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Tilt Shift with the a-Mount

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    Posted: 29 December 2012 at 13:52
Tilt & Shift Options for Sony Alpha Cameras
by Ian Freedman

Table of Contents:

Part 1. Intro to Tilt/Shift.
Part 2. Tilt/Shift Options for Sony Alpha and Nex.
Part 3. Choosing a Lens Mount to Adapt
Part 4. Retailers of Tilt-Shift Equipment
Part 5. Final Thoughts

Note: all images were either taken by me or are part of the public domain from Wikimedia Commons. The Wikimedia images may not have been taken with Sony/Minolta cameras.

Part 1. Intro to Tilt/Shift.

If thereís one significant weakness in the Sony/Minolta lens lineup, in my opinion itís the lack of tilt-shift (T/S) lenses. But donít despair. There are plenty of T/S lenses that fit your Alpha or NEX cameras. Hereís some information for those of you wishing to delve into the world of tilt-shift photography.

Why tilt shift? Many times you see tilt used for what Iíd consider novelty "miniaturization" shots. By applying some measure of tilt, you can change the plane of focus. By doing this, you can effectively create a small slice of in-focus area in an image that makes a landscape look like a model landscape, for example. However, it is a mistake to think that "miniaturization" is all you can do with tilt. In my opinion, tilt is best used to create selective focus images. It can be particularly powerful with portraits to focus attention on certain parts of an image. By tilting the plane of focus, you can also effectively extend the depth of field, a technique often seen with landscape or product photography to create a deep, in-focus image.

Oregon State Beavers Tilt-Shift Miniature Greg Keene [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], by Gregkeene (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons
By tilting the plane of focus, as in the image above, you can create a miniaturization effect, as if the photo was taken of a model stadium rather than the real one. You can see more examples of this miniaturization effect at http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/11/16/beautiful-examples-of-tilt-shift-photography/

Instruments-with-tilt by ifreedman, on Flickr
Product and landscape photographers often use tilt-shift lenses to extend the depth of field of an image, an effect which is often impossible to do without a tilt lens (although focus stacking now gives us a cumbersome way to achieve a similar effect). The left image shot at f/2.8 shows a thin slice thatís in focus (tilted slightly down). By tilting the lens slightly to the right instead, Iíve changed the focal plane and extended the DOF, as in the right image, also shot at f2.8. Although the instrument and the clock are http://www.flickr.com/photos/ianfreedman/8228949447/in-focus, note that the edges of this frame (which could be cropped for a final version) are clearly off the focal plane and out of focus.

Here is a link to a tilt simulator created by Lensbaby, which allows you to see the different effects you can achieve by using different apertures and tilting a lens in different directions.

Shift is often used to correct the vertical lines in building and other tall objects, making them seem to stand tall rather than lean backwards. You see this technique done frequently in architectural photography.

Bashford views - perspective control [Attribution], by Motorrad-67 (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons
The picture above shows the perspective control you can achieve with using a SHIFT lens, like the one shown below (sorry, I donít have a public domain picture of a Sony-mount shift lens).

Pentaxshift [Attribution], by Jeff Dean at de.wikipedia, from Wikimedia Commons

There was a time when medium and large format photography was more common and most photographers had easy access to T/S photography because their cameras allowed users to easily move the front and back of the camera. But with smaller cameras with fixed backs, this technology often required expensive specialty lenses. Recently T/S has seen a slight resurgence of sorts due to image manipulation software and simulation features on many point-and-shoot cameras. But donít be fooled into thinking that simulating T or S is the same as real T/S. There are things that you simply cannot do through image manipulation. Itís a step backwards, in my opinion, to ignore this amazing technique.

I could explain the physics of T/S in more detail or the Scheimpflug Principle, but thatís already been done by others on the web. Generally speaking, though, a tilt shift lens lets you tilt the plane of focus, giving a photographer more control over whatís in focus and allowing you to either shrink or extend the in-focus parts of an image.

MC ARAX 2.8 35mm Tilt & Shift lens [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], by Bengt-re (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons
Many tilt lenses, such as the Arax T/S shown above, cannot tilt more than about 8 degrees. But even a small degree of tilt can give a significant change to the plane of focus. To understand why, read about the Scheimpflug Principle.

Do realize, however, that T/S photography can be tricky. It will probably take time and practice to become proficient with a T/S lens because it operates differently than other lenses youíve used. Please search and explore for yourself how these lenses work on the web. The following sites are good places to start:

http:// http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/focusing-ts.shtml/
http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/tilt-shift-lenses1.htm (Note: there are 2 parts to this article).

I also want to point you to a couple of professional photographers who, in my opinion, make good use of selective-focus photography. Neither shoot Sony/Minolta, as far as I know, but thereís no reason why you canít take similar shots! There are many other photographers producing amazing images, particularly those specializing in architecture and landscape photography, where T/S lenses are most frequently used. Theyíre often used in product photograph to extend the depth of field, too.

Or look at this flickr group: http://www.flickr.com/groups/tiltshift/ to see a wide variety of T/S photos.

DSC03564 by ifreedman, on Flickr

DSC03565 by ifreedman, on Flickr
Taken with my homemade ďbendycam,Ē two extreme images of a swimming pool in two almost identical scenes, except with a different tilt angle. As you can see, the plane of focus can be so tilted as to leave a very select slice in focus, and blur the rest of the scene. (One is so tilted that the edge is significantly darkened as well). Techniques like this can be used for selective focus certain areas or lead the viewerís eyes from place to place in a scene. Or this can be used to effectively extend the in-focus region, giving the photographer a much larger in-focus region than would be normally possible with a standard lens.

Part 2. Tilt-shift options:

You have a few options for tilt-shift on Sony Alpha cameras. First Iíll discuss the different option, and then Iíll list sources for these different options.

Sony NEX: because the NEX mount has a much shorter flange focal distance, itís easier to find T/S adapters and inexpensive lenses for the NEX mount. Itís particularly easy and low cost to use a tilt-only adapter with a NEX camera, especially since focus peaking will give you a very clear sense of what is in or out of focus. For under $50, you can find a tilt adapter for many different lens mounts, including Minolta MC/MD. There are also tilt adapters for many other lens mounts to NEX if you look carefully. This seems to me to be one of the best ways to use affordable, high-quality lenses. Many of the links below also have NEX products.

Alpha Adapters: You can us a tilt/shift adapter to attach a non-alpha lens to your Alpha camera. The adapter allows the lens to tilt and/or shift.

Using M42 Adapters: if you use an adapter, instead of buying an Alpha adapter, you can buy an adapter for M42 mount ó Example: Hartblei-to-M42 mount ó and attach a second M42/alpha adapter with an electronic chip in it. By doing this, you have the electronic contacts that allow the camera to record the correct EXIF data (minus the aperture setting) and perform image stabilization. You can find more information on different types of chipped adapters in some of the threads on Dyxum, such as here.

For Information on Choosing a Lens Mount, please see Part 3 below.

You could also use a regular adapter to convert a shift and/or tilt lens that was made with a different mount. However, there are limitations in doing this, as youíll read later.

T/S Lenses: There are some high quality (and expensive) tilt &/or shift lenses out there for alpha mount, and also some cheaper lenses made with Russian lenses. Options are below.

Do-It-Yourself: Itís relatively easy and inexpensive to build your own tilt-shift lens. There are a number of ways to do this. Iíve built a few "bendy-cams." Theyíre great but tricky to control. In some ways, a DIY lens gives you the most flexibility to compose and take T/S photos by hand. But if youíre using a tripod, or trying to be consistent look from shot-to-shot, you might find it difficult to do with a homemade lens. You can Google for instructions on how to make a DIY tilt lens, but some of the best sites Iíve found include:

Note: from personal experience itís easiest to build a homemade DIY lens from a medium format lens. But you can do it with a full frame 35mm lens if you have an APS-C camera. Please be sure to reference the flange focal distance (FFD) of the different lenses you want to use (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flange_focal_distance). If you want a DIY T/S lens with infinity focus, the FFD needs to be large enough. In my case, by using a medium format lens, I was able to use a $6 macro extension tube for a back, rather than a hollowed out camera cap -- the extension tube fits much more securely.

DSC02672 by ifreedman, on Flickr

DSC02674 by ifreedman, on Flickr
Pictures of one of my homemade tilt-shift lens, made from a damaged 50mm medium format lens. In addition to plumbing clamps, I used a motorcycle inner tube to provide flexibility and a cheap macro extension tube as a connector. Iíve found this setup works even better than most bendy-cam designs Iíve seen.

Bellows: You can buy bellows, which give you the option of T/S. The downside to these is that theyíre only really useful for macro work and canít achieve infinity focus. It may be possible to find a bellows adapter that works with a medium format lens and still allows infinity focus. Iím not sure, but it should be possible in theory.

Convert a Canon or Nikon T/S lens (or similar)
Itís possible to buy a Canon or Nikon T/S lens, remove the mount (or have someone else remove it) and replace it with a Sony mount. But is it worth it? The Canon & Nikon lenses cost thousands of dollars, and you still wonít have auto anything. Iíd rather go with the HCam, Schneider Kreuznach or Super-Rotator lenses.

But if you do want to convert a Canon/Nikon T/S lens to Sony or M42, there are some companies that will do this for you, such as Leitax, which will convert Nikon (but not Canon) lenses to alpha mount.

Alternatively, you could use an adapter to use an off-brand T/S lens on your camera. But all Canon & Nikon adapters are either only good for macro shooting or have a glass element in them which will have a negative effect on the image quality and will create a slight telephoto effect.
Note: you could also use an adapter with other brand lenses, such as the Minolta 35mm f/2.8 shift CA Rokkor, but this would suffer from the same issues as mentioned above.

Limitations: No matter what tilt-shift lens you use, there are some things that will inevitably be missing. I havenít found a single T/S lens for Sony/Minolta that has auto focus. And unless you add a digital chip, your lens probably wonít have electronic contacts to record the correct EXIF information. In most cases youíll also need to adjust the aperture manually. Also, as of now, itís difficult to find a wide-angle tilt lens, unless you make it yourself, which is also difficult to do since there arenít many wide angle medium format lenses. Most tilt lenses are 35mm or longer. Samyangís promised 24mm T/S lens (see below) will be the widest T/S available when itís released.

Full Frame vs. APS-C: As far as I know, all of the lenses and adapters listed in this article will work on either FF or APS-C cameras. Since FF cameras have larger sensors, theyíre more prone to poor image quality near the edge of the frame. If building a homemade lens from a 35mm camera lens, it probably will not work on a FF camera, although a medium format lenses should work on FF.

DSC03570 by ifreedman, on Flickr
In this swimming image, the in-focus slice implies a sense of motion and a feeling of movement, drawing our eye along the path the swimmer before he reached this point.

Part 3. Choosing a Lens Mount to Adapt

Before you invest in an adapter, you should choose carefully between the different lens mounts you can use. If you already have several lenses, maybe itís an easy decision. But if not, you have to choose carefully. Medium format lenses can be quite heavy, and most of them are fairly "slow" when compared to SLR lenses. In fact, itís rare to find a prime lens faster than f/2.8, and quite common that many normal or telephoto lenses are f/4 or slower. When you buy lenses to go with the adapters, buy lenses that have manual aperture control! Otherwise, youíll be unable to change the aperture.
Keep in mind that many of the lenses with manual aperture control are older lenses with older coatings. So even though the image quality might be excellent, donít be surprised if there is more flare. It might also be harder to find minty versions of these lenses.

Hasselblad Lenses
Partial list of lenses
Hasselblad is known for making exceptionally good lenses. Theyíre also quite expensive and heavy. So although a tilt adapter is fairly cheap, the lenses may run thousands of dollars each. Also, be sure to buy a lens with manual control aperture. If you have the money or the lenses, it can be a great option. Hasselblad also has a small selection of zoom lenses.

Mamiya 645 lenses
Mamiya has a very nice list of lenses, including a couple wide-ish lenses and a couple zooms. Itís really a wonderful lineup. The only adapters Iíve found so far are the Mirex and HCAM, which cost quite a bit. However, although you pay more for the adapter, you might save on the lenses, and youíre getting an above-average adapter.
Note: Mamiya also makes a couple of SHIFT lenses. You could conceivably use these lenses with a cheap traditional adapter and still be able to have shift ability.

Pentacon 6 lenses.
List of lenses
Advantages: a large selection of lenses, including some very good ones, like Zeiss. Many are quite affordable, too. There are also many Russian lenses in this mount which can be found dirt cheap. But donít be surprised to find inconsistent quality in the Russian lenses. Also, many of these lenses are harder to find in the Americas than in Europe or Asia. Itís also hard/expensive to find a lens much wider than about 45mm. (I only see a single 30mm lens listed). Lens tilt adapters are fairly cheap, also.
Some tilt lens results

Pentax 645 lenses
There are also a good selection of Pentax 645 lenses, some of which seem to be fairly good. Mirex is the only company Iíve found that makes P645 T/S adapters.

Dupont Circle - sea [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], by Autopilot (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons
Portraits, or in this case a ďportraitĒ of a statue, can use selective focus to draw focus to the eyes and provide an unique and striking look.

Hartblei Super Rotator 65mm F3.5 [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], by RawheaD Rex from Boston, USA (Hartblei Super Rotator 65mm F3.5), from Wikimedia Commons
The Hartblei Super Rotator is a well respected tilt-shift lens thatís available for Sony cameras. But be careful because there are THREE companies that go by the name Hartblei, and the style, quality and prices of their lenses are vastly different. See more below.

Part 4. Retailers of Tilt-Shift Equipment (mostly in alphabetical order):

Arax Photo / KIEV Camera.
Both sites sell similar products, including adapters and lenses, although the prices vary slightly, as do the offerings. The lenses are made from inexpensive Russian lenses. These products are also sold on Rugift and Kiev photo websites. Because their catalogue varies slightly, Iíve listed them separately below.

Tilt only adapter only available for Hasselblad lenses $179
35mm f/2.8 T/S lens for $600.
Several NEX products, including a couple of 50mm f/2 lens ($149 or $169) and Hasselblad tilt adapter ($179) and Pentacon 6 adapter ($119).

Arax sells several adapters and lenses. I believe the lenses are made from Russian lenses.
Hasselblad tilt adapter $149
Pentacon 6 tilt adapter for $125
35mm f/2.8 $670
80mm f/2.8 $429
tilt adapters for M42 lenses on NEX cameras.

This is a shift-only system with a range of camera lens mounts. 870 Euros

Be warned -- there are THREE different companies that go by this name, as listed below. At one point they all seem to have worked together in some way, but then they split apart, and the quality and price of products of the different companies is wildly different. (See: http://hartblei.blogspot.com/2011/06/clarifications-about-status-of-hartblei.html)

HCAM (formerly Hartblei)
Formerly called Hartblei, HCam can be found on the web at www.hcam.de, or www.hartblei.de or www.hartblei.eu.
They supposedly changed their name because they didnít want to be associated with the cheap Hartblei adapters. HCAM sells high end, seemingly excellent and expensive products. Theyíve partnered with Zeiss to produce some top notch tilt-shift lenses, such as 40mm f/4 (2300 Euros), 80mm f/2.8 (3600 Euros) and 120mm f/4 macro (4900 Euros). The set of all three costs 9700 Euros. (www.hartblei.eu/en/optics-by-carl-zeiss.htm for info on lenses). They also sell Mamiya 645 T/S adapters, but theyíre very expensive (approx 1000 Euros).
Note: they donít seem to sell adapters for M42 mount, in case you want to use a chipped adapter to get EXIF data.

Less expensive than hcam, but still fairly expensive, they sell several lenses for alpha and M42 mount (etc.). Their super-rotator lenses seem pretty good and well respected from what Iíve read.
35mm f/2.8 @ $1850
80mm f/2.8, $1350 & $1560 versions
45mm, $1750
They also sell some cinematic t/s lenses for alpha/m42 mount
They also sell inexpensive adapters that say "Tilt-Shift" on the images... but donít be confused, because these adapters donít actually tilt or shift! The "tilt-shift" print is part of their logo.

This Hartblei company (www.hartblei.com) seems to have been disavowed by the other Hartblei companies. This site sells cheap adapters and lenses, with a much lower quality than the two sites above. Having said that, the quality might be just fine for an adapter for you and is much more affordable than the other Hartbleiís.
Super Rotator Lenses -- they claim to sell several types of super-rotator tilt shift lenses (35mm, 65mm, 80mm, 120mm). But they also say theyíre out of stock indefinitely. So it seems that they donít actually sell lenses. My guess is that, back when the Hartblei companies were merged, they did sell the Super Rotator, but when they went their separate ways, this site continued to advertize theses lenses but not sell them.
Russian lenses -- they do sell Russian Arsat shift and tilt/shift lenses in 35mm ($595) and 80mm. ($385). My guess is that the quality is quite similar to the Arax / Kiev lenses ó they might even be the same.
Tilt Adapters: Pentacon 6 lens tilt adapter for Sony or M42 mount is $125.
Shift adapters: they site advertizes shift adapters, but they are not included in the price list.

LENSBABY (Lensbaby.com)
Despite what you might have heard, MOST Lensbaby products are NOT typical tilt lenses. Even if untilted, they will not produce a smooth, in-focus image. Most Lensbaby lenses have a "sweet spot" where the image is in-focus and the rest of the frame out of focus. You can tilt the lens to move the in-focus spot or adjust the amount of focus/blur in the image.
The lone real Tilt (not shift) lens they make as of now is the Edge 80 optic ($300). Youíll need to also buy a "lens" for the optic to fit into. It costs $210 for a Composer Pro or $110 for a Composer if ordered w/out an optic.
Note: you wonít see prices to order just the "lens" -- usually they come with the Sweet 35 or Double Glass optic, but you can supposedly buy the lenses individually if you contact the company. Lensbaby also makes a nice tilt transformer for NEX users to use Nikon lenses.

LOREO (www.loreo.com/).
Loreo makes some interesting products, such as the ďperspective controlĒ PC Lens in a Cap. For only about $50, you get a pancake style shift lens that includes a shift mechanism and an adjustable aperture. Although small and cheap, I canít speak to the image quality of these lenses.

Mirex sells both shift and tilt-shift adapters, which seem to be well liked by photogs in the Dyxum community. Hereís a nice Dyxum review.
Price for their adapters have risen significantly in recent years, though.
400 Euros for a tilt-shift adapter for Mamiya 645 mount (available for Alpha mount or M42 mount, etc.)
Price unlisted ("on request") for a tilt-shift adapter for Pentax 645 mount (available for Alpha mount or M42 mount)
400 Euros for a Hasselblad/T2 T/S adapter + 38 Euros for a T2/alpha adapter.
319 Euros for a shift only adapter (in M42 mount, but not alpha)
Also, be warned that the Mirex adapter may bump into the prism housing on some cameras (notably the A900).
You can supposedly also use an additional adapter to use lenses from Pentacon 6, Bronica, Hasselblad and Pentax 6x7 to use with the M645 tilt adapter, but Iím not sure if Mirex sells these adapters or you can simply buy them elsewhere. It looks like Fotodiox (there might be others, too) sells adapters for about $75 (Bronica/645, Hasselblad/M645, Hasselblad/P645, P67/M645, etc.)

SAMYANG announced officially in September 2012 that it will release a 24mm f/3.5 tilt shift lens for several mounts, including Alpha. This lens will be manual focus and manual aperture control. The lens is supposed to be released sometime after March 2013. The price has not been announced as of this date.

SCHNEIDER KREUZNACH makes high end lenses. They look quite good but are expensive.
28mm f/2.8 shift only = about $2300
50 f/2.8 TS = about $4200
90mm macro f/4 TS, about $4000
120mm f/5.6 TS, about $5700
Note: As of September, 2012, Schneider Kreuznach announced that it will be coming out will several new lenses, including new T/S lenses, NEX lenses and video lenses for DLSRs. I suggest checking their catalogue for an up-to-date listing of their available lenses.

ZOERK (Zoerk.com).
Zoerk (also known as Zork), a German company, makes both tilt adapters and tilt-shift systems (plus several non-tilt adapters, etc.). View their product guide for information. The multi-focus system includes 80mm, 90mm and 104mm lenses for SLRs ($1000+). They also sell several shift only adapters for use with Mamiya 645, Pentax 645, Hasselblad, Pentacon 6 or Pentax 67 lenses ($600+). They also list (unpriced) a 28 Schneider f/2.8 tilt lens. It seems like you might also be able to do other custom options, although itís not clear in the catalogue. Iíd contact the company with questions.

Amazon/Ebay adapters
You can find other adapters on ebay. I imagine these are similar to or exactly the same as some of the cheaper adapters sold by Arax, Hartblei, etc. They are not on par with the quality of the Mirex adapters, from what Iíve seen, but are less expensive.
Note: you can also find some of the other products listed above for sale on ebay & Amazon.

On Amazon, there are options by Zykkor like the Hasselblad tilt adapter for alpha or M42 ($219).
On ebay, you can find Hasselblad tilt adapters for Sony or M42 for around $119.
On ebay, you can find Pentacon 6 tilt adapters for Sony or M42 for around $119. Sometimes you can even find them with a lens attached (for around $200, although you might just want to buy your own lenses).
On ebay, you can find Hasselblad tilt adapters for alpha or M42 for around $150-220.
Note: I have only found inexpensive adapters for Hasselblad and Pentacon 6 lenses. Adapters for Mamiya 645 or Pentax 645 lenses are harder to find and more expensive.

You can also find several NEX adapters and lenses for sale on Amazon & ebay, most of which are similar to or exactly the same as other lenses/adapters listed above (like the 50mm f/2 T/S lens for $349). Leica adapters. Lensbaby adapters. Etc.

Buy a homemade DIY lens.
Johnnyoptic sells DIY tilt shift lens like the "bendycam." Or contact me -- I might have a lens or two for sale in the future.

Buying Bellows:
I didnít research the bellows option very much since itís quite limiting unless youíre only doing macro work, but you can find various bellows for sale on ebay, Amazon, etc. Also be warned that some bellows will certainly have better tilt abilities than others, since some bellows do not allow much range of tilt movement.
Zykkor Macro Bellows are about $55 on Amazon.
Fotodiox macro bellows are $40 on Amazon
Other places (bhphotovideo, adorama, etc.) have higher end macro bellows. Etc.

The tilt-shift effect here has been used to draw the viewerís eye along the rail to the building in the background, which when combined with the unusual focus & lighting gives the photo a dark & foreboding look of film noir.

Part 5. Final Thoughts.

If I had an unlimited budget, what would I buy?
  1. A Lensbaby composer pro with Edge 80 (probably with Sweet 35 lens as well, although Iím very picky about the Sweet 35 pics that I actually like... mostly black and whites). Seems like itís relatively easy to use and much lighter than other options.
  2. A Mirex adapter (or maybe HCAM) for Mamiya 645 lenses, and some nice M645 Zeiss lenses to go with them. Perhaps this would included the Mamiya 645 55-110mm zoom lens, which is one of the rare zoom lenses for this mount. I might also get an adapter to use Hasselblad lenses with the Mirex adapter. (The Mirex adapter is much more versatile than the cheap Hasselblad tilt adapters Iíve seen).
  3. For a pair of really nice lenses, Iíd go with the 40mm and 80mm HCam lenses, mostly for portraiture use. If I shot full frame, Iíd probably buy all three of the Hcam lenses.

On a Budget? What to buy?
Make your own DIY lens. Seriously, you can make a pretty decent T/S for under $50, and possibly $10. But if you donít want to do this, you could either buy a DIY lens someone else made, or you could buy a cheap adapter.
Although the Hasselblad adapter is cheap, the lenses are not. Your best bet is to buy a Pentacon 6 adapter. Depending on where you live, lenses could be hard to find, but theyíre quite affordable, especially if you buy Russian Kiev. Or take a step up and find yourself a surprisingly affordable 80mm Zeiss lens.

Freelensing -- tilt-shift for free with the lenses you already own!
Link. You can actually experiment with tilt-shift for free by ďfreelensing,Ē a technique where you hold a lens (any lens) in front of your camera without attaching it to the body, and tilt or shift the lens. Thereís bound to be light leakage, so image quality and contrast are poor, but you easily achieve tilt/shift effects. Also, if you use a regular DSLR lens (from any brand), you probably canít achieve infinity focus. A medium format lens probably can. Itís not a good long-term solution, but a fun way to play with tilt-shift with the lenses you already own. You might also need to find a way to open the aperture. Also be sure not to (a) drop the lens, or (b) let dust into your camera.

Wide angle lenses? Zoom lenses?
Youíre pretty much out of luck, unless you switch to NEX and use an m42 / Nikon / other tilt adapter. Itís hard to find a lens wider than 35mm (until that Samyang 24mm is introduced). Zoom lenses? There are a few options. Hasselblad has a few zoom lenses as does Mamiya 645 and Pentax 645. None are particularly wide, though, which sort of defeats the purpose. (Probably the best zoom lenses Iíve found are Mamiya 645 55-110mm and Pentax 645 45-85mm. Iíd ideally prefer approx. 24-70mm zoom range for an APS-C camera for portrait work, or slightly longer for full frame). But 35mm is about as wide as youíll find on medium format lenses, unless you buy an expensive fisheye lens. Remember, a wide-angle lens on a medium format camera becomes a normal lens on a full frame SLR and slight telephoto on APS-C. So youíd need a medium format Ultra-wide lens to convert to a wide-angle APS-C.

Why Itís Worth It:
Photography is part art and part documentary. By utilizing different photographic techniques, we craft the stories we tell and how we tell them. Selective focus and perspective control are just additional ways to control this aspect of your photographic storytelling. There once was a time when photographers had to think and plan carefully to make every single image. Now itís easy to push a button and take a picture. But adding focus/perspective control also forces us to slow down, think, plan and compose carefully. It seems so strange to me that this once-common photographic technique has faded into obscurity as a result of technological "improvements." Technology is supposed to add to our arsenal of techniques, not subtract from it. Do be careful, though, because perspective control is something thatís easy to overuse or misuse. But itís also fun to learn and a new challenge for those of us working to advance our art. And letís not forget that photographers love collecting equipment, and this is also an excuse to build your collection. Good luck and have fun with the world of tilt-shift photography.

Note: if you find errors, omissions, or options that I have not mentioned, please notify me and I will update this guide.

Last Edited: December 29, 2012
Thanks also to Dyxum administrators for their editorial feedback and suggestions.

DSC05483-(edit) by ifreedman, on Flickr
An abstract photo I took with my bendycam

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Photosopher Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 14:28
   Well done Ian! Thank you for this. Should clear up a great deal of confusion for Alpha users wanting T/S functionality. This article is thorough and needed.

Beautiful photos and use of the technique Ian. You put the Art in it!

EDIT: One option for wider angle than 35mm FF is the Leica/Contax branded Schneider 28mm Shift. It can be Leitaxed for Alpha mount. Same as the one available new with an Alpha mount option. Only shift... no tilt.

Edited by Photosopher - 30 December 2012 at 00:07
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Micholand Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 15:15
Thanks for taking the time and effort to write this excellent article, Ian!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Roger Rex Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 15:18
Thanks for the thorough review of tilt-shift for A mount; a major effort and much appreciated. I am awaiting the Samyang entry and tests on it once it's available (and price info, of course). I understand from discussions, reading and watching several folks use tilt-shift lenses that they can be rather difficult to learn to use - a steep learning curve according to most folks. This e-book from Darwin Wiggett is fabulous in terms of teaching you how to use a tilt-shift lens. Folks considering investing in tilt-shift might want to read this first to help them decide whether or not to move forward with what can be a very expensive undertaking (DIY being one exception of course).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote smcabbott Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 15:57
This is an excellent source of information. Thank you very much!

a900 NEX5 a7R 12-24 16/2.8 20/2.8 20-35 24-50/4 28/2.8 28-70/2.8G 28-135 35/1.4 50/1.2 50/1.4 50/2.8 70-210/4 70-400G 80-200/2.8G 85/1.4G 100/2.8 100-400 135/2.8 500
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Post Options Post Options   Quote sybersitizen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 15:59
Very nice!

In the section about bellows, it might be worth mentioning that the manual focus Minolta Auto Bellows III (not the older Minolta Bellows III or any other Minolta bellows) is capable of tilt/shift movement when used with manual focus bellows lenses, which have no focusing helicoids of their own.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Pete Ganzel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 18:10
Very nice and thanks Ian.

Also in the section on T\S bellows, you can focus to infinity if the lens is "barrel mount" and of sufficient focal length. On an adapted Autobellows III, you need around a 100mm focal length enlarging lens or a recess mounted 80mm to even start to use the Swing/shift on the front standard.

On a NEX you can use lenses as short as 50mm on a bellows and still have some room for movements. Coverage on full frame also is an issue with lenses designed for 35mm.


Edited by Pete Ganzel - 29 December 2012 at 18:21
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Post Options Post Options   Quote al Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 18:28
Thanks for the great write up, Ian. Always wondered about the benefits for using tilt/shift. I like idea for getting an M42 adapter for the NEX.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote GrahamB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 18:53
Originally posted by Roger Rex Roger Rex wrote:

I understand from discussions, reading and watching several folks use tilt-shift lenses that they can be rather difficult to learn to use - a steep learning curve according to most folks.

Roger, from experience, I'd say the biggest obstacle to using T/S with the a850/a900 is lack of live view (and it's 12x magnification). Even with an angle finder VN's 2x magnification, it's very difficult to make the adjustments necessary with an OVF.

I'm looking forward to picking up an a99 (or the rumored Nex type FF) in the new year to augment my a77 and really get the most from my T/S collection.

Nice job on the article Ian.


Edited by GrahamB - 29 December 2012 at 18:56
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gaging Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 21:28
Well done Ian!

I would add that besides perspective control, the shift function can be used to make 3-shot panoramas that can easily be merged together with photo editing software without "warping" the images. Because there is no warping, the shift function of a tilt-shift lens makes more predictable panoramas without needing to crop the extremely stretched areas. It also preserves the original pixels without any alterations, so you can do more photo editing later without problems.

The shift function can also be used to make 3-shot non-panoramic photos that can easily be merged together with photo editing software into huge photos with higher resolution than the native resolution of your camera.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Roger Rex Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 21:38
Originally posted by GrahamB GrahamB wrote:

Roger, from experience, I'd say the biggest obstacle to using T/S with the a850/a900 is lack of live view (and it's 12x magnification). Even with an angle finder VN's 2x magnification, it's very difficult to make the adjustments necessary with an OVF.

Graham, thanks for the heads up as always. I have only seen one lengthy demonstration of how to use a tilt-shift and he was using live view extensively - I had forgotten that. Coincidentally, he is also a strong advocate of closing down to no more than f16 with "regular" lenses as you have admonished me about in the past (I shoot at f22 a lot - refraction or no!).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote waldo_posth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 23:11
Originally posted by gaging gaging wrote:

Well done Ian!

I would add that besides perspective control, the shift function can be used to make 3-shot panoramas that can easily be merged together with photo editing software without "warping" the images. Because there is no warping, the shift function of a tilt-shift lens makes more predictable panoramas without needing to crop the extremely stretched areas. It also preserves the original pixels without any alterations, so you can do more photo editing later without problems.

The shift function can also be used to make 3-shot non-panoramic photos that can easily be merged together with photo editing software into huge photos with higher resolution than the native resolution of your camera.


I would like to add that in combination with tilting the DOF of such a panorama can be so wide that everything is sharp from the foreground to infinity keeping apertures wider open than usual in WA photography: You are shooting with F/5,6 or F/8 and get a DOF usually only possible with F/22 or F/32 but without any diffraction, i.e. really sharp!

Before the advent of lensbabies tilting has been a smart technique (Scheimpflug) to increase sharpness - that means: tilting was not for blurring photos and arranging "toy" scenes.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Jozioau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 December 2012 at 23:20
What a comprehensive overview you've presented here. I was familiar with your DIY contraption with the rubber tubing and plumbing clamps, as well as that fabulous B&W night-time image with the tilted building and bare trees the from the recent Week 50 challenge, but all the remaining information is a great resource.
As an architect with an interest in architectural photography, I am aware of and quietly awaiting the release of the Samyang TS 24mm f3.5 lens in March, and am keen to try one via a camera store before deciding whether to make that purchase or perhaps use some of the other options you outline here.
Thanks for gathering together all this information and for the posting,
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rovhazman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 December 2012 at 00:17
Great article, Ian!
Thank you for the effort of putting everything together!

I have the Pentacon Six tilt adapter, with some Pentacon Six lenses. I also have Minotla MD->NEX tilt adapter.

In this context, there is the special Minolta SHIFT CA ROKKOR 35MM F2.8. It is a shift lens, and instead of having regular tilt option, there is an option to change the curvature of the focal plane. Very interesting (and hard to master...) lens!
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