Two months ago Canon announced four new L-series prime lenses: the TS-E 50mm, 90mm and 135mm F2.8L Macro and the 85mm F1.4L. We’re at the Photo Plus Expo in New York, and we just got our hands on them. Click-through for some images and first impressions.
All of the new TS-E lenses are (like all tilt-shift designs) manual focus, and all feature broad, well-damped focus rings. The TS-E 90mm F2.8L Macro (shown above) covers a classic portraiture focal length and should be useful for both portraiture and product photography.
While people tend to associate tilt-shift lenses with landscape photography, short and medium-telephoto designs are very handy for portraits, where it can be difficult to maintain sharp focus on a subject’s eyes (both of them) at wide apertures.
Similarly, close-up product images and macro photography where it isn’t always practical or desirable to stop down too much for increased depth of field. Using a tilt-shift lens, sharpness can be maintained across the depth of a subject, without sacrificing background blur.
This is the 135mm F2.8L Macro – unsurprisingly, a larger and heavier lens than the 90mm pictured in the previous slide. All three of Canon’s new TS-E primes feature the same basic tilt-shift mechanism, offering a wider range of adjustments compared to Canon’s older lenses, and updated coatings. In the 135mm F4L, SubWaveLength Structure Coating (SWC) helps reduce flare and ghosting.
Unlike Canon’s more conventional L-series lenses, the TS-E range is not (and has never been) weather-sealed. As such, they lack the rubber gasket around the lens mount that you’d expect to see on other L-series primes and zooms. According to Canon, the complexity of the tilt-shift mechanism makes weather-sealing impractical.
All three of the new TS-E primes offer the same magnification ratio of 1:2. This isn’t quite ‘true’ macro but for many purposes it should prove adequate for close-focus work, even with relatively small subjects. As you can see in this view, the tilt and shift knobs on the new primes are large, and easily distinguishable from one-another.
Every aspect of the new TS-E lenses feels extremely well-machined. Canon has long experience of designing tilt-shift primes and everything from build quality to the feel of the focus rings oozes quality. With the lenses locked in a tilt/shift position, there is no give in the mechanisms at all (which is exactly what you want in a lens of this kind).
The shortest and lightest of the TS-E trio is the TS-E 50mm F2.8L Macro. Like the 135mm F4, the 50mm also benefits from SWC coating, and a new Air Sphere Coating (ASC) which Canon claims ‘provides amazingly high, anti-reflective performance, particularly when alleviating incidental light that can enter a lens’.
The new Canon TS-E 50mm F2.8L Macro, TS-E 90mm F2.8L Macro and TS-E 135mm F4L Macro lenses are all scheduled to be available November 2017 for an estimated retail price of $2199.
Announced alongside the TS-E primes in August was the 85mm F1.4L. A classic portrait prime, the 85mm updates the venerable 85mm F1.2L II in many respects, while not offering quite the same brightness.
Apart from the minimum aperture, the most obvious update compared to the older 85mm designs is image stabilization, up to a claimed 4 stops. In theory, this means that you should be able to hand-hold the new lens at shutter speeds as low as 1/15 sec, but of course this assumes no subject movement.
A nine-bladed aperture is designed to deliver attractive bokeh for portraiture and as we’d expect from Canon’s L-series lenses (except the TS-E models) the new 85mm F1.4L is dust and weather-sealed. At 950g (roughly 2lb) the lens isn’t exactly lightweight, but doesn’t feel heavy and remains well-balanced on the EOS-1DX Mark II that we used at the show.
Optical construction of the EF 85mm comprises 14 elements in 10 groups, with one large diameter, high-precision molded glass aspherical element. Like the 135mm and 50mm TS-E primes, the 85mm F1.4L features an Air Sphere Coating. It will be available next month, for $1600.