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How Shift Lenses Change your Life

by Frank Sheeran, 1997

Frank Sheeran


How to Take Bad Pictures

Simple formula for poor pictures: put a building in the shot, then don't aim level. You end up with what is called "converging lines." The left and right side of the building seem to meet somewhere above the picture. If that's what you wanted, fine. If not, get it under control.

The Band-Aid

Level off. You need to have the lens (and film plane) parallel to the edges that you don't want converging. (You don't actually have to be parallel to a side of the building, just an edge.) For most buildings this means vertical. You probably have zero height compared to a building, so for practical purposes this means aiming at the base of the building. But, when you do this, you are probably cutting off the top. So, you will back up quite a ways to get it to fit in. This makes it small.

You'll notice now that the building is only using the top half of the film. My example image shows beautiful green meadow, but you've got parking lots and hot dog stands. At the very least, you will have to crop half the shot away, and enlarge your grain twice as much as needed. Is there a better way?

Film Geometry

Before looking at the real answer to this stumper, look at the numbers in image 2. "35mm" film has images 36mm wide by 24mm tall. The "centerline" of each shot is exactly half that: 12mm down for horizontal compositions and 18mm down for vertical compositions.

Shift Lenses

Shift lenses do a few tricks but perhaps the main professional gimmick is letting you control that centerline. Within limits, you can put it where you want it, without changing the angle of your camera (and screwing up the perspective).

Shift lens documentation should tell you how much they shift. Let's look at the Canon TS-E 24mm/3.5L. Like the other TS-E lenses, it shifts up to 11mm. This is the distance the lens elements move up, but that also means the image moves exactly that much on the film. Since film images are upside-down, moving the lens up moves the image down. This means... fewer parking lots and hot dog stands. And you can go back to your original vantage point and get a bigger image.

How Close?

How far from your target do you need to be to get the desired shot without twisting the perspective? Believe it or not, no trigonometry is needed. It depends on the height of the target above your eye level, the height of the film above the centerline (red, above), and the lens' focal length.

Distance / TargetHeight = FocalLength / HeightAboveCenterline

Using that, solve for anything if you know the other three. In practice, you know the focal length and height-above-centerline numbers exactly, or can dial in the height-above-centerline you need with a shift lens. Distance may be harder to estimate, and height can be tricky. With buildings, you can usually guess 5 meters or 15 feet per story for commercial structures.

For now, this can help you picture what shots a given shift lens lets you take. For instance, since the height-above-centerline is 12mm for a normal lens and twice that (well, 23mm) for the TS-E lenses with maximum shift... we can get twice as close to our target. Or, shoot a target twice as tall. Or use twice the focal length (say, the TS-E 45mm instead of a normal EF 24mm).

Later, on a shoot, this can avoid a certain amount of trial-and-error. For instance, say you have a 24mm lens with 11mm of shift, and a four story building on a city street. You can back up to 65 feet away from your 60 foot target. The formula says 65/60 = 24/X. X is about 22mm. You know that's right at the limit of your shifting and the corners may darken somewhat. On the other hand, you not to even bother getting your 1.4x TC out unless a vertical composition would work (vertically, 65/60 = 36/X, X would be 33.3mm, and a you could get a maximum height-above-centerline of 18mm + 11mm x 1.4, or 33.4mm).


When maximum shift is employed, shift lenses (with their unnaturally wide field of view) can show some light falloff in the corners, due to basic optical properties. In addition, even the widest filters may be visible in the corners of the shot. Smaller apertures typically fix the first problem but accentuate the second. Hopefully you have the option of backing away from your target and reducing shift slightly. If not, consider using an auxiliary filter holder instead of screw-on filters.

There are not yet any auto-focus shift lenses, even the Canon TS-E lenses with the auto-focus mount. Some shift lenses are a bit more primitive, making you stop down manually before shooting. This will be true for any "old" mount with manual aperture control, because it would take Rube Goldberg hardware to translate the mechanical movement at the mount to movement at the aperture, when half the lens moves up and down.

You will be paying quite a bit extra, both for the optics that make a larger, shift-able image, and the hardware on the lens that let you move the glass up and down. Even then, the lens will probably have a smaller maximum aperture than you'd expect. For instance, a Canon 24mm/2.8 is about $500 while the shifting 24mm/3.5 is more like $1200 on the street. If its any consolation, the makers are probably losing money on every one they make due to the low volume of production. You'll see all three Canon TS-E lenses for the same price, even with their vastly different optics, because Canon is offering them to complete its lineup, and not attempting to price them to recoup their cost.


A tele-converter (TC) is a lens group that attaches between your objective lens and camera body. They typically magnify the image size by a factor of 1.4x, 1.5x, 2x, or 3x. TC's also (sadly) increase your f-stop by the same factor. Generally any older TC or 2x TC with less than seven elements will be crap.

On shift lenses, a TC will also (for practical purposes) increase the amount of your shift. The Canon TS-E lenses go from 11mm shift to 15.4mm (1.4x) or 22mm shift (2x). Looking at image #3, guess where you can now place your ground level. The horizontal format can suddenly lose the bottom third of your building, when the centerline moves to 10mm below the bottom of the frame with a 2x. The vertical format can move the centerline to 4mm below too. (Just as lens specs are not exact, teleconverter specs can be pretty loose. A nominally 2x converter may be 1.8x or 1.9x. Never seem to be better than advertised, even for Leitz and Zeiss.)

Now, compare the Canon TS-E 45mm/2.8 vs. the TS-E 90mm/2.8. With a 2x TC, the 45mm/2.8 turns into a 90mm/5.6... but with 22mm shift possible instead of 11mm. Which sounds like more fun?

Since TC's in effect take their picture from the center of the objective lens' image, they avoid problems that tend to arise in the corners of the objective.

But Wait! That's not All!

Any Shot with Lines!

The example buildings can be replaced with trees. Show those forest canopies while avoiding the "acid trip trees" look. Or any other shot where there are two parallel lines... and if that sounds like "most shots" you get the picture. Back before rolls of film were invented, there was a time when all camera lenses shifted, and truing perspective was considered as important as focus and selecting shutter speed and aperture. (Back then, they also used a variety of terms for shift: rise was shift up, etc. Archaic people still do so today 8-)

With the first professional-use "box" cameras (as opposed to bellows cameras), a generation of photographers - and photograph viewers - grew up not having this advantage.

As time went on, all the serious 35mm camera marques issued "perspective correction" lenses. Or perhaps I should say, lens, usually with a focal length of 35mm. Zeiss does a 35mm for Contax, Leitz does a 35mm for Leica. Olympus and Pentax have one too. Minolta made a 35mm for the old manual lens mount, but doesn't have one for the auto-focus cameras. Nikon made (and makes) the 28mm and 35mm. Canon had the TS 24mm and 35mm for the manual mount, and the TS-E 24mm, 45mm, and 90mm for the current electronic mount.


Besides fixing perspective, you can use the same feature to screw up normal perspective. I took a band's CD cover picture, where the guitars are the size of battleships and the guitarists' heads are the size of gnats. Art is Truth.


Look at the example vertical image #3. Assuming your shift lens shifts left and right (Canon TS-E's do), you can take the left half and right half of a panorama on separate frames, and combine the images in the darkroom or a photo touch-up program. There will be some overlap to help you assemble the halves into the final image. This overlap can be nominal if you use a TC.

You can end up with a scene that uses about 70mm width and 24mm height. This will give you strictly higher image quality that you'd get with a 6x6 medium format camera and cropping to get a panoramic slice - merely 55mm x 20mm. If anyone cares, that’s 1.5x larger negative... advantage 35mm.

The Canon TS-E lenses will shift in any direction, and have clicks every 30 degrees. You can thus also get a shift somewhat up or down at the same time you shift hard left to get one half, and reproduce the exact shift amount and angle to take the second half.

Unsightly Blemishes!

Normally you can change your viewing angle to select the foreground and background that surround your actual subject. You may have artistic conflict, however, if there is a strong rectangular element in the subject that you want to render squarely. Examples are mirrors, railings, and windows.

If you face a mirror head on, you will be in the shot. If you move to the side, it turns into a parallelogram. With a shift lens mounted, move the camera to the side, turn the film and lens parallel to the mirror, then use shift to get the original composition back (more or less).

Sometimes you have limited access to a fixed display, especially in tight interiors. There might be a ceiling support exactly where you'd like to stand. Set up to one side and shift horizontally to reframe.

Depth of Field!

Besides shifting in any direction, the Canon TS-E lenses also tilt. Actually, this has nothing to do with the above shift stuff, except that the only lenses that tilt are the Canon TS-E's. What does tilt do for you?

Normally, everything in a plane a set distance from, and perpendicular to your lens will be in focus. When you use lens tilt, you forego the "perpendicular" constraint. You can tilt that plane quite severely if desired. The plane of the back element of the lens, the film plane, and the focus plane will all intersect.

The classic example is for landscapes. You have wildflowers at your feet and Alps at infinity. f/22 won't give you the depth of field you need (well, it would at 24mm but at the sacrifice of sharpness). As its just after sunset there's not much light, and there is also a wind moving the flowers so a long exposure won't work. Fast shutter dictates big aperture, which means lousy depth-of-field... normally.

As you tilt the lens, you make the focus plane tilt. However, a small tilt of the lens creates a huge tilt in the focus plane. Just 10 degrees of lens tilt can rotate the focus plane to the point that wild flowers a meter away, at the bottom of the frame, are perfectly focused as are distant alps.

There are very mathematical explanations to calculate all the exact effect, but I don't know how you could use them accurately in the field. It would be nice if there was a focusing screen with a half-prism focusing aid at both the top and bottom of the frame. But there's not. The camera could also calculate this information for you and display it.

The other tilt trick is just the opposite. Say you want everything out of focus except for the subject. Say there is a row of columns ahead of you, running left to right. Tilt like mad, focus one column, and the equally distant neighbors to the left and right will be fuzzy.

Why You Can't Get a Good Exposure

Wide angle lenses get darker the further from center you get. This is called "cos^4 vignetting" and is due to the light hitting the film at an angle. This is a problem when the lens->film distance is small compared to the image width.

On SLR's, wide angle cameras use a "reverse telephoto" group at the back, so the rear of the lens is far enough away to leave room for the mirror. This extra glass hurts quality, but means that even a EF14mm/2.8L is about 40mm from the film, which is 36mm wide... which means "cos^4" is NOT visible on SLR wide-angles. Rangefinders like Leica M and Contax G and Mamiya 7 have no telephoto group, so their images are sharper - but the back of the lens is VERY close to the film, and the corners are much darker.

So what does this have to do with your shift lens? Everything! Shift lenses make a picture much wider than a normal lens, but the distance from lens to film is still about 40mm. Your lens shifts 11mm, so the image is 36mm (film) + 11mm * 2 = 58mm or so. Unshifted, only the center 24mmx36mm of the image hits the film, and has no more cos^4 vignetting than a normal 35mm. However, as you shift, the darker part of the total image hits the film.

If you externally meter, then a meter reading good for a centered shot will be too short an exposure for a shifted shot. How much too short? Who knows, bracket! 8-) On the other hand, the camera meter depends on taking readings of light off of partial reflections, and depend on the angle the light hits the sensors. When you shift, the light comes from a different direction and the sensors may see none of it (or too much), so they will suggest a bad exposure.

How to Get a Good Exposure

If you don't want to bracket, you need to build up some base-line cos^4 data for your lens. Perhaps the following might be agreeable:

  1. Build comparison series: on slide film, photograph a grey card metered with 0 shift and no exposure compensation, then -1/3, -2/3, -1, -1 1/3 stop. (either internal meter or external is fine)
  2. Find worst-case dropoff: shift maximum (horizontally if you can shift sideways), and use the same shutter and aperture as the first shot of your comparison series.
  3. Develop these shots.
  4. Using the center of the series shots, determine whether the maximum shift is -2/3 darker or whatever. That maximum shift is 36mm(width)/2+11mm(shift)= 29mm from image center. If you want, measure the falloff at other distances.

Then: after metering a scene with a handheld meter or unshifted lens, set the exposure manually but with the test-result compensation. This should be perfectly accurate with one caveat: Because the darkening is progressive, the maximally-shifted side will always be somewhat darker. For arrchitecture, this is perfect - it saves you from using an actual graduated filter to bring the sky and ground brightness closer.

Since you may not be able to see this difference in the viewfinder, your probably still want to bracket, but bracket from the external/unshifted exposure to your test-result maximum compensation. Some picture in that range should be ok.

Wish List

The only return I get on writing an article like this is the right to voice my own opinions - and hopefully Canon's listening!

New Lens

More than anything in the world, I want a 35mm tilt-shift lens. The gap between the 24mm and 45mm is just too great. And, the 24mm is not sharp enough to have its images cropped 50% without pain. This lens physically works with the Extender EF 1.4x teleconverter (TC), but resolution seems to suffer somewhat. In effect, the TC creates a very expensive, 35mm f/4.9 lens with less than ideal sharpness. Instead, a one-piece TS-E 35mm F/2.8 or 3.5 lens should have much better optical quality (no TC), as well as being cheaper (no TC), lighter (no TC), and brighter (no TC).

It would be nice if the TS-E lenses became TS-EF - autofocus. I firmly believe that everyone's 24mm (and 35mm...) lens should have tilt and shift, for when they are needed, but autofocus when they aren't. Canon, with their great all-electronic mount, could easily allow this.

New Focusing Screens

We need a new focusing screen for shifted composition. Canon makes a screen with a grid, for verifying perspective. This is great, except the TS-E lenses are all manual focus, and the grid screen doesn't have a focus aid. There is a perfectly good screen with the usual split-circle, but no grid lines of any sort. So, we are left estimating ranges and looking at the distance scale on the focus ring.

For tilted composition, the situation is even worse - the distance scale only tells us what is happening at the image center. The scale might say 3 meters when the lens is actually focused at infinity on one edge and 50cm at the other. Calculating lens tilt mathematically is practically a black art. I only know a couple people that even know how, and they don't do it in their head on the scene. They guess a tilt, then squint at the viewfinder trying to guess if it is sharp enough. This is hard at f/3.5 (the Canon 24mm lens) or f/4.9 (same with 1.4x TC). I'd like a focusing screen with the normal split-circle focus aid, but instead of merely the image center, have a circle (or major portion thereof) at each corner or perhaps centered on each of four sides.

More Advanced Camera Electronics

An second alternative would be a camera that tells us what focus we're at, at the extreme edges of the camera. This would involve the camera asking the lens 1) focus distance, 2) tilt, 3) rotation of tilt, and 4) a constant or two related to focal length. The camera then calculates the focus distance extremes and displays them on the LCD. A photographer who could estimate ranges accurately could adjust the lens until the readout matches his estimates.

A third alternative would have two focusing rings for near and far focus. It would use Canon "E-M". (This means that the focusing ring is just an electronic input sensed by the computer, that drives a motor to change focus.) We would get a focus motor, and a second motor that tilts the lens appropriately. The focus rings would be right next to each other, so normal operation would involve grabbing both simultaneously.

If this two-ring lens had autofocus (in untilted mode), Canon wouldn't mark distances on the focus rings, making the split focus screen mandatory. If the lens was manual focus only, the rings would have full markings, and ranges would be estimated by the photographer. I don't even postulate a camera with AF sensors at the frame's extreme corners, that attempted to tilt, rotate, and focus, simultaneously 8-)

Adding electric control of the current tilt probably would be awful. Hopefully, just as many lenses are now internal or rear focus, the tilt effect could be accomplished simply by tilting one internal group.


I hope at this point, you are sadder but wiser. Ideally, you should be discontent with every non-shift (and non-tilt) lens you have. This consumer revolt will get back to Canon et al, who will finally start making the lenses the world really needs.

[Editor's note: You might have trouble finding a tilt-shift lens at your neighborhood or shopping mall camera store. Try one of

This article is copyright 1997 Frank Sheeran. If you want to reuse it in whole or portion, contact the author.

Article created 1997

Readers' Comments

Add a comment

Andrew Robertson , May 01, 2006; 03:11 A.M.

I like to use a Canon Angle Finder, which makes focusing and seeing the effects of movements easy. It beats wishing for other solutions from Canon.

Martin Pistor , September 12, 2006; 07:43 A.M.

Hi Frank, nice article, still I refuse to use T/S-Lenses on my 35mm Camera. Good composition of shifted/tilted views is a pita on a 35mm finder, no matter what you do, compared to a proper LF Groundglass (ooops, you got me)


Peter White , November 04, 2006; 12:24 P.M.

I use four tilt/shift lenses on my 5D, all made by Canon; 24mm, 35mm, 45mm and 90mm. The 35mm started out life as an FD lens and had it's mount converted to EF. For landscape photography, these are the only lenses I need.

What? Shoot landscapes with a 90mm lens? What sort of silliness is this?

Glad you asked. We small format shooters have gotten used to shooting landscapes with wide angle lenses, since longer lenses have shallow depth of field, and for a landscape you need lots of DOF. But since the 90mm TS-E tilts, it can capture a landscape with everything from a few feet in front of the lens to infinity in perfect focus. Large format landscape photographers don't limit themselves to wide angle lenses, why should we? ;-)

Dennison Bertram , January 02, 2007; 05:02 A.M.

I agree, Shift Lenses do change your life. :-) Or at least style of photography. Unfortunately they can be bloody expensive, especially if they are bought new. If you're just interested in experimenting with shift lenses however, I wrote an article on my blog on how to build one. So take a look!
Build a Tilt-Shift Lens


Enric Martinez , June 29, 2007; 03:15 P.M.

Hi Bertram,

How did you do this? I mean the homemade T/C lens? Any Howto or sort of?

I have some spare 50mm lens lying around and also a 28mm that I could use.

Andrew Prokos , August 22, 2007; 10:47 P.M.

Before I bought my Nikon digital body I thought hard about switching to Canon for the very fact that the Canon system offers so many shift lenses. I do a lot of architectural and interior photography which requires perspective control and Canon's offering of lenses beats Nikon hands down. I didn't want to give up my favorite Nikon lenses though so I stuck with Nikon in the end.

David Daniel , November 30, 2007; 10:17 A.M.

here's my problem. even the 24mm tilt/shift is not wide enough on a digital camera. I find all kinds of buildings without enough room for me to back away from it. if it was TRUE 24mm, no problem, but the digital changes all that. Anyone have a solution for wider, but still tilt shift? thanks, dave

Abo Bleker , January 10, 2008; 06:10 A.M.

I personally think that shift lenses are a waste of money. Perspective control is one of the easiest effects to simulate digitally, and you can get excellent results by using a normal wide angle lens and applying a correction script in your favourite photo editing program. Often you will even get superior sharpness this way, since a shift lens has higher abberations than a normal lens. Why spend $1000+ on a shift lens when you can get the same results with a normal $300 lens and some post-editing? The only real advantage of shift lenses is that it will give parallel lines for the rare cases where you have a series of buildings at different distances, which photoshop cannot do. So if you are a professional architectural photographer and have the spare cash, go for it, but if you are an amateur you are better off buying a good wide angle lens for the money.

Neil Cowley , January 17, 2008; 02:51 P.M.

>>Perspective control is one of the easiest effects to simulate digitally<<

I can't find a shard of truth in that, as the effects are impossible to simulate and one of the nice things about the tilt shift lens is that it has irregular abberations, wheras photoshop is too regular. I used the selective focus to amplify the sunlight, and clarify the moment captured......I used the graphic elements of the blur to contribute to the natural elements of the photo, this image was printed on Kodak Metallic paper so it absolutely glows To make one, just buy a lens from a used source, preferably a manual focus older lens with a metal barrel. You'll be able to take it apart nearly down to the elements, and then make yourself a bellows for it. I don't use it exclusively for portraits, here are some more images out of the 90 TSE to be fair. It's wonderful to be able to make connections between the environment and the subject in unique ways, it really alters how I 'see'. If they made an AF version I'd use it all day every day. I love being able to draw a connection over space

That's wide openat 2.8 on the 90mm TSE, but I have eight faces in reletively good focus allowing for the contrast of the bride's laugh and the bridesmaid's tears.

I faked by merging images of two different focal distances to draw a focal plane between the bride's hand and the flowers and the waterfall. So if you really want to mess with it, use a layer mask in the same was as can be advised by the gradient blur techniques. But when you do it, you'll see that the object to camera distance isn't equal to the gradient blur and you'll probably want to custom paint it in.

The sharpness is the part of Tilt Shift equation that is interesting to me...

Aaron Dressin , February 11, 2008; 04:14 P.M.

Great info and some great pictures. I recently got my hands on the 45mm Tilt / Shift and played around quite a bit. I understand the science behind it, but I had trouble figuring out the control of the lens. I could see how tilting it would move my focal plane, but I never grasped which direction / how much to use to get the effect I wanted. More importantly, I could not seem to get the 2 subjects in the picture aligned along the focal plane.

Any suggestions on technique or practical walkthroughs?

Thanks, Aaron

Jeremy C , February 19, 2008; 08:24 A.M.

Aaron - check out this page


Look for the "Correcting Perspective with the Tilt/Shift Lens" section near the bottom, from the second paragraph. I recently purchased an Arax 80mm T/S lens and it's been really helpful in helping me understand how this whole focusing-on-a-plane thing works.


Marc Buchalter , February 27, 2008; 02:24 P.M.

I very much appreciated your article. For a while I have been wanting to get a Canon T/S lens. However after some research I think there is a better more versatile solution at a competitive price. It is the BALPRO T/S tilt/shift bellows. <http://www.novoflex.com/english/html/co_ema5.php>

When combined with the Pro/EOS adapter and the EOS/Pro adapter it will fit an EOS body and lens. Add the EOS-Retro adapter and all of the lens functions become operative. Furthermore, the EOS-Retro allows one to reverse the lens for powerful macro shots. One can buy other adapters to attach other brand lens to the bellows. You can find high quality enlarger lenses and large format lenses very cheap. Without the EOS-Retro adapter the price is less than $1500.00. than the I think this provides all of the functionality of a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L Tilt-Shift Lens and a lot more flexibility. OK so that is 45% more Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L. But now you can use your Prime 35mm lens To get the EOS-Retro add another $400. I am currently trying to find out where I can see a demo or at least touch and feel the BallPro product in my area. If things work out I will post more later.

Neil Cowley , June 24, 2008; 01:35 P.M.

Aaron - stand in one place where you have a foreground and background obejct and try to get them in focus - it can't be too extreme...

There's also this tutorial on how to create a similar effect with photoshop by merging two frames with different focal distances.

Jeff Conrad , July 09, 2008; 06:34 P.M.

Aaron, you might want to check out the Wikipedia article on the Scheimpflug principle. I’d also recommend some of the links at the end of that article, especially those to Quang-Tran Luong’s article and Merklinger’s site. Merklinger can sometimes make things seem a bit more complicated than necessary, but his basic treatment and diagrams are excellent. These articles are primarily concerned with getting everything sharp rather than with selective focus. If sharpness is your objective, they should be helpful.

For actually setting the tilt, I use a method described by Howard Bond in his article “Setting Up the View Camera” in Photo Techniques, May/June 1998, pp. 41–45; a transcription of that article is available on the Large Format Page. With a TS-E lens, I prefer setting tilt and then adjusting focus because the focusing mechanism is far more amenable to fine adjustment than is the tilt knob.

Bond’s method is helpful in setting the plane of focus (and hence the tilt), but it doesn’t show you where to place the PoF. If sharpness is your objective, the key to achieving it in most scenes is remembering that the DoF with a tilted lens is distributed equally above and below the PoF on an object parallel to the image plane. If your scene contains a distant tall object, you want to have the PoF pass through the approximate middle of that object.

Thomas Hundt , July 28, 2008; 06:49 P.M.

Dennison's link above didn't work for me. But, I found this one which seems to be okay: http://blog.dennisonbertram.com/hackmaster/2005/02/tilt-shift-pc-lens.htm

Edward Thian , July 29, 2008; 08:37 A.M.

I'm considering getting into the world of tilt-shift photography which sounds highly interesting but extremely complex at the same time.

Is a tripod necessary to get the PoF exactly where you want it to be, hence eliminating the versatility and practicality of hand holding the camera?

How useful (successful) is a tilt-shift lens for hand-held shots, compared to a regular lens with all things being equal?


A. Aboud Dweck , August 23, 2008; 12:19 P.M.

Shot w/ Nikon 28MM PC

Hi Edward,

There is nothing complex about using a TS lens. Just point it where you want it, adjust your exposure and then implement the shift and /or tilt. If you make long exposures or want exact point of focus and position, it is better to use a a tripod. You can use it handheld if you are careful, it is especially good if you want to be offset from the shot, to avoid a reflection in glass for example. You just have to be extremely careful aligning your shot. Depending on your camera, you can get a grid line focusing screen which will help you keep you lines perpendicular and level.

Paul Bartholomew , December 15, 2008; 09:35 A.M.

Good information on tilt shift lenses and I see some very constructive comments especially about the issue of perspective control in the lens vs doing it in post-production. I see pros and cons to both and I have used both methods until recently. It seemed that a lot of lenses offered for tilt shift had some side effects that required additional work in post-production anyway such as color fringing and distortion. This may be why some photographers prefer a regular lens and work perspective later on. I'm glad to say the new lenses coming out such as Nikon's 24mm PC-E lens is incredible and I wish I had it years ago. Within most applications I don't need to correct for any lens issues. This saves me a lot of time on the computer and is well worth the price for such a quality lens.

Look out for the new Leica S2 system that will have medium format quality with an SLR design, best of all they have already anounced a tilt shift lens. Of course the price will us cry.

Frank Skomial , March 04, 2009; 07:15 P.M.

Some enlargers were made with possibility to tilt lense. Also alternatively you could tilt easel under enlarger, or use combination of both. So, for film processing you can correct your pictures without "changing" your life, or spending $$$$ for expensive lenses.

For digital files, just use appropriate software, and no need to change your life, either.

Ilkka Nissila , March 18, 2009; 04:44 P.M.

Tilting the paper under the enlarger kills the sharpness of the image since the source to be copied is 2D, not 3D and you have to use a smaller aperture in the enlarger lens to at least get some reasonable image.

Similarly correcting significant keystoning in software results in dramatically uneven sharpness across the print. Minor corrections are ok but major will just result in crappy results. Not to mention all the time you spend in front of the computer - IMO not a good way to spend your life. If doing these corrections digitally doesn't change your life then something was badly wrong in the first place.

Timothy Du Vernet , March 19, 2009; 10:59 A.M.

I recently bought the 45mm pc/e lens from Nikon.Trouble with wide angle lenses is the distortion foreground relative to backgroud, also curvature becomes a problem. The 45 isn't as wide as I might like but it is "true". The control you have with a pc/e lens can't be simulated digitally because you lose half your picture by rotating from the bottom corners. Also, the dispersion and diffraction from small aperatures is eliminated. Another option is to buy a digital body adapter for your view camera. Such a hoot to shoot a full frame Nikon body on the back of a 4 x 5 crown graphic. Take 4 images and piece them together.

Andy Treder , June 01, 2009; 07:04 A.M.


I've recently become engrossed in Tilt lenses (not doing anything with Shift) based on a Canon with Hartblei adapter for Penatcon lenses. I've done quite a lot of research into the maths of it and it is actually quite straightforward and predictable, once you re-program your brain to see the world a different way!

So far I've: 1. Discovered the fundamental principles which dictate what actually happens, including how the Plane of Focus behaves, and what happens to Depth of Field; 2. Found all the formulas which predict the Plane of Focus and Depth of Field; 3. Developed Excel spreadsheets which map all the above to real lenses, cameras, sensor formats etc. Taken pictures (unsystematically) based on 1. above, it works!

What I haven't had time to do is (systematically) empirically check the detailed results.

This comment is a start at gauging how much interest there would be in me putting the principles down on paper (pdf that is.) If there's enough interest I'll start documenting what I've done. FYI It's not my intention to charge for this (unless there's millions of responses in which case a dollar each will soon add up!) So email me and if I get more than a dozen responses I'll force myself to start writing!

Gregg Matthews , December 15, 2009; 12:32 A.M.

You could mount your 24mm T/S onto a 1.3 or 1.6 crop camera and get a 31mm or 38mm equivalent T/S lens. Mounted on a 1.4 extender would make it a 34mm T/S. Mounted with an adapter on a Nikon 1.5 crop camera would get you a 36mm T/S.

harshan thomson , January 01, 2010; 09:47 A.M.

Hi Greg, Is it posible to use the Nikon 1.4x TC extender with the Nikon 24PCE lens to avive a longer focal length? I have a 1.7x TC and that wont work with the 24PCE as the tab comes in the way.

Thanks Harshan

Louis Dallara , March 12, 2010; 10:07 A.M.

Great info, sorry I didn't read it more thoroughly, there's a lot to it. I rented a Nikon 24mm f/3.5 PC-E last week for 4 days and got to learn it well, but missed doing pano's with the shift r/l, I loved the lens and now I lust for one and two and three. Thanks again for the great explanation. Lou Dallara http://louisdallaraphotoblog.com

Steve Kellar , March 25, 2010; 12:31 A.M.

This is fascinating. I have been shooting a lot of urbanscapes (mostly at night) with my D700 and was about to buy the 14-24mm f/2.8 but now am thinking of the T/S option. I am wondering if I could use the 45MM PC-E in vertical mode (on a tripod) take three or four shots from left to right and stitch together a panorama? Anyone tried that?

Steve Kellar , March 25, 2010; 12:35 A.M.

question for Neil: Are those amazing wedding in New Zealand shots done with a T/S lens? The colors glow!

Ryuji Suzuki , May 09, 2010; 10:29 P.M.

I found TS-E 45mm with 1.4x teleconverter degrades the image quality unacceptably if the lens is shifted. Tilting also degrades image quality somewhat but not as severe as shift. I didn't try 2x telecon. I think 90mm lens may offer less effective shift range but more useful in terms of overall image quality, than 45mm with any teleconverter.

You can see some examples of TS-E lens work at http://beaupix.com - I use mostly for tabletop fashion products, jewelry, food photography, etc., but also use for corrective portraiture (particularly headshots taken in our Boston studio).

Vitaliy Naumenko , February 08, 2013; 09:40 A.M.

Hartblei 45mm SR Tilt-Shift lens

Did you try to use Hartblei Tilt and Shift Super Rotator lenses?

You can see it here

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