I already reviewed a few of Canon’s TS-E lenses, but this Canon FD 35mm 2.8 TS is something special, as it was the first Tilt/Shift lens for the 35mm format (at least as far as I know and according to Canon’s marketing department).
This lens has first been released in 1973, so we are also celebrating its 50th anniversary with this review.
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
- Sample Images
- Handling / Build Quality
- Flare resistance
- Chromatic aberration
- Sample Images
- Further Reading
- Support Us
The Canon FD 35mm 2.8 TS was kindly provided by our reader Olaf Leismann for review purposes.
Canon always had the most complete line up when it comes to Tilt/Shift lenses, but interestingly this 35mm was not only the first of Canon’s Tilt/Shift lenses in general it has also never seen a successor. This Canon FD 35mm 2.8 TS has the following specifications:
- Diameter: ~67 mm (without shift mechanics)
- Field of view: ~64° (diagonally, unshifted)
- Length: 77 mm (+adapter, without caps)
- Weight: 550g (+adapter, without caps)
- Filter Diameter: 58 mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 8 (slightly rounded)
- Elements/Groups: 9/8
- Tilt range: ±8°
- Shift range: ±11mm
- Close Focusing Distance: 0.3 m
- Maximum Magnification: 1:5.1 (measured)
- Mount: Canon FD
Handling / Build Quality
Regarding Tilt and Shift and what those can be used for best have a look at my article Working with Tilt/Shift lenses.
Unlike Canon’s newer Tilt/Shift lenses (but similar to the Canon TS-E 45mm 2.8) the 35mm has only one point of rotation close to the mount. You can rotate the lens by 180°, so shift and tilt is both possible in every direction, but you cannot easily set any combination of tilt and shift. The lens ships with the tilt and shift being at a 90° angle to each other. I didn’t check if it is also possible here to modify the lens to have tilt and shift in the same direction, as was the case with the TS-E 24mm 3.5 MKI, TS-E 45mm 2.8 and TS-E 90mm 2.8 Macro.
The focus ring is situated at the front of the lens, runs smooth and without slack and the resistance is very nice. It travels ~160° from the minimum focus distance (0.30m) to infinity. This is very similar to the Canon TS-E 45mm 2.8.
There is one thing to watch out for: the front element rotates on focusing, so watch out when using a polarizer.
The narrow aperture ring is situated behind the focus ring. It features equidistantly spaced full-stop click-stops and travels 90° from f/2.8 to f/22.
The shift controls are unique among Canon’s Tilt/Shift lenses as there is only one screw to control the shift amount and no locking knob. With rotation of the screw you can shift the lens up to 11mm in both directions.
The tilt controls on the other hand are the same as on the newer Canon TS-E lenses: a small locking knob on one side and a knob for rotating the lens on the other side. The lens can be tilted by ±8°.
Compared to Canon’s newer TS-E lenses the size of the tilt locking knob is smaller, which makes it a bit fiddlier to operate.
The lens is made from a mix of metal and high quality polycabonate – typical for ist time. All the markings seem to be engraved and filled with paint.
There was an official hood available for this lens, but I received this sample without it, so cannot tell you anything about its usefulness.
When using the the lens centered (unshifted) you are only using the central part of the lens, so vignetting should not really be an issue. Wide open there is noticeable vignetting of roughly 1.6 EV, stopped down to f/4.0 this improves to only 0.8 EV and stopped down to f/11 it is still around 0.7 EV.
These values are almost exactly the same as those of the Canon TS-E 45mm 2.8.
The results in the shifted area are of course quite different. Wide open we are dealing with 3.4 EV in the most extreme corner. Stopped down to f/4.0 this improves to only 2.6 EV and stopped down to f/11 about 1.5 EV remain.
If you want to correct the uneven vignetting I can recommend using gradients in Lightroom.
The software only allows for showing you the unshifted area, as we would expect: vignetting is low here, especially stopped down.
100% crops, A7rII
With some lenses the plane of optimal focus shifts on stopping down, but this Canon FD 35mm 2.8 TS is not one of those. I couldn’t detect any field relevant focus shift.
infinity (42mp Sony A7rII)
I wasn’t sure what I could expect from a 50 years old 35mm shift lens. In the center and midframe the performance is very good, even at wider apertures, but the full frame corners and the areas beyond are a different story.
Despite its bigger image circle – even stopped down – this Canon FD 35mm 2.8 TS is no match for modern 35mm lenses already in the full frame corners.
I only included f/22 here (where the other parts of the frame already suffer visibly from diffraction) as this is where the extended corners look best.
When taking a shift panorama the field of view is similar to that of a 21mm lens and with today’s high resolution cameras you are probably better off with using one of the modern 21mm lenses for landscape/architecture applications and cropping a bit in post to get the same field of view with significantly less hassle.
close (0.3 m, 1:5.1, 42mp Sony A7rII)
100% crops from center, A7rII
Despite this Canon’s surprisingly short minimum focus distance and high magnification the performance holds up pretty well here. Already wide open the resolution is good over most of the frame, only when looking at the shifted areas stopping the lens down significantly is a good idea.
Not that I know of any application where someone would need the shift function at the minimum focus distance…
100% crops from border fully shifted, A7rII
It is obvious that we shouldn’t expect the greatest performance in this category from a 50 years old lens and indeed we can encounter pretty much all the artefacts that exist.
At the maximum aperture with a strong point light source close to the center of the frame we can create a massive ring flare. Luckily this goes away on stopping the lens down.
Stopped down ghosting can be an issue though, and as with most lenses a very strong flare can be created with a light source in the very corner of the frame:
The contrast also generally suffers with strong light sources in or outside the frame.
For its time not a bad performance, but simply not up to today’s standards.
This is an old wide angle design so I didn’t expect great coma performance, but the big image circle helps, so in the unshifted corners only f/2.8 looks bad whereas f/4.0 already looks pretty good.
Now the extreme corners when the lens is fully shifted are a whole different story. At wider apertures these corners are a complete loss, it really takes stopping down to f/11 for somewhat acceptable performance. The Canon TS-E 45mm 2.8 did better here, but then it is an easier to design focal length and two decades younger, so this shouldn’t come as such a big surprise.
With Shift lenses distortion is very hard to correct in shifted frames. The TS 35mm 2.8 shows noticeable barrel distortion in the shifted areas that can be become very bothersome with straight lines close to the borders. You may try your luck with the warp function in Photoshop to fully correct it or figure out using this method.
This is what it looks like in an uncorrected picture:
Considering today we can use lenses like the Laowa 35mm 0.95 and the Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at 35mm doesn’t sound too exciting when it comes to bokeh. This is until you take the tilt function into account.
For understanding what you can do with a tilt lens in terms of bokeh I recommend having a look at the bokeh sections of my reviews of the Canon TS-E 45mm 2.8, TTArtisan 50mm 1.4 Tilt and AstrHori 50mm 1.4 Tilt.
One of the things you can only do with a Tilt lens is subject separation for huge things like houses or a whole street:
Creating pictures with a tilted lens can lead to stunning results, but it takes a lot of patience and practice, and more often than not it will just look gimmicky:
In terms of bokeh quality I don’t see anything special here.
The Canon FD 35mm 2.8 TS uses 8 aperture blades which can yield nicely pointed 8-stroke sunstars, but here – either because these blades are rounded and/or their alignment isn’t perfect – only at f/16 to f/22 you can create nice sunstars.
If you want to know more about sunstar rendering of different lenses have a look at this article.
100% crops from center, A7rII
Sony A7rII | Canon FD 35mm 2.8 TS | f/8.0 | 100% crops
With normal lenses I don’t really care about lateral CA that much, as they are easily corrected by one click in Lightroom in most cases. Here the situation is different.
With shift lenses this auto correction doesn’t work properly, especially when the CA levels are high and they are really high here.
So trying to use the correction doesn’t work all that well in a shifted frame, as you can see from this example. You can try to further improve the results with a local defringe brush, but this is tedious work I try to avoid whenever possible.
At the maximum aperture some longitudinal CA (magenta in front of and green behind the focal plane) are visible. They are higher than what I would expect from a modern f/2.8 prime, but then in line with what is to be expected from a 50 years old design.
Purple fringing is also present, but not overly pronounced, you really need to look at the files at pixel level to spot this:
Interestingly there has never been a 35mm Tilt/Shift lens for the 35mm format again, so we will look at the next best alternatives here.
Canon TS-E 45mm 2.8:
This could be considered the successor to the FD 35mm 2.8 TS. It is two decades younger, already features a slightly improved mechanical design and it is of course an EF lens with electronic contacts to communicate with your camera.
Ignoring the difference in focal length the newer 45mm is the better performer in most categories – not a big surprise.
buy from amazon.com/amazon.de or B&H for $1399 (new) or ebay.com/ebay.de for $500 (used) (affiliate links)
Nikon PC-E 45mm 2.8D ED N:
This is even a bit younger than the aforementioned Canon lens so might also be better in terms of optics and especially flare resistance. Problem is that you need an adapter to control the electronic aperture mechanism and one reader told me the PC-E lenses don’t work too well with that one Commlite adapter that is ought to be able to control the electronic aperture. Therefore not a good choice on a Sony camera.
buy from ebay.com / amazon.com / B&H (affiliate links)
Hartblei 40mm 4.0:
I know too little about this lens, but considering its size and price I don’t actually see it as a real alternative. It his however the closest alternative in terms of focal length available.
When the Canon FD 35mm 2.8 TS had been released in 1973 it must have been a revelation for 35mm shooters: the capabilities of a view camera in a very compact package. In the field of architecture photography this significantly expanded what is actually possible with the 35mm format.
Now we fast forward to 2023. I think it is safe to say that Tilt/Shift lenses didn’t exactly gain a lot of popularity and have always been – and still are – niche lenses. Now in the digital age with focus stacking and easy to perform correction of converging verticals they are actually less needed than ever.
Keeping that in mind I see very little incentive to use this lens on a modern digital camera. You can create higher resolution pictures when using a wider modern lens and cropping as well as adding perspective corrections in post. But the subpar resolution in the shifted areas is not the only problem here.
Flare resistance – probably decent for its time, but nothing to write home about today – as well as distortion and lateral CA – both too high and a pain to correct in shifted frames – also leave a lot to be desired.
Where does this leave us? I think the Canon FD 35mm 2.8 TS is more of a collector’s item these days. Some of the old fast portrait lenses still hold some esthetic appeal today – at least to some people – because they can help to create a certain type of look that might not be easily achievable with a modern lens.
But when it comes to architecture photography I don’t see any benefit using an old lens with the issues described above.
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
- Sony FE lenses: Our comprehensive and independent guide
- All Lens Reviews
- Review: Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM
- Review: Voigtlander VM 50mm 1.2 Nokton
Latest posts by BastianK (see all)
- Review: TTArtisan 500mm 6.3 ED IF - September 22, 2023
- Analogue Adventures – Part 25: Wolfen Color NC500 ECN-2 - September 19, 2023
- Lens & Accessory Summer Sale - September 17, 2023