A Quick Lens Test – Canon TS-E 24mm versus Zeiss 21mm
During the November Fire and Ice Tour in 2010, Darren Barclay brought along his Zeiss 21mm f2.8 lens for his Canon camera. Zeiss lenses are legendary and have been touted by many photographers as the best wide angle lenses out there. Of course, I had serious lens lust! The Zeiss 21 mm lens is manual focus and is available in mounts to fit various brands of cameras. In short, it is a lens that interests any serious landscape shooter. But rather than spend time here doing an extensive review check out Mac Danzig’s blog for his in-depth look at the lens. Also if you are a keen gear-head check out these reviews as well: ephotozine, 16-9.net, photozone. Overall the Zeiss kicks some butt!
But… how does the Zeiss 21mm lens compare to my beloved Canon TS-E 24mm Mark II which a number of sources believe is Canon’s best wide-angle lens? I only had time for one quick test between the two lenses because I simply could not pull the lens out of Darren’s hands!
For this quick test of lens sharpness I used live view at 5x magnification with my Canon EOS-1ds Mark III and manual focus ton each lens to achieve critical sharpness on a flat plane of small pebbles on a driveway. The camera was level and parallel to the driveway. For each lens, I shot at all apertures (with mirror lock-up). I then compared the shots from each lens for center and corner sharpness.
Both lenses are amazingly tack! And both lenses have the absolute best sharpness at f8. Below is the overall shot of the quick test set-up:
Here are the results of a magnified section of each photo at the center of the frame:
I don’t see any difference. It’s a draw!
Below are the results for edge sharpness. In theory, the Canon should have the advantage here because the image circle of this tilt-shift lens is really big (to cover shift movements). So with the Canon we are not really measuring true ‘edge’ sharpness.
Not bad for a lens that is at the edge of the image circle. Notice though, the surprising amount of fringing on the highlight edges of the rocks. Hmmm.
Sharpness is much better with the Canon lens and I was pleased to see little or no fringing. The winner here is clearly the Canon lens.
The Zeiss is a great wide angle lens and if you want a light-weight, sharp and crisp lens – read the other reviews to see why this lens is still a remarkable performer. But the Canon TS-E 24 is sharper and has less fringing at the edges but it is also heavier and more expensive. The extra price you pay for the Canon lens gives you a giant image circle that when the lens is set to the zero shift position gives remarkable edge performance. Mac Danzig has the same conclusion for the Canon TS-E 17mm lens compared to the Zeiss 21mm lens. But comparing a tilt-shift lens to a straight wide-angle lens is really like comparing a pedal bike to a moped. Plus as anyone who reads this blog knows that I can’t live without the benefits of tilt-shift performance. So my lens envy is all done for the time being. (Samantha is happy about this latter point!).