Quick Focus Test: Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Lens

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Quick Focus Test: Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Lens

By |2018-07-13T17:03:48+00:00February 17th, 2011|Categories: Gear, Reviews|Tags: , |6 Comments

I had the opportunity to rent the Canon TS-E 90mm ƒ/2.8 from BorrowLenses for about two weeks, and wanted to do some quick, “non-scientific actual working conditions” focus testing with it. It’s a manual focus lens so the issue isn’t about auto-focus—it was strictly an issue of if I’m satisfied with the focus quality. And (spoiler alert!) it does a good job for how I use my camera and lenses.

I’m pretty picky about my focus when it comes to photographing food, and I’m also considering buying this lens so I wanted to make sure that if I do buy it then I get something I’ll be happy with. So, just before doing a food setup in my living room I set up the camera on a sturdy tripod and photographed this lens cap at ƒ/2.8, ƒ/4 and ƒ/5.6. I like to have shallow DOF in my food photos, and I’ll often set the aperture to ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6 when using my 70-200mm lens.

At ƒ/2.8 the focus is really soft, but I find that this is pretty common in any non “L” Canon lens (and, in my experience, L-glass tends to be a bit softer at its widest aperture). It gets better at ƒ/4, and I really like it at ƒ/5.6. If (when) I purchase this lens I’ll probably be photographing at ƒ/5.6 anyways, since that’s what I do a lot of my food photography at when using my Canon 70-200 ƒ/4L IS lens.

Another thing is that at the wider aperture (ƒ/2.8) the CA (chromatic aberration) is pretty significant. It’s still visible at ƒ/5.6, but not nearly as bad. Either way it’s an easy fix in Photoshop, but it’s always nice when there’s not much editing involved.

In a nutshell I really like this lens, not only because of the focus quality. I’ll be posting again soon on the blog about some of the other cool features of a tilt-shift with food and portrait work.

A big thanks to BorrowLenses for the complimentary lens rental. If you’re considering renting gear, or buying gear and want to check it out first (like I did) then I highly recommend checking out their website: BorrowLenses.com

About the Author:

Nicole S. Young is a professional photographer and published author whose love of photography and teaching has grown into an online business where she creates training materials and resources for other photographers. Nicole is best known for her books on food photography, but is widely versed in a variety of photographic genres, including landscape, travel, lifestyle, and even underwater photography. You can learn more about Nicole's work on her website, nicolesy.com.


  1. Marco Venturini February 17, 2011 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Hi Nicole,
    I can’t understand whether you have tried the tilt/shift functions in your test.

  2. When I first started shooting with a DSLR I mistakenly thought that I needed to shoot at the lowest aperture my lens would allow. It took a while for me to get what people meant by the “sweet spot,” but you demonstrated it beautifully here.

  3. Nicole February 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    @Marco – This was just to check focus, since I’m not going to spend money on a lens like this unless I’m happy with the sharpness and overall quality. I’ll talk about the tilt/shift features in a future blog post.

  4. Dave May 25, 2011 at 6:09 am - Reply

    I feel silly to say it, but, I’m having a hard time distinguishing between focus and depth of field. Can you tell me how to tell the difference?

    • Nicole May 25, 2011 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      Hi Dave, no need to feel silly at all. Focus is the spot in your image that is actually “in focus”. “Depth of Field” (DOF) is the amount of area in front of and behind the “in focus” spot that is also in focus. “Shallow DOF” means that you have very little else in focus aside from the “in focus” spot, and “great DOF” means that a lot of the image is in focus.

      I have another blog post that might help with understanding some of this:


  5. Wilson December 4, 2011 at 12:55 am - Reply

    Did you manage to do further test? I have this lens but it’s a shame I have not really play with it, only for testing the shifting.

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