Lens Review 24mm TSE

San Diego — I have been toying with a Canon 24mm TSE lens, thinking it would be a good one to take on theLandscape Class’s Field Trip to Alabama Hills next weekend.  My impressions of the lens are that it is tack sharp but its greatest benefit is that it begins to return some of the controls for the depth of field plane available in a view camera.  Don’t misunderstand me, this lens and its brethren are NOT replacements for a proper view camera since the movements are extremely limited.  You have tilts and you have shifts, but even then to very small degrees of movement and only on one axis each so there are no compound movements as you would get with a real view camera.  And such as they are they are only on the lens plane.

But for landscape work you really only need the tilt capability and normally, following the directives of Herr Scheimflug, not much at that.  And because of how close it will focus it does make a great lens for semi-macro and close-up photography.  I know most people think of wide angle lenses as tools to get that wide expanse of view out there and they will certainly do that.  But they do it with enormous distortion.  If I simply want a wide view then I’ll do it as a stitched panorama and eliminate the distortion.

For me, the greatest value of wide angle and extreme wide angle lenses is their ability to let you change spacial relationships and really emphasize foreground objects.  To do that you have to get right in on top of the foreground subjects.

Here is a shot I took this morning of some palm fronds in my back yard.

This was shot RAW with a Canon 1Ds Mk II, with the Canon 24mm f-3.5 TSE set to f-8 at 1/250, a custom white balance and with my camera’s profile assigned in ACR before it was then processed in Photoshop.  What is great about the lens is the absolute control available over depth of field.  By varing the degree of tilt you can shoot at the lens’s sweet spot for sharpness and still choose what to have in apparent focus and what to let go soft.  What is cool is that you can take advantage of the nearly instant display on the monitor to check the focus by zooming in and checking critical areas.  Click on the image for an enlarged view.

The bokeh is a bit harsh but nearly round (the oval is created by the swing of the lens) but the truth is, it is being exagerated in the shot above anyway due to the backlighting and slight lens flare from the sun being just off axis of the lens.  There was minimal chromatic aberration in the file and Bridge cleaned it up easily.  The 24mm focal length does not show all that much barrel distortion anyway.  It is not until you get to 20mm and wider that it really can get obnoxious and you have to pay very close attention to angles of view so that the curvature of things on the edges does not detract from the composition but can add to it.  I was right on top of the fronds in the shot above and their naturally flowing shapes masks the little distortion there was in the frame.

I like this lens alot and would love to have all of the TSE lenses (17mm, 24mm, 45mm, and 90mm) but they are not cheap (roughly $1,500 each).   If I were still making my living with this then it would be an easy business decision but now it is for fun and a few extra bucks from occasional print sales.  So I’ll take it along and we’ll see… we’ll see.

My 8-15mm f4L Canon fisheye should arrive just before the trip so there will be no time to test it in advance but I’ll certainly report on its performance in the trip debriefing.  We’ll leave Friday morning and then have Friday afternoon/evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning to play among these iconic rock formations so it should be a good continued test of this lens plus the new one.


About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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