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Author Topic: Til Shift Lenses  (Read 6043 times)

wofsy

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Til Shift Lenses
« on: January 24, 2012, 03:51:47 pm »


I have read than tilt shift lenses are de rigeur for the the landscape photographer. What is your opinion? How and in what situations do they help? What is your experience with them?

I have  Canon camera and Canon makes 24,40, and 90 mm tilt shifts.
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ChristianRandwijk

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2012, 04:02:42 pm »

Hi, I might not be the right person to respond, since I have no experience, so far, with tilt shift lenses. I am a Canon user (5D2) and I have the 24mm TS-E II on order; I do landscapes and architecture. I ordered mine since I wasn't satisfied with the technical IQ of my landscape pictures, especially concerning depth of field. I feel the 5D2 allows stopping down to around f/8-f/11 without suffering very much from diffraction. While this allows generous depth of field with a 24mm lens, there is no substitute for something actually being in the plane of focus, as opposed to being within DOF. That is the reason for my purchase. Tilting is excellent for sweeping landscapes, and product/macro photography, not so much for architecture. But then, shifting, I would say, is de rigeur for serious architecture photography.
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mcbroomf

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2012, 06:06:56 pm »

What is your opinion?
YES, very useful!  BUT not REQUIRED!

How and in what situations do they help?
They improve apparent DOF by tilting the plane of focus.  Very useful in a photo that has near - far objects that you want to render clearly and little or nothing that needs a vertical plane of focus close to the lens.
They can be used to reduce to reduce keystoning from having to point the lens upwards (by using shift).  This is commonly used for architectural but also useful in landscape, example when taking photos of trees.

What is your experience with them?
I use 17-90mm TS lenses (Canon also make a 17 TSE), and before Canon I used large fomat cameras which allows tilt and shift with any lens if it had a wide enough image circle.
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Tony Jay

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2012, 07:23:52 pm »

Using tilt-shift lenses requires an evaluation of your goals.
While very good IQ is possible using these types of lenses it is important to realize that there is no free lunch here.
There is a fairly steep learning curve required to use the lenses effectively.
By the way there are several useful tutorials on the net explaining both the principles and practice of tilt-shift lenses.

The concept of shifting is relatively easy to grasp.
Understanding how tilting works is a little more difficult.

Using the 17mm and 24mm TS lenses that Canon makes is relatively easy since these lenses have an extended depth of field by virtue of their focal lengths even used wide open. By the way my experience with these lenses makes me think that optically they are amongst the best in Canon's stable.
The longer the focal length the more difficult it is to use the tilt function again since the effective depth of field is much more limited.
In landscape photography the ability to change the plane of focus from vertical to whatever the plane of the terrain that is to be photographed does allow the potential for an amazingly sharp image.
However, several issues need to be borne in mind:
Once the plane of focus is changed to roughly horizontal the depth of field assumes a cone shape being narrowest near the lens and becoming progressively wider as the distance from the lens increases. So, elements in the image that are close to the lens may project out of the depth of field to become blurred. Because the depth of field is narrower in lenses of increased focal length the risk of this phenomenon is greater with the 45mm and 90 mm TS varients.
Deciding what is in focus can be very difficult. At a minimum one requires a camera with live view that allows magnification, preferably to 10X. Depth of field preview is also crucial in my opinion. Even better is to tether  the camera to a laptop to utilize the much larger screen however hiking several kilometres over rough terrain to make a photograph burdened with all the equipment to do this may be impractical.
Tilt-shift lenses are not for the snap-happy types. They are a bit fiddly and take time to set up properly if good results are to achieved. This can be used to advantage since composition can be fine-tuned.
Getting good results takes a lot of experimentation and practice once the principles have been learnt.

In summary, if one is relentless in the pursuit of IQ to complement ones creative vision then TS lenses can definately be of benefit in landscape photography.

My $0.02

Regards

Tony Jay
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bill t.

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2012, 08:11:19 pm »

Tony pretty much hit it.  I use a 45mm Canon TS occasionally and like it very much.  It's wildly sharp and doesn't suffer from serious diffraction until after f11 which is excellent for such focal lengths.  But as Tony said issues such as a nearby bush pushing up past the thin, wedge-shaped nearby DOF can be an issue.  Sometimes the need for a tilt can influence the composition by forcing you to select a location where nearby objects are pretty much all in the same plane.  But in practice if the nearest objects are more than about 10 feet away that won't be a problem very often.

I more frequently use programs like Helicon Focus with sets of images bracketed at perhaps 4 or 5 different focus planes.  Works in almost every case, but with all such programs you will get subtle halos around certain objects and most of the scene will wind up being slightly resized which causes a minor quality hit.

My main reason for using the TS lens is in cases where I am doing very long HDR exposure sets in low light.  So I only have to shoot say 5 exposures for the hdr, versus say 20 long exposures to shoot an HDR exposure set at each of 4 focus planes.  Makes a hekuva difference both in the field and in PP.

FWIW I have noticed that when shooting with very high quality lenses around 50mm at f8 that the 5D2 sensor is good enough to detect very noticeable differences in the sharpness of focus for objects as far as 50 to 100 feet, when the focus is exactly on them versus just a tich further at infinity.  Was rather surprised to discover that.  If you want to really get all there is to be had out of big sensors and high quality lenses, you need to invoke technical methods such as TS lenses, focus bracketing, etc.
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Ellis Vener

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2012, 08:25:30 pm »

'I have read than tilt shift lenses are de rigeur for the the landscape photographer."

That depends on the kind of landscapes you shoot and how large you print or display them. I'd say that a really solid panoramic rig that let's you shoot multiple row panoramics (my favorite after much testing: The Really Right Stuff PG-02 Pro Omni-Pivot Package ($895.00)) and good stitching software (PTGui or PTGui Pro or AutoPan Pro or even Photomerge in Photoshop CS5) and a good 35mm, 50mm, 85-100mm, or possibly longer lens are more useful and versatile ways to spend money than a tilt/shift lens if you are doing work which will be printed large. On the other hand if you do a lot of extreme near/ far compositions a tilt/shift lens makes a lot of sense.

If you are looking at tilt/shift lenses exclusively also look at Hartblei as well as Canon.
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bill t.

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2012, 08:50:48 pm »

If you are looking at tilt/shift lenses exclusively also look at Hartblei as well as Canon.

Thanks for that, a 65mm Canon compatible tilt-lens what I've been longing for!  Canon's 45 -> 90  jump is pretty extreme.

Anybody every use one of those Hartblei lenses or deal with the company?  Sounds like they're over yonder in Russia or such.  Any US distributors?
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ChristianRandwijk

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2012, 04:46:18 am »

How about using a 1.4 extender with the 45mm T/S, that would put you at 63mm focal length. I'm told the extenders work fairly well with the T/S lenses. I'm thinking of getting one down the road, for use on my soon to arrive 24mm TS-E II, yielding me a very usable extra focal length of 33mm.
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francois

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2012, 05:33:44 am »

I would suggest, if possible, to rent a T/S lens and try it for at least weekend or more before spending money on such a lens. The Canon EF TS-E lenses are not inexpensive!
As noted above, the learning curve can be indeed steep and patience is required to get the best results.
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Francois

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2012, 06:11:36 am »

I have the Canon 24mm TS II and the 90mm TS, and owning them has me coveting the 17mm and 45mm versions as well.  Both lenses are very sharp, and work well with the Canon 1.4 TC.  The advantage of the tilt feature is obvious for landscape work, but I also find the shift feature to be very useful, and I use it frequently for flat stitching.  In addition, TS lenses are capable of producing creative images similar to those made with a Lens Baby, but with more precise control. 

That said, using these lenses is a bit tedious, requiring patience on the part of the photographer. 
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Mary Konchar

Ellis Vener

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2012, 07:32:07 am »

That said, using these lenses is a bit tedious, requiring patience on the part of the photographer. 

Which is hardly a bad thing.
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bill t.

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2012, 12:29:23 pm »

To focus a TS lens through the viewfinder your should really have a matte focusing screen.  The 5D2 viewfinder is just barely up to the task, I think cameras with smaller viewfinder magnifications just wouldn't be adequate. As already mentioned best option is to focus in Live View zoomed in on the LCD, or with a sizable tethered screen of some kind.  Old geezers focusing with the zoomed live view will remember their magnifying loupes pressed up against a view camera's ground glass, it's that kind of paradigm.
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JohnBrew

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2012, 05:18:36 pm »

Bill, Hartblei is based in Germany. Stefen Steib, the owner, posts here regularly. He has a new mount for the Canon ts lenses which allows the camera body to be moved instead of the lens. If you go to their site you can see this. I'm fascinated by the Hartblei ts lenses with their Zeiss glass, but mama mia are they pricey. Lloyd Chambers tested them on his (pay) site.
I've been testing the PC-E lenses for my D700 and also tested the god-awful huge Schneider 90. Excellent optics all. I purchased a 45 PC-E but am going to have to return it as it has color shading problems. After all is said and done I'm on the side of Ellis in this, you don't have to have one of these to do landscapes.

bill t.

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2012, 06:02:37 pm »

Yes not all types of landscapes will benefit from tilt-shift and some may actually suffer.  Obvious counter-indications...shooting through some sort of portal, nearby leaves at the top of the image, people standing nearby in a field.  Or just a scene where nothing is closer than about 80 feet.

But sometimes I like to exploit the texture of nearby grasses and ground textures in contrast with distant horizons, all in sharp focus.  In that type of situation TS is a life-saver.  For instance, On a 6 panel panorama it reduces the number of shots needed to 30 exposures (5 HDR exposures sets at each of six panel positions) from about 120 (5 HDR sets, for each 4 focus planes, at each of six panels).  I may need as much as 15 minutes to really line up the lens to work ok at all the panels, but when it all comes together I just feel so alive!   :)

For a standard of focus that is close to what large sensors and good lenses can actually deliver, depth of field simply can not contain 3 feet to infinity at any diffraction-free aperture.  Those DOF marks on the lens are based on a very low standard of focus appropriate only for small prints.

My goal is prints 20 to 43 inches high in the vertical, so focus matters more than say for publication or web use, for which even a non-tilting, pathetic, auto-focused zoom lens could be used with a single exposure.   :)

John, thanks for the info on Hartblei!
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Tony Jay

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2012, 08:05:43 pm »

Have to agree with Bill on this issue.

TS lenses cannot be the silver bullet for any and every situation.
Focus stacking is often the only way of breaking the envelope created by the depth of field vs diffraction conundrum.
However it does introduce its own set of issues.
If one does not achieve appropriate overlap of focus with consecutive shots then the software cannot compensate for that and the result is wierd variations in apparent sharpness through the image. There are commercial solutions available to calculate and control the focus shifts required to optimize the stacking process. One such is marketed by Helicon Focus but requires tethering to a computer. Others use a programmable remote release.
Movement within the composition is another limitation for focus stacking. This is especially an issue for those doing landscapes.

So, whatever ones creative vision, limiting the number of shots required is always the way to go to maximumize IQ.
I do multishot HDR panoramas so if I can avoid having to focus stack as well all the better.
TS lenses therefore do become a useful addition to the armamentarium.

My $0.02 worth.

Regards

Tony Jay
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Mary K

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2012, 12:50:50 pm »

That said, using these lenses is a bit tedious, requiring patience on the part of the photographer. 

Which is hardly a bad thing.

I agree.
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Mary Konchar

CptZar

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2012, 10:41:53 pm »

The main advantage of TS lenses in landscape photography is not the tilt movement. It is the shift which give you perspective control. Converging / diverging trees, buildings etc. can thus be avoided. You can do that with PS, but you will not be able to compose the picture on location, and you will have to crop the image.

Problem with TS lenses is, that focusing  is really hard, unless you have live view. I am so fortunate to use a Sony Nex 7 since 2 weeks with my TS lenses. Coming from a Sony 850, I have to say that the EV finder is the single best invention in photography since the electronic sensor. I think I didn't make one picture since then, which is not perfectly sharp. By the way, I used the NEX 7 almost exclusively during that  time, not because it's a nice gadget, it just makes live much easier than the 850.

TS lenses on a DSL give you the perspective control and DOF which you otherwise would only get on a LF camera.

bill t.

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Re: Til Shift Lenses
« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2012, 11:42:44 pm »

With tiltable lenses the first step should always be to get an initial ballpark approximation of the amount of tilt you will need, rather than going right to a zoomed in live view.  You start with an overall approximation, then you finesse it.

The optical viewfinder is nice for approximations, looking at the whole field of view for a general balance from near to far without worrying too much about exact focus.  That should take about 15 seconds.  And for a generic shot with a flat ground plane leading off to a distant horizon, you will soon realize that maybe 1.5 marks or whatever tilted down is a good starting point.

Then switch to a zoomed-in live view and tweak it out, occasionally checking the stopped down view, and maybe zooming the viewfinder in on test shots.  You should be able to do that in a minute or two, for most shots.

But if you jump right in with a zoomed live view it will take much longer, and good shots wait for nobody.
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