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I've got several primes (200mm f2, zeiss 100mm, 85mm f1.2, 35mm f1.4) and the Canon 16-35mm ii lens. My problem with this lens is that compared to the primes I have, I feel that the image quality of 16-35 sucks. I'm also mostly using it at 16mm anyway, so I'm considering ditching it for 14mm ii.

I don't really care about if it's 14mm or 16mm, or how close it can focus or the price. What I care about is image quality.

Can anyone comment on whether 14mm will offer a better image quality or not? Or, maybe, I should go with another lens altogether?

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1  
The world beater in this category is the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G. You could use it via an adapter on your Canon body but to get full functionality you would need a Nikon body. I have friends who shoot Canon almost exclusively, especially at telephoto focal lengths, but who also own a Nikon body just for this lens. –  Michael Clark Dec 6 '13 at 18:05
    
Sometimes there are moments where I regred that I'm not a Nikon shooter. This is one of them ). Looks like a really nice lens! Thanks for the suggestion –  Arsen Zahray Dec 6 '13 at 18:57
    
actually, if I want to have to live with another manual focus lens, I'll probably go for the Zeiss 15mm instead ) –  Arsen Zahray Dec 8 '13 at 4:18
    
It is not really any sharper in the center than the Nikon 14-24 at 14mm f/2.8. The Zeiss is slightly better on the edges. At f/5.6 where both are sharpest, the Nikon noses our the Zeiss on the edges and equals it in the center. Click 'Measurements-->Sharpness-->Profiles' dxomark.com/Lenses/Compare/Side-by-side/… –  Michael Clark Dec 8 '13 at 5:23
2  
Yeah, but Canon has two WA Tilt-Shift lenses that Nikon can't touch, as well as a bunch of Super Telephotos, just not a super WA zoom for FF. Both lens line ups offer some things the others don't, as well as many thing that both have covered. –  Michael Clark Dec 9 '13 at 11:30

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

DxO Side-by-side f/5.6

Click 'Measurements-->Sharpness-->Profiles' to see a side-by-side comparison of the Zeiss 15mm f/2.8, the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II, and the EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II. Other than at f/2.8, the Canon 14mm prime is clearly sharper than the Canon 16-35mm at 16mm everywhere except the very center of the frame. At f/4, the Zeiss is similarly better than the 14mm Canon, but by f/5.6 there is little difference between the Canon 14mm and the Zeiss 15mm. By f/8 there is almost no difference between the Zeiss and the Canon prime, both of which clearly outclass the Canon zoom.

f/8 comparison

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The thing is - I shoot most of my lenses wide open most of the time (especially that I'll need this lens to work inside the buildings). And at f2.8 Zeiss clearly outperforms the two other lenses across the field, and 14mm prime is the worst everywhere except in the center. Anyway, this is a better answer to my question, I'm awarding the answer to you. Thanks! –  Arsen Zahray Dec 9 '13 at 9:02
    
Thank You. I suspect that most others who might be comparing the three lenses will be more interested in their performance for landscape/architectural, which was where I was guessing you were as well since your question didn't specify. Yes, at f/2.8 the Zeiss beats the Canon prime fairly handily from about 33% of the frame on out (assuming you are using a FF body). Its superiority over the 16-35mm is a little more subtle @ f/2.8. Have you had a Canon service center look at your 16-35 to be sure it is in proper adjustment? A tilted or decentered element can wreck a WA lens. –  Michael Clark Dec 9 '13 at 11:36

I would first start with some standard online comparisons of the two lenses in lab conditions. Both the-digital-picture.com and dxomark.com compares these two lenses directly:

Low and behold - in these tests the prime lens does win the competition, but only slightly. They are very similar when you compare them at 14mm and 16mm. Bryan over at the-digital-picture says:

And while the 14mm L II has better image quality than the 16-35mm II at 16mm, it is not greatly better. These two lenses perform more similarly than different.

Roger Cicala, a well respected blogger and owner of a prominent online lens rental company noted:

If you want to shoot a Canon full-frame really wide, this[Canon 14mm f/2.8 L II] is the best lens you can pick up. It’s much sharper than the 16-35 f/2.8.

But honestly, why would you believe me(some random dude on the internet with lots of fake internet points), or these other websites who tested the lens in controlled environments? Why not spend $50-100 and rent the lens that you don't have, and compare it against the one that you do have? See if you don't mind losing the focal range of the zoom. Notice how you have now lost the ability to screw on standard filters. See that .05% extra sharpness and light wallet :)

Further, this is a great read to understand why these lenses might be much more difficult to make, and thus more expensive and potentially of lower quality than other lenses you use: Why are wide-angle lenses so much more expensive?

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renting would be really nice. but they don't rent those lenses where I live. that's why I'm asking ) –  Arsen Zahray Dec 6 '13 at 15:11
    
If you want full field sharpness across the entire frame at apertures of f/4 and upward, the 14mm prime is considerably better than the 16-35 from about 40% out to the edges. This would be of particular concern to landscape/architectural photographers. From the DxO link in your answer, click 'Measurements-->Sharpness--> Profiles' and set both lenses to f/5.6 or f/8. –  Michael Clark Dec 8 '13 at 5:37

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