New Feature: My Favorite Lens

Canon 17-40mm Lens

I'm launching a new feature on The Digital Story that I think you're going to like. It's called My Favorite Lens. To participate, all you have to do is send an email to with "Your Name: My Favorite Lens" in the subject line. Provide a paragraph or two about why you like your favorite lens so much. Include the brand, focal length, maximum aperture, and camera body you mount it on. If you have an anecdote about your lens, please include it. You may also submit a picture you took with the lens to illustrate why you like it so much.

To get the party rolling, I'll tell you about my favorite lens, the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens.

My Favorite Lens: The Canon 17-40mm f-4 Zoom

I liked this hunk of glass from the moment I unwrapped it. On my Digital Rebel XT, it's about the equivalent of a 26mm lens, and on my Canon 5D, I get the full 17mm breadth. The design is beautiful with big objective glass up front, beefy barrel, and silky smooth focusing -- whether I'm in autofocus mode or turning the ring manually.

At f-4, it isn't the fastest lens in my bag. And it doesn't include image stabilization. But it is rugged, dependable, and provides stunning images. I seem to never take a bad shot with the 17-40mm. I have so much confidence when using it.

Pacifica 2005
Pacifica, CA -- 17-40mm lens @ 17mm, f-4 mounted on a Canon 5D

My favorite anecdote about the lens happened at PMA two years ago. There had been rumors on the web that Canon was going to discontinue the 17-40mm. I asked a Canon rep at their booth about the rumors and he just smiled, "Are you kidding," he said. "Our competitors wish that lens was going away, but I guarantee you, it is not."

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You certainly are doing a great job of helping people with photography. Keep up the good work!

You might want to mention that opinions very as to whether or not a fliter should be kept on the lens. Just today, Thom Hogan's post on the Nikon Forum of Digital Photography Review argues that a flat filter on the front of a lens is even more detrimental to image quality with digital than it is with film. Hogan says that a filter can produce bounce-back flare as the light bounces off the highly reflective low-pass filter that is over the sensor.

Hello Jack, that's an interesting opinion. I could see that with a single-coated filter. But a good multi-coated front lens filter shouldn't cause that phenomenon. I haven't seen that. Have you?

Have I seen this phenomenon? Well, I just spent the morning in a flower garden photographing in conditions that I thought would produce flare. Seventy-five exposures later, with and without a B+W Multi Resistant Coated Skylight 77mm Thin filter screwed onto my 17-55 Nikkor on my D200, I did not see any difference at all, with and without the filter. When I did see a difference is when I removed the lens hood for a few exposures. Flare city! People who say they go around photographing without a lens hood are just plain doing it wrong. But, even without the lens hood, I could not see a difference with and without the filter.

I've been photographing for forty years, and I remember that many years ago I convinced myself that a flat filter over the lens degraded image quality, if only by a little in most circumstances. Maybe that was before multi coated filters. Maybe I dreamed it. What ever.

I will continue to use a filter over the lens only when I need the special effect of the filter, which is not all that often with my photography. Two additional air-glass surfaces added to my lens can't be better than no additional air-glass surfaces, despite my morning in the flower garden. Protection for my front lens element is provided by my lens hood.

BTW, I posted the original comment in the wrong place. I should have posted it in the discussion section for your current pod cast on lenses.

Also, BTW, I was so interested in trying to create flare today that I don't even have one keeper from that flower garden. But, my wife was with me with her Nikon N80 film camera and she is, in many ways, a better photographer than I am. Now there is a pod cast topic for you - how to get a person who is computerphobic my to switch from film to digital.

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