Lens Data – Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Review

The TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II is the second generation
of Canon’s tilt-shift, wide-angle prime lens; made to shoot interior design and products;
offering perspective control over the lines of the composition. You see, when shooting architecture from the
ground level, pointing the camera up make the lines seem to “falling” over the vanishing
point; making for triangular shapes, that hides some of the elegance found on balanced
architectural lines. The solution would be to shoot parallel to
the horizontal columns, but that’s not always possible; most of us simply doesn’t have
a 10 meter crane to shoot with everyday. So another solution it to optically compensate
for the vanishing point; moving the lens relatively to the image sensor, thus introducing a counter
distortion to keep the lines straights; called a shift movement. Another use comes from tilt. Instead of keeping the image plane parallel
to the focus plane, tilting the focus plane can make the in-focus appearance change; effectively
dealing with the depth-of-field, without changing the aperture. Thus one can tilt the image plane in parallel
to the subject; making it appear all in focus; or against the subject; reducing the depth-of-field
for creative out-of-focus effects, like the miniature effect. Not messing with the aperture. So this Canon TS-E offers both movements,
with this new Mark II offering even rotational movements to independently use both tilt and
shift at the same time; and a larger rendering area, to keep the image quality intact, even
on the extreme tilt and shift adjustments. At 88 x 107mm of 780 grams of mostly metals,
the first thing we notice on the TS-E 24mm L Mark II, are the knobs and tabs; used to
control the special tilt/shift movements. Just as any other L-series we’re expecting
high-grade build quality and usability, and Canon delivers both; this is a pro-level equipment,
made dependable for a lifetime of photography. The all-metal body is incredibly precise;
both movements are smooth and well damped, even after years of operation. The knobs and tabs are plastic, made not to
get cold when used outdoors, and actually somewhat fragile; it is recommended that you
keep good care of your lenses, as these costs a fortune to fix in case of damage. The locking tabs are also plastic, and even
more fragile, despite being easy to use. It is possible to lock the lens axis at each
45 degrees, and work creatively with both tilt-and-shift; it’s even possible to operate
it with a single hand. At the front the larger-than-usual, manual
focusing ring, also showcases a fundamental difference of tilt/shift lenses, as these
are manual focusing only; notice this is not an “EF” lens; it’s a TS-E that stands
for tilt/shift electronic; only the aperture is automatic; the focus is all-manual. The ring itself is smooth and precise, sporting
printed distances, and the focusing is all-internal, made for precision; better protecting the
overall mechanism. And finally at the front the ø82mm filter
thread is excellent to avoid flaring, sitting well around the smaller f/3.5 optical group. The kit includes a carrying pouch and a lens
hood, typical of the L-series. And at the rear the metal mount sends EXIF
data to the camera, also adding a rubber gasket for yet another layer of weather sealing. Overall this is a true engineering marvel,
made for precision adjustments for high-precision photography; the target market of the L-series,
made better for the tilt/shift segment. And as we’ll see on the image quality, it
just doesn’t fail to impress optically; this was the best 24mm prime lens from Canon,
being surpassed in resolution only by an even higher-end zoom 24-70mm f/2.8 L Mark II. With a 16 elements in 11 groups optical formula,
sporting aspherical and UD elements, and Canon’s newer-at-the-time sub-wavelength coating,
to enhance clarity, contrast and reduce flaring, what the TS-E 24mm f/3.5 Mark II L delivers
optically is excellent; made for high-precision, editorial shots, of interior design. There’s absolutely nothing to complain here:
no visible chromatic aberration; no visible axial aberration; no geometric distortion;
and immaculate flaring resistance. The resolution is high across the frame, as
this is not a very extreme, “large aperture” prime, and just some minor vignetting occurs
when comparing f/3.5 to f/8 files. This performance was surpassed only by the
near-flawless zoom EF 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II, that offers a hair better corner resolution,
even at f/2.8; despite the visible geometric and chromatic aberrations; that simply doesn’t
occur on the tilt-shift. So this level of perfomance is great to work
with ambient light, that is harder to adjust and control, when shooting fast-paced commercial
shots, when we can’t really adjust the ambient at will – think about quickly shooting a large
quantity of shots for a budgeted client. This level of performance is great for the
opposite, to creatively position the light source within the frame, as the flaring is
non-existent, great for high-contrast imagery. And this level of performance is perfect for
product shots and art archival, being near exclusive on the lineup. So this is the TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II; unmatched
build quality; unmatched flexibility; unmatched image quality; mandatory for professional’s
kits. It’s one of those lenses, that really doesn’t
require recommendation; if you need one, you have one. But those over the fence about its price and
features, make no mistake; this is the real deal. It’s a pleasure to always have it with you,
so nice shooting!

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