What Is A Tilt Shift Lens? Let Me Explain In Less Than 10 Minutes. Hi and welcome to Episode 66 of the Photography Explained podcast.
I’m your host Rick, and in each episode I will explain one photographic thing to you in plain English in less than 10 minutes (ish) without the irrelevant details. What I tell you is based on my lifetime of photographic experience. And not Google.
Here is my answer
A tilt shift lens is a lens which can be tilted and shifted so the lens plane is not parallel to the camera sensor and the imaging circle is moved from the centre. This allows photos to be taken with different perspectives with more uniform image quality across the image. Tilt shift lenses are used in architectural photography, straightening verticals rendered crooked or converging by conventional lenses, and are also used where creative depth of field is required.
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What is a tilt shift lens? Let me explain in less than 10 minutes.
Hi, and welcome to Episode 66 of the photography explained podcast. I'm your host, Rick, and in each episode, I will explain one photographic thing to you in plain English in less than 10 minutes (ish) without the irrelevant details. What I tell you is based on my lifetime of photographic experience, and not Google. Well there was a little bit of Google in this one actually.
Okay, here is the answery bit
A tilt shift lens is a lens which can be tilted and shifted, so the lens plane is not parallel to the camera sensor, and the imaging circle is moved from the centre. This allows photos to be taken with different perspectives and with more uniform image quality across the image. Tilt shift lenses are used in architectural photography, straightening verticals rendered crooked or converging by conventional lenses, and they are also used where creative depth of field is required. Blimey. What does this all mean?
Well, a tilt shift lens is a specialist lenses, you'll know when you need one. And if you don't need one, don't worry about it. I won't take too long, and I will explain this in plain English until you know just enough, so you know what they are, and if you need to find out more about them and spend a big lump of cash on one.
Okay, how do they work?
Well, there are lots of clever things inside that move lens elements. How they do this really is not important. So what I will do instead is I will explain the fundamentals.
Okay, the first part of this is tilt.
And now for the science bit? The scheimpflug principle is the one where the lens plane is no longer parallel to the image sensor.
Does knowing this weird word help us? Not really, I just found it during my little bit of Google research and thought I'd throw it in there – to make me sound intelligent.
Okay, so with tilt, you tilt the lens to the left or to the right.
This changes the relationship of the focal length focal plane to the sensor, they are no longer parallel. Now you need to have a look at a picture of a tilt shift lens to get your head around this, I used to have one so I understand it.
Basically the lens is fixed to the camera body. And then using the little wheels on the sides, you can tilt the lens left or right. Some of it stays where it is some of it moves, it's very complicated.
This can give you increased depth of field with the bits on the left on the right going out of focus. So what this is doing is giving you massive control of depth field and a completely different type of image. Okay, so we have tilt, and we have shift.
By using the shift feature, it looks like you've taken a photo from a different position. It's quite weird when you do it because you look through the viewfinder of a photo you have just taken and it's like, but I'm not there.
It is a bit strange, but you get your head around it. I did eventually. So if I can, you can.
Shift is the one that you use to make converging vertical straight in architecture photography. Now, I'm not gonna lie to you here. I thought it was tilt that did that (clearly I had not applied any thought to this misconception in my own head).
That's why I'm enjoying doing these episodes, because I start off with what I know, and then I realise I was wrong. So I go from what I know, to what I thought I knew to the reality which isn’t always the same.
So I've learned something today, which is good.
You can also use shift to photograph mirrors and not be in them. If you've ever seen those photographs and wondered how they've got them, and probably like me assumed it's just Photoshop editing, no it is the shift thing.
And it's, it's clever.
I actually did this and it's a really weird thing to experience. It's brilliant. And if you don't need this, it's good to know for the future.
Shift can also be used when you're taking panoramic photos. You know, when you take photos to the left, middle and then to the right, and then you stitch them all together. When you do that, you lose bits caused by what's called parallax, which (I put on my notes here) is one for another time. It's possibly one for never.
it's just some optical effect called parallax. Let's not worry about that.
In architectural photography, you shift the lens. You got the camera on a tripod level, what I'd normally do is, I get the camera level horizontally and front to back so I'm square on to the building. And what happens is the top of the building, sometimes, not always, because I use a 17mm lens, sometimes isn't in the frame.
So what you do is you tilt the camera and lens back, I use the geared levers on my tripod head for this. As you lean the camera back, the verticals are converging. Now with a tilt shift lens, you put the building in the photo as you would, and then in camera, you shift the lens. And you correct the converging verticals in camera.
It's an awesome thing to do. I wouldn't say it's easy, it's not too hard. It's not the easiest thing. But it's effective.
Keeping it real
And you got to make sure that the building looks realistic afterwards. So top tip here, once you've got your building perfectly vertical, however you do it, I like to give it a little 5% lean back, no, not the bacon, to make it look natural, because we're not used to seeing buildings ramrod straight – this is not how we perceive things from ground level.
Okay, so panoramic photos, again, you use the shift function.
I haven’t done this, I'm not gonna lie to you, I've taken a few panoramic photos, and just cropped out that bit caused by parallax. But if you are into panoramas, this could be for you, you'll get more out of each photo, which can only be a good thing.
Another use – make things look tiny
You know those photos where things look like scale models, like little, tiny model villages and what have you? You know, where you get miniscule depth of field, everything just looks really small. It's a really surreal effect, you get that using the tilt feature, not sure if this is a tilt thing.
So tilt is associated with the control of the depth of field.
Controlling the depth of field
We're talking increasing the depth of field to put everything in focus. You can change the relationship of the focal plane of the lens and the sensor. And if you think about it this makes sense.
So if you can do that, if you go the other way, you can reduce the depth of field to virtually nothing, which really does isolate something.
So yeah, there are other uses for these.
This is obviously simplifying these highly complex things to a degree.
Yeah, there's no autofocus on these things. Now, if you think about it, how many photographs have you taken using manual focus? It is a shock to the system, believe me, it's a real shock.
I couldn't get used to that.
Who makes tilt shift lenses?
Well, the company that I use Canon, they have the best range of tilt shift lenses for DSLRs as far as I am aware. They have the following.
They're all Canon T-SE lenses.
Canon - give me a 17mm F4L lens please. I need that lens. I actually do to be fair, that's the lens I want.
How much do they cost?
Right prices from the Canon UK website. And this time as I've been thinking about this since the last episode, for our friends over the pond, I've included the US prices from the Canon US website.
Hmmmmmm something upsetting about those prices when you are sat here in the UK – and if you think about the exchange rate they look to be a good 30% more expensive in the UK which is not great is it?
If you're in America it is though….
Are they easy to use?
Well like anything you need to practice. Manual focus I didn't get on with but I loved playing around with it. The big mistake I made was of practising but not properly mastering my tilt shift lens. I think if I'd done that I would have gone to the 17mm version some years ago, and probably just used that on everything.
So yeah they are more complicated than not having tilting and shifting but there is a reason for that.
Do you get higher quality images?
You do actually – with these specialist lenses you get a higher quality across the width of the image. Okay, do I use a tilt shift lens?
No, I tried one, didn't practice enough, bought a lens, and sold it without learning it.
And in writing this episode I've realised how much I regret doing that and how much I wish I'd had the courage of my convictions and stuck with my tilt shift lens.
Okay, my one line summary
Tilt shift lenses are specialist lenses where the optics can be moved to provide different effects, perspective, and depth of field.
My sequence on lenses is done, so let's do a wrap up on lenses. There's one more thing I want to say which I haven't said so far. And then I'm going to go on to something else. Not sure what yet. So Camera Lenses Explained - Shall We Wrap This Up And Move On? is the next episode.
And now it's time for the new ending - the new, improved, shortened ending I hasten to add.
Thanks for listening to my small but perfectly formed podcast. To find out more and do stuff to help me check out Rick McEvoy Photography.com/start. And also the Photography Explained Podcast.com/start which was meant to say first but I misread the script.
I'm going to say that again. No, I'm not editing it out I'm keeping it real.
Thanks for listening to my small but perfectly formed podcast. To find out more and do stuff to help me check out the photographyexplainedpodcast.com/start, to find out more about me check out rickmcevoyphotography.com/start.
Nice and snappy.
If only I had said that first time
This episode was brought to you by water. Yes, I've been drinking water.
I've been Rick McEvoy. Thanks again very much for listening to me and for giving me 13 minutes of your valuable time and I will see you on the next episode.
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