Canon TS-E 24mm 1:3.5 L II

One of my most recent acquisitions is the Canon TS-E 24mm 1:3.5 L II lens. I purchased this after much deliberation, as it is an unusual lens. In fact, it only focuses manually, but costs quite a lot! What is so special about this lens, and why did I buy it? There are several reasons behind my investment in the Canon Tilt/Shift lens. Some of them are:

  • My go-to ultra wide angle lens for landscape photography is the Canon 17-40L lens. However, I’ve been lately noticing that this lens is unable to resolve the Canon 5D Mark III very well. The 17-40L is quite an old design, and is not the sharpest ultra wide in the Canon line-up. After using the new generation of lenses such as the incredibly sharp Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS Mark II, I began to feel the need for a sharp wide angle.
  • The¬†Canon TS-E 24mm lens has excellent corner-to-corner sharpness.
  • I couldn’t find any of the usual rental agencies owning the Canon TS-E 24mm 1:3.5 L II in Bangalore. This includes Tapprs and Toehold.

Let me break down the nomenclature of the Canon TS-E 24mm 1:3.5 L II for my non-technical readers. Feel free to skip this list because it is rudimentary.

  • Canon: Obviously, the company that makes this lens.
  • TS-E: Stands for Tilt/Shift. The mechanical nature of the lens which makes it unique. There are very few TS-E lenses in the world.
  • 34mm: The focal length. Being a ‘block’ lens or a ‘prime’ lens, there is no zoom functionality.
  • 1:3.5: This indicates that 3.5 is the widest aperture of the lens.
  • L: Stands for Canon’s ‘pro’ lineup of lenses
  • II: This is the second version of this lens. It was introduced in May 2009.

But the most obvious question is – isn’t 24mm shorter than 17mm? After having used a 17mm lens, how does it feel to use a 24mm lens for taking landscape photos? If you have seen my landscape work, you’ll know that I love to shoot ultra-wide frames. Now, with the 24mm TSE, I need to start getting creative with my compositions, and learn to start shooting at 24mm. Without the zoom feature, I really need to plan my shots better. It has been only a month or so since I purchased this lens from Jayesh Mehta (Fotocircle), so I cannot comment now on how I use this lens in the field. My initial tests confirm that this lens is wonderfully sharp and lives up to my expectations. There are also techniques to overcome the 24mm limitation. This is one of the uses of the shift function. More on that next. Another use of the shift function is to be able to correct the keystoning effect that one comes across when shooting buildings. Keystoning refers to the distortion in straight lines when shooting with the camera pointed up, or down, and not parallel to the structure. I’ll blog about it after I have more examples. The ability to control shift makes this lens great for interior, and architecture commercial assignments.

So what are the other uses of the Tilt-Shift feature? Incidentally, I initially had my eyes on the Zeiss 21mm lens. This is a legendary manual focus wide angle lens for landscape work. It is also a little less expensive compared to the Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift lens. I was largely influenced by Darwin Wiggett‘s work, when I was researching online for a good wide angle lens for the Canon 5D Mark III full frame camera. Darwin is a huge fan of Tilt-Shift lenses. Photos that he’s taken with the 17mm and 24mm Tilt-Shift lenses really appealed to me. Darwin even has an e-book on how to use the Tilt-Shift effectively for landscape photography. Like i mentioned earlier, one can use the shift function to overcome the limitation of 24mm. By taking multiple shots and combining them later in post, one can get an angle of view wider than 24mm (equivalent to a 14mm lens, if I recall).¬† This technique also preserves the ‘look’ of 24mm and does not produce distortions that ultra-wide angles are known for. While the ‘elongated edges’ look of ultra-wides can be used effectively, sticking to a conservative 24mm look means more thought behind the composition. And I love this new direction of becoming a little more deliberate with my composition and photographs. Here is a photograph that shows how 3 individual photos can be merged to give a really wide angle of view.

A 3 stitch panorama at Mekedaatu near Bangalore, taken with a Canon 24 TS-E.

A 3 stitch panorama at Mekedaatu near Bangalore, taken with a Canon 24 TS-E.

 

This picture is again a panorama of three individual photographs, shot using the shift feature of the 24mm TS-E.

A 3 image stitch shot with a Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift lens.

A 3 image stitch shot with a Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift lens.

The versatility of the lens is extended by the fact that one can rotate the shift feature to use it both horizontally and vertically. The two examples above are examples of each. The tilt function is useful to get a very narrow depth of field, even at wide apertures. You can have both the foreground and background sharp by tilting the lens. I haven’t used this feature much, so more on that in another post.

A few other strong points of the 24mm TS-E lens is the ability to focus close, and the ability to use the tilt function to take creative shots. Examples of these are:

 


Common Jezebel by Pratap J on 500px.com

Common Jezebel
by
Pratap J

Closeup with a 24mm TS-E

In the coming days, I plan to test this lens in upcoming trips to coastal and mountainous regions of Karnataka. I am currently taking a fresh look at my collection of filters. The 24mm TS-E has a 82mm diameter and takes filters of 82mm. Most of my circular filters are of 77mm dia. This means I need to purchase a new circular polariser for the 24mm TS-E, and also migrate from circular ND filters to square ND filters. This shift will also help me overcome vignetting problems I tend to face while stacking circular filters. My favourite circular polariser is the Kaesemann Circular Polarizer MRC Filter. This time, I am looking at purchasing the Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo Warm Circular Polarizer/LB Color Intensifying filter to see how it stacks up against the B+W. Of course, all of this has, and will continue to dent my wallet. More to follow!

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