Shift/Tilt Photography

Shift/Tilt Photography

I've recently discovered an obscure kind of photography, Shift/Tilt Photography. By using a lens that can shift laterally as well as tilt the lens elements, some very interesting effects can be achieved.

Shifting the lens laterally has the effect of keeping the edges of a vanishing object stay parallel. Buildings or door frames often suffer from this, here is an example of this vanishing effect. This happens because the film is not parallel to the plane the parallel vanishing lines define. Conveniently, wikipedia has some nice graphics showing that the goal in shifting the lens is to keep the image plane parallel to the object while also keeping the image on the film.

Another attractive ability of a shift/tilt lens is shown below. By tilting the lens, the sides of the shot can be brought out of focus in creative ways. There is a stripe of the photo which is in focus, and on each side the image is out of focus. Obviously, by rotating and shifting the lens, the location of the stripe can be moved on the image.

At first glance, this image above looks like it's of a scale model. It is in fact not a model, rather it's an aerial photograph (or from a tall building) using a shift/tilt lens. Here are more examples of this kind of photography from the same site. I'm fairly certain that these "the bitter* girls (place in your life)" (#) photos have been photoshopped to enhance the colors because they look just too saturated to be real. This has the effect of making things look more like a scale model with clean, unweathered paint. I think there's also been some down-sampling because even where the photo is in focus, there's not very much detail.

Through extensive searching online, it seems the widest variety of shift/tilt lenses are Russian-made. Here are a couple lenses which claim Minolta compatibility: MC 35 mm ($600) and MC 80 mm ($400) tilt/shift lenses. If any of you are feeling particularly generous, go ahead and buy me either lens. If you're feeling especially generous, buy me both!

(#) The Japanese are weird. I can't even imagine how that makes sense in Japanese. Perhaps it's mangled English for the sake of mangled English.

3 thoughts on “Shift/Tilt Photography

  1. Perhaps this isn’t obscure to a well-informed amateur photographer, but everyone I’ve mentioned this to so far hasn’t heard of it.

    I’ve seen the lensbaby, but it’s not quite the same. It doesn’t shift, for example.

  2. Hi Stephen

    well mentioning it to some people you know doesn’t say so much, heck most people I know have no idea how slides are different to negatives, “do you need a special camera”. I feel it just goes to show that most people don’t put much effort into learning much about anything.

    The complete lack of sites out there showing much about the effects of lens movement makes me want to put something together.

    Presently (missing my TS-E lenses) I’m trying to get something put together to allow 35mm lenses to be adapted to micro 4/3rds cameras to give tilt (and some shift might be nice too).

    read my blog here:

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