Quick hands on with both the new TS-Es (no pics I'm afraid)

Started Apr 29, 2009 | Discussions thread
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Andy Blanchard Senior Member • Posts: 1,245
Quick hands on with both the new TS-Es (no pics I'm afraid)

I got to briefly try out production versions of both the new TS-E lenses today, as well as perform a side-by-side comparison with the original 24mm TS-E. I've got plenty of test shots but was requested not to post any for the time being as the CPS guy wasn't sure whether that was OK just yet. Anyway, for all those of you that are curious about the lenses here are some quick first impressions with headings so you can find what you want to know most quicker:

Build Quality

The build quality of both lenses is superb and comfortably surpasses that of the original 24mm TS-E - probably a good idea given the additional movement available. I've got several L lenses from wide angles to super-telephotos, and these are both right up there with the best of them. Everything feels very solid indeed, yet the movements are all very smooth with good tactile feedback when you go through the detents. Once you get to know where are the knobs are located, you'll have no problems operating the lens hand held if you're so inclined but as noted by DPR in their preview, there are some tilt/shift combinations that can make it hard to reach a control or two. Given the number of movements and controls/locks however, this was pretty much inevitable and is the price to pay for being able to have full control over tilt/shift.

Physically, neither of the lenses is particularly bulky - they are about the same size and are both smaller and lighter than the 24-70mm f/2.8 I use as a walkaround. The hoods look like they will be about as useful as the one on the 17-40mm however and I suspect most people will just leave them at home. The 17mm's front element, while pronounced, isn't quite as curved as the one on the Sigma 12-24mm "Popeye", but it is equally exposed and likely to be a smudge magnet if you are not careful.

Image Quality

In short, both lenses lived up to the high expectations set by their MTF charts and performed brilliantly. Straight on, both lenses were about as sharp as a regular prime gets - there is no distortion or chromatic aberration visible at all and contrast is also very good. I did get some slight lens flare, but that was most likely more down to the environment I was working in (lots of overhead lighting) than anything else, but it's something to check when the reviews start coming in. Other than that, it certainly looks like Canon is onto a winner with it's new lens coating and unless it's significantly expensive to apply I'm expecting to see it on all of Canon's subsequent L lenses, and maybe some of the cheaper lenses too.

I started with shift first, and did start getting some CA towards the extremes of shift both lenses, but a little more so on the 17mm and especially around some overhead lighting. Nothing unusually bad for for lenses this wide however and well within the reach of a quick software correction; even fully shifted the 17mm seems slightly better than my Canon 17-40mm. The larger imaging circles pay off as well; fully shifted I couldn't find any obvious signs of vignetting on my 1.3x crop. If you're into Hassleblad X-Pan style panoramic shots, then you're going to love the new TS-Es; look Ma - no post-stitch correction required!

Moving on to tilt, the lenses provides a very agreeable and smooth shift from sharp to unsharp when maxed out, with some gorgeously smooth bokeh at the extremes. A few highlights where I caught some spots of light in an out of focus area came out almost perfectly circular with almost no polygon effect at all on either lens. Viewing a sequence of shots taken at wide aperture with varying degrees of tilt clearly shows the plan of focus "rotate" from one edge of the image to the other, and best of all it remains sharp from edge to edge as well.

Combining tilt and shift... Well, that where the endless creative fun begins, especially now that the lens offers full control over both simultaneously and due to the sheer number of possibilities, I only really had time to scratch the surface. As I mentioned above, it's possible to get some of the controls into places that fat fingers can't reach, but the resolution is always to apply another movement, make the correction then reverse the first movement. TS-Es are generally used with consideration anyway, and some consideration of the order in which to apply any lens movements can avoid the problem entirely. I've also got some crazy ideas about combining movie mode with a TS-E and adjusting the lens while filming which I suspect will either be really cheesy if done badly or really cool if done well...

[Cont. in part #2]

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