Tilt + shift

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Is anyone regularly using tilt and shift lenses for their landscape photography? Having just borrowed one for a week I understand how they work and their usefulness for architecture photography but with the improvements in software like focus stacking etc are they still relevant today. Do you have one the in the bag rather than the traditional wide angle zoom?

thanks in advance.
 
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Raymond
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The shift function is more useful for Architecture. The Tilt function is what is often used to make miniature photos. Both of these can be sort of done in Photoshop. The former I find easier with just perspective correction. The tilt function, if you use it right, align the focus pane in a way that it “cuts” through a series of elements in the shot, it will be really trippy and almost impossible to fake it in Photoshop because you will need to manually select what to blur out and things will be moving in and out of focus that can do all directions which will look even more a mess. Imagine you shoot a photo down a tunnel, there is a railing, you can get the focal pane follow that railing, all the way to the end with an object at the far side. All that is in focus but everything to the left and right of it being out of focus. It also applies for objects behind it. It’s very trippy and hard to explain.
 
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The shift function is more useful for Architecture. The Tilt function is what is often used to make miniature photos. Both of these can be sort of done in Photoshop. The former I find easier with just perspective correction. The tilt function, if you use it right, align the focus pane in a way that it “cuts” through a series of elements in the shot, it will be really trippy and almost impossible to fake it in Photoshop because you will need to manually select what to blur out and things will be moving in and out of focus that can do all directions which will look even more a mess. Imagine you shoot a photo down a tunnel, there is a railing, you can get the focal pane follow that railing, all the way to the end with an object at the far side. All that is in focus but everything to the left and right of it being out of focus. It also applies for objects behind it. It’s very trippy and hard to explain.
thanks - I do understand the theory but that's a good explanation thank you. I'm just trying to get my head round if they are that useful. The shift I could see me using for pano's just struggling to see the usefulness of the depth of field control in real world situations.
 
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I'm a professional architectural photographer and most of my external work is shot on either 24mm, 35mm shift lenses or my 14-24mm. The main reason I use the shift lenses is to correct verticals which you are aware of. The second reason is to get much higher resolution images for very large prints, like trade stand backgrounds. Here's and image made up of for shifts to top left, top right etc. all stitched together to give 2-3 times the number of pixels than I could have produced with a wide lens even if I could have got it all in from the only view point available.

Unless you are printing huge images for exhibition I don't think there is any benefit of a shift lens over a good wide angle. As to the DoF if you shot a 14mm lens on a full frame body and focus at the hyperfocal distance and set it a t f/11 everything from 300mm to infinity will be in focus anyway.

 

mij

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Creative photography by tilting the focal plane to allow for selective focus is a valid real work situation!

But a more practical application is shooting landscapes as tilting the plane will increase the depth of field. Say you have two points in a scene the you want to have in focus, one closer and one farther away. If you focus on just one of those points the other will be projected either behind or in front of the focal plane. What a tilt lens allows you to do is adjust the angle of the plane, so that both of those points can be projected onto the sensor of film.

Even if you could get both points within a range of acceptable focus with a regular lens, you may want more sharpness or more depth of field in the scene. And to get the depth of field large enough you may need to use smaller apertures, where adjusting the plane with a tilt lens means you can use wider apertures to allow faster shutter speeds and avoid diffraction.
 
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I'm a professional architectural photographer and most of my external work is shot on either 24mm, 35mm shift lenses or my 14-24mm. The main reason I use the shift lenses is to correct verticals which you are aware of. The second reason is to get much higher resolution images for very large prints, like trade stand backgrounds. Here's and image made up of for shifts to top left, top right etc. all stitched together to give 2-3 times the number of pixels than I could have produced with a wide lens even if I could have got it all in from the only view point available.

Unless you are printing huge images for exhibition I don't think there is any benefit of a shift lens over a good wide angle. As to the DoF if you shot a 14mm lens on a full frame body and focus at the hyperfocal distance and set it a t f/11 everything from 300mm to infinity will be in focus anyway.

Thanks Andrew - some great advice there. Apprecate you taking the time to reply.
 
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Creative photography by tilting the focal plane to allow for selective focus is a valid real work situation!

But a more practical application is shooting landscapes as tilting the plane will increase the depth of field. Say you have two points in a scene the you want to have in focus, one closer and one farther away. If you focus on just one of those points the other will be projected either behind or in front of the focal plane. What a tilt lens allows you to do is adjust the angle of the plane, so that both of those points can be projected onto the sensor of film.

Even if you could get both points within a range of acceptable focus with a regular lens, you may want more sharpness or more depth of field in the scene. And to get the depth of field large enough you may need to use smaller apertures, where adjusting the plane with a tilt lens means you can use wider apertures to allow faster shutter speeds and avoid diffraction.
If I am using my 5x4 film camera this type of focal plane adjustment is useful because DoF is very limited and pulling it back with very small apertures cause a reduction in quality due to diffraction. If you are using a regular DSLR body there is no practical need for this, if you want things that are less than 300mm from the lens to be in focus then focus stacking is probably a better bet. The only time I would use the tilt function on a DSLR is if I was photographing a product in the studio and wanted extra DoF. In most cases though if focus stacking is available/possible this is likely to produce a better result.
 
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As Andrew said tilt can be very useful for changing the DOF, it's less useful now focus stacking is available but where the subject is moving yet predictable tilting can still be the way to go for macro on smaller formats. Apart from that it's really just a toy for digital.
Shift does produce better files for panoramic stitching than simply rotating the camera at the nodal point, but is only relevant if your tilt lens is wide enough.
 
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I find tilt/swing to be a PITA w/ smaller format bodies (e.g. 35mm); it's very difficult to accurately place the DOF where you want it. I've used it for product shots, but that's about it.
 
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The prime function of tilt shift lenses was too mimic the rise and fall, and swing tilt of large format. cameras, however to be really useful you really need back movements as well.
They were potentially useful for avoiding converging verticals and moving the plane of focus.

While you can not move the plane of focus with software you can extend it with focus stacking.
The simplest way to avoid converging verticals is to take a second shot above the first and stitch the resultant two images. This works in even busy townscapes as the upper part of the image rarely contains moving elements.

Though still sold, tilt shift lenses have lost much of their appeal in the digital age. Mainly because they are difficult and slow to use, compared to digital solutions, and only rarely produce visibly better results.
They are also very expensive, and cover only a single focal length, where as the alternative solutions are virtually cost free and can be used with any lens
 
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Lets get one thing straight, tilt shift lenses have absolutely no influence on Depth of Field, tilt will alter the angle of the plane of focus either horizontally or vertically so that if everything in your image is within acceptable DoF for the tilted plane the amount in focus appears greater.
 
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Novelty attempts







See how the focal plane is cutting along the top of the book stacks?



This goes along the depth of the bridge i am standing on. So both of these I tilted up or down.



This is what I mean about following the railing with an object at the end. See how to the right of the railing it is all out of focus? Both that is behind as much as the distance destination a the end.



Or you can use it like this with inside and outside to direct the attention to either side.



Amateur attempt of shift

 
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mij

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Lets get one thing straight, tilt shift lenses have absolutely no influence on Depth of Field, tilt will alter the angle of the plane of focus either horizontally or vertically so that if everything in your image is within acceptable DoF for the tilted plane the amount in focus appears greater.
I am not sure what you are saying? Only one point is ever in focus, everything else falls within a range of acceptable focus. So depth of field is literally how something appears, it is not a physical property.

Depth of field depends on the size and viewing distance of an image. Something that may look out of focus when pixel peeked at 100% may look sharp when reduced to fill monitor screen, or when blown up to fill a billboard observed from a hundred feet away.
 
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Depth of field, the DEPTH part doesn't change. What you are changing is the angle of the X & Y-Axis. The Z-Axis, which is the depth remains the same, it's just at at different angle to the sensor.

Aperture controls the depth, the tilt just changes the angle.
 
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I am not sure what you are saying? Only one point is ever in focus, everything else falls within a range of acceptable focus. So depth of field is literally how something appears, it is not a physical property.

Depth of field depends on the size and viewing distance of an image. Something that may look out of focus when pixel peeked at 100% may look sharp when reduced to fill monitor screen, or when blown up to fill a billboard observed from a hundred feet away.
Yes there is only ever one point of focus everything else is within acceptable focus depending upon the acceptable Circle of Confusion. Depth of field is a function of aperture, distance and the CoC and is a property that can be calculated, DoF does not really depend of the size and viewing distance of the image.
What I was saying was that tilt does not increase the DoF it simply tilts the plane of focus through the scene.
 
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Yes there is only ever one point of focus everything else is within acceptable focus depending upon the acceptable Circle of Confusion. Depth of field is a function of aperture, distance and the CoC and is a property that can be calculated, DoF does not really depend of the size and viewing distance of the image.
What I was saying was that tilt does not increase the DoF it simply tilts the plane of focus through the scene.
Absolutely. And when you change the plane of focus, the depth of field rotates with it, and is always 90 degrees to it.
Which can be unhelpful in many images as it adds to the unreality.
 
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DoF does not really depend of the size and viewing distance of the image
The CoC depends on the size and viewing distance... so the DoField does as well.
Usually what we mean when we say depth of field is more accurately the DoFocus at the image plane... we are normally talking about the relative sharpness of details; that is different from whether details are actually sharp (perceived as being), which is what DoField describes/calculates. DoField also does not tell you anything about the characteristics of what will be considered to be out of focus...

DoFocus is often used to describe the placement/tolerance of the image plane/sensor; but it can also be used to describe how far in front/behind the sensor other points are focused at, and therefore their blur radius. And in this case, it is probably also more accurate to describe the function of tilt/swing as displacing the plane and depth of focus relative to the image plane/sensor; rather than trying to describe the perceptual effect in terms of DoField.
 
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The CoC depends on the size and viewing distance...
I do agree... but as long as the correct viewing distance is maintained for the image size all should be equal... My comments are based on my years at college for my C & G 744 in general photography and IIP intermediate (back in the 70s), one of the exercises using a Gandolfi 5 x 4 (I am sure Terry will remember them) was to photograph a ruler at an oblique angle maintaining sharpness and perspective using the camera movements. My whole point that I was trying to make is that using tilt only tilts the plane of focus, the DoF remains the same (although there is a bit of discussion as to whether it widens slightly towards the horizon.
Langford was quite clear in Depth of Focus is at the film/sensor plane and Depth of Field is the distance from the nearest point of acceptable focus and the furthest and the two terms are not interchangeable.
I should add I do not have an engineers thought processes so look at things probably differently to yourself and probably less analytical ;)
 
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The CoC depends on the size and viewing distance... so the DoField does as well.
Usually what we mean when we say depth of field is more accurately the DoFocus at the image plane... we are normally talking about the relative sharpness of details; that is different from whether details are actually sharp (perceived as being), which is what DoField describes/calculates. DoField also does not tell you anything about the characteristics of what will be considered to be out of focus...

DoFocus is often used to describe the placement/tolerance of the image plane/sensor; but it can also be used to describe how far in front/behind the sensor other points are focused at, and therefore their blur radius. And in this case, it is probably also more accurate to describe the function of tilt/swing as displacing the plane and depth of focus relative to the image plane/sensor; rather than trying to describe the perceptual effect in terms of DoField.
I know what you're saying Steven, but depth-of-field and depth-of-focus are two separate things and sometimes that's important. Depth-of-focus doesn't usually concern us with DSLRs as the lens and sensor planes are in fixed alignment, but using tilt/shift lenses is one of the rare occasions when it does. Scheimpflug technique optimises both depth-of-field and depth-of-focus.
 
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I do agree... but as long as the correct viewing distance is maintained for the image size all should be equal... My comments are based on my years at college for my C & G 744 in general photography and IIP intermediate (back in the 70s), one of the exercises using a Gandolfi 5 x 4 (I am sure Terry will remember them) was to photograph a ruler at an oblique angle maintaining sharpness and perspective using the camera movements. My whole point that I was trying to make is that using tilt only tilts the plane of focus, the DoF remains the same (although there is a bit of discussion as to whether it widens slightly towards the horizon.
Langford was quite clear in Depth of Focus is at the film/sensor plane and Depth of Field is the distance from the nearest point of acceptable focus and the furthest and the two terms are not interchangeable.
I should add I do not have an engineers thought processes so look at things probably differently to yourself and probably less analytical ;)
Agree. But just for clarity, what you originally said was "DoF does not really depend of the size and viewing distance of the image" when actually it absolutely does and in fact that is the starting point for all DoF calculations. Everything is based on human eye acuity with a standard size print viewed from a standard distance and the formula is worked back from there.
 
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what you originally said was "DoF does not really depend of the size and viewing distance of the image" when actually it absolutely does
Yes... what I should have said is "DoF does not only depend on the size and viewing distance of the image" in answer to "Depth of field depends on the size and viewing distance of an image." My poor english these days, sorry.
 
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Lets get one thing straight, tilt shift lenses have absolutely no influence on Depth of Field, tilt will alter the angle of the plane of focus either horizontally or vertically so that if everything in your image is within acceptable DoF for the tilted plane the amount in focus appears greater.
If the plane of focus matches better with the subject, the zone that appears sharp (or the effective DOF) is increased, or if the lens is moved the other way the zone that appears sharp can be minimalised. So in practice tilt does have a significant effect on DOF.
The same maths applies to how far from the plane of focus appears sharp at any distance/aperture/CoC/Focal length but adjusting the plane of focus can make a huge difference.

Here's one of my early efforts with a DIY tilt setup (enlarger lens mounted via a bike gaiter) where I almost managed to get the DOF to follow the ground:
freelensing portrait by Mike Kanssen, on Flickr

This was done entirely in camera (other than re-scaling & perhaps cloning out dust)
The focus on the tower in the background is certainly not a function of distance from the camera :)
 
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If the plane of focus matches better with the subject, the zone that appears sharp (or the effective DOF) is increased
I do prefer your use of the word effective here, what I am saying is that the actual DoF hasn't changed you are simply moving the plane of focus to closer match the plane that you want be 'sharp' and really only works when most of the scene is close to or within the DoF associated with that plane of focus and the aperture setting... Scheimpflug can be a very useful technique under the right circumstances if you can achieve the needed settings within the constraints of a tilt/shift lens.
All I have been trying to say is that by tilting the plane of focus you are not increasing the DoF it is creating an apparent increase... which I have not been explaining that well.
 
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mij

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PaulMoz quite reasonably asked what the purpose of tilt was in real world conditions, given these days it seems to be mainly known for miniature effects. And traditionally it was used in landscape photography to extend the distance within a a shot that was in acceptable focus. Whether you want to describe that result as increasing the depth of field depends whether you prefer to describe things like a physicist (technically correct) or an artists (how it appears).

Pretty much in every technical sphere you see jargon used this way, where there is a commonly understood general meaning that differs from its precise meaning. And normally with use of the former upsetting those who know the latter! But I imagine when most photographers talk of depth of field they mean in the sense of the effect, so that engaging in correct technical language just adds unnecessary confusion. Has any of this discussion made the original question easier to understand or provided a better answer?
 
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