The Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens is, optically and physically, the highest quality 24mm Canon-mount lens I've reviewed to date.
<Buyer's Remorse Protection>Owners of the not-much-older Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens can rest assured that their 24mm lens is a match physically and comes very close optically at equal apertures. The EF 24 L II has a much wider aperture available - and it has AF (autofocus).</Buyer's Remorse Protection>
That's right - and this is not a surprise to those with TS-E lens knowledge - One of the first things you need to know about the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens is that it is a MF (Manual Focus)-only lens. If you need AF, this lens is not for you (though you might find a good excuse to get it along with your AF lens).
With that fact in mind, I'll next point out the "TS-E / Tilt-Shift" features of this lens indicated by the title. While these are extremely useful features, it is not a requirement that they be used. And since these features require more in-depth explanation, let's review the non-tilt-shift aspects of this lens first. Please note: There are over 10 MB of images included in this review. Please be patient for them all to load.
As exampled in the image below, the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens' movements can be locked at "0" and can be used like any other 24mm lens without the additional movements.
The Kure Beach Fishing Pier (Kure Beach, NC, USA) image above was captured with the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens and a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (5:53 AM, f/11, 25 sec, no tilt, no shift).
I already mentioned the high optical quality of this lens. To be more specific: The Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens is impressively sharp wide open and is very sharp right into the full frame corners. Stopping down does not make a significant difference in sharpness - and it doesn't need to. The TS-E 24 II is clearly sharper than the original TS-E 24mm L.
Vignetting is very well controlled - You might notice a little vignetting in full frame corners at f/3.5, but overall, nothing to worry about. Performance is very similar to the EF 24 L II in this regard (at the same apertures).
CA (Chromatic Aberration) is extremely well controlled - less CA than the EF 24 L II and much less than the original TS-E 24mm L. Utilizing SWC (Subwavelength Structure Coating), the TS-E 24 L II controls flare very well - performing much better than the EF 24 L II and better than the original TS-E 24mm L (review the comparison samples below). Distortion is negligible - slightly less than even the EF 24 L II and noticeably less than the original TS-E 24mm L. Contrast and colors are excellent. Bokeh (foreground and background blur quality) is good.
Let's review a comparison between five Canon L Series Lenses. Use the mouseover links below to compare the full frame, right side border of the images from the compared lenses (if the links are not working, the images have probably not finished loading). I was never impressed by the original TS-E 24mm L Lens (first lens results below), but the other three compared-to L lenses are very good. Remember - I'm not showing center-of-the-frame image quality here - all of these lenses perform excellently in the center. The border image quality is the differentiator.
These shots were captured in RAW format by a Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR using ideal tripod-mounted technique under a clear sky. Canon DPP's "Standard" Picture Style with sharpness set to "1" (very low). All images are accurately focused in the center of the frame - a flat plane of sharp focus would run through the image at the front of the column. Note that, to reduce page load time (especially for mobile users), this comparison is being hosted on a separate page. Click on the image below to open this comparison in a new window/tab. Use Alt-Tab/Ctrl-Tab to toggle back and forth.
The TS-E 24mm L II (second lens in the list) simply leaves its predecessor in the dust. Full frame border image quality is where most lenses are at their weakest - and even good lenses can be made to look only mediocre at this location in the frame. This focal length and point in the frame is especially a weakness for my 17-40 L. As I've already said, the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens is optically the highest quality 24mm Canon-mount lens I've reviewed to date. I'll leave this comparison at that.
Compare the flare. Review a flare comparison below. The comparison images were shot from a fixed camera position using center-weighted averaging Av (aperture priority) mode and the standard picture style. The sky is clear and the sun is in the frame. Again, click on the image to open the comparison.
While I can see a little flare in the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens f/8 and f/11 samples, there is nothing to complain about. Again, The TS-E 24 L II bests the original TS-E 24 L (except at f/11 where they are about equal). The Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM Lens shows some flare at f/4, but performs especially well in this comparison. The TS-E 24 L II, with Canon’s relatively new (at review time) sub-wavelength structure coating (SWC), performs very similarly to the 17-40 L (and better at f/4).
Again, the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens performs extremely well optically. Now take that great optical performance and move it in close.
|Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens||7.9"||(200)||.15x|
|Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift Lens||9.8"||(250)||.14x|
|Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens||9.8"||(250)||.16x|
|Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens||8.3"||(210)||.34x|
|Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L Tilt-Shift Lens||11.8"||(300)||.14x|
|Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens||15.0"||(380)||.29x|
|Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens||17.7"||(450)||.23x|
|Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Lens||15.7"||(400)||.16x|
|Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Lens||19.7"||(500)||.29x|
A .34x MM (Maximum Magnification) value is great for any non-1x-macro lens, but especially impressive for a 24mm wide angle lens. Close-ups at this focal length provide a dramatic perspective of the up-close subject. Remember that minimum focus distances are measured from the sensor plane - subtract the length of the lens + part of the camera body to get the working distance. I'll just say that, especially with the lens hood installed, it is hard to prevent the lens from shading part of the subject at this distance. I love the close-up capabilities of this lens - Just be aware of the potential issue.
Add a short extension tube for an even shorter MFD and higher magnification. But, as I mentioned regarding the bare lens' MFD, you are now getting very close to the subject. The Canon EF 12mm Extension Tube II reduces the MFD to 7.2" (182mm) for a MM of .85x. The maximum focus distance is 7.7" (198mm) and the minimum magnification is .51x, so there is not much working distance range with this combination. Canon does not recommend using the EF 25mm Extension Tube II because the lens-to-subject distance is too short.
Another way to get higher magnification from the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens is through the use of extenders. While the owner's manual advises that the TS-E 24mm L II is not compatible with extenders, the with-extender results shown in the ISO 12233 tool are evidence that the combination works. The aperture will not report aperture properly, but images can be made. Adding the Canon EF 1.4x II Extender will yield a 34.6mm f/5 lens that delivers quite good results. As always, the 1.4x adds barrel distortion and CA, but this combination has better image quality than many other 1.4x+Lens combinations. Adding the Canon EF 2x II Extender will yield a 48mm f/7.1 lens. The 2x extender has a bigger impact on sharpness/contrast than the 1.4x - especially in the full frame corners.
Here is what the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens looks like mounted on a camera.
The camera is the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. The lens of course is the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens. And not only does it look great, it is built great as well. The easy-to-find and nicely-sized focus ring notably and all other lens movements are very smooth. Build quality is excellent - top of the line. Handling is somewhat marred by the tilt/shift/rotate knobs, but it is still good. This lens will most often be used on a tripod, so the handling aspect is not real important for most people.
|Model||Weight||Dimensions w/o Hood||Filter||Year|
|Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens||22.8 oz||(645g)||3.1 x 3.7"||(80 x 94mm)||2007|
|Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift Lens||28.9 oz||(820g)||3.5 x 4.2"||(88.9 x 106.9mm)||2009|
|Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens||22.8 oz||(645g)||3.3 x 3.7"||(83.4 x 95.1mm)||77mm||2008|
|Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens||27.5 oz||(780g)||3.5 x 4.2"||(88.5 x 106.9mm)||82mm||2009|
|Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L Tilt-Shift Lens||20.1 oz||(570g)||3.1 x 3.4"||(78 x 86.7mm)||72mm||1991|
|Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens||33.5 oz||(950g)||3.3 x 4.9"||(83 x 124mm)||77mm||2002|
|Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens||23.7 oz||(670g)||3.3 x 4.2"||(83.5 x 107mm)||77mm||2005|
|Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Lens||22.8 oz||(645g)||3.2 x 3.5"||(81 x 90.1mm)||72mm||1991|
|Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Lens||19.9 oz||(565g)||2.9 x 3.5"||(73.6 x 88.0mm)||58mm||1991|
As seen above, Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens is not unusually-sized or weighted for a lens of its class. It is a moderately sized lens with a solid-feeling weight. Aluminum and extra-strength diecast aluminum are the primary components used for the lens body.
The Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens does not extend with focusing nor do attached 82mm filters rotate with focusing. Use the mouseover links below to review and compare the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens with three other Canon prime L lenses.
All lens hoods shown above are included in the respective lens box. The TS-E 24 L II Lens Hood model is obviously the Canon EW-88B. I should mention here that this lens hood is relatively small and, since the image circle of this lens is so large (more later), it is not greatly helpful. Canon recommends using a piece of cardboard to shade the lens.
The TS-E Dance. Let's talk about tilt, shift and rotate - and let's start with a visual look at these movements. Use the mouseover links below to review Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens' tilt, shift and rotation movements. Like reading a book work from left to right and top to bottom.
The Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens tilts 8.5 degrees in either direction. A locking knob fixes the movement at the position selected by the larger, smooth-functioning, rack and pinion adjustment knob (this knob can be seen turning in the tilt images above). The two locking knobs are always on the opposite side of the lens from their respective main adjustment knob. A switch is provided to lock tilt at "0" (seen in the bottom-right "180" image).
The Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens shifts 12mm in either direction. A locking knob fixes the movement at the position selected by the larger smooth-functioning, rack and pinion knob (this knob can be seen turning in the shift images above). A larger shift knob is provided (but not pictured here) for use with Canon EOS DSLR bodies without a built-in flash (1-Series, 5D Series). Even the smaller shift knob is tight under built-in flashes.
Like all of the TS-E lenses before it, the entire lens rotates on the lens mount to allow the tilt and shift features to be oriented as desired. The lens rotation will lock at -90, 0 and 90 degrees (180 degree total rotation) and will click (semi-lock) every 30 degrees. The small tab near the lens mount that unlocks the lens rotation is easy to access when holding the camera grip.
Caution should be exercised when rotating an already-shifted lens on a camera with a built-in flash. For example, rotating the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens shifted more than 10mm will allow the lens to contact the underside of the flash mount on a Canon EOS 50D. The shift and shift locking knobs become harder to use when they are oriented under the flash. My suggestion is to rotate the lens so that the shift knob is oriented to the bottom. In this orientation, both knobs are quite usable on the 50D.
Like no tilt-shift lens before it, the TS-E 24 L II's tilt feature rotates independently of and in relation to the shift movement. This is a really nice feature - its called TS rotation. In the past, the orientation of the shift and tilt mechanisms could be changed in relation to each other, but it meant taking the lens apart with a screwdriver (or sending it to Canon Service if you were less adventurous). And even then, the movement orientation options available were either perpendicular (right angle) or parallel to each other (2 options). Now, rotation of the tilt and shift features can happen independently of each other. The tilt-shift relationship can be changed by varying amounts up to 90 degrees on the fly. TS rotation locks at the parallel or perpendicular settings relative to the shift orientation and clicks at 45 degrees. You can use non-click settings for either rotation mechanism on this lens, but care must be taken to maintain that setting (no lock is provided for the 'tweener positions). The small tab near the shift locking knob (closest to the lens mount) unlocks the TS rotation.
Tilt. As you can see in the product images above, tilting angles the end of the lens relative to the camera's sensor - the two are essentially no longer parallel to each other. The plane of sharp focus is tilted in the same direction the lens is tilted. Here is a tilt example. All of the shots in the following comparison were taken from a fixed tripod-based camera position. The flower (a Cosmo) is the focused-on subject. Watch the plane of sharp focus move around, especially in the background, in these f/3.5 examples.
Use the tilt movement to either 1) get more of the image in focus or 2) get less of the image in focus. Here is an example of using the tilt function to get more of the image in focus.
Without tilt, even f/11 (remember: narrow aperture = high aperture setting number = deep DOF) renders the flower in the background OOF (Out of Focus). Rotating the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens so that an approximately 45 degrees down/left (or 225 degrees) tilt direction can be obtained and with the lens tilted a small number of degrees, the background flower becomes sharp. Very sharp. The "Bee" and "Distant Flower" mouseover options show this. With tilt, both Hibiscus flowers (their centers at least) can remain sharp even at f/3.5 (last example). I used a tilt movement to tilt the plane of sharp focus so that it intersected both of my subjects.
A downward tilt is commonly used in landscape photography. This movement is used to keep all of the low-to-the-ground foreground and the distant background in focus at the same time without resorting to apertures so narrow that diffraction robs the image of sharpness. Or, this same tilt allows a wider aperture to be used so that faster, action-stopping shutter speeds can be selected.
Tilt also works very well for the opposite effect - selecting only part of the frame to be in focus. Draw your viewer's eye to your subject by using selective focus - Isolate the in-focus subject from the rest of the distracting background.
The examples below are intended to show how DOF increases along the plane of sharp focus as the aperture is narrowed - just like in a standard lens.
As seen in the f/3.5 example above, the ability of this rather wide angle and not-wide aperture lens to create blur is impressive. Another use of this feature is fake miniaturization. Shoot normal-sized subjects from a reasonable distance with the lens fully tilted up to make the subjects appear miniature toy-sized.
For more information on tilt, research the Scheimpflug Principle (Wikipedia).
Shift. Shift expands capabilities. Shift opens up possibilities. "Shifting moves the optical axis of the lens in parallel to the center of the imaging plane." (Canon owner's manual) Shifting causes the shifted-to side of the image to be expanded and the shifted-away-from side of the image to be narrowed - changing the perspective. Basically, shift allows you to create an image from one location that appears like you were in another location.
Here is a shift example. All of the shots in the following comparison were taken from a fixed, low-to-the-ground tripod position. With the exception of the "Reframed" examples, the camera position was also fixed.
While shift can change how we perceive the camera position, it is not the same as being in the perceived camera position. This is because the relationship of the lens to all of the objects in the photo does not change - all maintain their locations. But sometimes this is best.
In the above example, my reflection is not seen in the glass in any photo including the -10mm "Vertical Shift, Reframed" image that appears to be shot from a direct-on position. This shot also eliminates the converging vertical subject lines (from the windows in this case) that what we typically see and capture when looking up or down at our subjects. Rendering lines parallel (as in this referenced image) is perhaps the most-desired shift function.
We cannot always shoot our subjects from a straight-on, level/centered position that provides straight vertical (and/or horizontal) lines. It is unrealistic to shoot a 50-story skyscraper from 25 stories up and pointing the camera at the building's eye-level height would mean a great amount of wasted frame on the bottom. But, both methods would give the desired parallel lines. Shooting interior architecture from a mid-wall height may result in an undesirable framing. Image editing programs such as Photoshop provide perspective correction functions, but, the image quality is degraded and the final image is no longer a rectangle; and therefore, significant cropping must take place.
Shift comes to our rescue. Shoot that skyscraper from the street - keep the sides parallel in the frame. Shooting interior architecture and keep the furniture and cabinet lines straight up and down.
Another great use for shift: Combine all of the 12mm not-reframed shifted samples from the above comparison and you get ...
Impressive, eh? Photoshop's Auto Align Layers was used to easily piece this panorama example together.
Ideally, for this technique to work best, the lens position (not the camera position) should remain constant for these shots - to avoid parallax in foreground objects. There are various means of adjusting the camera the 12 degrees in both side-to-side directions (vertical is more difficult) to accomplish this, but using an Arca-Swiss compatible quick-release clamp and plate make this task relatively easy. Just measure and apply a couple of small indicators on the clamp and plate. Then move the camera the opposite direction of the shift movement - so that the lens remains in its place.
Shift results are included in the ISO 12233 Chart Tool. Overall, shifted image quality is great. Somewhat reduced sharpness will be seen in the most-expanded corners of the image when shifting the full extreme 12mm and using wider apertures. You can see this in the "S=-12" focal length option in the tool. At f/8 and f/11, 12mm shifted results look very nice. At f/5.6, 6mm shifted results look excellent. Keeping ourselves in perspective here, the degraded corner image quality just brings this amazing lens down to regular very good lens corner image quality.
Tilt and shift are not hard to use. Check out the "More Reviews & Information" section at the end of this review for more explanations.
Tilt and/or shift a standard EF lens and you would see significant vignetting. To avoid this, TS-E lenses have a much larger image circle. The TS-E 24mm L II has a 67.2mm image circle. This is far larger than the EF lens standard 43.2mm image circle and even larger than the earlier TS-E models' 58.6mm image circle.
Even with the larger image circle, tilt and shift movements change the lens' vignetting. Review the vignetting test results for this lens to see the effects first hand, but know that full tilt combined with full shift in parallel orientation and a narrow aperture will result in complete blackening of part a full frame sensor.
The referenced vignetting test results are captured using Av AE (Auto Exposure) mode. Along with vignetting, you will notice the widely-varying brightness in the samples for the tilt and shift movements - this happens in real life applications as well. My recommendation is to establish your exposure with both movements set to "0" and setup "M" (Manual) mode for this exposure prior to using tilt and/or shift. Or use Live View's exposure simulation and make your adjustments after setting up the shot.
Live View and the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens are best friends. Live View was not available when I last evaluated a tilt-shift lens. At that time, a Canon Angle Finder C was the best focus aid we had available. And the Angle Finder C only showed an somewhat-enlarged image from close to the center of the viewfinder. It worked OK at best. Manual-focus-specific focus screens are designed for faster (wider aperture lenses), so they are not a good option. Canon DSLRs will both beep and light the AF confirmation light in the viewfinder when the camera thinks focus is achieved. The focus is not always perfect, but it is close, so this is another good manual focusing option.
Live View makes life with the TS-E lenses wonderful. Even for handheld shots - but I recommend a tripod for the best results with the TS-E lenses. Turn on the grid display for assistance in dialing in the right amount of shift. Watch the plane of sharp focus to align on your subject(s) when dialing in the right amount of tilt. Then zoom in to 10x to precisely focus and make any other fine-tuning adjustments needed.
What are good uses for the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens? I'll only scratch the surface of this question's answer.
Though it lacks autofocus and the focal length versatility of a zoom lens, the impressive image quality along with the tilt/shift/rotation features make the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens the ultimate landscape and architecture lens (for applications where 24mm works well at least). This includes interior architecture as well.
While 24mm is too wide for tight portraits on a full frame body, it works well for full body and environmental (subject(s) in their environment) portraits. As always, you can frame tighter and still maintain a desirable portrait perspective using a 1.3x or 1.6x (APS-H or APS-C) DSLR. Tilt is a great technique for isolating your subject from its surroundings. I'm sure this lens will show up at many weddings as it is great for group photos. A small downward tilt will help keep all heads in focus in a large group photo.
The TS-E 24 L II will work great for product photography - especially when shooting large products.
Shooting in tight spaces or shooting large subjects? If 24mm is not wide enough for you, consider another ultimate landscape and architecture lens, the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift Lens. Here is a focal length comparison.
The above examples were shot with a full frame DSLR (Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III). Obviously, 24mm provides a significantly different FOV from a 17mm lens.
Shown above are the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens (left) and the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift Lens. One notable difference is that the TS-E 17 cannot accept filters (at least not normal ones).
There is one important Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens issue I've failed to mention to this point. It is priced like the rest of the best - high. At least the TS-E 24 II comes with a genuine Canon LP1319 soft lens case.
There is a lifetime of creativity waiting to be unleashed from this lens. It has the capability to set your work apart from the crowd. The Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens is an awesome addition to any kit.
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