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.)
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.