Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published February 2010

Kindly provided for testing purposes by Dariusz Nycz!


The Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L is the widest tilt-shift lens available on the (consumer) market - that's not just in Canon land but across all brands. We will elaborate on the tilt-shift (thus TS) function in more detail later on but for starters - the tilt aspect refers to the focus plane which is normally co-planar to the sensor plane. You can "tilt" the background/foreground focus by tilting the focus plane making it possible to achieve far more pronounced out-of-focus effects than conventional lenses - even more pronounced than on much faster ones (larger aperture). The shift aspect is about perspective control. We all know the "vanishing point" effect when pointing wide-angle lenses a little up- or downward. You can counteract this effect (to some degree) by "shifting" the lens - this is highly desirable for architecture photography which is the "classic" application for shift lenses.

The TS mechanism is far more complex than a conventional design resulting in some drawbacks:

  • you loose AF - thus the "E" and not the "EF" (Electronic Focus) in the lens' name - although that's not really an issue for an ultra-wide lens
  • things get "a little" more expensive naturally because of the comparatively bigger glass elements and the lens body design. As of the time of this review the lens costs about 2500US$ / 2200EUR
This will shy away many photographers for sure but the creative potential of such a lens is immense so maybe read on ...!

The build quality of the Canon lens is nothing short of superb! It is based on a full metal body design assembled with extremely tight tolerances. Naturally this is a precondition for a reliable TS lens anyway. The TS mechanism can be locked in a position via two corresponding knobs. The tilt & shift knobs can be adjusted with a range of movement of up to +/- 6.5° and 12mm respectively. The two TS sub-components can be rotated freely so tiling and shifting can be combined within the range of +/- 90° in the direction of movement.

The manual focusing feels very smooth. Some may wonder why Canon does not supply a lens hood - this is because a hood would block light in extreme TS setup. While this is certainly understandable from a technical point of view it leaves the huge bulb-like front element very vulnerable. The dedicated lens cap is definitely a must here in order to transport the lens. However, the front element seems to be pretty much doomed for getting scratched during usage.

Optical construction18 elements in 14 groups inc. 4x UD and 1x aspherical elements
Number of aperture blades8 (circular)
min. focus distance0.25 m (max. magnification ratio 1:7.1)
Dimensions89 x 107 mm
Weight820 g
Filter sizenot supported
Hoodnot supported
Other featuresTilt-Shift mechanism, sealing, SWC coating, Floating System

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