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Fotodiox tilt-shift lens adapter

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Fotodiox tilt-shift lens adapter review

Adapting medium format lenses to mirrorless cameras

Site Notice: Like many working photographers, our work has diminished greatly in these challenging times, so I'm at home a lot. The silver lining is that I've lots of articles and reviews to write - if you've any suggestions or questions, please do let me know - Keith
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Fotodiox supply a huge range of lens adapters, and with the arrival of mirrorless cameras, the reduced mount to sensor (flange) distance for such cameras give the flexibility to include full tilt and shift lens movements in the adapter.

Keith has been testing an adapter for Mamiya 645 medium format lenses with the Canon EOS RP full frame mirrorless camera.

NB whilst not tested, there are some shots at the end of the article showing a Pentax 45mm 6×7 lens on a Nikon Z7 using a Fotodiox TLT ROKR adapter.

The TLT ROKR adapter is available from Fotodiox

tilted adapter

Sept. 2020  I’ve made a short video to go along with this article

Video: Fotodiox tilt-shift adapter for MF lenses

See also my look at the EOS R5 where I also used the adapter.

Lens adapters

One nice thing I discovered a few years ago, with my old Canon 1Ds was that the distance between lens mount and sensor for the Canon EF mount was short enough that I could get simple adapters for old lenses. There are several articles on the site looking at my various experiments in this area.

Using old lenses on new cameras

In 2019 I bought a Canon EOS RP full frame mirrorless camera [EOS RP Review] which uses the new Canon RF mount, which has an even smaller flange distance compared to the EF mount. I’d been using a relatively cheap Mamiya 645 to Canon EF adapter to provide lens shift, but the mount had some vignetting and light reflection issues at larger shift values [see: Using M645 lenses for shift].

The  Canon RF mount is much more ‘adapter friendly’ if you want to add movements, and I discovered that Fotodiox did an adapter that offered ±15mm of shift and 10 degrees of tilt. It’s also much better made than my one from eBay. [Click any image to enlarge]

ef and RF compared

The EF adapter has coloured marks on the shift indicator, which would suggest potential image quality issue at shifts beyond 7mm.

Note that neither adapter has any electronics – then again neither have the Mamiya lenses I’m using. You may need to set the camera to allow shots ‘without’ a lens in order to use such adapters/lenses.

There is a very similar adapter for Nikon Z mount cameras (left). Note too, the rather nice wooden box the adapters are shipped in.

adapters compared

Fotodiox produce a wide range of adapters, so there are plenty of other options, such as this M645->MFT adapter. The problem with MFT and APS-C is the crop factor, giving a 35mm field of view  ‘equivalent’ of ~70mm for MFT and ~55mm for APS-C

tltrokr-m645-mft

Shift is set by pressing the button and physically moving the shift mechanism.

There are click stops at what seem like 1mm intervals.

shift

Here’s the tilt axis.

tilted adapter

There is a small brass screw at the side which releases the tilt mechanism. The tilt axis only tilts one way, but the whole lens mount will rotate, freed by pressing the brass pin on the side. The tilt and shift axes are set at 90º to each other.

The interior of the adapter is generously covered with light absorbing coatings.

shift-down

The small tab at the bottom, inside the M645 mount is to activate aperture stopdown if needed. I used the lenses in fully manual mode where you just set the desired aperture on the lens.

The lenses

I’ve four Mamiya Sekor-C M645 lenses that haven’t been used with my M645 film body for many years. However, they are very good quality and work just fine.

The lenses are:

  • 35mm f/3.5
  • 55mm f/2.8
  • 80mm f/2.8
  • 210mm f/4

The lens image circle (green) is more than enough to allow for 15mm of shift on a 36mm x 24mm ‘full frame’ 35mm sensor (yellow). The lenses are designed for use at a medium format film frame size of 56mm x 41.5mm (black).

shift-range

Even at this size image circle, there is easily enough coverage for quite strong shift – much more than the ±12mm found with my Canon TS-E24mm F3.5L II for example. I don’t have image circle sizes for these lenses, but I’d expect the 55mm and 80mm at least to be a bit larger.

The lenses on the EOS RP

A quick check of the lenses on the RP showed no vignetting or obvious image quality issues even at full shift. Even the full 10º of tilt showed only slight vignetting at wider apertures – something I noted even with Canon’s vastly more expensive new TS-E lenses.

35 shifted

The 35mm with full upwards shift.

35 tilted

The tilt looks quite extreme here.

As it does with the 55mm.

55mm tilted

Mind you, the 80mm with full downwards shift looks quite extreme – out using it, I noticed quite a few people stopping and doing a double-take ;-)

80 shifted down

The 80mm tilted.

80mm tilted

Now the focal length you don’t expect to use with tilt and shift on a 35mm camera.

210mm f/4 tilted left by 10º

210 left tilt

Lastly with 10º rightwards tilt and 15mm downwards shift.

210mm tilt and shift

Remember that you don’t have to use the movements. With no tilt and shift, you are using the middle of the lens image circle, which usually has the best image quality.

The 35mm lens is a good match for my EOS RP, given I don’t actually have a 35mm prime lens in EF or RF mount. Of course, with fully manual working, there is no EXIF data for lens correction, but Adobe camera raw (ACR) handled any slight chromatic aberrations.

River Alde at Snape

The River Alde at Snape in Suffolk (f/8 if I remember correctly -no EXIF).

Using lens shift

Not far from where I live is the campus of De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester. It’s my go-to choice for testing new lenses, and will be familiar if you’ve seen any of my reviews of tilt/shift lenses.

[Click to see much larger versions of images]

Using the 35mm

The camera with 35mm lens, taken when  I was also testing the new Rogeti geared tripod head [RG-1 review].

Live view with focus peaking makes the shot very easy to set up.

rear screen

Here’s the view as shot. With the 35mm I’ve found that fine detail in the top of a strongly shifted image like this will benefit from shooting at f/11.

riverside building

The new Wullcomb building needs a lot of shift (note how low the horizon is) but the perspective is perhaps more natural than if I’d used my TS-E24mm F3.5L II

wullcomb-35-shift-up

Stitching an up/down shifted pair of images at f/11 gives this view over the reed beds at Snape on a bright but stormy day.

reed beds at Snape

Moving to the 55mm lens, contrast and fine detail is better than the 35mm, although slight chromatic aberration was more noticeable (but easily fixed).

55mm shift-up

The range of shift is clearly visible in this montage of three shots taken for stitching.

3-off-55mm-shifted-f11

The stitched image from three 55mm shots.

3x 55mm at f11

Another view of the Vijay Patel Building – once again using three shots to stitch at f/11

VJP 3x 55mm stitched

I’ve more about using shift in my ‘How to use lens shift’ article

Using lens tilt

As a working photographer I tend to use lens tilt much less than shift, and then for situations where you’d not obviously spot its use unless you knew what to look for.

However, it’s a lot easier to show the effects of tilt when using plenty of tilt at wider apertures.

Lens tilt tends to be harder to explain than shift, since its results depend on both the lens focus and tilt settings combined, as opposed to shift, where focus is set pretty much as you would in ‘normal’ photography. I’ve written quite a few articles exploring this in more detail (and have a book due for publishing later in 2020). If you’re unfamiliar with lens tilt, have a look at my article ‘Using tilt on your camera‘ – just remember that the amount the lens focal plane tilts is NOT the same as the amount of physical tilt you apply to the lens.

My first experiment was to look down the street outside of my home. I’m using the 210mm tilted to the left and to the right. This runs the vertical plane of focus to the left and right of my camera.

At f/5.6 the out of focus areas are not too blurred and you can see the vertical plane of focus  at the left.

210 tilt left

Tilt to the right and the plane runs along the fences/walls. If I was wanting all of the houses in focus I’d look at f/11 or even f/16.

210 tilt right

Full left tilt using the 35mm at f/3.5 looking along a path in the reed beds at Snape.

35mm-left-tilt

Moving to the beach at Aldeburgh, a few miles away, using the 55mm at f/2.8 gives a very thin plane of focus.

At 10º of tilt and f/2.8 the lens has difficulty with sharpness, even along the plane of focus – as with all these example, click to see  a much larger version. At f/4 the sharp bits are noticeably sharper – but it depends what you’re looking for in the image…

aldeburgh-55-tilt

Downwards tilt, with the lens focus changed to run the (horizontal) plane of focus through the waves.

tilt-down

BTW This is the Suffolk landscape and coast of the M.R. James ghost stories ‘Oh, Whistle and I’ll come to you, my lad’ [GT]  and ‘A Warning to the curious’ [GT] – I’ve always loved its emptiness.

The 55mm at f/2.8 and full tilt shows very strong green/purple fringing away from the plane of focus – fortunately easy to fix during RAW conversion. Stopping down or backing off a bit in the amount of tilt quickly reduces this but loses some of the softness/fog you see at f/2.8

Again at 55mm f/2.8, looking alongside Leicester cathedral.

cathedral-tilt-left-55

Looking along the canal, near DMU. 55mm @f/2.8 and strong left tilt have run the plane of focus along the edge of the towpath.

I waited for someone to walk through the plane of focus to take the shot.

bridge tilt 55mm

Lastly, back to 210mm f/4.

The combination of long lens (not designed for tilt) and the adapter mean that what I’m actually getting is a tilt of the camera sensor whilst pointing the lens in the direction I want and fine tuning where the plane of focus is using the focus setting (assisted with live view and focus peaking).

210-4 on the RG1

Anyway, here’s the view…

dmu tilt

Fixing image problems

Although not strictly connected with the adapter, it’s worth noting that at extreme shifts there is a bit of image softening in these shots taken with 1980’s film lenses. Since getting the adapter I’ve used both the 35mm and 55mm with shift on actual paying jobs, where the 26MP of the EOS RP was adequate (normally I use a 50MP Canon 5Ds). The best sharpening of detail for these images has come from using Topaz Sharpen AI which I reviewed in 2019. Whilst there are many sharpening techniques available, this one seemed to cope with shifted lenses particularly well (there is a free demo available to try if curious).

Using tilt vs a small aperture

I don’t use tilt that often in my work, but sometimes you just need the ability to get things near and far sharp in the same shot.

Here are two sequences of four images taken with the 55mm.

The first are taken using tilt  (around 5º rightwards) to get the sign and door in focus, and the second just stopping down to see the ‘native’ depth of field of the lens.

The images are in a gallery that makes it easier to step through if you click on the first one.

The first tilted shot – all taken with the 55mm f/2.8 – shows how at f/2.8 even the sharpest bits of the image are a bit soft. At f/5.6 the gallery entrance is looking a lot better, whilst f/22 is starting to give a bit of overall image softness. For the untilted shots f/22 is needed, and even then the distance is a bit soft. I could have moved the focus a bit further away, bu then the nearest lettering would soften.

If my aim was to have the sign and the gallery entrance sharp enough to draw attention to them, then tilt with f/5.6 or perhaps f/8 would be my choice.

A subtle use of tilt to control sharpness/softness can be a great way of drawing attention to parts of a scene. Where I use tilt in my work it’s usually far less visible than the examples I’ve shown here.

Video

As regular readers may know, I don’t really ‘do video’, but any of the effects shown above are available. I’d just note that like the ‘miniature world’ look for tilted photos, egregious use of tilt in video sequences can rapidly cross the line from ‘novel’ to ‘irksome’ for the viewer (YMMV ;-))

Extenders/Teleconverters

Not included in my experiments above was the M645 2x teleconverter I have for the Mamiya lenses. It does work, but the 2x multiplier adds 2 stops to the effective aperture and reduce image quality somewhat.

I’ve looked at using teleconverters with lens shift in a separate article.

m645 2x Teleplus MC6 teleconverter

Note that when using a teleconverter, if it is before the tilt mechanism you use the lens+converter focal length for tilt and shift settings, whilst if after the tilt/shift mechanism (such as a TS-E lens with extender) then shift is calculated with the extended focal length and multiplied by the extender factor, whilst tilt is set using the original focal length although the image will have the field of view of the extended focal length. See Using tilt with extenders for more.

Conclusions

A really nicely made bit of kit that I’m looking forward to using even more when Canon get round to releasing a ‘Pro’ EOS R camera to replace my 50MP 5Ds with its EF mount. My only slight quibble is that I’d like some more pronounced mark for setting the lens back at the ‘zero shift position’ – that perhaps more due to my failing close-up eyesight though ;-)

The extra capabilities of this adapter give a new breath of life to what are some not bad lenses.

Available for a large range of lens and camera mounts, it’s time to fish out those old medium format lenses…

The TLT ROKR adapter is available from Fotodiox.

Update: Pentax 67 45mm on Nikon Z7

A friend with a Z7 and assorted Pentax 6×7 lenses saw the adapter on my RP and purchased one for his kit. I’ve not used it, but here are a few photos with it sitting on my (slightly dusty) piano…

pentax-45mmlens-on-nikon-z7pentax-with-10-degrees-of-tilt10-degrees-of-tilt-and-15mm-of-shift

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Site Notice: Like many working photographers, our work has diminished greatly in these challenging times, so I'm at home a lot. The silver lining is that I've lots of articles and reviews to write - if you've any suggestions or questions, please do let me know - Keith
...Why not sign up for our (ad free) Newsletter to keep informed about new articles and subscribe to my YouTube Channel


1Comment
  • Shawn Kenessey | Jan 23, 2020 at 7:34 pm

    Really cool, thanks for reviewing.

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