Canon 5DSR and Canon 24mm Lens Options – What is the best Canon 24mm lens?

If you follow the latest camera news you will no doubt be aware that Canon has now started shipping its new 50 mega pixel EOS 5DS and 5DSR cameras. I took delivery a couple of days ago of the new 5DSR (the version without the anti-aliasing filter – Or rather, the version with the cancellation filter) and have been familiarising myself with the new camera. There isn’t much to report in this regard, other than to say if you have previously used a Canon 5D MKIII the new 5DS and 5DSR are going to feel like old friends. There are some interesting software differences I have encountered between the 5DMIII and the 5DSR, but nothing that should surprise most users. Perhaps the most interesting observation I can make in this regard is that you cannot ‘zoom-in’ on the live-view image when the Canon lens mounted on the camera is set to ‘Auto Focus’. You must put the lens into ‘Manual Focus’ in order to zoom in and focus with live-view.

Edit – It seems that by default the camera ships with face detection auto focus mode enabled. You have to disable this in the menu in order to activate the zoom capability in Live View. Thank you to David for the tip.

Canon_5DSR-frontI am not going to spend too long talking about my reasoning for purchasing the new Canon 5DSR, suffice to say I have been wanting a smaller, lighter weight camera than my Canon EOS 1DX’s for hiking and I also wanted something with more pixels for my landscape photography – Both for cropping power, and for print resolution. In fact, it is print resolution that really interests me the most and over the next couple of weeks I am going to do some comparisons between prints made with the Canon EOS1DX and the new 5DSR. I hope to have some findings to report before I leave for the AIPP Event in Perth later this month.

Just as an aside, I am well aware that Sony has several high resolution small light weight cameras on the market (with another coming very shortly – the A7R MKII). Whilst I applaud Sony for their innovations in chip design I personally find the ergonomics of their cameras appalling and the battery life insufficient for my workload. Its one thing to sit and compare online specifications in my experience and another entirely to work with a camera out in a remote location in inclement weather. After a week with an A7R in Iceland last year I found that it was not a camera for me. On top of everything else, I am somewhat old school and still very much appreciate an optical viewfinder.

As many of you are aware I prefer to write about photographs than about equipment, but I am going to break with that trend for a moment and spend a little time discussing some initial testing of this new camera I have been conducting between rain showers here in Melbourne.  The new Canon 5DSR fills a niche in my photography for a high resolution camera that will be used on a tripod at ISO 100 with the mirror locked up with a cable release for the maximum possible image quality. I have absolutely no interest in using this camera handheld, nor in shooting with it at anything other than its native ISO of 100. The Canon EOS 1DX’s will remain my primary cameras for handheld work, wildlife and high ISO photography; so the 5DSR is really a very specialised tool for my serious landscape work where I can use a tripod and take a more contemplative approach. As such I wanted to see how it would perform with the various 24mm lens offerings from Canon. 24mm is the most common focal length I find myself using when shooting wide angle out in the landscape. I rarely shoot wider than 24mm unless the subject or situation really require it. Personally, I find the ‘free drama’ of ultra wide angle lenses to be poorly utilised most of the time and as such I tend to shy away from ultra-wide lenses. There are exceptions however, and as such I did also recently purchase the new Canon 11-24mm F4 L Lens. This ultra wide zoom fills another specialised niche for me of occasionally needing an ultra-wide zoom lens when shooting from zodiacs in the Arctic and Antarctica. In these instances,  its impossible to zoom with ones feet and occasionally there is just no option other than an ultra-wide if you want to capture an iceberg in its entirety.

I actually surprised myself this week when I realised I  currently own four different 24mm lenses from Canon. The Canon 24mm F3.5L MKII TSE, Canon 24-70mm F2.8L MKII, Canon 16-35mm F4L IS and the new Canon 11-24mm F4L Ultra Wide (I also used to own the Canon prime 24mm F1.4L MKII but recently sold that lens as I have found little use for it of late). This got me thinking about which of these lenses might be the best performing optic on the new Canon 5DSR and so armed with a rather wonderful brick wall as my subject I set about a real world test to find out. The results might surprise you in some respects and less so in others.

METHODOLOGY

The testing methodology was simple. The camera was mounted on a very sturdy tripod, (Gitzo GT3530 LSV with an Arca Swiss Z1 Ballhead) perfectly levelled and placed parallel to the wall. The aperture was set to F8 (an aperture I often find myself using with 24mm lenses when shooting landscapes in the field), the mirror locked up and a cable release attached. Each lens was critically focused using live-view zoomed into 16X (the maximum possible). Then I simply shot a single image, re-focused critically each time, swapping lenses as I went along. The focal length does vary slightly as a result of the zoom lenses. But this has no impact on the results.

You can DOWNLOAD THE RAW FILES here to draw your own conclusions.

Footnote: Thank you Canon for finally implementing Mirror Lock up with 2 second self timer in a single button press! However, it would have been nice to have the option to extend the self timer to longer than 2 seconds as it can take some time for long lenses to settle.

DISTORTION

The very first thing to note when comparing the RAW files is the lack of distortion from the 24mm F3.5L MKII TSE lens. In comparison to the zoom lenses there is almost no light fall and almost zero distortion. Being a prime lens with such a large image circle there are really no surprises here and anything less than this performance would have been disappointing. What is surprising is that out of the three zoom lenses the 24-70mm F2.8L MKII shows the most significant light fall off and distortion at F8. I had quite honestly expected the 11-24mm F4L lens to be the worst performing in this regard. The 16-35mm F4L IS equites itself admirably just edging out the 11-24mm F4L lens in terms of distortion. Not surprisingly the Canon 11-24mm F4L Lens shows the most chromatic aberration out of the four lenses. However, chromatic aberration distortion is easily removed with a single click of the mouse these days and therefore is really irrelevant in the overall comparison. Just as an aside, it is extremely impressive that Canon were able to build such a high quality ultra wide rectilinear zoom lens.

It is important to note that once you apply lens distortion corrections in Lightroom to the three zoom lenses (there are no auto corrections for the 24mm F3.5L MKII TSE lens) the differences disappear and the lenses are for all intent and purpose equal in terms of distortion. I would have no hesitation in using any one of these lenses and being concerned about distortion with the 5DS and 5DSR.

RESOLUTION

Caveat: In order to judge resolution in real world applications I simply zoomed to 100% on each image in Adobe Lightroom and compared one lens to another using the side-by-side compare tool. If you start to look closer than 100% you might find more appreciable differences between the files. Since I have no need to look past 100% I stopped there. Each image was compared with Lightroom’s default sharpening of Amount 25, Radius 1, Detail 25. Exposures were normalised in Lightroom to account for the slight variance between captures.

All of the lenses equitted themselves superbly in the centre in terms of resolution. There is absolutely no appreciable difference of any real world significance between the lenses in terms of ultimate resolution in this regard. We would probably have to shoot these lenses wide open to find any significant differences in the centre resolution. We have to look to the outer edges and extreme corners to really see any significant differences between the various lenses at F8.

I had expected to find that the Canon 24mm F3.5L TSE MKII lens would be the highest resolver by a fairly significant margin with its larger imaging circle and that it would therefore offer the best resolution from amongst these lens offerings. This is indeed the case and out of the four lenses tested the 24mm F3.5L MKII TSE is indeed the highest resolving lens at F8. I was surprised to find however, that the 24-70mm F2.8L MKII was much closer than I expected in terms of resolution when compared to the 24mm F3.5L MKII TSE lens and that you have to really look into the very extreme corners to see an appreciable difference. This is really superb performance from the 24-70mm F.28L MKII lens and speaks volumes about how good this mid range zoom lens from Canon truly is. As an aside, the 24-70mm F2.8L MKII is one of the lenses Canon recommends on the new 5DS and 5DSR cameras.

The next surprise was the Canon 16-35mm F4L IS lens. This light weight, relatively inexpensive zoom lens proves a very worthy contender on the 5DSR and a very close match for ultimate resolution when compared to the 24-70mm F2.8L MKII Lens. Depending on which corner you choose to look at, either the 16-35mm F4L IS Lens or the 24-70mm F2.8L MKII lens performs better. In a blind test I could not pick accurately with anything better than 50% chance. This is remarkable performance in such an inexpensive wide angle zoom lens and I would have no hesitation in using this lens in combination with the 5DSR at 24mm. I have not tested the performance of the 16-35mm lens at other focal lengths, but I would expect some drop off at 16 and 35mm in terms of ultimate corner resolution. This will almost certainly be most evident in the extreme corners.

The Canon 11-24mm F4L lens was also a surprise performing significantly better than I had expected. It is really only in the extreme corners where this lens starts to fall off in terms of resolution and even then it holds up extremely well in comparison to the other two zooms. Depending on which corner you look at it, it can be very hard to pick which lens is which. The 11-24mm F4L lens is expensive (its $3000 USD list price) and as such one would hope it would be a solid performer and high resolver. Given this is an ultra-wide rectilinear zoom lens the performance is nothing short of excellent and again I would have no hesitation using this lens on the Canon 5DSR at 24mm in the field. Like the 16-35mm F4L IS lens I would expect some fall off in resolution at its widest setting of 11mm; although I have not had time to test this. I do plan to fully test the 11-24mm F4L lens on the new 5DSR at all focal lengths over the coming days.

In summary, I think its worth also noting that there is also sample variance from lens to lens in terms of each lenses optical element alignment and that this variance has an impact on the lenses resolving power across the plane. This is clearly evident in the RAW files which show some corners being sharper than others.  I would expect to see sample variance from different lenses if this same test were conducted again with different lenses.

CONCLUSION

The first thing I think that is worth noting is that this was a ‘real world’ test that was designed to simply show how each lens resolves detail at F8 on the Canon 5DSR. I chose a flat brick wall for this test so that I could easily see resolution fall off towards the edges of the frame. Whilst I don’t normally spend my time photographing brick walls for a living; brick walls do provide a very good opportunity to easily compare resolution between these four 24mm lenses. I used F8 for this test since this is an aperture I find myself regularly shooting with in the field at this particular focal length. I am usually looking for the optimum aperture for resolution and depth of field (often F8 at 24mm). Different apertures will yield different results and that sort of testing (wide open for example) doesn’t really interest me. You should keep that in mind when making your own determinations and conclusions about resolution with these lenses.

All of these lenses performed very well (and better than expected). Frankly, the differences in real world applications are small enough that I personally will have no hesitation in using any one of the these lenses at 24mm to capture a given photograph. In point of fact, I would quite happily switch between them depending on what I was photographing and my immediate requirement for a zoom or not. All things being equal the Canon 24mm F3.5L MKII TSE would be the best choice of the bunch, closely followed by the 24-70mm F2.8L MKII. However, TSE lenses are slower to use than regular lenses (if you employ movements) and are less flexible than zooms. As such, you should use the right lens for capturing the photograph and not worry about which might be slightly sharper – go for the photograph first and foremost.

Lastly, I want to make note that shooting resolution test charts is really not something that interests me. I am in the business of capturing images in the field and not in comparing and testing equipment (I usually prefer to leave that task to people of a more scientific mind). As such, I conducted this test purely for my own benefit so that I could satisfy myself which was the better 24mm lens choice for the EOS 5DSR for my shooting style. The RAW files I make available so that you can draw your own conclusions for your style of shooting.

The EOS 5DSR will be my primary landscape camera for my Iceland Highlands Workshop this August and I am looking forward to photographing the incredible highland landscapes of Iceland with this new high resolution camera. In terms of lens choice for this Iceland expedition I will take the 24mm F3.5L MKII TSE, 24-70mm F2.8L MKII and 70-200mm F.28l IS MKII.

One thought on “Canon 5DSR and Canon 24mm Lens Options – What is the best Canon 24mm lens?

  1. Great piece.. and delighted to hear how well the 24mm TS and 24-70 perform. Waiting patiently on my order.. and I too got a Sony A7r and found it to be completely incompatible with how I work. Did a comparison and the image quality is amazing, but picking up the camera every time to find the batter at 15% is a bit nuts and I feel strangely untethered not being able to use a cable release !

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s