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Playing with Tilt/Shift Lenses

  1. I took delivery of a rented Canon 24mm TS-E f3.5 L II today after only ordering it at the last minute yesterday afternoon, from Lens Pimp down in Plymouth. I’m not normally so last-minute about the kit I need for a job and had actually ordered the lens from another hire company before going to Sicily last week. However, their’s was unfortunately returned badly damaged and happened to be their only lens of that type.

    I’ve had today booked out to complete some post-production work for a project I’m doing for Abingdon Bowls Club as well as get up to date with admin. Thankfully I cleared that by 2pm so couldn’t resist the opportunity to go and play with the new lens, having not used tilt/shift on anything other than large format cameras.

    The first thing that struck me was that, despite being familiar and experienced with both large format monorails and field cameras, the lens didn’t behave in quite the same way, giving me some rather unexpected results. The biggest downside with this type of set-up is that only the lens is able to be adjusted – ordinarily the whole camera will have tilt and shift capabilities – not just the lens. Without getting to technical, for architectural photography, this means that you can’t keep the lens plane parallel to the vertical structures of the subject. As a result, this limits significantly the amount of flexibility you have to compose the photograph in the way you’d like, whilst keeping vertical structures looking just that – upright.

    As you’d expect, the amount of movement is limited and I’ve already found that using the movements at their extremes (particularly the tilt) results in some areas of soft focus around the periphery of the frame. However, I’m sure I’m going to have some fun with it and get some great results – it might just take some time tomorrow to work out its full set of strengths and weaknesses, before using it on the job come Friday.

    That said, I’ve only been out with it for a couple of hours and not tried it out on any interiors or exteriors of buildings – which is the real reason for the hire in the first place.