Balmain Photography

Balmain Photography: professional photography and web design

Why Tilt-Shift lenses?

Cambridge in Colour has a great article on Tilt-Shift lenses. The first paragraph states: Tilt shift lenses enable photographers to transcend the normal restrictions of depth of field and perspective. Many of the optical tricks these lenses permit could not otherwise be reproduced digitally—making them a must for certain landscape, architectural and product photography.

Canon TSE lenses

Some time back I was enthralled with panoramic medium format (6x17) film photography. You would get just four shots on a roll of 120 film. The quality was great but the system was fussy to work with and you had to scan a really odd sized chunk of film. I then purchased my first Tilt-Shift lens, the Canon 45mm TSE f/2.8. I was hooked.

Most of my real estate work was done with the mighty Canon 16-35 f/2.8 L lens. This is an expensive lens that is used by tons of working pros. But when I really looked at the files closely I noticed that the corners of the image were not as sharp as I would have expected, especially when zoomed out to 16mm. I thought about investing in a couple of prime Zeiss lenses before deciding that going the extra mile and getting the new Canon 17mm TSE f/4 L was the better choice. While expensive this really wide Tilt-Shift lens showed itself to be a stunning performer. 17mm can be really wide for some situations however and it was not too long before I added the new Canon 24mm TSE f/3.5 L mkII lens. Phew...

Tilt-Shift lenses gives you similar perspective control that traditional 4x5 view film cameras allow.

Working with Tilt-Shift lenses can take some study and fiddling around before you get comfortable but the rewards are worth it. Using a little tilt can increase or decrease focus interest. But it is really the shift component of these lenses that shines for this kind of work. You can control unwanted backward leaning buildings when using a wide focal length. You can also emphasize or deemphasize elements in your photos. I see a lot of real estate images on the web that feature huge expansive ceilings. This can be an unwanted aspect when using wide angle lenses. Being able to "shift" some of that unwanted ceiling out of the picture is a huge plus.

Canon 24 TSE lensBathrooms can be a real challenge. There is just not much room for you and the tripod in such a small space. Having a Tilt-Shift lens gives you several options that a regular lens simply can’t match. One option is to shoot the middle of the room and then record two extra images, one shifted to the left and one shifted to the right. The three images can then be easily “stitched” together using Photoshop. As there is no rotation of the viewing angle this is a simple task for Photoshop. Attempting this with a regular wide lens means you have to fight the different rotational angle distortion that is almost unavoidable. The other nice aspect to using a Tilt-Shift lens in a tight space like a bathroom is that you can use the shift control to avoid getting your reflection in the bathroom mirror! Nice…

One of the main aspects to professional looking images in this arena is straight horizontal and vertical planes - with minimal distortion. Sure, some fancy software programs can help minimize these unwanted defects, but there is no substitute for doing it all correctly in camera. Deploying Tilt-Shift lenses really helps minimize unwanted issues while emphasizing the most important striking details of the scene you are hoping to capture.

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