As an owner of both of the new Canon T/S lenses, 17, and 24mm II and a lover of exotic glass I though I would satisfy my curiosity once and for all and take both of these specimens along with the Carl Zeiss ZE 21mm for a descent head to head.
The Zeiss ZE 21mm has always appealed as I do enjoy that focal length and all of the reviews and comments over the years lavishing praise on this beauty haven’t gone unnoticed. The comments have always raved about the edge-to-edge sharpness and its beautiful colour rendition along with its ability to impart a ‘3D’ look to images.
Anyways… I took the 3 lenses for a weekend away shooting a variety of subjects. My thoughts follow. Of course your mileage may vary but it certainly verified and validated my decisions.
The Distagon 21mm certainly has a nice colour as many have mentioned. It also seems to have the ability to gain about half a stop in the shadows and highlights whilst still retaining good contrast across the midtones. It has an inherent warm cast, which on many occasions that needs toning down in your raw convertor otherwise images tend to look way too warm. It definitely has the gullwing distortion but for the style of my shooting this is not a problem whatsoever. I also found to get really sharp corners its best to focus at infinity and let the aperture gain the depth of field required (not hard). The traditional method of focusing 1/3 in or using the DOF scales left the corners wanting.
The Canon T/S lenses, one word really.. WOW! These 2 lenses keep up and surpass the Zeiss in most areas. The sharpness is sublime from corner to corner. The colour rendition of Canons new coatings are unreal. Beautiful saturated colour and fantastic contrast. Of course you also have the benefits of tilt and shift, which makes landscape photography a lot more interesting and easier to achieve the result your looking for. The sharpness is so high that large prints require MUCH less post sharpening then is normal.
Canon certainly is starting to push the boat out with some of their new lenses. The new 70-200 2.8 II is another example (as long as you get a good copy) Ive always had my reservations with some of Canons offerings but the latest releases have been incredible.
If your in the market for the Carl Zeiss 21mm lens then you would do well to at least try the new T/S lenses from Canon. If you have to have 21mm focal length than the decision is simple but if your looking for the best landscape lenses with the ability to increase DOF with tilt and shift, stitch multiple frames quickly and have the sharpest print possible then go try them! Some say the 17mm is useless as it doesn’t take filters but Ive found the colour to be so good and saturated that this is no longer the problem it could have been.
Spoilt for choice these days!!