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Wide at heart: Ziv Koren on the EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens

Wide at heart: Ziv Koren on the EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens

© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images

November 2016

As one of the world’s most respected photojournalists, Ziv Koren has an uncompromising approach to photography. CPN writer Mark Alexander finds out how his unremitting search for quality influences the lenses and cameras he uses...

Ziv Koren’s kitbag has seen some changes recently. Updated and reorganised, it now features an EOS 5D Mark IV and Canon’s flagship pro body; the EOS-1D X Mark II. But perhaps more important to the award-winning photojournalist is the fresh addition of the new ultra-wide EF16-35mm f/2.8L III lens. He is, by his own admission, a bit of a wide boy.

“I am a wide-angle person,” he says plainly. “I like to be close to my subjects. So I mostly use wide-angle lenses. The EF16-35mm has always been one of my favourite zooms.”

The Israeli photographer got his hands on the latest version of Canon’s leading wide-angle lens shortly before departing on an extended trip to Myanmar during which he conducted one-to-one tutorials and a workshop tour with 15 other photographers. He does this kind of thing two or three times a year and describes the trips as exciting but focused.

The new lens had also been on its travels. “Canon had two lenses in Europe which they needed for the photokina show in Germany. After that event they sent one over to me and I left immediately for Myanmar.”

© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images
© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images

In high contrast light while shooting into the sun, the new lens impressed Ziv with exceptional sharpness and detail. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 28mm; the exposure was 1/800sec at f/13, ISO 250.

Like its predecessor, the new EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM maintains a constant maximum aperture and offers a range of wide-angle options. It has a robust, durable, weather-sealed construction and a ring-type USM motor and high-performance CPU for fast focusing. There are a lot of similarities, but there are also some notable differences, as Koren explains.

“The new lens is much sharper and crispier,” he says. “In the world today when everything is fast and cheap, sometimes quality can be unpopular, so I have a very high appreciation of what Canon has done regarding this lens.”

In fact, the edge-to-edge quality of the new EF16-35mm f/2.8L III is not just a significant upgrade, it has also restored Koren’s love of wide-angle views. “The two lenses I use most are the EF24mm f/1.4L and the EF16-35mm f/2.8L. That was until Canon introduced the EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, and honestly speaking, I think it was the sharpest zoom lens I had ever worked with. The quality blew me away. It was as sharp as a prime, and because I always want the best quality, I found myself shooting with the 24-70mm even though I might have preferred the wider view.”

To match the quality of the EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM in a super wide lens, Canon upgraded the third generation EF16-35mm by introducing a nine-bladed circular aperture diaphragm rather than seven in its predecessor. Add to that newly designed optics and a redesigned five group zoom mechanism that improves vibration and shock resistant levels, and the results speak for themselves.

© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images

Fluorine coating has been used on the surface of the front and rear lens element. This treatment is designed to actively prevent and minimize dust and dirt sticking to the lens elements, making cleaning easier.

“You can see the quality across the whole frame. You see it in every aspect,” he says. “The lens looks the same – it doesn’t have a better aperture or different focal length, but you definitely see the sharpness and the crispness in the image; as if it had been shot with a 24-70mm, and that is a major deal.”

Top of the glass

The glass used in Ziv’s new lens is Canon’s latest generation featuring new coatings and a new design consisting of a five-group zoom mechanism in which all groups move during zooming. The mechanism has been totally redesigned from the previous 16-35 to support the additional weight of the optics and improve vibration and shock resistance to match that of the latest L series lenses. Furthermore, waterproof and dustproof construction is used in the mount, the switch panel, zoom and focusing ring to prevent dust and moisture from getting inside. It’s an impressive feat of micro-engineering – the kind of engineering Canon is renowned for.

© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images
© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images

The lens has new coatings and a new internal design to ensure exceptional colour accuracy. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 35mm; the exposure was 1/320sec at f/7.1, ISO 250.

Koren’s trip to Burma provided the ideal opportunity to test this lens and compare it against the EF24-70mm f/2.8L II. “I didn’t do a lab test to compare ever single aperture – that’s not my job,” he explains. “But intuitively, I can tell you the quality is outstanding. Now for me to shoot with a 16-35mm, there is no compromise whatsoever. I am definitely back to shooting with a 16-35mm again. I love it.”

Indeed, during his two-week visit to the mysterious and exotic land, Koren found himself reaching for the new wide-angle lens more often than not. “It was the lens I used most during the trip and I was very happy with the results. It was very natural to go back to shooting with a wide-angle lens.”

For Koren, the EF16-35mm f/2.8L III is all about eradicating compromise. The lens delivers the same level of sharpness achieved by other acclaimed Canon optics but does so across a wider view. It is this uncompromising approach that has impressed Koren the most.

“Usually a lens works best at one end of the zoom range or another,” he says, “but with the EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM there is no compromise. It works well in every situation, at every focal length.”


  • High quality ultra-wide focal length zoom
  • Fast f/2.8 fixed aperture
  • Uses two large diameter glass moulded double-surface aspheric GMo lenses, one ground aspheric lens and two UD lens elements, ensuring high image quality edge-to-edge
  • Advance anti-reflective ASC and SWC coating reduces ghosting and flare
  • Fluorine coating on the lens surfaces to prevent dirt sticking to lens elements
  • Silent, fast autofocus, using a ring type USM drive and high-speed CPU
  • A nine-blade circular aperture creates beautiful out of focus highlights (bokeh)
  • Full-time manual focusing
  • Front element does not rotate during focusing; meaning circular polarizing filter can be used much more easily
  • Highly resistant to dust and water allowing shooting in the harshest conditions*

* A filter needs to be fitted to for dust and water resistance

Biografie: Ziv Koren

Ziv Koren

Born in Israel in 1970 Ziv Koren started his photographic career as a young military photographer in the Israeli army. He went on to become an official government press office photographer, attached to the Prime Minister’s office, and then spent six years as photographer and photo editor of the daily newspaper Yedioth Achronoth. He has been freelance since 1998 and is currently affiliated to Polaris Images, having previously worked for the Sygma and Gamma agencies between 1995 and 2002. Perhaps best known for his award-winning 2003 project ‘Louai Mer’i, a sergeant, is going home’ documenting an injured solider he regularly lectures on photography and exhibits his work around the world.


Young monks walking in line. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 25mm; the exposure was 1/320sec at f/4, ISO 250.