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Quick Look – Canon 17mm f/4L TS-E Lens

I’ve been fortunate to get my hands on one of Canon’s newest wide angle lenses, the 17mm f/4L TS-E (tilt/shift.) A quick look has shown it to be everything that has been reported – sharp edge to edge, virtually no distortion, and little to no chromatic aberration visible.  Wow!

It was only a little while ago that many photographers were bemoaning the the lack of quality in Canon’s wide angle offerings. Canon has responded, first with the 16-35mm f/2.8L II and the 14mm f/2.8L II, and more recently with the 24mm f/1.4L II, the 24mm f/3.5L II TS-E, and the 17mm TS-E.

What the 17 TS-E brings to the mix is versatility especially for the architecture photographer. In many ways, if you ever worked with a view camera it will harken back to that due to its heavy construction, its size (forcing you to work a bit more methodically,) and its front element – a partial hemisphere of glass. It cannot take a lens hood so, just like in the view camera days, you’ll want to have a card with you to flag the front element from a direct hit of the sun.

17 TS-E vs. 14 II vs. 16-35 II @ 16mm

All images at 1/125 @ f/10; shot on a Canon 1Ds Mark III with a tripod and the mirror lock up engaged. Images processed in Aperture v2.1.3 with no additional sharpening and presented here as 100% screen res. crops. The crops below would be 0.66″x1.57″ @ 300 dpi if printed (a tiny portion of the overall image.)

14mm f/2.8L II
16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 16mm
17mm f/4L TS-E
Center
Lower Right
Upper Right

In the center all three are very close though the 17 TS-E has the sharpness by a hair, followed by the 16-35 II, and then the 14 II. On the edges the 17 TS-E again excels but the 14 II easily bests the 16-35 II.

We can see that the 16-35 II is not as good in the corners on sharpness or CA but keep in mind that the 16-35 II is not at its best from 16-19mm. It excels in the 20-35mm range. The 14 II has long been a favorite of mine. In fact, I just sold my copy because I don’t expect to need it with the 17 TS-E on hand but I’m having a bit of seller’s remorse. The 14 II was always one of those lenses that when I was shooting architecture tethered and the image appeared on the laptop jaws would drop. It always looked very very sharp. It can have a bit of CA and distortion but they’re so minimal they will often not need correction in the final image.

My 17 TS-E will be on location working hard the next couple of weeks. I’m excited to work with it. I also have the new 24mm f/3.5 II TS-E on order. It’s supposed to be just as good and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will arrive in time.

4 Comments

  1. This is very useful. Thank you.
    I’ve been using the 16-35 II, at f/11 on a 1Ds Mk3 and the results have been very crisp.
    Most of my interiors assignments force me into tight corners and the 16-35 has been a lifesaver there. The sharpness, the versatility of the 17 t/s is very attractive. The perspective correction will be very useful.

  2. Jon Roemer

    Thanks Kohi. Yes, the 17mm TSE is quite stellar. That said, I’ve found the 16-35 II to be a great lens as long as you don’t go wider than ~20mm. If you go wider the edges can get a bit too problematic for architecture (but may be acceptable for other types of work.)

  3. I just go myself the 17mm TSE and a 5dM2 to go along with it, i have always been a Nikon user with the 24mm PCE lens as my bread and butter lens for some time now. I am so excited about the prospect of the 17mmTSE on a 21mp camera. I was wondering how much do you use the 17mm TSE lens since you also have the 24mm TSE or architectural shoot? is 17mm to wide? i also bought the 1.4x tele-converter and am yet to find out how that works with the 17mm TSE though i have read that it works pretty well with the 24TSE. Thanks & regards, Harshan Thomson

  4. Harshan – how much the 17 tse gets used really depends upon the project. It can be too wide for some spaces but it can also be a life saver. The key with it is too make sure you are lined up well so that the geometry of the room or the building does not get thrown off. I have the 1.4 tele converter but I have not tried it with either of the new tse lenses.

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