What tilt and shift lenses do
A 24mm Tilt/Shift lens on your digital SLR
The Canon TS-E 24mm lens – a review and discussion
What do tilt/shift lenses do?
This article was first written after Keith obtained a Canon TS-E 24mm 3.5L tilt/shift lens primarily for interior and exterior photography of buildings.
It’s still our basic ‘What’s a tilt/shift lens’ article.
This review of the TS-E 24mm is intended give a bit more of a feel for what it is actually like to use a tilt/shift lens for real (on a Canon EOS 1Ds).
The article first appeared in 2006, but has been regularly updated. Many of the photos on our architectural photography page were taken with a shift lens.
Tilt shift lenses – how to use and what they do
I’ve used Canon’s TS-E lenses as an integral part of my commercial photography services for many years. This review is an updated version of my original review of the TS-E24mm F3.5L
The 24mm was the only ‘L’ lens of the original 3 TS-E lenses (24/45/90) launched in 1991.
The shift and tilt axes are set at 90 degrees to each other but the lens is quite easy to modify (see below).
Manual focus only. Lens is discontinued, available used.
|Launch date||April 1991|
|Lens Construction (groups)||9|
|Lens Construction (elements)||11|
|No. of Diaphragm Blades||8|
|Diagonal Angle of View||84° (without tilt or shift)
Image circle dia. 58.6mm
|Closest Focusing Distance (m)||0.3|
|Maximum Magnifcation (x)||0.14|
|Filter Diameter (mm)||72|
|Maximum Diameter x Length (mm)||78 x 86.8|
Note that the extremes of tilt and shift are marked in red on the lens.
This signifies a potential reduction in image quality.
Info. from Canon.
|A quick guide to MTF charts (which only measure contrast and resolution) > Canon's guide to their MTF charts)|
|Black lines reflect lens performance at widest aperture.
Blue lines show the performance at f/8
Thick lines indicate lens contrast
Thin lines indicate lens resolution
|Dashed lines: Lens performance with meridional lines.
Solid lines: Lens performance with sagittal lines
Closer sagittal and meridional chart lines indicate more 'natural' out of focus areas.
|Remember that MTF charts are good for comparing similar lenses, so comparing ones from the 14mm f2.8L and 300mm 2.8L won't tell you much at all, whilst comparing the EF14 2.8L with the EF14 2.8L II will show meaningful differences. Note that other manufacturers may have different ways of displaying such information that may or may not match up with the Canon figures.|
Extension tubes and supplemental lenses
Why a TS-E
Given the very wide angle pictures you can get with a 14mm or 16mm lens and the ease of correcting perspective in Photoshop, why bother with this manual focus lens and all the extra effort involved in using it?
This tilt shift lens review/article is intended to give an overview of some of the effects, and has links to more detailed technical info at the end.
Some of our other T/S articles
There are several more listed in the resources section at the end of the article
Canon make several EF mount tilt and shift lenses.
Focal lengths of 17mm, 24mm, 45mm and 90 mm
|24mm 3.5L||TS-E45mm f/2.8||TS-E90mm F2.8 review||TS-E17mm f/4|
The 24mm was the only L series lens of the three original TS-E lenses from Canon.
Update: The 17mm started shipping in June 2009 and we’ve got some TS-E 17mm f/4L sample images and lens info
The optical elements of the lens can be moved relative to the sensor (film) plane. This allows for the correction or creation of perspective and depth of field effects. They are also known as Perspective Correction or Perspective Control (PC) lenses. Nikon now has it’s own range of T/S lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm)
The easiest way to see what the lens does, is to move your mouse over the three pictures below, which show horizontal shift, vertical tilt and a combination of both. Note that the tilt and shift directions are at 90 degrees to each other. This is quite easy to alter yourself, if you would rather have the two parallel (Shift lens modification – a short ‘How-to’ article showing Keith’s modified 90mm)
Shift (horizontal movement)
Tilt (up and down)
Tilt and shift at the same time
The lens is manual focus, so there is a depth of field guide next to the distance scale.
Shift (rise and fall)
If you consider your camera pointing at a building, with the film/sensor plane perpendicular to the ground, the camera should be pointing to a point at the same height above the ground as it is positioned.
If you raise the lens, this aiming point moves away from the centre of the frame.
A simple example from landscape photography might help explain…
Lets say I want to take a scenic shot, with the horizon about one third of the way up the frame. If I just tilt the camera up to move the horizon down, it may not show much distortion. However if I’ve got tall trees or telegraph poles in the shot, they may start to lean at quite an angle. The solution is to shift the lens.
The sensor on my 1Ds is 36mm x 24mm. If I want to have the camera aim point moved down to 1/3 of the height of the frame I need a shift of 4mm (the centre line is 12mm from the bottom of the frame, I need it 8mm from the bottom 12- 8= 4mm) Similarly for portrait orientation I need 6mm of shift to get the horizon 1/3 of the way up the frame (18-12)
When you focus to a certain distance, you are focusing everything that is in a plane parallel to your sensor, at the focusing distance. If you tilt the lens, you can rotate this plane. A typical use might be where I want to get a much greater apparent depth of field in a landscape shot, with nearby rocks and distant mountains in sharp focus.
It takes quite a bit of fiddling to get right … so those of you who know of my general dislike for using tripods outdoors will guess that I’m probably not going to be trying this anytime soon for my landscape work ;-)
I’ve collected some more technical links about tilt and shift and such things as the Scheimpflug principle at the end of this article. I’ve also written an article specifically about focusing with tilt.
Unfortunately the various effects of shifting and tilting the lens don’t fit well for your camera’s metering system, which is expecting nice well defined rays of light coming in at predictable angles from lenses mounted directly in front and coaxial with the mount.
If you are going to use internal metering, then best make the measurements first with no tilt/shift.
I found that raising the lens caused my 1Ds to overexpose, and lowering it caused underexposure. Shifting left and right caused much smaller errors.
In general, you are going to use this type of lens on a tripod, although I have been experimenting with using a bit of vertical shift with the lens hand held. I’ve got some examples of this later in the article.
Note the bubble level at the top of the camera, and the angle viewer, used to ensure accurate focus. The cable is for a remote release, to avoid vibration.
Do check that your bubble level is actually sitting level in the flash socket.
Level the camera and rotate it 180 degrees to face you.
It should still read level. I tried this with a pan/tilt head and found that it was slightly out – easily fixed with a small shim of card.
One thing you can do is to shift the lens to capture a wider field of view, and then stitch the images together
For comparison, the first picture below, shows part of my library, taken with a Canon EF 16-35 2.8L zoom lens (at 16mm and f8), on my Canon 1Ds.
The slight barrel distortion is particularly visible with a subject like this.
The 100% crops below shows the centre and far right hand side of the image
Centre – 100%
Right hand edge of frame – centre
For critical work at high resolution I’ll often use the DxO Optics Pro software to fix a lot of the lens distortions, such as chromatic aberration, and geometric errors.
Article about lens distortions and DxO (old version of DxO – we still use the very latest)
The 100% crop below shows the improvements at the edge of the frame
DxO – Edge of frame
You can fix some of the distortion in Photoshop quite easily. If you mouse over the image below, you can see the results of using the CS2 Lens correction filter (more of this later)
Correcting barrel distortion
Lets now have a look at the same view, taken with the TS-E 24mm, also at f8.
Notice immediately that there is less geometric distortion –
I should add, that since I put these bookshelves up, they are actually not perfectly level :-)
The 100% views below give an idea of what the lens is like
Left hand side (small bit of CA removed in Adobe camera raw)
The lens is fairly sharp, although not up to the standards of the EF 24 mm f/1.4L USM
Looking up info on the web, suggested that the TS-E 24 was at it’s best around f/8. Having my natural distrust of ‘experts on the web’, I did some tests (too boring to replicate here :-) outside of my house which showed that at f/5.6 the lens was pretty good, and indeed f/8 or f/11 was slightly better.
The next picture shows the image with the lens shifted a full 11mm to the left
11mm left shift
Both the tilt and shift guide marks on the lens show extreme values as red marks, indicating the areas of optimal shift or tilt (+/- 7mm or +/- 6 degrees)
I’ve used 11mm here to show the extremes — At the far left of the frame, some purple fringing is visible.
At that large amount of shift you also need to remove any filter or lens hood, since they will exacerbate any mechanical vignetting.
This example shows what leaving a filter and lens hood attached can do at 11mm shift.
That’s also my finger, resting on the edge of the lens hood…
When the lens is shifted, it becomes impossible to directly use tools like DxO or Photoshop Lens Correction.
There are ways of using lens correction though, that depend on the fact that your image is just part of the large image that the lens projects.
If you alter your canvas size, you can move the camera aim point to the middle of the image and make use of many more lens correction techniques.
Note – it does help to make a note of the shift when shooting, since the image EXIF data does not contain any shift/tilt information.
In the two images below I’ve extended the canvas (grey) to show the proportion of the full (horizontal) field of view of the shift system.
Full frame widths
In each case the camera is actually pointing at the middle of the whole image
The frame is extended by using the Photoshop Canvas size command
Twisting the lens round 90 degrees allows a vertical shift (or rise/fall)
The picture below shows a full 11mm of shift. I’ve extended the canvas, as before, but notice the serious vignetting.
- More Info on Vignetting
If you mouse over the image you can see the effect of applying the vignetting controls in ‘Lens Correction’.
Using the offset image allows you to correct much of the vignetting.
In this case it was also darker near the floor.
11mm down shift – vignetting
Once you have got the images to a decent state, it’s a simple job to stitch them together with the Photoshop ‘Photomerge’ or more specialist software. If you have extended the canvas like in the examples I’ve used, it’s best to crop out the extension before merging…
In the first example below, you can also see the result of not having the camera completely level, where there is a slight step between images
This is a picture I took for a local bar (print is 3 feet across and you can read the bottle labels).
click to enlarge
A B&W version supplied as a print
Across the street where I live (click to enlarge)
Here’s a 100% crop of the top left.
And the centre of the image (Canon 1Ds 11MP images).
And lastly, 12 images, using the different rotation settings, all at 11mm shift.
The vignetting is clearly visible (as is also a slight stitching error :-)
12 Canon 1Ds images — stitched using Photomerge in Photoshop
The two pictures below were taken while I was explaining to someone what the weird lens was on my camera :-)
Leaning back to get all the building in
Lens shifted to fix perspective (somewhat)
Both pictures would need some perspective correction in Photoshop.
However the shifted version needed a lot less dramatic correction.
The 100% samples from each show the real difference.
Photoshop only correction vs. Shift lens and PS correction.
The vignetting also helps reduce the sky brightness a bit :-)
An example using about 5mm of fall to get the right perspective. I’ve effectively used the shift to get rid of many of the perspective distortions that would normally be present.
LCB depot — Taken, hand held, available light at the LCB Depot, Leicester (1250 iso, f/5.6)
A couple of outdoor hand held shots, where a bit of shift has improved the perspective. Both of these shots if ‘fully’ corrected in Photoshop don’t look quite right. Unless you need to get the verticals spot on (say for architectural work) it’s worth trying a few different compositions.
Bradgate Park, Leicester – Woods and ‘Old John’
Note – June ’09 We’ve an article about Focusing the tilt and shift lens – a guide to setting tilt on lenses.
I’ve had much less reason to use this feature so far, but the bookshelf example below shows the effect of about 6 degrees of tilt.
If you mouse over the image, the differences should be clear.
Six degrees of lens tilt
Notice how the shelf support is sharper in the non tilted version – this is because tilt does not give you any more depth of field, it just tilts the plane of focus
The 100% crops below give a much better idea of the change (image taken at f/8)
I purchased this lens, second-hand via MPB Photographic in the the UK. It’s worth looking out for bargains, since people buy lenses like this and then, after a while, realise they have an expensive bit of kit sitting round that they hardly use.
Quite fascinating to use if you are from a 35mm SLR background.
It takes some serious experimenting to get the hang of when to use the lens (and when not to).
With a bit of trickery you can use various lens correction software for fixing vignetting and chromatic aberration. I’d note that with the newer 24mm Mk2 and 17mm TS-E lenses, I almost never need to do any corrections.
Vertical shifts (rise and fall) seem to produce the most noticeable vignetting and metering problems.
Don’t forget that many of the shots I’ve included here, were taken at maximal shift, where distortions are at their greatest.
Best results are probably going to come from using a combination of the lens shifting and Photoshop to get the optimal results.
Using the shift function gives about the same horizontal angular coverage as a 16mm lens, but with noticeably higher resolution.
I’m taking the lens on my forthcoming trip to Colorado, where I’m probably spending a couple of weeks in the mountains taking pictures.
Update: example use of tilt
This image used several degrees of tilt to get much of the tree in focus and give an interesting look to the background. Hand held, in a forest atop the Grand Mesa in Colorado.
A slight bit of lens swing to maximise the sharp area of the ‘eye’.
Update Spring 2008
This lens is now the one I use for much of my interior and architectural photography work. The image below was on a site visit to the new Curve theatre being built in Leicester.
It’s the stage, with all the support cables for flats and lights. Two shifted images stitched together using Photoshop Photomerge. 1Ds3, 24mm TSE, 10 second exposures at f/11. The ‘white’ lights are actually high pressure sodium lighting, hence the blue cast of fluorescent lights and glimpses of daylight.
Buying a TS-E lens – We make a specific point of not selling hardware, but if you found the articles and information here of help, please consider buying a lens, or any other items at all, via our link with Amazon.
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Other useful articles
- Using tilt/shift – Canon article
- Perspective Control – clear overview
- Tilt and depth of field – excellent article showing more about how tilt affects DOF
- Tilt and shift – Wikipedia
- The View camera – Wikipedia
- Using 35mm T/S lenses – includes modification procedures for Canon lenses
- Shift adapter for MF lenses
- Comprehensive collection of T/S info
Keith also provides bespoke personal photography tuition to private individuals in the Leicester area (UK) – this is in addition to Northlight’s corporate training services, and is aimed at at photographers looking to learn more about particular aspects of photography, such as architecture and landscape. It includes using various tilt/shift lenses, which are available (with a FF DSLR) to use during sessions.
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Some articles that may be of interest:
- Using a tilt/shift lens - what it is they actually do
- Focus with tilted lenses - lots more information about what's going on when you tilt a lens. See also: Focusing the view camera - External link to [very] detailed coverage of camera movements
- Keith's tilt table spreadsheet (zipped file)
- Using old lenses on your DSLR - fun with adapters
- Keith's lens reviews and lens related articles
More of Keith's articles/reviews (Google's picks to match this page)
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