perhaps the standout attraction of the f/4 class for all the photographers we interviewed is its better handling relative to the much bulkier f/2.8s. Richard Bernabe, the landscape specialist who used f/4 zooms for several of the images in “The Blur Method”, shoots with f/4s almost exclusively. “If you do a lot of backpacking and hiking like I do, weight is a concern. Canon’s EF 17–40mm f/4L is significantly lighter and almost half the price of its EF 16–35mm f/2.8L II. And it takes 77mm filters which are considerably smaller and less expensive than the f/2.8’s 82mm filters,” he says.
R. Ian Lloyd, the Sydney, Australia-based travel photographer likes f/4s because “their smaller proportions mean I can bring three lenses, two bodies, a laptop, iPad, and extra batteries all in a bag that fits in an overhead bin, and doesn’t strain my back when I have long days of shooting and walking.”
Lloyd uses f/2.8s only when he’s in the studio or needs the bokeh of a larger aperture, but that’s rare. Even when he’s shooting with an f/2.8 lens, he says, “I usually stop down to f/4 for the extra depth of field it provides to compensate for subject movement after focusing.” Likewise, Adam Elmakias, the San Diego-based rock-and-roll shooter whose concert image appears above, is grateful for the f/4 handling convenience. “If I’m shooting a full day with the Canon EF 70–200mm f/2.8L IS II, I’m prone to injuring my wrist, and usually end up wearing a brace,” he says. “Whenever possible, I go with the Canon EF 70–200mm f/4L IS.”
Performance Stands Up
As proven in the Popular Photography Test Lab, the f/4’s handling bonuses come at very little cost to optical quality. These lenses typically employ the same ultra-low dispersion glass and aspheric elements as the more expensive f/2.8 lenses, and as a result, their imaging characteristics are on par.
Round Up: F/4 All Stars