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Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Review

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Review - John Riley reviews the new tilt-shift 90mm f/2.8L Macro lens for Canon DSLR cameras.

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Canon 90mm f/2.8L Macro - Tilt-Shift DSLR Lens
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Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Canon Ts E 90mm F2,8l Macro Front Oblique View

Canon have an impressive range of tilt and shift lenses for their full frame cameras, offering focal lengths of 17mm, 24mm, 45mm, 50mm and 135mm. Joining the line up is this new Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro lens, focusing continuously down to a 1:2 magnification, a very useful half life size. 90mm/100mm macro lenses have proved their worth for many years so it will be especially interesting to see how such a longer focal length will benefit from the addition of tilt and shift. This would normally be the purview of wider optics, so let's break new ground and see what we have and how it performs.

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Handling and Features

Canon Ts E 90mm F2,8l Macro On 5dsr

Taking our tour of the lens from the front, a wide, round lens hood bayonets cleanly into place. There is no chance of this accidentally coming adrift from the lens, thanks to the precise fit and the provision of a locking catch. There is a standard filter thread taking 77mm filters. The lens does not rotate during focusing, so the use of polarising and graduated filters is facilitated.

Behind this is the wide, ribbed manual focus ring. The lens is manual focus only and adding AF would not really be practical, nor is it particularly missed considering the uses the lens is put to. The action is silky smooth and the image snaps in and out of focus very easily, a benefit of short telephoto lenses in general. The distance scale is marked in feet and metres, although the figures are very small and some may have difficulty deciphering them. The depth of field scale is also very small and not particularly useful. Magnification ratios are also marked on the scale. Focusing is down to 39cm, or 15.4 inches, which represents a maximum magnification of 1:2 or 0.5x. This is also termed half life size, and is quite an exciting bonus for any 90mm optic and especially so for a tilt and shift lens.

For those who need closer focus, extension tube EF12 II enables a magnification of 0.64x – 0.15x. Closer still, extension tube EF25 II gives a magnification range of 0.82x – 0.32x. These tubes are of course optional extras. The lens is not compatible with extenders.

Moving closer to the camera body, we find the tilt mechanism. This is controlled by a large knob on the top of the lens, where we also see clear markers indicating the degree of tilt. The underside of the lens has the locking mechanism so that the tilt is not accidentally engaged. Tilt is available over a range of plus or minus 10 degrees.

Next is the shift control, which is also provided with a locking mechanism. The action of both tilt and shift is very smooth, giving a very reassuring feel that exudes a sense of quality and precision. The lens can be shifted plus or minus 12mm.

In addition to this there are two catches that release the rotation of the tilt and shift positions. These can be adjusted individually so that the direction of tilt or shift can be selected. Endless possibilities exist.

Canon Ts E 90mm Shift Tilt Side By Side

Lens construction is 11 elements in 9 groups, including aspherical and UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) elements. The lens diaphragm comprises 9 blades, although there is no control of this on the lens. Aperture settings are controlled by the camera. The latest canon Subwavelength Structure and Air Sphere coatings are employed.

For a 90mm f/2.8 lens, this all results in a very hefty 915g package, although it does balance very well with the EOS 5S SR used for this review. For use of the tilt shift mechanisms, it is quite likely that a tripod will be best, and as the lens has manual focus only that also means that focus can be very accurately set. Despite quite a short throw of the focusing ring, finding a precise point of focus is very easy.

Tilt and shift lenses and architecture almost go hand in hand, but with a longer focal length such as this the perspective we have does not tend to offer the same problems as with a wider lens. We are simply further away and converging verticals are not the same issue.

However, moving closer and into the macro range different possibilities open up. For example, even with portraiture greater control over the point of focus on the eyes can enable wider apertures to be used at an angle and backgrounds will still fall well out of focus in a way that would not happen when stopped down. Canon offer portraiture as one of the benefits of the lens and it does work out in practice.

Close ups, and Canon quote product photography, also benefit from the control over the plane of focus and this holds true right down to macro distances. New effects can be found and creatively the lens opens up lots of new ideas and possibilities.

In terms of handling it all works very well and we soon find our way around the various controls, everything operating reliably and smoothly.
Canon Ts E 90mm F2,8l Macro Rear Oblique View

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Performance

Central sharpness is already excellent at open aperture and continues at that level through to f/11. f/16 is still very good, but after that diffraction cannot be eluded and the lens progressively softens towards f/45.

The edges are very good at f/2.8 and f/4 and then excellent from f/5.6 to f/11. Again, f/16 is very good and then sharpness tails off towards f/45. Particularly noteworthy is the even performance across the frame, especially at the peak of f/8 and f/11. As for the smaller apertures from f/22 to f/45, the lens is not at its best, but on the other hand it is good to have the choice for when depth of field is the priority.

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro MTF Charts

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5DS R using Imatest.


CA (Chromatic Aberration) is virtually banished at the centre of the frame and returns very low figures at the edge. Colour fringing is not a problem and there seems little point in trying to reduce it further in software, although it could be done.

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Chromatic Aberration Charts

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5DS R using Imatest.

 

Drawing is also as close to perfect as makes little difference, actually measuring at -0.02% barrel distortion. Basically the lens is perfectly rectilinear.

There is no sign of flare in any of the images. Granted, the dull weather did not overly challenge the lens in this respect, but against strong backlighting there seems no indication of any loss of contrast.

Bokeh, the smoothness and aesthetic quality of the out of focus areas, is good without being exceptional. Being a 90mm lens helps enormously as the background can be easily separated out at wider apertures, but there can be a slight tendency to a busy feel to that background.

Overall though it's an exciting, high quality performance and images have a crisp, attractive feel to them.

 


Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Sample Photos

 

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Aperture range

 

Value For Money

The Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro lens is priced at £2499, a not insubstantial sum of money. However, held in the hand and in use it is very clear that we have lot of high quality manufacture for that and it really is a pretty fair price. As a specialised lens it will not be for everybody, but for some it will be an essential creative tool. As for competition, there seems to be nothing comparable as all the other tilt/shift lenses are wide angle optics.

For more options have a look at the Top 15 Best Canon EOS lenses.

 

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Verdict

Some lenses gel straight away, others grow on us and this one grows on us very quickly as the new possibilities of mixing a 90mm lens with macro and tilt and shift start to fire the imagination.

This is a specialised optic that would be delightful to own, but at the price level will probably be for professional photographers with particular applications clear in their minds. It will be a workhorse and it will earn money.

In the general marketplace it is expensive, but if it's affordable then it will not disappoint. Canon are to be congratulated for producing such a wide range of specialist tilt/shift lenses that break new ground and push back the boundaries of creativity.

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Pros

  • Excellent, even sharpness
  • Low distortion
  • Low CA
  • No flare
  • High quality of manufacture
  • Crisp focusing
  • Creative potential

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Cons

  • High cost
  • Bulk and weight
  • Bokeh very slightly “busy”

Features4.5/5
Handling4.5/5
Performance5/5
Value4/5
Overall Verdict

With thanks to CliftonCameras who provided the Canon EOS 5DS R used for testing. 

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Specifications

ManufacturerCanon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF
Lens
Focal Length90mm
Angle of View22.4
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/45
Filter Size77mm
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnification0.5x
Focusing
Min Focus39cm
Construction
Blades9
Elements11
Groups9
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight915g
Height116.5mm

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