Which one to choose - Zeiss 21mm, TS-E 24mm, 16-35mm II?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by bastian_bauwens|1, Jul 13, 2010.

  1. Hi all,
    I have just bought a 5D Mark II (coming back from Nikon) with a 24-105mm f/4 IS L lens and would love to buy additional wide-angle lenses. I am torn between several primes or a really wide zoom.
    I am looking at 3 lenses:
    1) Zeiss Distagon ZE T* 21mm f/2.8
    2) Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II
    3) Canon EF16-35 1/2,8L II USM.
    I want to buy no more than 2 of these lenses, but 1 lens or no lens would be ok if there is no good reason for getting one.
    So let's do a poll - in my situation, which one would you be getting? Please note that this is for landscape photography only (mainly U.S. national parks in the west), so no need for large apertures. I'd like to print the images big (up to 30" x 45") from time to time, but mainly for personal use.
    Any feedback is appreciated. Would love to get as many comments as possible, ideally based on experience with these lenses.
  2. I have a TS-E 24mm and a 17-40mm. For landscapes in general I prefer the zoom for its wider angle and versatility. I mostly use the TS-E for architecture, and occasionally for landscapes if I'm after a special effect like bringing very close foreground objects and infinity into focus (see sample below).
    In terms of image quality the TS-E has the edge, but you're limited to a fixed focal length. For landscapes I consider 24mm rather long.
    Obviously either of these two lenses has unique characteristics not found in the other. So if your budget allows, I'd simply get both. But I'd also chose the TS-E 17mm over the 24mm, especially for landscapes.
    The Zeiss, while being a fine lens, has the least appeal to me.
  3. Zeiss and 24mm are too close to your 24-105mm, so the winner is the 16-35mm.
  4. With all due respect... This type of question- when people ask about focal lengths and lenses that serve distinctly different purposes- seems to be more about basic photographic technique than a question about the value of Canon or Nikon or Zeiss, etc. If you're willing to invest that much in lenses, shouldn't you already have a handle on those basic concepts?
    In terms of image quality the TS-E has the edge, but you're limited to a fixed focal length...
    Pretty much always the difference between a prime and a zoom, isn't it?
  5. The 16-35 gives you the most versatility.
    Another fun option might be the 24 1.4 for wide angle shallow DoF shots.
    The cheap (smart?) option would be to shoot your 24-105 for a while to see what you miss!
  6. IMO you should be looking at either 21mm Distagon or 17mm TS-E. Both are superb lenses. 16-35 is a fine and versatile lens but its nowhere near the IQ of 21mm or 17mm TS-E. If you are willing to wait 3 weeks you can get a brand new 21mm Distagon for $1460 (on eBay after 8% cashback from Bing). 17mm will be about $2200. I have 21mm Distagon and could not be happier. Its an unbelievable lens and you will not be disappointed.
  7. The TS prime is, unless you have a strong taste for such lenses, unlikely to be often be that critical for you, and you give up focal length flexibility.
    The Zeiss lens can be a fine performer if you need a 21mm prime and don't mind always manually focusing.
    The 16-35 will give you more flexibility. Each to his own, but I do landscape and I'd generally prefer the flexibility over the possible (but not certain) incremental improvements to be had from the primes. Yes, at 24mm the primes can produce slightly better resolution than the zoom. But not all shots are best composed at 24mm and you may have to crop if that is all you have - and once you crop in post (rather than in-camera with the zoom) you give up the possible resolution advantages of the primes.
    Frankly, if your notion of landscape photography is small aperture, deep DOF, tripod-based work the 16-35 provides little or no advantage over the 17-40 L. The main strength of the 16-35 is its performance at f/2.8 and f/4 - is that how you shoot landscape?
    I also wonder why you don't have the Canon 24mm L on this list if you are considering primes?
  8. These lenses are so different from each other that I would suggest not spending money on any of them until you have a clear sense of your needs, on the basis of which the choice should be obvious.
    If you need a tilt/shift lens, the choice is obvious.
    If you don't need t/s but need the best performance available at about 20mm, the choice is obvious.
    Otherwise, get the zoom.
  9. One thing about photographing that I think people miss is that you actually learn to see with your equipment over time. One fixed focal length lens on your camera and nothing else can yield so much and you don't ever miss having anything else once you start to see with it. So, I always find it difficult to read these sorts of questions as there is no basis for an answer, really, as it comes down to what you want to accomplish--and landscape is just too generic.
    If you like the focal range of your zoom, you probably would like the Zeiss as I am sure your zoom wide open isn't near the performer as the Zeiss or when it is in the middle of its own range. The 24 TS-E seems redundant with any of the others, unless you do a lot of architectural work requiring the shift. At these wide angles on a 35mm, the need for extending the focal plane with the tilt is pretty rare, especially if using a tripod. The 16-35mm is a great lens, but heavy and the corners useless at the widest end--gotta crop unless you like that sort of thing. The 17-40mm is a bit lighter and a good performer as well.
    I have both of these latter zooms and have made 40x60 prints with them and they are great for doing that--but I would fully expect the others to be as well.
    You didn't mention what equipment you had before and what lenses you liked to use, so it is hard to know how you like to shoot. I recommend using what you have until you decide you actually need something else. Something to fill in areas where your zoom isn't performing to your standards or needs.
  10. 16-35 II.
    Image quality is sharp. Close down to 5.6-8 and images are even sharper. Colour is on the spot and its very versitile. Gets even better when you use a high quality UV filter. On top of that, it is also weather resistant and durable. 17-40mm is good, but not as wide, hence the reason I bought the 16-35II. Well worth your money... Depending on the pictures you take, though..
  11. How about the Nikon 14-24 F2.8 - with an adapter? I use this combo with a Canon 1DsIII (and before that w/ the 5DII) - wonderful, sharp in corners. To me it seems to solve several of your problems at once - the adapter is about $300. Look for a used 14-24 - they come up often at Fred Miranda Photoforums (buy/sell obviously)
  12. I would love to have the 24 TS, but only if I could keep my 16-35
  13. @ Ray: With all due respect as well - that does not help a lot. ;-)
    I do know the difference between primes and zooms. However, so far I have only been shooting with zooms, and given that I am currently switching brands and moving to full frame at the same time, I don't know the equipment that's out there. And given that I have a very demanding day job and photography is only an expensive hobby, I don't have the time to try all lenses extensively in the field. And I have a very long vacation coming up where I would like to have the right equipment with me. Thus, I am asking others for what they would do if they were in my shoes.
    So while I know that a prime in general offers better image quality and less versatility than a zoom, the question to me is BY HOW MUCH image quality improves at the expense of versatility, and whether other photographers would prefer versatility over image quality if they were in my situation. If the zoom provides a satisfactory image quality when stopped down (especially after post-processing), there's no reason for a prime. And that's why I am asking.
    Add to that the fact that the lenses are indeed expensive, and I guess you understand why I'm looking for advice.
    So what would you choose? ;-)
  14. @ Matthijs Claessen: Thanks, would love to do so. Only problem is that I am not a "regular" shooter. Instead I have 4 months of unpaid vacation coming up during which I can shoot all the time, but before there is not much time to try out the equipment (I live in Germany and do photography as a hobby only, but I shoot mainly in U.S. national parks). So I need to make a decision before the trip. Also, I've had a 12-24mm on my Nikon D300 before, which means I know what I'd miss.
  15. @ G Dan Mitchell: Good advice, thanks a lot!
    Actually I am also considering the 17-40L, but I wanted to make it easier for the thread. ;-) Also, given that I would be willing to spend the additional money on the 16-35, I thought that I could as well get the benefit at larger apertures just in case I ever want to make use of it. I am pretty sure there might be times when even I need a larger aperture, be it only for portraits of my wife.
    I ruled out the 24mm f/1.4 II because I have seen in tests that the TS-E 24mm seems to be sharper, and so I decided to narrow down the options. More options just make it harder to decide.
    By the way, I have seen your website, and it's good to see that zooms do make decent pictures. ;-) Lovely shots over there. But why are you using the 70-200 f/4 without IS? Because of weight during hiking?
  16. The TS-E lens is also manual-focus only, so unless you have no use for auto-focus, I think the difference in sharpness between the TS-E and the 24mm f/1.4L II is not the major distinction between those two. They're both very sharp.
  17. Bastien:
    Worrying about sharpness with any of these lenses is largely missing the point. ALL of them can produce excellent sharpness, even sufficient for very large prints. There can be (barely) measurable differences among them in terms of sharpness, but this is perhaps the least significant decision point when you are considering such different lenses. (I like to say that making a decision among a group of fine lenses on the basis of "sharpness" alone when all are excellent performers in that regard is like picking one car over another because it can go 212 mph while the other can only go 210 mph. Other differences are more significant.)
    So my advice is to defocus (pun intended) from the "sharpness" issue and imagine what you would select if sharpness among all of them were equal. In practical terms, one could argue that it is essentially equal. (A more sophisticated argument might be than any of them could be slightly sharper than the others depending upon how it is used.) Do you really want to shoot entirely with one focal length? How badly do you need f/2.8? Etc.
    To answer your question about my 70-200mm f/4 non-IS lens... When I got this lens the IS version was not available. If I were purchasing such a lens today I would probably pay the extra premium for the IS feature. I haven't felt compelled to trade the non-IS for the IS yet, though, since most of my photography using this lens is done from the tripod. And it is a really excellent performer. (And, yes, for much of my work the weight/bulk is a significant consideration. I'd carry the f/2.8 if I needed it, but I don't. That raises another point: if you like large apertures for some work, a great option can be to get smaller aperture zooms - like the f/4 L lenses - and augment them with excellent but less expensive non-L primes. I do this with the 85mm f/1.8, the 50mm f/1.4 and the 35mm f/2.)
  18. I own the TS lens. I have no desire for the others but I intend to buy the 17 mm TS lens to compliment the 24.

    As focal lengths get shorter, perspective distortion becomes more noticeable. Something like the 16-35 would be nice if I
    were shooting a lot of different compositions quickly and didn't worry about loss of resolution when making distortion
    corrections on almost every shot. But most of the time I prefer to work more slowly, camera on a tripod and leveled, using
    rise and fall to compose the scene. For someone who prefers to work in the manner of LF shooting, these TS-E lenses are
    amazing. For most folks, the 16-35 would be the right choice.
  19. So what would you choose? ;-)
    I shoot with primes, but given that you already have the 24-105, why not just explore what you can achieve with that? You should be able to do plenty of photography with what you've already got!
  20. @ G Dan Mitchell: Very good points! If all lenses are comparably sharp, then other points should be considered for the decision. Looking over the pictures I've taken in the past, I realize I never missed a tilt-shift lens, but I did like the opportunity to go really wide from time to time. That would be a good reason to get the zoom. Guess I will just have to return home from my business trip earlier, go out and test the lenses again before I return most of them.
    @ Dan South: Fully agree with the benefit of slowing things down a little. That is actually one of the reasons why I am thinking of getting the TS-E 24mm. Do you, by any chance, have any samples available online that demonstrate the perspective correction in landscape images? I'd love to see by how much the perspective improves?
    @ Ray: Good point - the only reason is that I want to "treat myself" as a reward for all the hard work in my day job. And I don't want to be on a "probably-once-in-a-lifetime" trip in a few weeks and then realize I don't have the right equipment. So I'd rather invest a little too much and realize later that I never needed the equipment.
  21. Bastian The 16-35 II is probably the best choice. It is a fairly good lens and definately sharper than the 17-40 f4L that it replaced. It is a bit soft at the edges (but sharper than the 17-40) and is a inconvenient for filters. If you use a UV or Circ Pol you will need to buy an 82mm thin one (i.e. expensive) and if you use Cokin or similar you need X or Z series (100mm) as p series vignettes at about 20mm.
    The question is one of price vs quality between it and the 17-40. In a simple assessment the 17-40 is the better value for money. However, I concluded a long time ago that a smaller number of top quality lenses was the way to go if you can afford them. Thus paying twice as much for the 16-35 II made sense for me as I think of it as an extra $70 per year over the 17-40 (I assume at least a 10 year life). For the extra stop and the slightly higher quality this does not look too bad.
    I think the TS lens is one you add later as the zoom is more versatile. The 24mm will give you about the same angle (in one dimemsion) as a 16mm lens. to do this use full shift left than full shift right and join the two shots in photoshop. I do this a lot with my Fuji GX680 MF body as the widest lenses are not that wide and it works very well. Personally I am saving my AMEX points to add a TS lens but will probably go with the 17F4.
  22. Bastian, if you are going to be in the US and touring around the various parks, ordering a lens for overnight delivery is very easy.
    You didn't mention what lenses you have shot in the past--on what sensor size? I would tend to cover the ranges you have found that you shoot most in the past. When I have changed systems or acquired a new one, that is exactly what I do, buy lenses that fit in with how I have shot historically. I am shooting all zooms with the dSLR while I have always shot primes with MF and LF. I love the 16-35mmII, but I rarely shoot landscape with the dSLR. With any choice, you should really check out its strengths and weaknesses before shooting with it seriously or you may come home with some major disappointments.
  23. The 16-35 II is probably the best choice. It is a fairly good lens and definately sharper than the 17-40 f4L that it replaced.​
    The 16-35mm II replaced the old 16-35mm, not the 17-40mm, which is simply another choice in the ultra-wide zoom category.
    If you use a UV or Circ Pol you will need to buy an 82mm thin one (i.e. expensive)​
    One doesn't generally use a polarizer on an ultra-wide lens; at least, not outdoors, because it does awful things to the sky due to the wide angle of view. There are, however, lots of other filters one might use on an ultra-wide, and the 16-35mm II's inability to share the 77mm filters used by most of Canon's L series is rather annoying.
    I chose the 17-40mm f/4L for my ultra-wide zoom (on a 5D Mark II) and I'm quite pleased with it. It's quite sharp over most of the frame (less so in the corners, not surprisingly) and incredibly resistant to flare. In addition to being half the cost of the 16-35mm II, it's also smaller and less heavy, and it takes 77mm filters.
  24. @ Philip Wilson: The filter argument might actually be a killer. I was thinking of upgrading from Cokin to Singh-Ray, and that means probably a few hundred dollars more costs when going for an 82mm lens. That would increase the cost of the 16-35, and that makes the 17-40 a lot more attractive.
    @ John A: Great tip! Which online store would deliver to a hotel address? I know that B&H in New York does not do it, so if you can help. With regard to my previous equipment, I was using a D300 with lenses ranging from 12 to 200mm. However, I was mainly using my 17-55mm lens. I was not always satisfied with the quality, though, and that's why I am investigating "better" lenses.
    @ Craig Dickson: Thanks for input, I guess I need to give the 17-40 another try.
    I'll be returning from my business trip on Thursday and plan to test the lenses again. Based on all your feedback (and some other reviews I found online), I guess that my default option would now actually be to go with the 17-40 and send all the lenses mentioned originally back. If one of the primes or the 16-35 delivers superior results in my tests on Thursday even after post-processing, then I might add one of those to the collection, but only if I see a significant improvement. If not, I'll go with the less costly version given that in the end so many other things will define the final image quality. Also, I'll definitely buy a zoom for the wide end - I simply want the flexibility. The Zeiss and the TS-E seem to be great lenses, but if I cannot find an advantage the way I shoot, there's no reason to spend money. And if John points me towards a suitable online store, I can always make up my mind again while in the U.S.!
    Thanks to all your help - it is greatly appreciated!
    Cheers from Germany,
  25. Bastian The 16-35 II is probably the best choice. It is a fairly good lens and definately sharper than the 17-40 f4L that it replaced.
    The 17-40 was not "replaced" by the 16-35 - both types of lenses have long been available. Each serves different functions, and either could be a "better" choice depending on what and how you shoot. The current 16-35mm f/2.8 II "replaced" the previous 16-35 f/2.8 lens. Its only apparent advantage over the previous lens is somewhat better corner performance at f/2.8.
    It is becoming a pet peeve of mine to continuously read that the more expensive, cooler-looking Really Big And Impressive lens is always "better" than the alternatives. Maybe. And maybe not.
    Bottom line: the 16-35 is not a "better quality" lens than the 17-40. Both are very high quality L lenses.
    The 16-35 is especially well suited to low light shooting when you have to use the largest apertures. For this it is a wonderful choice on a full frame body. The 17-40 is a wonderful choice for shooting at smaller apertures, which is one reason that so many (though not all) landscape photographers use it. It is also less expensive and smaller and lighter, and it uses a more "standard" 77mm filter thread diameter that it shares with a number of other common Canon L lenses. (The 15-35 f/2.8 II uses a 82mm filter.) In stopped down shooting it is just as sharp as the 16-35, and some will tell you that it may be ever so slightly (though probably insignificantly) sharper in the center.
  26. I don't have the time to try all lenses extensively in the field. And I have a very long vacation coming up where I would like to have the right equipment with me. Thus, I am asking others for what they would do if they were in my shoes.​
    See the results for yourself, then decide.
  27. As to delivery at a hotel, I know that Calumet in Chicago has done it for me while I was on the road. If you think you want to do it, then contact the company of choice and talk to them ahead of time and find out how you can make it happen. They may just need something in writing from you before you leave. Calumet had no issue with it, but I have been buying from them for 30+ years. Just check and see who might accommodate you and what they require.
  28. Hi Bastian,

    Yes, I'll post some samples for you in a day or so. Hope that will be soon enough.
  29. Notes

    Some prominent retailers refuse to ship to hotels. Don't count on receiving an expensive lens on the road.

    The Lee holder system can be trimmed down to a single slot and they feature standard and wide angle versions of their
    adapter rings. You can probably find a solution that works with the 16-35 II. For polarizers any thin one should do. It's I'll
    advised at 16 mm but from 24 to 35 mm it should work fine. At least you have the option unlike with the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8.
  30. I concur with Ray, just keep what you have. If you can put up with zoom lenses, then you have a nice range of focals for landscape. if you want to treat yourself, use the money to buy another 'once in a lifetime' trip so you can take more photos, or use it to buy a nice medium or large format kit to expand your landscape interest.
  31. Bastian, here are links to some photos that were taken with the 24 mm TS-E II lens on a 5D mark II. These are photos of historic structures rather than landscapes, but hopefully they'll give you a sense of what this lens can do. I'll post some landscape and cityscape shots for you in another day or two.
    Please let me know if you have any questions.
  32. I have the Zeiss 21mm and the Canon 16-35mm II. I rarely use the Canon lens after buying the Zeiss. The colors, contrast and the sharpness of the Zeiss is superior to the 16-35mm II. There is some distortion with the lens, but I use PT lens to fix if I feel its necessary. Sometimes the distortion adds character to the shot so I leave it alone. I have used a lot of different lenses but the Zeiss 21mm is hands down the best and most unique lens that i have owned.
  33. >>> I have the Zeiss 21mm and the Canon 16-35mm II. I rarely use the Canon lens after buying the Zeiss. ... I have used a lot of different lenses but the Zeiss 21mm is hands down the best and most unique lens that i have owned.
    Same experience here using the Zeiss 35mm f/2, but coming from a 24-70 f/2.8...
  34. stp


    I was in your shoes. I had the 16-35 MkII. While I appreciate the convenience of a zoom, my primary interest is image quality (and I'll zoom with my feet as much as possible). I bought the 24mm T/S primarily for IQ, and I'm finding I really like the tilt and shift features as well. I also bought the Zeiss 21mm, and it's now one of my favorite lenses. But that's just me; YMMV. BTW, I also have a 14mm and the Canon 24-70, so I feel I have the wide range pretty well covered for my needs.
  35. For the same use, I'm seriously considering the EF 17mm TS-E. With my 24-105mm I find myself pretty constantly at 24mm and longing for a little more. That would argue for the 17mm TS-E or one of Canon's wider, high quality zooms.
    I can't suggest the answer yet.
  36. I think either Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II or Canon EF16-35 1/2,8L II USM is a nice alternative for your choice. But as to Zeiss Distagon ZE T* 21mm f/2.8 I don't recommend. It's less qualified than the later two. Just my pernal preferences.
  37. But as to Zeiss Distagon ZE T* 21mm f/2.8 I don't recommend. It's less qualified than the later two. Just my pernal preferences​
    Jack, have you ever used Zeiss 21mm ZE? Or you simply added a comment to increase your post count?
  38. Nothing like a WA zoom for someone who is undecided about what you really need. The TS lenses have their place, but with software like DXO and Capture One that lets you adjust perspective in post rather than capture, the TS really isn't necessary. I have the 16-35II and love it. Buy a good tripod and head to attach it to - that will likely help your pics more than the exotic lenses.
  39. As # 1, I would prefer the 21mm Zeiss prime glass, or the Canon TS 24mm, but not a Zoom lens such as the 16-35mm L. In the meantime, there is also the Zeiss 25mm ZE available, if this WA is good enough for your needs. Your choice!
  40. The TS lenses have their place, but with software like DXO and Capture One that lets you adjust perspective in post rather than capture, the TS really isn't necessary.​
    I'll have to disagree. I have plenty of images that I haven't been able to effectively "straighten out" with software. If you straighten the center of the frame the edges still bend in. If you straighten the edges, the center gets badly distorted. Plus, every time you correct perspective distortion in software you loose part of the image (on the edges) and some of the resolution.
    Further, TS lenses don't just have shift ability (which can help with perspective distortion). They also have tilt/swing ability for cases where you need to alter the plane of focus.
    If the software is working for you, that's wonderful. But TS lenses can do things that software cannot, and they can do things that software CAN to, but they do it BETTER.
  41. For landscapes where you said speed is not required the best bang for the buck and great image quality is the Canon 17-40 F4L. This is a good match for your 24-105 and the 17-40 is much better at 24mm. I agree why get an overlapping expensive lens with the Zeiss or TS-E. If you were to get the TS-E I would go for the wider angle and get the 17mm where the TS-E will be even more dramatic. If you have the money get the 16-35 F2.8, but you can save a lot by getting the 17-40 which so many of the great landscape work I have seen is shot with the 17-40.
  42. Do you still have the Nikon 14-24mm? Based on what I read online, this is an ultimative WA solution for Canon 5D. You may need to wait for the V3 version. But if you try hard enough, you may get one or earlier version before your trip.
    I have been doing research for the same situation as yours (amature, 5D, landscaping ...). The Nikon solution is my answer. I was thinking ZE21 and changed minder after reading a comparison of ZE and Nikon (I don't have a link on the computer I'm using now. A Bing search should get you there).
  43. I would get Zeiss 21mm, which is really sharp from wide open (and here you get even more flexibility as you can use it for portrait work as well - here is a wedding shot taken with Zeiss wide open http://www.prophotonut.com/wp-content/uploads/21mm/lovegrove_21mm_sw_big.jpg) and performs much better in corners. I also like how it renders. But is just me, as I like primes.
    16-35 MKII or 17-40 - little difference in between them. Both are very decent lens for landscape work.
    17 TSE - I personally would never use lens, which do not take filters for landscape work, because now and than you want to put a polarizer or ND grad.
    24 TSE - is very nice and sharp, I have seem some very good landscape done with this lens. Though I really don't see the point using this lens for landscape shots.
  44. In addition to my last post - Zeiss have an 18mm Distagon as well - not as nice as 21mm, but if you really want to go that wide - as option.
    @ David: I have seen many comparisons between Zeiss 21mm and Nikon 14-24mm - one of them http://www.kenrockwell.com/zeiss/slr/21mm-comparison.htm (also including both Canon zooms). In addition to that Nikon doesn't take filters - for me it is a major minus for landscape work.
  45. I have seen many comparisons between Zeiss 21mm and Nikon 14-24mm - one of them [URL omitted from quote] (also including both Canon zooms).
    The source you references is not regarded as authoritative on much of any photographic subject.
  46. Here is a mini-review of the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 by respected evaluator and photographer Lloyd Chambers. He also sells a more comprehensive review with much more information on the entire Zeiss family of ZE and ZF lenses. Being extremely happy with my Zeiss 35mm f/2, I can see springing for the 21mm for specific uses in the future.

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