Sunday, December 13, 2009

DIY Tilt-Shift

Okay, first off... this post is not about how to make yourself your own Tilt-Shift. For lack of better words, this a commentary on how to make a tilt-shit lens. Seriously... It amazes me how many people out there, with a wealth of photographic knowledge can't get this simple concept right. Many confuse Selective Focus for Perspective Control - which, really annoys me.

This... is NOT a tilt-shift lens. (i'll explain below why)
Apologies to where ever these images are originally from. Actually, in this case, I don't apologize... a plunger? seriously?

This people... are Tilt-Shift Lenses. (Canon's 24L and 17L)

Apologies to where ever these images are originally from.
As you can plainly see, they have dials on them. Those are for adjusting the tilt and shift of the lens.

Tilting is when you alter the lens plane, by swinging the lens' axis away from being center and perpendicular to the film plane. Think of it as an Elephant's trunk. If the Elephant was to hold out it's snout perfectly straight - that would be a normal lens. If the elephant bends his snout upwards or downwards, it would be tilting it. Unfortunately, because of limitations imposed by the mechanicals, tilting is only in the up/down axis. (These lenses do allow you to rotate however) With Tilt-Shift lenses, you are given the ability to adjust the
tilt by ±6.5°, as much or as little as you want, as well as as fine as you want. Each little tick mark is probably a quarter of a degree. Though, I must add, I'm unsure if this applies to all the TS-e's or just the 17mm.

Shifting is when you move the lens plane laterally to the film plane. Think of it as a sliding door on a Mini-van. When closed, the door is in it's normal alignment. But, if you open the door and slide it open, you are now shifting the door's placement on the Minivan. Since you have the door open on this proverbial minivan, you might as well look through the glass now... Hmmm... strange. Where was I? Oh yeah... Shifting. On Canon lenses, you can get up to ±12mm of shift. Once again, this figure may only apply to the 17mm TS-e.

Now, when you combine the tilting with the shifting, you are given an amazing amount of control over your shot. In Real Estate and Architectural Photography, this control is translated into making buildings look true to life. In other realms, they are used for miniaturization - which, IMHO, Keith Loutit is the king. If you haven't seen any of his videos yet, go watch them after reading my post. Links at the bottom

So, that's Tilt/Shift.

What's the deal with the plunger? The deal is, there are people out there that think taking a lens, gluing it to a plunger, then mounting the plunger to your camera is going to give you the ability to tilt-shift. They are wrong. At best, you get tilting. In reality, you get a really stupid looking lens modification. Worse still, You lose Infinity-focus, which is rather important for doing Tilt/Shift as you're dealing with Scheimpflug there.

In effect, the plunger-mod will get you results somewhat close to what this guy gets you:

What's that? It's a LENSBABY! (yaaaay!!).

What's a Lensbaby? I dunno, but it's EXTREMELY AWESOME. Lensbaby is made of Creativity, which make your photos grow, which is why you should buy one, because plungers are for Toilets and have you ever seen a picture come out of a toilet? It's got BENDING, super extra bending! and 5 KINDS OF BOKEH*! Which makes your pictures photolicious, unlike other cheap lenses, which are NOT photolicious. Taking pictures with it will make you wonder why you've never had photos that LOOK LIKE EXPLOSIONS!

Woah... I better lay off the Brawndo.

So, as i was trying to say. Lensbabies are an inventive (and properly manufactured) way of doing "Selective Focus". What's selective focus and how does it differ from how lenses normally focus. Selective Focus is when you choose a subject and have the photo so that they are the only thing in focus. How does it differ? Aside from the bending factor, not a whole lot. After all, Focusing is about being selective to begin with, right? So, yeah... I don't have an answer for that second question.

Now... Udi over at diyphotography has come up with an ingenious method of faking the tilt-shift effect. Once again, not really tilt-shift, but closer than the Plunger thing.

Now, my suggestion is, if you do his project, use a CPL filter instead of an old filter/stepping ring. Additionally, Udi suggested in his comment section that the lens be mounted off-center. Doing that, and attaching it to a CPL, will allow you to rotate it in whichever direction you want.

Now, combine that with the Plunger idea and you'll probably end up with the craziest DIY lens ever. I can't imagine what the effect will be with the two combined, but I do know that your ability to focus to infinity will be tossed out the window.

-- EDIT--

I have found a DIY T/S that yields closer results than other ideas. Still a plunger, but this one I'm not going to laugh at as much, because Captain Nod put more thought into it. Go Here to check it out. My belief on this one is that he took a few factors into consideration here (like the lack of shifting) and at the bottom, he says he's going to work on a method of controlling the shift as well. The Cavaet here is - his idea is better but it lacks the sharpness of a true T/S but it's still pretty sharp.

Once again, a glorified Lensbaby. ;)

Lifehacker/Make Magazine Plunger "T/S"
DIYPhotography's Projector Lamp Lens

Foundphotography's Retarded T/S Project

Nikon's PC-E Nikkor 24mm F3.5
Canon's Tilt-Shift Line-up
Lensbaby - Canadian site or If you're American (the website will redirect you depending on which country you're in)
Captain Nod's PlungerCam and in action.

Keith Loutit vids: Bathtub IV, Helpless, Bathtub III, Bathtub II and Beached

* I'm unsure of the Muse and others, but the Lensbaby 2.0 came with several drop in apertures. 2.2, 2.4, 4.0, 5.6, 8.0 and 2 blanks. The creative kit gives you a heart and star, and several more blanks.


Cass Roads said...

There is no reason why you couldn't shift the plunger parallel to the film plane - more like bellows than a lensbaby. You would need to construct a mount to predictably control it though. You shouldn't lose infinity focus, as the whole idea is to use a medium format lens, thus creating a larger image circle to allow the shifting. No replacement for a dedicated canon ts-e or nikkor pc-e, but probably fun. I would be far more interested in trying this mod than a lensbaby, which I have yet to see produce a photo that I liked.

Cass Roads said...

I just found where the original image is from, and yes it is a medium format lens - zeiss for pentacon 6. The author does mention an "adjustable mechanical frame" and bellows as an alternative to the plunger.

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