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Wednesday, 18 February 2009


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The "target demographic" must have some money. Nikon has three new T/S lenses to match Canon's previous offering, Hasselblad has the new HTS 1.5 that works with five existing lenses and PhaseOne's lineup now includes a 45mm f3.5 T/S. None would be called inexpensive.

Damn - and I just bought an Oly Zuiko 18 for my 5DII!!

$2500? Doesn't seem too bad when you compare it to the suggested $3000 for the new Leica 18mm lens (above).

The need for a tilt on a super wide angle eludes me. Why a need for a tilt on a lens where sharpness extends from "here" to "eternity."

And given the angle of view of a 17mm lens, the need for a shift is equally perplexing.


That price seems pretty reasonable, assuming the optical quality is up to snuff (and I haven't heard complaints about Canon's T/S lenses in that regard).

I owned the Olympus 24mm shift lens for the 7 years I was an Olympus shooter; I called it my "cathedral and castle" lens, since I owned it to cope with the nasty habit they used to have of building huge picturesque piles of stone in the middle of crowded cities.

Not that I'm going to be lining up to buy one plus the 5DII to put it on, mind you.

Yeah, call me crazy, but after reading a few brief blurbs about these online today. That $2500 MSRP doesn't sound all that outrageous.

I've owned, and used, Canon's 90mm, 45mm, and 24mm TS-E lenses for quite some years. While I do not use them daily (or even weekly) they have certainly been excellent lenses and handy to have, sometimes in unexpected applications. I've no planned need for the 17mm but it sure is an intriguing focal length for a TS-E.

Yes $2,500 is a lot of cash. But for this type of lens it's a real bargain. Heck, Leica is rumored to be asking over $3,000 for its new (standard) 18mm M-mount lens.


It the angle of view that makes the shift most useful - unless you tilt the camera, you are going to a huge amount of foreground in every shot, maybe even including your feet.:-)

The tilt is going to be more important for tabletop shots, but you will still use it in the field for extreme near far shots.

I will probably stick with my 65mm on my 4x5 view camera for this level of movement. At least I can see to focus on 4x5. Unless you are shooting tethered to a big screen computer, critically composing and focusing with 35mm TS lenses is very difficult.

About 98% of digital SLR users will say, "What's the big deal?" About 2% will say "This is huge news," especially considering the impressive MTF charts (http://cweb.canon.jp/ef/lineup/ts-e/ts-e17-f4l/spec.html).

The remarks I'm seeing online today over the "ridiculously high" price of the 17 TS-E are amusing in light of the number of photographers who don't see anything unreasonable about Canon charging more than twice as much ($5300) for its 200mm f/2 lens. The 17mm TS-E strikes me as a much more difficult optical design challenge than the fast telephoto. No SLR manufacturer has done anything even close to a 17mm shift lens before, while there is plenty of "big glass" to be had in the telephoto realm from every SLR company.

To DKrzywonos, who said the need for shift in a 17mm lens is "perplexing":

If you want to keep the recording of buildings vertical (non-converging) while photographing them from ground-level, you have to keep the film/sensor plane vertical. Without a shift lens, you "waste" the bottom (pavement) half of the resulting photo, no matter what the focal length of the lens.

But with a shift lens, you can keep the sensor/film plane vertical AND fill much more of the frame with the building instead of with the pavement below it. That lets you photograph without converging verticals a building that's much taller than what you can photograph without a shift lens.

The shorter the focal length of the lens used in that situation - the more wide-angle it is - the taller the building you can fit into the frame from a given distance (the other determinant - the amount of shift/rise - is relatively consistent across SLR PC lenses at 10-15mm).

So yes, there's plenty of appetite for ultrawide lenses capable of shifting ("rising"), as most large-format photographers will attest.

Too bad Nikon doesn't have one this wide. When/if they do, it'll probably weigh in at about $3000. I'd love to get my hands on one of those.

There are some words of truth in there, Mike. When Nikon announced their latest T/S lenses I confess this happy Pentax user felt a pang of envy. I don't care for shift, but tilt...oh boy, how I would tilt that 45mm f/2.8 mounted on a D700...

As a side note, Nikon's PC-E 24mm f/3.5 is $1,900 at B&H. I suppose Canon think their lens is $300 better.

Hmm, I sort-of agree about tilt, it doesn't seem like DOF management is that likely to be an issue with a 17mm lens. Probably depends what you're shooting, and at what distance, though. And you can also use tilt to limit the apparent DOF, which might be exactly what you needed with a lens that wide.

Shift, though, is completely obvious. Yes, you can shoot straight with a wider lens and crop the section you want with correct perspective without shifting, or shoot tilted and then adjust perspective in post, but it's also useful to just get it right in camera. Adjusting in post-processing affects the resolution of the adjusted area, and could be a problem in some cases. Using a wider lens assumes you've *got* a wider lens; I certainly found cases where my 24mm shift wasn't wide enough, so I see the interest in a wider shift lens.

I have the Canon 24mm T/S lens, and I have often wanted a wider version. Very nice, and not a bad price considering everything.

Some of my favorite photos come from using the 24 T/S tilted to minimize focus and isolate the subject in candid people photography. It's hard to nail the focus with a big tilt dialed in, but when you do, it's capable of some great effects.

One or two items like that can be the deciding factor for whether to get into Canon or Nikon. I no longer do enough commercial work to say it matters to me to get me to buy into Canon right now, but if I did, I might "tilt" back to Canon. (pardon awful unpardonable pun)

Wide angle is where I am happiest, I shoot with a 24 most when I use 35mm, and this lens would be absolutely killer in enough of my kind of work to pay for itself in a reasonable time.

I'm glad to see the signs of a real war brewing up between Nikon and Canon. For too long, Nikon seemed asleep at the wheel - they just handed a decade or two to Canon. Nikon re-awoke with their last two full frame DSLRs. My guess is that this is Canon fighting back - and with a real weapon, something that no-one else, anywhere offers in the 35mm world.

I think for me the shift would be the big deal here, the ability to control framing independently from perspective. It looks like a great lens!

Cool looking? Not half, as the Brits say. Oh mama.

The price is not that bad, I think. I just got a 85mm 1.2 at a similar price.

I suspect that the 17mm lens is a way to give useful wide T/S lens to crop sensor photographers. At an effective 27mm it's easily the widest lens of the sort you can put on one of those babies. That said, Canon made a great decision to make this a full frame lens. It's win-win.

As a long term view camera user, this makes my mouth water. It's not quite like a 47mm Schneider on a 4x5, but getting damn close!

While the Canon 45 and 90MM TS-e are great lenses, the current Canon 24MM TS-E is notoriously soft at shift. The Nikon PC-Es are all tack sharp. The question I have to ask as an architectural photographer is how often would I have a need for this super wide tilt and shift snow globe? Tilt? on a 17mm, to what end? To throw the background out of focus?

Dear DKrzywonos,

A lens like this makes a lot of sense if you think about why someone would buy an s/t lens at all. First off, shift/tilt makes more sense on a wide-angle lens than on a longer lens, because the further you can back up from your subject, the less often you have to drastically tilt the camera to get the subject in the field of view. Converging verticals, and the like, are just less of a problem with a telephoto lens than a wide-angle lens. And the closer in that you have to work and the wider the field of field that you need, the more severe the problem.

The biggest value of shift is not that it includes the subject in the field of view, it's that you can reposition the subject in the field of view without having to tilt the camera and introduce perspective distortions.

So why, then, do you need tilt? First, because sometimes you can't avoid tilting the camera somewhat, and then being able to tilt the lens lets you bring the plane of focus back into an appropriate place for the subject.

Second, the depth of field in practice is nowhere is great as you'd imagine. A lens like this is only needed by people who are demanding super-critical sharpness. Otherwise, as Mike pointed out, you can get much the same effect in Photoshop, at the loss of some resolution.

I would bet that this lens is sharpest at an aperture no smaller than f/5.6. It might even be sharpest wide open. That limits your depth of field if you want peak sharpness.

In addition, normal depth of field equations don't apply to this kind of situation. Most fussy professionals will figure they have about half the depth of field that the standard equations tell you. Run some numbers through your spreadsheet, and you'll be surprised how little depth of field that is, especially working in close quarters. Being able to maximize your depth of field without having to stop the lens down unnecessarily is valuable.

Even for landscape work, this kind of a lens has its place. Anyone who's done landscape work with extreme wide-angle lenses knows about the problem of the fuzzy foreground. Unless you include huge amounts of sky (sometimes you do), the lower edge of the frame gets awfully close to your feet! Even though the subject matter there may not be important, it's distracting when 80% of the photograph looks tack-sharp and that strip of foreground at the bottom turns into mush. Again, shifts and tilts to your rescue.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

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