I’ve always been curious about tilt shift lenses. They seem to get a bad wrap from a lot of people for being an ‘expensive gimmick’, but a lot of the photographers who I admire seem to use them, and I’ve always felt they added something special. So after doing some research, I rented one out for a weekend: Canon’s most recently released tilt shift lens (released back in 2009), and one which seems to get more favourable reviews than the others, the 24mm 3.5L TS-E ii. These are my impressions of the lens…I’m no expert on the matter and this is not a review – just a matter of opinion.

So what did I want to achieve with this specifically? Firstly, I just wanted to try it out – even after watching numerous youtube videos on tilt shifts, it still didn’t quite click how exactly they worked or how it would feel to use one. Secondly, I was interested in the sharpness of the lens and the 24 3.5L ii is supposed to be amazingly sharp. Lastly, I wanted to get a better idea of how this lens could be used in regards to portraiture. We’ve all seen countless images of tilt shifts being used for making cities look like little play sets – and unfortunately I think this is where they get their bad wrap – but I’ve seen some wonderful portraits with these lenses, too. My last point and click camera was a Canon IXUS, with an in-built ‘miniature’ mode, so I am more guilty than most for thinking they were only used for the ‘little play sets’ effect.

Impressions:

– First things first, its quite a heavy, bulky, but solid-feeling lens. You’d expect nothing less from L-glass.

– They are manual focus only! I am definitely more reliant on AF, so this took some time to adjust to.

– I found the tilt (altering the area of focus) was fairly easy to grasp and use, but I found the shift (shifting the perspective to correct/alter converging lines) to take a lot more time to get comfortable with. I’m still not comfortable with it!

– My go-to lens is a 50mm, which I use it for just about everything. I immediately found the 24mm was too extreme for portraits, but perfect for landscapes and cityscapes. This isn’t a note specific to this lens of course, but I had had limited exposure to more wide-angle lenses (having only used a 24-70mm lens one or two times previously). This made me wish that I’d rented the 45mm TS-E instead!

– This lens is incredibly sharp! I made the mistake of forgetting my glasses when walking around Stockholm with it, so manually focussing was much more tricky. I was really happy to see that a lot of the photos I processed afterwards were in focus — it actually seemed quite difficult to miss.

 

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