Upgrading Lens for Architecture

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by photog630, Dec 13, 2017.

  1. I've been really noticing the limits of my venerable Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L lens (Mark 1), particularly towards the edges, where the image starts to degrade.

    Shooting at f/11, focussing directly at the corner of a building recently (closest to my position), I can see clear image degradation towards the top of the subject -- in the upper bricks and top edges. I'm shooting RAW images on a heavy tripod, with mirror-lockup engaged and a shutter release (or 2 second self-timer).

    I've been comfortable with the lens set at 16mm (as are my clients) and see no need to vary from this focal length too much.

    It would seem that Canon's TS-E tilt-shift 17mm f/4L lens would be a suitable upgrade for the types of shooting I'm doing, but would like to hear some opinions on the matter.

    Any Zeiss Milvus 15mm users out there? Is the Canon tilt-shift 17mm my best option for improvement?

    Opinions and/or thoughts are most welcome.
  2. Do you need to use the movements? If you don't then maybe the 16-35/2.8 III is better in terms of corner sharpness than the 17mm TS-E.

    Canon Wide-Angle Zoom Comparison
    Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L Mark III Optical Bench Tests

    However, these are shot wide open. It's likely the TS-E improves a lot in the outer areas of the frame when stopped down.

    I'm a fan of tilt/shift lenses but in some aspects of image quality they may not be quite the match of modern "regular" superwide angle lenses. In other aspects, such as vignetting and distortion, tilt/shift lenses are typically better, but there is no automatic software correction available because the movements would require adjustment to the way the corrections are calculated.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  3. You're already talking about very expensive lenses, so I'll throw in my favorite ultra-wide, the EF 14mm f/2.8L II. It compares favorably to the Zeiss 15mm head-to-head and will blow away your zoom.

    I have my own copy now, but here's a test shot, taken with a loaner from CPS:

    [​IMG]Ultra-wide Demonstration by David Stephens, on Flickr

    The need for tilt-shift will depend on how and what you shoot. For tall buildings, you often have to tilt the sensor, so T-S can be useful. Where you can keep the camera level, the fixed-shift, prime lenses can do a heck of a job.
  4. The 17mm T-S has a great reputation and I am confident it will be a better performer than the older f2.8 zoom. Either the 16-35mm f2.8 III or f4 IS will be significantly better too and may actually be more useful as they zoom. You should also look at the Canon 11-24mm. The Sigma Art 14mm f1.8 is also a very fine performer, but big and heavy. I would also check out the 14mm Samyang/Rokinon 14 mm f2.4 and the Irix 15mm as these are worth considering as these are keenly priced and will be pretty good at f11. Personally I don't think the Milvus is worth the price.
  5. I can add comment regarding the EF 11-24mm. When I borrowed the 14mm from CPS, I also borrowed the 11-24mm I found it incredible, competing with the exceptional EF 14mm f/2.8L IS II. For me, it came down to a couple of things, first was bulk and weight. The 11-24mm is HUGE. I'm mainly a wildlife photography, so my basic rig includes a 500mm and a 100-400mm, with the ultra-wide in a bag on my back, along with a 24-105mm. Since my load was already heavy and this was an incremental, but valuable, part of my kit, I opted for lower bulk and weight. Also, I didn't feel like the additional wideness, going from 14mm to 11mm was important in my shooting. If I were shooting a lot of interior shots, that extra bit could be really important to me and, as a main lens, the bulk can be justified. So you know, my main usage for my ultra-wide is big-sky types of landscape.

    For a super combination of image quality and flexibility, it's hard to top Canon's 11-24mm. Compare at www.dxomark.com. Sigma, Samyang/Rokinon and Tamron make some excellent lenses, but some are crap. I think it's best to arm yourself with disciplined data, such as DxOMark provides.
  6. I should point out re David's comment that the Samyang f2.4 is a different optic to the f2.8 that is still available- for one thing it has a proper EF-compatible aperture and chip for EXIF data. As an architectural photographer you may well find the Samyangs have too much distortion - maybe the same for the Irix. One advantage of staying with the "big boy" makers is that most software will have easy correction of distortion for common lenses easily available. You can make your own of course, but some lenses are tricky, particularly for buildings. The Tamrom 15-30mm has a good reputation too. There is also a Sigma 12-24mm. You have some homework to do. I use the 16-35mm f4 IS and find it very good. At 16mm it is very sharp and the native distortion is very good for an ultra w/a zoom.
  7. Excellent point about software's role in distortion correction. I use DxO PhotoLab, which has had digital lens correction for many years. LR now has it and Canon's Digital Photo Professional has it, but only for their own lenses. The automated corrections are generally spot on and include CA correction and vignetting corrections, in addition to the barrel and other distortions that come in with ultra-wide shooting.
  8. I had somehow missed this when it was new.....

    Here, this is for future reference, if any.

    I have both the Sigma 15-30mm lens and the Canon TS-E 17mm.

    The Canon EF-mount version of the Sigma 15-30mm seems to be a little rarer than the Nikon-mount version, but if you are patient it's still a lot cheaper than its replacement, the 12-24mm. It is a fine lens, but not so good for architecture as for something like landscape. It does get a little less sharp around the periphery wide-open. Here it is at its worse:

    at f/4, but it is much more acceptable when stopped down and held level.

    On the other hand, the Canon TS-E lens is superb wide-open and closed down; and it is made for architecture, among other things. It couldn't be any better if it were just an ordinary 17mm lens, but the tilt and shift features add almost view-camera flexibility.

    Here is a panorama stitched together from two frames with the TS-E lens using shift feature:
    no "keystoning" although the merging was of hand-held imaging, so the "shift-2-ways" sort of panorama was not done here, just Photoshop for the melding.

    Of course, the TS-E is much more expensive. You might be able to find it or the TS-E 24mm version used, however, for a somewhat better price.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  9. Samyang/Rokina makes a relatively inexpensive full frame 24mm f/3.5 Tilt-Shift for about $699 US. The lens reviews say it is pretty sharp between f/8 to f/11 but other than that it is a little soft below f/8 or above f/11. The Samyang costs less than a Canon tilt-shift but there is trade-offs. Still, it might be a relatively cheaper entry point into experimenting with tilt-shift and could get you some nice sharp lines on buildings. The one review shows it on an APS-C camera and it appeared the built-in flash may get a little tight with an adjustment screw when the lens is tilted up, but on a full frame camera you would not have this issue. Here are a few YouTube reviews you might find interesting. LINK1. LINK2. LINK3.

    If you have a higher budget you may want to consider some of Canon's more expensive options. I am considering this lens, but maybe I can find a nice used Canon version. ;)

    Here is a nice clip on the Canon Tilt-Shift LINK.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  10. Ca. 1971, I went to Nikon to be able to use the PC-Nikkor 35mm f/2.8. That shaped my choice of bodies from Nikon to Canon full-frame with adapters until 2012 when I found the lens of my deepest desire- the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4.
    Such lenses are expensive, but I have never regretted getting either of them, ever.

    Some lenses sound like a good idea, but don't always end up being as useful as you had expected. These perspective control lenses are really very close to essential if you are photographing architecture or other things with straight lines.

    DxO Viewpoint and the controls in Photoshop proper can "fix" pictures taken with straight lenses, but they do not hold a candle to the results you get in the camera with the PC-lenses...
    marykonchar and photog630 like this.
  11. o_O this was a transcendental experience no doubt. lol. The lens is that good. ;)
    You sold me.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018
  12. It was, as said in Animal House, a deeply religious experienceo_O
    Mark Keefer likes this.

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