PMA 2009 was a show distinctly light on noteworthy announcements, but one of the most technically interesting developments may well have slipped under the radar of many enthusiast photographers. Canon introduced two new perspective control lenses to its TS-E ('Tilt and Shift for EOS') range, in the shape of the TS-E 24mm F3.5 L II and the TS-E 17mm F4L. But while the latter quite naturally grabbed the limelight as the widest-angle perspective control optic ever made for an SLR system, both feature a significant improvement over existing mainstream designs.

What is literally revolutionary about these two lenses is that both allow, for the first time (at least for wideangle focal lengths designed specifically for DSLRs), independent rotation of the tilt and shift axes relative to the camera and to each other. (Hartblei's 'Super Rotator' designs achieve similar movements, but using longer focal length optics originally designed for medium format cameras.) Previously the tilt axis was set as standard at 90º to the shift axis, and the lenses could be modified to set them both in the same axis if the user desired. This restriction has now been discarded, making the lens movements, and therefore creative options, much more flexible. The tilt and shift mechanism rotates +/-90°, allowing shift in any direction, and in addition the tilt mechanism independently rotates +/-90°, allowing tilt in any direction relative to the shift. This functionality enables photographers to maximize depth of field in their images without stopping down as far as they would otherwise need - essential when wishing to squeeze every last pixel of detail from the latest 20+ Mp DSLRs while avoiding the deleterious effects of diffraction.

Canon has also gone to town on the the optical designs, including the use of high-precision aspherical front elements to keep distortion to a minimum, and multiple UD elements to reduce chromatic aberration. In the case of the TSE 24mm F3.5 L II, this means a considerably more complex formula than its predecessor - 16 elements in 11 groups, as compared to the 11 elements in 9 groups of the older design. According to Canon the usable image circle is also much larger - 67.2mm as opposed to 58.6mm - which in principle allows a greater range of movements without vignetting. The lens also utilizes the company's new 'Sub-Wavelength Structure Coating', which is designed to reduce flare and ghosting dramatically in lenses that contain large curve-radius elements - most notably wideangles. Also included is the currently-fashionable circular aperture diaphragm, designed to give an appealing rendition to out-of-focus regions of the image.

The price for all these improvements is, however, pretty breathtaking. The 'II' version commands a $1000 premium over the older lens on its introduction, which means it costs very nearly as much as an EOS 5D Mark II body. There will doubtless be more than a few owners of the original lens wondering whether it's worth the upgrade, and whether the new optics and flexibility of movements offer sufficient reason to break out the credit card. Let's see what we can find out.

Headline features

  • 24mm focal length; F3.5 maximum aperture
  • ± 8.5° Tilt and ±12mm Shift
  • Independent rotation of tilt and shift movements (through 90º and 180º respectively)

Angle of view

The pictures below illustrate the angles of view on 35mm full frame and APS-C camera bodies:

24mm (35mm full-frame) 24mm (APS-C; 38mm equivalent)

Canon TS-E 24mm F3.5 L II specifications

Street Price • $2200
• £1900
Date introduced May 2009
Maximum format size 35mm full frame
Focal length 24mm
35mm equivalent focal length (APS-C) 38mm
Diagonal Angle of view (FF) 84º
Diagonal Angle of view (APS-C) 60º
Maximum aperture F3.5
Minimum aperture F22
Lens Construction • 16 elements / 11 groups
• Aspherical elements
• 3 UD glass elements
Number of diaphragm blades 8, rounded
Minimum focus 0.21m (8.3")
Maximum magnification 0.34x
AF motor type Manual focus only
Focus method Internal (rear) focus
Image stabilization None
Filter thread • 82mm
• Does not rotate on focus
Supplied accessories Front and rear caps, hood
Weight 790g (28 oz)
Dimensions 89mm diameter x 106mm length
(3.5 x 4.2 in)
Lens Mount Canon EF only

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area