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Working with a Tilt/Shift Lens

Canon's TS-E 17mm f/4L

Ever wanted to take a pic of a great building, or buildings with high towers?

And the trouble was and probably still is that the high building tends to look like the tilted tower of Pisa, nothing is straight were we want it to be straight.

Thought so. 

The problem with such images is the lens you mostly use. Please don't misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with your current lenses. The thing is, some photographic work does require special equipment.

Taking shots of big building, high buildings. historic buildings with high clock towers (for example), indeed does require special lenses. The results will justify the cost of purchasing these lenses.

 

The wide angle lens I am showing you here is the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L

 

The letter "L" in the product name says it all the lens belongs to Canon's professional line, recogniseable by the red ring at the front of the objective. 

Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L super wide angle lens
Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L without lenscap

This is a total view of the lens, without lens cap. So you can see the huge concave front lens. Such lenses usually go with so-called fish-eye lenses but the TS-E 17 mm is not a fish-eye.

 

Below you can see the lense from various angles.

Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L
Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L
Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L
Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L
Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L
Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L
Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L
Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L

First of all, the lens lacks any kind of auto focus. You will have to sharpen the image yourself, there is no way around it. Actually, this is the problem many people have with this lens. They are used to the auto-focus. With the TS-E 17mm, as is the case with all TS-E, you are back in the pre-digital era. Back in the late 70s, when I started with a Minolta XG1, there was no such thing called auto-focus. You had to sharpen the image yourself, that was the standard. 

 

The lens simply cannot provide auto-focus, because of the technical structure. For any auto-focus an ultra-sonic motor would have be incorporated. Though, this is impossible as you can imagine, when seeing these images.

 

More techniqual, originating from CANON, details are to find below:

 

Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L Specification

The TS-E 17mm f/4L is a professional L-series tilt and shift lens well-suited to architecture and interior photography. With up to ±6.5° of tilt for focus control and ±12 mm of shift, you can adjust perspective and composition for the perfect shot. Tilt and shift movements can be rotated independently of each other, allowing perspective and depth of field to be controlled separately, enhancing the flexibility of the lens. TS-E 17mm f/4L is a professional L-series tilt and shift lens well-suited to architecture and interior photography. With up to ±6.5° of tilt for focus control and ±12 mm of shift, you can adjust perspective and composition for the perfect shot. Tilt and shift movements can be rotated independently of each other, allowing perspective and depth of field to be controlled separately, enhancing the flexibility of the lens.

(Original Canon description)

Description - How does it work

The TS-E 17 mm Tilt/Shift lens from Canon is an ultra wide-angle lens that works on manual focus. So forget the benefit of the auto focus. There is no such thing available. How sharp the image will be depends on your own skills. The lens is for EF-mount cameras with a 104° diagonal angle of view on full frame cameras, which is 6D, 5D and 1D.

This lens is the widest tilt-shift lens in the Canon TS-E family and the tilt-shift functions control the perspective and correct convergence of lines within the frame.  The lens comes in handy with architecture, inner city images and also product photography. Landscape is also a field where the lens can help control the frame.

 

The tilt-shift functions allow for adjustment of the focal plane by an angle of +/- 6.5° and also enables a parallel shift of the optical axis by +/- 12 mm. Tilt and shift can be used either separately or in combination. The tilt-shift mechanism locks at right angle and at parallel and clicks at 45°. The lens mount rotates left or right by 90° with click-stop at every 30°.

 

Aspherical and ultra-low dispersion lens elements suppress aberations and provide sharp delineation. Subwave length Structure Coating reduces ghosting and flares. Truly circular diaphragm results in pleasing out-of focus backgrounds. 

 

As for manual focus, the focus ring on the lens enables precise manual focussing. 

 

Although built for full-frame cameras the TS-E is compatible with all Canon EOS cameras. I use the lens also on my 7D mark II. However, it must be said that only on full-frame cameras the lens really delivers premium results. 

 

As for the rotating mechanism, the tilt and shift mechanism rotates +/- 90° thereby allowing shift in any direction and the tilt mechanism for itself also rotates +/- 90° providing tilt in any direction relative to the shift. 

 

The inner construction has one aspherical and four UD lens elements thereby minimizing chromatic aberration.

 

The lens is delivered without a lens hood and there is actually no lens hood available for it. Is that a problem when shooting against the sun? No, it is not. The lens coating is that good, that even shooting into the light is no problem at all. Lens flares are at a minimum. 

What can we do with the Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L? We can take shots of buildings such as the main train station of Rotterdam as can be seen below:

Some more performance details

Focal Length:                       17 mm

Aperture:                              maximum f4

                                               minimum f22

Camera mount type:          Canon EF

Format Compatibility:        35 mm film / Full-frame digital sensor

                                               Canon APS-C

Angle of View:                      104°

Minimum Focus Distance: 25 cm

Magnification:                      0.14X

Elements/Groups:               18/12

Image Stabilisation:            NO

Autofocus:                            NO

Dimensions:                         8.89 X 10.67 cm

Weight:                                 821 g 0.821 kg

Weight incl. Packaging:     1.1 kg 

What can you do with the lens?

As already said, the lens is very good for architecture, inner city images, product and landscape. Can the lens be used without a tripod? Yes, one can do it, but it makes not much sense. Put it on a tripod because the handling requires both hands and a secure stand of the camera. So, tripod is an absolut must.

 

What you can use as tripod is your own decision. As for my part, my favorite tripod is the Manfrotto 055, which has been in service for over four years now and is the best thing I ever had. I am not doing the marketing for some producers but tell you about my hands-on experience with products. What works and what works not so good or simply forget it. 

As for the Manfrotto 055xpro Aluminium tripod it is a personal recommendation. 

Main Station Rotterdam

to be continued

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