Your shopping cart

Camera Basics Tilt Shift Lenses explained
Reading time: 10 minutes - January 22, 2024 - by Markus Igel

Camera Basics #19: Tilt shift lenses and the effect explained

The tilt shift effect is certainly an old shoe for many photographers, but this effect is very interesting to consider because it can be found in many facets of photography, so the use of tilt shift lenses is not only at home in architectural photography. They can also be found in videography and product photography.

We look forward to your feedback on this article! Just send us an e-mail to content@fotokoch.nl

The history of tilt and shift lenses

At that time, view cameras / bellows cameras were still used in analog photography, where the bellows was moved, thus enabling the tilt/shift. Today it is still a very cost-efficient method to work with a bellows. At the time of bellows cameras, the lens was sometimes permanently attached to the camera.

Over time, the technology was built into lenses where the lens elements can be moved and various brands now produce these lenses mainly in the wide-angle range, as the optics are most commonly used in architectural photography.

Scheinpflug condition - Created by Joachim Baecker 2006-08-13 WikimediaScheinpflug condition - Created by Joachim Baecker 2006-08-13 Wikimedia

Scheimpflug's rule

Established by the cartographer Theodor Scheimpflug in 1907 under the title of the underlying work:"The production of maps and plans by photographic means". It states that"object plane, objective plane and film plane must meet at a common point of intersection (or rather) a common edge of intersection" in simpler terms, this theorem means that three things: "object plane", "objective plane" and "film plane"/focus plane must meet at a certain point or along a common line.

The theory of this rule was already known before Theodor Scheimpflug's discovery and was relevant to photogrammetry, which we still use today in a modernized form in certain areas.

The whole purpose was to be able to get by with as few aerial photographs as possible in order to create a map, these photos were taken with standard cameras, so the images are through the distance to infinity, which meant that the images had to be rectified.

Collecting lens - Created by: JanB1605 - WikimediaCollecting lens - Created by: JanB1605 - Wikimedia

How does Tilt Shift work? How is the effect created?

Tilt shift is the shifting of the position of the lens plane in relation to the image plane, which can then be used to avoid perspective distortions caused by the camera panning. Within the 10 degrees in which most lenses can be set, light can still be transported from the exit point of the last glass element on the lens over the entire image area of the sensor / film in order to expose the image.

Shift explained

This is the height adjustment of the lens and ensures the correct representation of the front surface of the lens, such as a skyscraper. The Shift functionality is most commonly used in architectural photography, because here we almost always find falling lines through buildings, due to physics, distortions (cushion-shaped, barrel-shaped) occur, which are compensated for by the different height of the axis.

Principle representation for the illustration with shift or tilt function, image by S.Wetzel - WikimediaPrinciple representation for the illustration with shift or tilt function, image by S.Wetzel - Wikimedia

Tilt explained

Tilt allows the focal plane to move and rotate so that you can, for example, move the focus diagonally through the image without having to bring an image into Dutch Angle.

If you take a picture from above at an angle, for example 45? from above, you can use the tilt function to move the focus so that it shifts to the object below. In our video below, we move the focus to the cutting board.

Tilting also creates the miniature effect, and there is also a bit of psychology at play here, because we associate this tilt shift focus gradient with macro photography, where the proximity to the object creates a very impressive and recognizable depth of field gradient.

Optional rotation of the tilt on the lens

If you have the option of rotating your tilt shift lens by 90? at the front, the tilt of the lens no longer shifts the focus horizontally, but starts to rotate vertically.

Using the miniature effect with tilt and shiftUsing the miniature effect with tilt and shift
Effect of the tilt on the lens on the sharpness gradientEffect of the tilt on the lens on the sharpness curve
Miniature effect of the Tilt Shift in practical useMiniature effect of the Tilt Shift in practical use

Tilt Shift in practice

At the Fototage in November 2023 we showed a practical application of the Tilt Shift function for product photography in the Fujifilm GFX system, the recording is available here:

Prominent use cases

An example that some people may not have been aware of can be seen in the 2010 film The Social Network. In the scenes about rowing, perspectives are captured several times where the focus and the miniature effect were played with.

Notable tilt-shift lenses

As a dealer, we have had a number of lenses from various manufacturers in our warehouse over the years, and we would like to present a few special lenses here.

Our Tilt Shift range

Lensbaby Composer Pro II incl. Sweet 50 - Tilt lens

Lensbaby is one of the manufacturers that build and offer quite experimental lenses. The lens in this case is the Composer Pro II and the Sweet 50, determines the focal length and the look of the bokeh, which makes it quite an interesting lens to play with.

LAOWA 15mm f/4 Macro 1:1 Shift

The LAOWA Shift lens not only offers a wide angle, but also a 1:1 macro magnification. Although it lacks the tilt function, it offers the best conditions for all macro photographers who would like to do without falling lines.

LAOWA 15mm f/4.5 Zero-D Shift

The advantage of this shift lens for architectural photography is that they are still particularly sharp and distortion-free at the edge thanks to a very low dispersion.

Fujifilm FUJINON GF 110mm f5.6 Tilt Shift Macro

This telephoto lens developed for the Fujifilm GFX system sets standards outside of classic architectural photography, as this lens is also suitable for macro photography and is perhaps also particularly interesting in food photography, when the demand for unusual shots is particularly high.

Advantages of Tilt Shift technology

One of the biggest advantages of this type of lens is that there is no need to crop by using the correction function in the image editing software. This works according to the keystone correction principle. In some cases, the use of tilt shift lenses results in fewer chromatic aberrations, as the angle of the incident light changes.

Alternative ways than a tilt shift lens

There are various ways to achieve the same effect as with a tilt shift lens without an expensive tilt shift lens.

Lens adapter

With this adapter, almost all lenses can be used as tilt shift lenses, but you usually lose the autofocus and have to rely on manual focus.

Shift adapter range

Post-production / post-processing

In post-production, you can use the correction function depending on the editing program, as mentioned above. In Lightroom, you draw in the corresponding lines and Lightroom then calculates the distortion from the image.

The miniature effect can also be imitated in this way, because you can draw the blur into the image with a linear gradient and thus achieve this effect. However, it does not look as realistic in some cases, as the lens blur would behave differently and softer, especially if there are reflective, luminous objects in the blur.

With Adobe Photoshop, you can imitate the effect using the tilt-shift filter and produce a quite respectable result.

Conclusion - Who is Tilt Shift suitable for?

Let's be honest, most photographers don't need a tilt shift lens, because the price is very high in most cases and if you don't use it regularly, then it's almost not worth buying, as the technology has become very good. In applications such as our presentation at the Fototage, it makes sense to use a tilt shift lens if the customer is looking for maximum quality. The history of tilt shift and how the technology works is exciting.

A small task for you:

Try the correction in your image editing, if you like the theme of the miniature, then it makes sense to try out a tilt shift lens.

Show us your pictures on Instagram and/or Facebook and tag us @fotokochde! We look forward to seeing your results!


Thank you for reading this article. If you're interested in other photography basics, then take a look at the other camera basics

Get to know your camera ? Discover the fun of photography

Have you bought a camera and are taking your first steps in photography? You're missing out on a lot of potential with automatic mode! Photography is only really fun when you understand your camera and know exactly which settings to use to get the photo you want. Get to know the importance of the functions and ignite your enthusiasm for photography

To all camera basics

More articles about getting started in photography

Camera Basics #18: Megapixel explained

Everyone needs 100 megapixels! Or do they? Many photographers or smartphone owners always have discussions about megapixels. That's why we explain today what consequences megapixels have!

Read now

Camera Basics #17: Colorgrading with LUTs - 3D Luts

Almost nothing is as controversial as the use of color, the choice of the right colors is a major factor in the mood and feel of an image. Purists swear by the colors that come directly from the camera, and others edit the colors in post-processing down to the smallest detail.

Read now

Bird's eye view, the world from above | Camera Basics #16

In photography, there are many things that influence the effect of an image on the viewer. The choice of perspective is one of the first things that can be determined on location; this goes hand in hand with the choice of focal length or other settings.

Read now

Camera Basics #15: What is bokeh anyway?

The magic of photography has always been characterized by its aesthetics of cropping and the play of light and shadow. The word bokeh comes from the Japanese and translated means as much as "blur" or also the "blurriness".

Read now

Difference between contrast, phase hybrid autofocus

Autofocus takes a lot of the work out of photography; of course, there are also purists who like to focus manually.

learn more

Camera Basics #13: CMOS, BSI sensor or stacked sensor? What are the differences?

As a specialist retailer, we have a mission: we want to give you the best possible advice and help you to better understand the differences between the various technologies available on the camera market. That's why we want to give you an understanding of the different sensor technologies today. In particular, the differences between the stacked sensor and the BSI sensor.

Read now

Camera Basics #12: Getting started with macro photography

Imaging small objects and details in a big way! That already describes macro photography very well! But what exactly could be a motif for this type of photography? Soap bubbles, insects, flowers, snowflakes and much more, that could include the shots as a motif.

learn more

Understanding flash and continuous light - Camera Basics #11

Photography has many facets. Working with artificial light is only one of them. In this article, we want to show you the differences between the various light sources and explain the properties of the devices.

learn more

Interesting campaigns

Workshops & Co.

Take your photography to the next level!

Book now

New bargains every day

Look forward to new top offers every day that are only valid for a short time!

Secure deals

Newsletter

Latest offers, exclusive benefits, news, events, info more

Subscribe now

Demo equipment exhibits

Check out our demo equipment showrooms and save!

Save now

Also interesting

Newsletter

Latest offers, exclusive benefits, news, events, info more

Subscribe now

Canon trade-in promotion

When you buy one of the participating EOS R cameras or RF lenses, you can get up to 300€ for your used product.

Secure now

Sony Trade-In Promotion

Save up to €500 on selected Sony cameras, sets and lenses!

Save now

Guide to moon photography

There are not only a few myths and stories from the past few years about our celestial satellite, but it is also more than ever the focus of astronomers, scientists and the like. In this article, we want to give you the best tips on equipment and settings for the perfect photo of the moon.

Read now