Luminous Landscape Forum

Equipment & Techniques => Cameras, Lenses and Shooting gear => Topic started by: OmerYair on July 28, 2009, 02:32:30 pm

Title: Equipment to learn tilt & shift with
Post by: OmerYair on July 28, 2009, 02:32:30 pm
Hi all,

Most of my photography knowledge is self-tought and I'm thinking my next field of exploration would be tilt & shift. Reading some articles I understand the technical aspects of it but I still lack hands-on experience. My budget is 2000-3000$.

As I see it, I got to the following options:

1. Buy a large format system.
2. Buy a medium format system capable of tilt & shift (Fuji GX680)
3. Buy a tilt & shift lens for 35mm (I already own and familiar with Nikon D700)

There are lots of cons a pros for each option and any opinion you have could help.

Also note that choosing either large and medium format I would also need to buy a darkroom equipment (I have some basic B&W processing experience) - it is a plus as it will give me another field to experiment with.

How limited would be a 35mm lens considering tilt & shift is possible either on the same axis or 90 degrees to each other? I have tried a Nikon 24mm PC-E in a local store though not enough to evaluate it (no place to rent it here   ).

How long does it take for one to learn to use a technical camera? Should I consider a private instructor on this (there are no publicly available courses on this subject)?

How does large format and medium format systems compare?

Can Polaroid film be a good substitute for digital's instant feedback on the early learning phase?

Are there any other options I missed?

Regarding photography fields, my current work consists mostly of concerts and motorsport but I plan on experimenting with landscape and architecture using the tilt and shift equipment (thought I can think of some good uses for tilt & shift in concerts).

Any opinion or insights on the subject are warmly welcomed!

Title: Equipment to learn tilt & shift with
Post by: Kirk Gittings on July 28, 2009, 02:43:08 pm
What do you intend to do with the images? Learning to use view camera movements has significantly steeper learning curve than a DSLR and T/S lenses. For example the additional resolution possible by scanning 4x5 film vs. DSLR may be useful to you for certain applications. There is a fair amount of info indirectly related to this subject in my blog.

Title: Equipment to learn tilt & shift with
Post by: Ben Rubinstein on July 28, 2009, 03:46:51 pm
Omer, ahalan from Jerusalem. To be honest I'd say that with the decent live view system of your D700 just get a t/s lens and play a bit. The whole developing balagan together with the scanning annoyance, especially with a cheap solution, it's going to drive you mad. There is nowhere in Israel that does reliable film developing period, especially 4X5 or medium format. Even with an Epson 4880, the cheap scanning solution, you need to wet scan and be able to set the focus height to get good results (I never could get a flat scan with the epson holders).

I have a Cambo SC Large format camera in the UK (somewhere) that you're welcome to borrow it for as long as you like but I won't be able to bring it back here until at least the chagim and you will still need lenses, lens boards, a loupe, cable releases, a dark cloth, film holders, a film changing bag, a very sturdy tripod and head, etc. That's before you start learning to develop film (forget trying to learn to hand develop E-6 or C-41 from scratch out here) and learning scanning.

Kirk who really knows this stuff is right that learning movements is easier with a DSLR, I think in general, starting from scratch, you could be learning how to do movements with your DSLR tomorrow if you bought the lens and already learning from the results you are producing rather than all the time learning a new medium and camera system just to get to the learning movements stage.

If you're interested in playing without having to heavily invest can I recommend you to this website ( (you'll need to use Google translation). These are adaptors for incredibly cheap Mamiya or more expensive Hasselblad medium format lenses to put on your nikon camera and providing shift and tilt. Far cheaper than using the Nikon t/s lenses if you're just interested in experimenting.  I have a the non tilt version of the mirex but I'm a canon user so I'm afraid I can't help you there.

There is another solution which will get me flamed from the traditionalists, using a good stitching program such as Autopano Pro you can shoot multiple frames and then correct the perspective in the program having enough resolution due to the stitching to not lose out by the perspective adjustments. Although you won't get tilt, you can, if you're careful, refocus between frames to ensure that the frames nearest to you are as in focus as the frames further away. I've shown these two photos plenty times here, both shot in the Rova (Old City of Jerusalem). Neither were possible with large format and believe me I tried. To get enough DOF with a lens long enough to maintain the 'look' I was going for was almost impossible, tilt/swing just wouldn't have worked at all here. These shots were taken and stitched with a 100mm lens and are sharp back to front with corrected perspective for a finished file with approx 35 megapixels of final resolution from a camera with the same resolution as yours. Neither took more than a minute to shoot or more than 20 minutes or so to process through the stitching program. Just a thought...

Title: Equipment to learn tilt & shift with
Post by: Gary Ferguson on July 28, 2009, 03:48:24 pm
Omer, I currently use T&S on 35mm, medium format, and large format. I'd make two points,

1. T&S covers two very different areas. Tilt for managing focus distribution, and shift for managing graphic components such as converging verticals or awkward reflections within the image. some photographers may be much more interested in one rather than another, for example an architectural photographer may be primarily interested in shifts, while a landscape photpgrapher may be primarily interested in tilts. Are you interested in one more than the other?

2. Put simplistically, you can manage shifts easily, even in a small 35mm viewfinder. Using tilts however becomes progressively more difficult as the format gets smaller. With 4x5 you can handle tilts by pushing and pulling the components, with smaller formats you really need geared movements and also magnification of the viewfinder image. Consequently polaroid won't really show you much in medium format and below, and on 4x5 you don't need polariods as you can see the results much more clearly on the ground glass screen.
Title: Equipment to learn tilt & shift with
Post by: JeffKohn on July 28, 2009, 04:48:28 pm
I don't think there's much doubt that a view camera is the 'real deal', as the flexibility and extent of movements possible far exceeds what you can do with a T/S lens. But a T/S lens for the camera you already have would probably be a good place to start; no need to dive directly into the deep end of the pool...

Even if you're not going to be shooting large-format anytime soon, "The Camera" by Ansel Adams is a worthwhile read to get an understanding of the different movements possible with a view camera.

Title: Equipment to learn tilt & shift with
Post by: OmerYair on July 29, 2009, 04:57:16 pm
Thanks for all the insights!

As it seems now, I'd probably go with the 35mm option. Do you have any suggestions for a focal length? I assume 24mm would be preferable for shift as movements would have more profound impact ?and I also assume tilt is the same regardless of focal length? (Kirk also states he uses 24mm 90% of his time).

Kirk, reading your blog I gather you made the switch to digital (FF) and pretty pleased with the results for your commercial work though it is easy for me to identify with your words "To me, as an object of sheer beauty, there is nothing like a glowing 4x5 transparency on a light table.". I still miss the smell and the magic of a darkroom... It might be my next journey after this one

Ben, I truly appreciate your offer, but it would be easier for me to find a complete second hand LF system. It is an interesting technique that you are using. There was a recent article about a software ( that does the stitching here on LL. I will give it a try.

Gary, do you think that live preview with the D700 could be enough for evaluating tilts? You make a good point in dividing tilt and shift to two different areas - I'll take each area at a time.

Jeff, I've added the book to my Amazon's wish list. I might just add the entire series...

Again, thanks for all the help!
Title: Equipment to learn tilt & shift with
Post by: Kirk Gittings on July 29, 2009, 05:23:04 pm
Omer. IMO there is nothing like a 4x5 transparency, BUT the workflow for that is tedious to deliver files for clients and overkill in terms of quality. For my personal work I still do allot of 4x5, but increasingly stitched DSLR images.
Title: Equipment to learn tilt & shift with
Post by: AJSJones on July 30, 2009, 12:44:20 am
Omer, You could look at it a little differently:  You could well be able to find an old view camera with a reasonable lens for very little money these days.  The goal would be to use that (with a loupe to check focus and tweak tilt etc) to get just as far as the ground glass image.  There you would learn about the movements, assess how tricky some things are compared to others, and increase your knowledge.  The ground glass image has many of the properties Kirk mentions.  Then you could sell the clunker on for little loss, and then be comfortable knowing you'll be able to learn the 35mm lens versions quite easily. No darkroom work, no scanning etc but education as you desired.

Title: Equipment to learn tilt & shift with
Post by: Guillermo Luijk on July 30, 2009, 04:39:31 pm
Quote from: pom

Love this picture pom, so as this uncommon but very attractive format for certain shots.

Title: Equipment to learn tilt & shift with
Post by: elf on July 30, 2009, 05:55:53 pm
Hartblei makes super rotator lens that can tilt/shift in 360 degrees, but maximum tilt is 8 degrees and maximum shift is 10mm (IIRC).

Focal length depends on what you want to do. Macros, portraits, landscapes, architectural can all be done effectively with T/S lens. Longer focal lengths work better for macros, medium for protraits, and wider for landscapes and architectural.

Another option for T/S is to replace the film holder on a view camera with a DSLR adaptor.  

DSLR tilts will be more limited than view camera tilts because of the mirror box, but this is generally not an issue unless you're also using shifts at the same time.