For an update on this post, see this more complete analysis of architectural lenses.
While the subject of tilt-shift lenses for architectural photography is well-covered, I thought it would be interesting to demonstrate the performance of the Canon lenses for purposes of the photography of religious spaces.
In the past, I have shot mostly with the Canon TS-E 24mm f3.5L, introduced in 1991, which was recently replaced with the S-E 24mm f/3.5L II. Canon claims that the new version of the 24mm has reduced chromatic aberration and lower distortion when shooting buildings.
In the past, perhaps 85% of my shots were taken with the 24mm tilt-shift. The following tests were conducted in Boston to test the new TS-E 17mm f/4L from Canon.
The 17mm test shots were taken in Boston at Trinity Church and Old South Church, both significant religious structures. Trinity Church was designed by the famous American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and established his reputation when consecrated in 1877. It is the birthplace and archetype of what came to be known as “Richardsonian Romanesque”. It is certainly worth a visit and features wonderful stained glass from Edward Burne-Jones (actually executed by William Morris) and John La Farge. Here is a shot of Trinity Church in Boston, a vertical format, shot in the early morning.
This first shot gives a great sense of the scope of the 17mm tilt-shift lens. Click on the image to see a larger version.
For obvious reason, the 17mm tilt-shift is a valuable addition for interior shots of large spaces. The manual focus lens is wonderfully sharp as well, and as advertised by Canon, the chromatic aberration is significantly reduced, almost non-existent in my tests.
As a point of comparison, here is what a conventional 17mm shot looks like without the shift function to correct for vertical perspective distortion.
Just down the street from Trinity is Old South Church, less well-known but a very lovely structure. Constructed at the same time as Trinity, it was designed in the Gothic Revival style by Charles Amos Cummings and Willard T. Sears and was completed in 1873. It must have been very impressive to see these two structures simultaneously under construction on Copley Square, one as Gothic revival and the other as Romanesque!
Compare the scope of this 17mm lens with that of a shot of Trinity shot with the 24mm lens. The difference is stunning.
In this next shot, the test was combining the vertical shift to correct for perspective distortion with a horizontal tilt to keep both the near and far elements in focus on the plane of the pews. You can see how the distant part of the left side of the shot is out of focus but the right side is in focus. It was an interesting experiment and it came out wonderfully in black and white.
From my perspective, this is an amazing lens. As much as I loved the old 24mm ts, this lens is far superior. I’ll be shooting 85% of my future shots with the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L.