Terra Galleria Photography

Canon 24 TSE-II v 24 TSE, a comparative review

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About a decade ago, I switched from Nikon to Canon. I was attracted, among other things, by the availability of a 24mm tilt and shift (T/S) lens, which brings to 35mm some of the controls available to the large format camera photographer. While it has served me well, its T/S functions making it possible to create higher quality images than would have been possible with a regular lens, it had a number of shortcomings. My main gripe was that there wasn’t enough of an image circle to shift fully the lens in vertical orientation. I also wished that the image quality was better, since when used as a regular lens, it wasn’t even as sharp as my zooms, and suffered from serious chromatic aberration.

Last year, maybe challenged by Nikon’s new great 24 T/S lens, Canon introduced a revision of their own 24 T/S lens. It is in fact an entirely different lens, physically quite similar to the Nikon. The goal seems to have been to produce a high performance lens, regardless of size and weight, which are all significantly larger than the previous version.

left: 24 TSE (old) – right: 24 TSE-II (new)

Did Canon deliver on their promise of a high-performance lens ? As the Imatest (best way to measure lens performance, see details here) charts below show, the answer is an unqualified yes ! The new lens is impressively sharp even wide open, with corners almost as good as the center, which is extremely rare for a wide angle lens. It boasts a significantly larger image circle, which now allows a full 12mm shift in both horizontal and vertical orientation. In fact, it has been reported that the image circle is so large that the new lens can be used with a medium format camera. Controls are much improved. The ability to use independent axis for tilt and shift (unique to the Canon design) is a nice bonus.

top: 24 TSE (old) – bottom: 24 TSE-II (new) – click to enlarge

Both lens are manual focus with focus confirmation, automatic aperture, and a solid all-metal construction. The table below summarizes the differences I have found between the two lenses. There are so many improvements that I feel that the new lens is well worth its price, despite it being almost twice as much the price of the old lens.

24/f3.5L TSE 24/f3.5L TSE II (2009)
T/S axis One rotation mechanism for both T and S. By default T and S axis are perpendicular. This can be changed to parallel by dissassembling rear of lens (requires a sharp Phillips screwdriver). Unique two independent rotation mechanisms, one for T and S, one for T, so each of them can be placed at an arbitrary position.
T/S locks Tiny friction knobs for T and S, easily jammed (I’ve had to use pliers). Lack of positive lock for T can ruin images. Larger friction knobs with deeper grooves for T and S. Switch with zero-detent for T.
Maximum Shift 11mm along short side, 7mm along long side 12mm along both sides. Enough shift to place base of buildings near bottom of frame even in vertical orientation.
Maximum Tilt 8 degrees 8.5 degrees
Close Focus 1 ft./0.3m
0.14x magnification
0.69 ft./0.21m
0.34x magnification
Sharpness less sharp than 24-70/f2.8, 24-105/f4, 17-40/4, 45 TSE significantly sharper at all apertures, in particulars in corners
sharper than 24-70/f2.8, 24-105/f4, 17-40/4, 45 TSE
Distortion barrel 1.9% barrel 0.96%
Chromatic Aberation marked in areas of strong contrast near edges (0.1) not noticeable (0.03)
Other Furthest focus is infinity Focuses past infinity. Newer coatings (for better ghosting and flare resistance). Circular aperture (for better highlights/bokeh).
Lens construction 11 elements, 9 groups 16 elements, 11 groups
Filter size 72mm 82mm
Size DxL 3.1 x 3.4 in./78 x 86.7mm 3.5 x 4.2 in./88.5 x 106.9mm
Weight 20.8 oz./570g 27.5 oz./780g
Price (06/2010) $1200 street, $1900 list (discontinued)
look for a used @ amazon
$2100 @ BH
$2100 @ amazon
(List: $2500)

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