The TSE17mm F4L two years of confusion and adoration

September 11, 2016  •  3 Comments

The TSC 17 mm F4 L


I ask you how do you dream about a lens, Get it, use it, fall head over heels in love with the quality, but consistently think you don't use it enough to keep it in the bag. And then when you use the lens that nagging feeling “if you just could zoom in here…” keep revealing an awkward thought in your head. 

IMG_0019IMG_0019Look at that beauty!! Love that glass!! Look at that lovely glass!!!

Well that's has been my experience for the TSE 17 mm. It is truly an absolutely fantastic lens, it is wonderfully sharp, almost distortion free, beautifully built, a dream to use, and almost perfect Image quality. But since I went out and purchased a 16-35mm F2.8 L Mkii, which is not as good not even close, to the 17 mm. It is wonderfully convenient, the 16 to 35mm and it has wonderful autofocus, wonderful weather sealing, lighter, you can use filters, but it just isn't as sharp in the corners as a 17 mm or the TSE24 mm F3.5L Mkii, another lens full of perfection’s, though I have no doubts of any kind where this lens is going to be!  

20140725-IMG_044920140725-IMG_0449 My Tilt-Shift family aren't they beautiful!!

The TSE17 is a wonderful lens and in no way am I putting it down, not even slightly, I am suffering from a struggle of relevance with my work flow. there has been times when the 17mm has shined way above it’s weight and it has lots of that, 820g worth. Add a griped 5D Mkiii and you have some serious weight to lug about. Not only is it optically wonderful is fun to use, so much so you forget the weight.  


Canon has made a classic beauty in this lens, every thing just works and truly beautifully. Every time I turn the focusing ring the quality of a finely built lens screams out. I will tell you Canon did not hold back when they made this lens. Every part of this lens is absolute perfection, from the wonderfully curve of the front element to the tilt and shift controls. It is a leader in a segment of lenses that just isn't being challenged by any manufacturer. 


Before I got this lens I looked all over the inter webs for information, and boy is it sparse. To me it seems that almost no people were buying this lens. Only one lens seem to be worse within the Canon lineup, And that was the TSE 45 mm F2.8 which is another lens I'd like to add to my bag. But when I did find some semblance of some review, it was unprecedented and amazing how much love there was for this lens by those that had obtained it, and also for the 45 mm as well. 

A Extraordinary Yellow DayA Extraordinary Yellow DayDrew May Photography Just look at that sweeping loveliness!

I was challenged a while back to use Lightroom to see just what focal length I used the  most and I can tell you without doubt, the 17 mm was nowhere near the top. The lens I use the most, or I should say the focal range, was between 40 mm and 60 mm. I am sure that is a throwback to the older times when the only lens that I had was a 50 mm. Does not lessen the value of the 17 mm? Well I decided to check how many photographs I edited to the end and I held with actually some form of reverence. That told a completely different story where the 17 mm as well as a 24 mm we're very close to holding half of all of my printable imagery. So where does that leave a 17 mm lens?


In my bag!! Maybe…. :)

The Last RaysThe Last RaysDrew May Photography

Thing like this just kill doubts.

For I can tell you, without a doubt, the moment I selloff any special lens, the feelings of the needing that lens become greater. I feel this would be greater with the TSE 17 mm, as it is not a generic lens! It is fine to sell off the standard zoom or the every day 50 mm and it is almost easy. Tilt shift lens are specialty items, they fill a niche that is unlike anything else in the photographic world. Owning them and using them makes you different from the rest of the crowd. These lenses force you to slow down, they force you to compose, they force you to scan the scene before you. They force you to search for the elements that truly acknowledge this story you were trying to tell. 

Exalation of the Holy Cross_Drew May Photo20140512_K3_0014-EditExalation of the Holy Cross_Drew May Photo20140512_K3_0014-EditExalation of the Holy Cross one more rural Alberta Church that I spent a few hours with. B&W conversion Nik Silver Effects Pro 2 as always. My Canon TSE 17mm F4L in action...loving the lens!!

No modification, cropping or further editing is permitted with out with the expressed permission of Drew May Photography.
Standing just a few feet from the cross hand held and shifted a few mm just to straighten thing up a bit.

Tilt shift lenses are far more than just your average 24mm-somthing lens. When these lenses are used properly by somebody who has a vision in their head and patience, they perform like nothing else. Sure you can listen to 1 million other photographers, that will bestow the greatness of their abilities, Online of course. They will make the claim “there is never a need for fine gear because “a great photographer, can make anything work”. This is in someways true but in others completely false. What makes a truly fine photographer is not his gear, Excuse me “his or her” gear. It is the vision that they hold within them, that innermost thought. And when they are truly connected to the vision that they have, fine gear makes it easier for that photographer to express that vision. Fiddling with buttons and inappropriate or poorly designed gear only frustrates the process to the point of misdirecting the vision of art, into the commonality of technology. To be quite honest with you, when people make sweeping statements that are so common in photography, they are more often comments of the jealous or the visually weak.


Sadly in today's world we spent an awful lot of time chasing the next best technological advancement, or harping about Technology with little of any consequence to the art form. I think we do it to fill a void that is within ourselves. And sadly there are large number of “photographers" who spend more time commenting and complementing their gear, only to defend their choice, And sometimes excessively. That they lose the realities of what photography is supposed to be about. 


I sadly know this feeling, the derisive any insulting behaviour of other photographers, Because I didn't have a camera that was part of their club was heartbreaking. I did in time see the weakness of the gear that I had, but I didn't need some inappropriate bully bash the camera that I owned. Especially when I saw serious weakness in their own work and to be quite honest with you, trying not to sound egotistical, substantially lesser than my own.


To the bullies, the Internet Warriors, to those that spend an inordinate amount of time deriding other people's gear, you are nothing more than the village idiot, you contribute nothing of value in photography. If you spend more time on the Internet, then you do taking or editing photographs your opinion is of little value, and You should spend some time looking inwardly and shutting your mouth!


Photography to some it's just simple pleasure, to others it is the ability to express their vision of art. And again there are others that use it simply as a way to record their life's journey. For some people they don't need fancy gear to record pleasure or a journey. But I am not just the average photographer.


I purchased Canons’ TSE 17 mm F4l for a reason that has never changed. It is a tool to help me create and it does it beautifully!  


So in the end what is the answer never ending question?


Will I ever sell my TSE 17mm F4L?

Blazing SunsetBlazing SunsetI am going though some older images today and finding the images I liked but did not edit. Today it is the sunset on the Morse River, just south of Swan Hills, Alberta. A very slow moving river in an area full of boggs and Muskeg rulled by the mighty Tamarack. The Tamarack is one of those trees I really love and have been working to get that photograph that just make me happy. .

No modification, cropping or further editing is permitted with out with the expressed permission of Drew May Photography.


if the light keeps doing this I could never turn my back on the lens I dreamt about. 





Kickbuttedmonton (John)(non-registered)
Great perspective Liz (Photos & Blog post). Sorry for the photography joke but it rings true. Sometimes I think about getting rid of a lens but then I look back at the situations I used it in and say, no I'm gonna keep it just for that 1 reason. Thanks for the blog post.
Drew May
Thank you very kindly Liz!!!
Your photos are incredible!
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