Choosing the Right Camera Lens

Lesson 25/35 - The Tilt & Shift Lens


Choosing the Right Camera Lens


Lesson Info

The Tilt & Shift Lens

All right a next lens here is the tilt shift lens, and we're gonna try to keep this fairly short and simple partly because at some point I'm gonna make a whole class on tilt shift lenses. Doesn't exist yet, but someday I'm gonna have one on this. The tilt shift lenses are what I consider to be super lenses. These are lenses that have extraordinary capabilities. We call them tilt shift because they tilt to change the plane of the focus to either maximize or minimize the depth of field. They can also shift up and down and from side to side, and they're gonna do this to control the perspective and also to be able to create perfect panoramas. Now the shifting portion of it as I mentioned, we can shift up, we can shift down, and we can shift left and right. And what this is gonna do is it's gonna control the way lines look in our photograph and will be very helpful for architectural photography. We can go from side to side, and the best of these lenses allow you to rotate and turn them and ...

fix whatever type of line problem you might have. So here's the problem, is that when you point a lens at a building the building is probably taller than you are, especially if it's a multi story building. And it appears to be falling backwards, it's angling inwards, and if you use a tilt shift lens you can correct for that. And so if you are doing real estate photography, you're doing architecture and you're trying to show the way a building actually looks. It doesn't have these lines falling back, these are straight lines. And these are special lenses. They are on the expensive side because they are essentially medium format lenses, lenses designed with very large image circles. A normal lens will have a standard size image circle that's just big enough for the sensor on your camera. A tile shift lens is gonna have a much larger image circle that is very similar to a medium format camera. And in this case you'll be able to tilt or shift up and down and still have your image on the frame. So let's go ahead and give this a try. So once again we have a building with lines tilting inwards, very significantly, you can see these lines tilting inwards, that's not the way the building actually looks. When you work with a tilt shift lens in general what you want to do is you want to point the lens straight forward. Usually you're using a tripod for this, and then you will shift the lens upward, and that way you can retain the straight lines of the building. It's pretty quick and it's pretty simple to work with, and so here is how I shot it with a video. And so you can see I'm gonna point the camera straight forward so that I have straight lines on the building, and then I'm gonna go over to the lens and I'm gonna start moving the little knob and raising the lens upwards so that I can see the top of the building and I have straight lines all around the building. Now a lot of buildings are quite tall so you'll need to use this in the vertical format. If you just point up at the building it's gonna get narrower at the top. So let's go ahead and show what we're doing again. We point it straight forward. We got to the lens and we straight things up by shifting the lens upward. And so now we have a corrected straight on look at the front of the building. Now those of you who are quite savvy, especially with Photoshop and lightroom and other programs that have other transforming, distorting options, you'll say, "But we could take the original image" "and we could transform it." And you would be exactly correct. Yes, you can. The problem is that the resulting area is much smaller than the original sensor area of your sensor and you're gonna need to crop away a lot of pixels. If you have a 24 megapixel camera you're probably gonna end up with around 16 to 12 megapixels after you've transformed and tweaked your image, so this is something that you don't have to have a lens for, you can do it in Photoshop, but seeing it and getting it done right in the camera is very satisfying when out in the field and will allow you to get the best quality results. Now the shifting feature will allow you to do something else that's very easy to do these days with digital photography. By shifting the lens to the left we can shoot a photograph. Moving back to the middle, grab another photograph. And then we're gonna shift it all the way over to the right. We are having our lens in essentially the exact same position capturing three different views of this which will enable us to stitch together a very seamless, perfect panorama image. And so if you like shooting panoramas and you've found that shooting a normal stitch series by rotating the camera and the sensor around yields to imperfect results, then the tilt shift lens is something that's definitely gonna work for you. And so here we are in Times Square, I'm shooting photo number one, photo number two and photo number three, and I am breaking my rule here, I'm handholding the camera, and then I'm stitching them all together and so we can have a nice wide angle view which is really three individual photographs but everything is lined up perfectly because I shot it with a tilt shift lens where the sensor was not twisting and turning between the shots. And I have been a big fan of the movies and cinema and I like that widescreen effect that you get in some areas. And so if you like that widescreen effect and you would like a wider image from left to right, the tilt shift image allows you to put those together very, very easily. You can also use this in many other manners, and so looking forward I wanted to show the front building of this church but I also wanted to show the top but I couldn't get it all in with one frame, and so I took the two horizontal images and I came back with one square image. Now square images are a little bit different but those of you who are familiar with Hasselblad cameras and Rolleiflex cameras, there is a whole thing that's beautiful to the square, and so you can make incredibly high resolution square images as well with this feature. Now the second part of a tilt shift lens here we'll talk about is the tilt section, and this is where we get to change the plane of focus which deals which the Scheimpflug Principle here. And so let's go ahead and take our old fashioned view cameras lens which is where tilt and shift really came from and where it's done with it's most unlimited capabilities, and now in the digital era where we have lenses that we can add to our cameras can still do it, not quite extensively as you can on a large format. But you can still do it very well. All right, so we're gonna focus on something, right? So when you focus on something like a flower in the foreground, you're not gonna be able to get the background in focus, and if you focus on the background you won't be able to get the foreground. You could do hyper focal focusing which we talked about in an earlier section, but let's just say even in the best spot possible you're not able to get the foreground in focus and the background in focus. What you can do with a tilt lens is you can tilt the lens to change your depth of field. Now it's not changing how much depth of field you have, it's changing where that depth of field is. So as you tilt the lens plane you would think that the plane of focus would tilt an equal amount, but that's not what happens. What it does is it tilts around an axis called the Scheimpflug Intersection which allows you to bend that focus forward so that you can get the depth of field exactly where you need it. And so at F/8 you're gonna be able to keep subjects really close to you and really far from you in focus, and so that is exactly what I used for this shot of Mount Rainier. I was able to keep the flowers in the foreground relatively sharp. There was a little bit of a slow shutter speed and some wind blurring there, but the rocks in the foreground are in focus as well as the mountain in the background, and what I did with the camera is I tilted the lens down. And this gets to be very, very helpful especially for landscape photographers when you want subjects in the foreground in focus as well as in the background, and you don't want to stop down to F/16 or F/ where you're gonna have defraction problems. And so you can see this same technique used over and over again. So let me show you a quick video of me doing this. Now you'll see in the foreground there is a petrified log that's a little out of focus, and in the background are some unusual rocks which are also a little out of focus. So let's go ahead and tilt the lens and watch how both just magically come into sharp focus. And so now I can take a still photograph with subjects extremely close and very far away all in focus. One of my favorite shots with the tilt shift lens is up at Mount Rainier national park. We have the flowers, we the have rock in the foreground in focus. We're shooting at a 24 millimeter lens at F/8, but even the mountain is tack sharp in this photograph. And you just can't get this with a normal lens without doing something like focus stacking, and so you can get it in one shot, you can see it in the camera. So these super lenses are by Canon and Nikon for the most part. And so Canon has recently released a new fifth version, a 135 which might be very nice for product photography, but they have everything from a to a moderate telephoto lens, and these are really, really highly capable lenses, and if you do have one of these or you're thinking about one of these another good rental choice, something to play around with for a little while. Nikon also has really good collection of lenses they recently introduced a 19, they have up to an 85, their 45 and 85 are nice lenses because they do half life size macro, so they're very good for tabletop photography and even macro photography because it allows you to adjust where that plane of focus is. So if you're photographing say a box of cereal and it's at you at a little bit of an angle, you can just tilt that lens a little bit to the side and get that focus perfectly across the front, so it's in perfect focus. And so extremely capable lenses, but I do have to mention they are challenging to work with. There is a lot to know about how they work and there is much more than I have time for in this class which is why I'm hoping at some point I'll have a whole dedicated class on that. Now this is something that's just not really offered by the mirror less manufacturers at this time, there are adapters for instance. You can use on the Sony to use the Nikon or Canon lenses on there, but I am sure given time we will see some new options in here in the future.

Class Description

Once you’ve chosen the camera of your dreams, how do you know which lens will maximize your camera’s capabilities? Join camera expert John Greengo as he explains what the best lenses are to add to your camera bag. He’ll explain:

  • Which lens is best for specific areas of photography
  • The technology behind lenses
  • How to use specialty lenses including macro and fisheye
  • Tips on operating and maintaining your lenses

John will also talk about lens accessories including hoods, mounts, filters, and teleconverters. By the end of this class, you’ll understand exactly what lens you’ll need to take your best photos!


Boris Dimitrov

Excellent class packed with incredibly useful knowledge. John is an amazing lecturer. He has also developed really great materials to help explain all the concepts and technologies that are explored in the class. Looking forward to my next class with him!

a Creativelive Student

Great class. So informative. John Greengo is such a fantastic tutor and explains everything in such and easy-to-understand way. I would highly recommend this class. Prior to doing this class, I was so confused about which lenses are best for various photography. Now I understand lenses completely. Thanks John!

Lettie Turner

Another great JG class, my 4th. He gives a lot of individual attention to several popular lens brands. I really think after seeing this video series you could pick out three lenses that would fit your needs and your pocketbook. The class handout is spot on for what is covered in the video. Great job!! Thank you