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For our recent trip to Iceland, we rented a couple of lenses once again – from LensRentals.com. Their service was excellent, as always. We placed the order a couple of weeks before we left, and the lenses arrived clean and in perfect condition – in plenty of time for us to get them packed up and ready to go. We highly recommend their services – and we know several other photographers who’ve rented from them as well. I haven’t heard any complaints yet! Renting lenses is a great way to get your hands on a lens to try it out before making an expensive purchase.
So, let’s get to it!
A tilt shift lens is a specialty lens that allows the photographer to control perspective without tilting the camera – instead, they can actually tilt the elements within the lens itself. You can also adjust the plane of focus so that everything within the plane is in sharp focus… or so that only a small area is in focus. Here’s a nice little video from Digital Rev TV that gives a really nice, basic overview of what you can do with one of these lenses.
This is a very compact and light-weight lens that comes with an integrated lens hood. It is one of the sharpest prime lenses we have used – it’s beautifully sharp even wide open. The lens is really solid – it’s well built, and made to last… which is pretty important, since it’s selling for about $1300.00. (Yet another reason to rent!)
There’s very little distortion with this lens, and you shouldn’t have problems with flare unless you are shooting directly into the sun. One of the drawbacks of this lens is that the axis of shift and the axis of tilt remained locked with respect to one another….we hope Canon will choose to correct this issue with newer models. And the knobs are also really little! Which makes them a bit difficult to adjust if your fingers aren’t very small.
A T/S lens can be used in variety of creative ways to capture images. Rather than focusing on the technical aspects of how to use the lens, we want to point out some of the creative ways you can use it.
First of all – it can be used just like any other lens… here’s a shot I took using LiveView to manually focus. (It’s important to note that this lens does not have auto-focus capabilities.) Because it’s a compact lens, I was able to sprint a half-mile with my camera and tripod to capture the gorgeous light over the mountains in Iceland.
On of our favorite uses for this lens is in creating panoramas. The process is simple. You set up your first shot as you would normally – and snap a photo. Then, you adjust the lens along it’s shift axis to the left and right to complete the panorama. Here is an example of a panorama series. After the images were captured, we combine them in Photoshop for the finished effect.
Another interesting aspect of the TS lens is it’s ability to isolate a subject by adjusting the plane of focus. The shot you see below shows how tilting the lens axis blurs the area in front of and behind the subject. This is a neat way to isolate a subject within the frame.
This lens is great for photographing small objects – think how cool it would be to shift your plane of focus so that all the petals of the flower you are shooting are within the plane of focus… without shooting the flower from above! We loved it for super-sharp panoramas and isolating subjects within the field of view. We don’t recommend the lens if you don’t feel comfortable with a learning curve. Tilt shift lenses are very different from conventional lenses, and making the most of them requires practice and experimentation! If you are up for a challenge – rent one and see how you like it! I think we’ll rent this one again… it’s entirely too much fun to play with!
TS/E lenses offer an incredible opportunity to explore your creative side. What would you do if you get your hands on one? :)