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Canon TS-E 24mm lensA Tilt and Shift lens on your digital SLR

The Canon TS-E 24mm lens
- a review and discussion
What do tilt/shift lenses do?

Keith recently obtained a Canon TS-E 24mm 3.5L tilt/shift lens primarily for interior and exterior photography of buildings.

We have an overview of the Canon TS-E 24mm 3.5L II which is the version of this lens that Keith now uses...

This review of the TS-E 24mm is intended give a bit more of a feel for what it is actually like to use a tilt/shift lens for real (on a Canon EOS 1Ds).

The article was first written in 2006, but has been regularly updated.

Tilt shift lenses - how to use and what they do

TS-E lens structureNote to Nikon users

This lens is almost the same as the PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5D ED except that in Nikon terminology it would be a "Perspective Control Lens"

Note - Feb 2009 a new version of this 24mm lens and a 17mm are announced. June 09 - we have sample images from our new TS-E 17mm

The 100% crops of images from the 1Ds are not sharpened in this article, but many of the reduced size images have had slight sharpening to bring out detail.

All our UK used photographic items (including the lens in this review) come from:

MPB - check out their stock

USA used - B&H | Adorama

Given the very wide angle pictures you can get with a 14mm or 16mm lens and the ease of correcting perspective in Photoshop, why bother with this manual focus lens and all the extra effort involved in using it?

Canon TS-E 24mm lensThis tilt shift lens review/article is intended to give an overview of some of the effects, and has links to more detailed technical info at the end.

Some of our other T/S articles

There are several more listed in the resources section at the end of the article

What is a tilt and shift lens?

Canon make four EF mount tilt and shift lenses.

Focal lengths of 17mm, 24mm, 45mm and 90 mm

24mm 3.5L TS-E 45mm TSE 90mm 17mm t/s lens
24mm 3.5L

Mk2 TS-E24

TS-E45mm f/2.8 TS-E90mm f/2.8

Review of this lens by Keith

TS-E17mm f/4

The 24mm was the only L series lens of the three original TS-E lenses from Canon.

Update: The 17mm started shipping in June 2009 and we've got some TS-E 17mm f/4L sample images and lens info

The optical elements of the lens can be moved relative to the sensor (film) plane. This allows for the correction or creation of perspective and depth of field effects. They are also known as Perspective Correction or Perspective Control (PC) lenses. Nikon now has it's own range of T/S lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm)

The easiest way to see what the lens does, is to move your mouse over the three pictures below, which show horizontal shift, vertical tilt and a combination of both. Note that the tilt and shift directions are at 90 degrees to each other. This is quite easy to alter yourself, if you would rather have the two parallel (Shift lens modification - a short 'How-to' article showing Keith's modified 90mm)

Shift (horizontal movement)

Tilt (up and down)

Tilt and shift at the same time

The lens is manual focus, so there is a depth of field guide next to the distance scale.

Shift (rise and fall)

If you consider your camera pointing at a building, with the film/sensor plane perpendicular to the ground, the camera should be pointing to a point at the same height above the ground as it is positioned.

If you raise the lens, this aiming point moves away from the centre of the frame.

A simple example from landscape photography might help explain...

Lets say I want to take a scenic shot, with the horizon about one third of the way up the frame. If I just tilt the camera up to move the horizon down, it may not show much distortion. However if I've got tall trees or telegraph poles in the shot, they may start to lean at quite an angle. The solution is to shift the lens.

The sensor on my 1Ds is 36mm x 24mm. If I want to have the camera aim point moved down to 1/3 of the height of the frame I need a shift of 4mm (the centre line is 12mm from the bottom of the frame, I need it 8mm from the bottom 12- 8= 4mm) Similarly for portrait orientation I need 6mm of shift to get the horizon 1/3 of the way up the frame (18-12)

Tilt (swing)

When you focus to a certain distance, you are focusing everything that is in a plane parallel to your sensor, at the focusing distance. If you tilt the lens, you can rotate this plane. A typical use might be where I want to get a much greater apparent depth of field in a landscape shot, with nearby rocks and distant mountains in sharp focus.

It takes quite a bit of fiddling to get right ... so those of you who know of my general dislike for using tripods outdoors will guess that I'm probably not going to be trying this anytime soon for my landscape work ;-)

I've collected some more technical links about tilt and shift and such things as the Scheimpflug principle at the end of this article. I've also written an article specifically about focusing with tilt.

1 Ds camera setupMetering

Unfortunately the various effects of shifting and tilting the lens don't fit well for your camera's metering system, which is expecting nice well defined rays of light coming in at predictable angles from lenses mounted directly in front and coaxial with the mount.

If you are going to use internal metering, then best make the measurements first with no tilt/shift.

I found that raising the lens caused my 1Ds to overexpose, and lowering it caused underexposure. Shifting left and right caused much smaller errors.

In general, you are going to use this type of lens on a tripod, although I have been experimenting with using a bit of vertical shift with the lens hand held. I've got some examples of this later in the article.

Note the bubble level at the top of the camera, and the angle viewer, used to ensure accurate focus. The cable is for a remote release, to avoid vibration.

Do check that your bubble level is actually sitting level in the flash socket.

Level the camera and rotate it 180 degrees to face you.

It should still read level. I tried this with a pan/tilt head and found that it was slightly out - easily fixed with a small shim of card.

camera in library

Test setup

Shifting the lens to cover a wide angle

One thing you can do is to shift the lens to capture a wider field of view, and then stitch the images together

For comparison, the first picture below, shows part of my library, taken with a Canon EF 16-35 2.8L zoom lens (at 16mm and f8), on my Canon 1Ds.

It's a lens I use a lot, where the very wide angle coverage is very useful in interiors. There are also quite a few pictures in my landscape gallery taken with it.

lots of books

The slight barrel distortion is particularly visible with a subject like this.

The 100% crops below shows the centre and far right hand side of the image

photography books

Centre - 100%

art books

Right hand edge of frame - centre

For critical work at high resolution I'll often use the DxO Optics Pro software to fix a lot of the lens distortions, such as chromatic aberration, and geometric errors.

The 100% crop below shows the improvements at the edge of the frame

sharper art books

DxO - Edge of frame

You can fix some of the distortion in Photoshop quite easily. If you mouse over the image below, you can see the results of using the CS2 Lens correction filter (more of this later)

Correcting barrel distortion

Lets now have a look at the same view, taken with the TS-E 24mm, also at f8.

Books - TS-E 24mm

TS-E 24mm

Notice immediately that there is less geometric distortion -

I should add, that since I put these bookshelves up, they are actually not perfectly level :-)

The 100% views below give an idea of what the lens is like

TS-E photo books

Centre

Ted

Ted

How to write, think and speak correctly

Left hand side (small bit of CA removed in Adobe camera raw)

The lens is fairly sharp, although not up to the standards of the EF 24 mm f/1.4L USM

Looking up info on the web, suggested that the TS-E 24 was at it's best around f/8. Having my natural distrust of 'experts on the web', I did some tests (too boring to replicate here :-) outside of my house which showed that at f/5.6 the lens was pretty good, and indeed f/8 or f/11 was slightly better.

Full horizontal shift

The next picture shows the image with the lens shifted a full 11mm to the left

11mm left shift

11mm left shift

Both the tilt and shift guide marks on the lens show extreme values as red marks, indicating the areas of optimal shift or tilt (+/- 7mm or +/- 6 degrees)

I've used 11mm here to show the extremes -- At the far left of the frame, some purple fringing is visible.

purple fringing

Chromatic aberration

lens hood obstructionAt that large amount of shift you also need to remove any filter or lens hood, since they will exacerbate any mechanical vignetting.

This example shows what leaving a filter and lens hood attached can do at 11mm shift.

That's also my finger, resting on the edge of the lens hood...

When the lens is shifted, it becomes impossible to directly use tools like DxO or Photoshop Lens Correction.

There are ways of using lens correction though, that depend on the fact that your image is just part of the large image that the lens projects.

If you alter your canvas size, you can move the camera aim point to the middle of the image and make use of many more lens correction techniques.

Note - it does help to make a note of the shift when shooting, since the image EXIF data does not contain any shift/tilt information.

In the two images below I've extended the canvas (grey) to show the proportion of the full (horizontal) field of view of the shift system.

aim point

aim point 2

Full frame widths

In each case the camera is actually pointing at the middle of the whole image

The frame is extended by using the Photoshop Canvas size command

extending canvas - left

Extend left

extending canvas - right

Extend right

Rise and fall

Twisting the lens round 90 degrees allows a vertical shift (or rise/fall)

lens rise / fall

11mm fall

The picture below shows a full 11mm of shift. I've extended the canvas, as before, but notice the serious vignetting.

If you mouse over the image you can see the effect of applying the vignetting controls in 'Lens Correction'.

Using the offset image allows you to correct much of the vignetting.

In this case it was also darker near the floor.

11mm down shift - vignetting

Stitching images

Once you have got the images to a decent state, it's a simple job to stitch them together with the Photoshop 'Photomerge' or more specialist software. If you have extended the canvas like in the examples I've used, it's best to crop out the extension before merging...

In the first example below, you can also see the result of not having the camera completely level, where there is a slight step between images

stiched books

Bookshelves

And a picture I took for a local bar (print is 3 feet across and you can read the bottle labels)

bar - black and white

Drinks

Across the street where I live...

Harrow Road, Leicester

And lastly, 12 images, using the different rotation settings, all at 11mm shift.

The vignetting is clearly visible (as is also a slight stitching error :-)

12 stitched images

12 Canon 1Ds images -- stitched using Photomerge in Photoshop

Hand held use

The two pictures below were taken while I was explaining to someone what the weird lens was on my camera :-)

leaning back

Leaning back to get all the building in

shifted lens

Lens shifted to fix perspective (somewhat)

Both pictures would need some perspective correction in Photoshop.

perspective correction

However the shifted version needed a lot less dramatic correction.

corrected

Corrected versions

The 100% samples from each show the real difference.

PS onlyPS + shift

Photoshop only correction vs. Shift lens and PS correction.

The vignetting also helps reduce the sky brightness a bit :-)

An example using about 5mm of fall to get the right perspective. I've effectively used the shift to get rid of many of the perspective distortions that would normally be present.

LCB depot

LCB depot -- Taken, hand held, available light at the LCB Depot, Leicester (1250 iso, f/5.6)

A couple of outdoor hand held shots, where a bit of shift has improved the perspective. Both of these shots if 'fully' corrected in Photoshop don't look quite right. Unless you need to get the verticals spot on (say for architectural work) it's worth trying a few different compositions.

bradgate park.Old John, bradgate park, Leicester

Bradgate Park, Leicester - Woods and 'Old John'

April 06 Some examples of using the 24mm T/S are in my travel 'blog' about touring Colorado

Tilt (swing)

Note - June '09 We've an article about Focusing the tilt and shift lens - a guide to setting tilt on lenses.

I've had much less reason to use this feature so far, but the bookshelf example below shows the effect of about 6 degrees of tilt.

If you mouse over the image, the differences should be clear.

Six degrees of lens tilt

Notice how the shelf support is sharper in the non tilted version - this is because tilt does not give you any more depth of field, it just tilts the plane of focus

The 100% crops below give a much better idea of the change (image taken at f/8)

blurred homer

Untilted

sharp homer

Tilted version

Some initial observations

Thank you to everyone who has ever purchased something via these links. If you follow a link and then buy absolutely anything it helps me run this site (the articles are all written by myself in my spare time)
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I purchased this lens, second-hand via MPB Photographic in the the UK. It's worth looking out for bargains, since people buy lenses like this and then, after a while, realise they have an expensive bit of kit sitting round that they hardly use.

Quite fascinating to use if you are from a 35mm SLR background.

It takes some serious experimenting to get the hang of when to use the lens (and when not to)

With a bit of trickery you can use various lens correction software for fixing vignetting and chromatic aberration.

Vertical shifts (rise and fall) seem to produce the most noticeable vignetting and metering problems.

Don't forget that many of the shots I've included here, were taken at maximal shift, where distortions are at their greatest.

Best results are probably going to come from using a combination of the lens shifting and Photoshop to get the optimal results.

Using the shift function gives about the same horizontal angular coverage as a 16mm lens, but with noticeably higher resolution.

I'm taking the lens on my forthcoming trip to Colorado, where I'm probably spending a couple of weeks in the mountains taking pictures - I'll be sure to link to any new landscape gallery images that make it onto the site later in May.

Aspen Eyes - Grand Mesa, ColoradoExample image - Aspen eyes

This image used several degrees of tilt to get much of the tree in focus and give an interesting look to the background. Hand held, in a forest atop the Grand Mesa in Colorado

Click on image to go to the gallery example.

Update Spring 2008

This lens is now the one I use for much of my interior and architectural photography work. The image below was on a site visit to the new Curve theatre being built in Leicester.

stage at Curve theatre Leicester

It's the stage, with all the support cables for flats and lights. Two shifted images stitched together using Photoshop Photomerge. 1Ds3, 24mm TSE, 10 second exposures at f/11. The 'white' lights are actually high pressure sodium lighting, hence the blue cast of fluorescent lights and glimpses of daylight.

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More Information

Keith also provides bespoke personal photography tuition to private individuals in the Leicester area (UK) - this is in addition to Northlight's corporate training services, and is aimed at at photographers looking to learn more about particular aspects of photography, such as architecture and landscape. It includes using various tilt/shift lenses, which are available (with a FF DSLR) to use during sessions.
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