Nikon tilt-shift vs. Lens Baby

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by bikealps, Nov 19, 2010.

  1. I'm thinking about getting a tilt-shift lens in the future. The local camera store has an older Nikoor 85mm PC lens for a pretty good price. My main application would be food shots where I would want to have the horizontal plane in focus while I shoot from a shallow angle.
    They tell me this older lens is not as capable as the lenses selling today. Apparently it can tilt and shift, but cannot tilt and shift at the same time. Did I get that right? I'm guessing I don't need shift at all. Shift is used to fix perspective, which would be a big deal on a 24mm lens if you shoot architecture, but you can fix this in photoshop anyway. All I really care about is tilting.
    I guess I still can't get this used lens yet as I have a D90 and it apparently will bump the D90 so I have to wait until next year when I get a FX camera?
    So if I want to just tilt the focal plane, can I just use a lens baby? When I look at photos of the lens baby, it looks like it is essentially a lens swiveler, but when I see the photos people take with lens baby they are not the same as a lens tilt. With a lens tilt, you can get a plane of focus wherever you want and, like a view camera, you can get photos which are sharp everywhere. The photos I have seen from a lens baby are only sharp at a point and look gimmicky.
    Plus, the lens baby adds distance between the lens and the camera which would mean you cannot focus at inifinity, or even close to infinity, now. Is that right?
  2. There should not be any mechanical issue with the 85 PC or PC-E with the D90 body. Only the 24mm PC-E has this issue that it bumps into the prism housing of most Nikon bodies when some combination of movements are applied. The 45 and 85 should be fine.
  3. The Lens Baby should focus on infinity, but the image quality may be unacceptable to most clients. The Nikkor would be a better choice despite costing so much more. Food and product photography are the domain of view cameras. For occasional use a second-hand view camera may be more economical than an exotic lens.
  4. The LensBaby is not a tilt lens, at least not in the same sense as the Nikon or Canon tilt/shift lenses. It gives you a single point of focus surrounded by a radial blur, not a tilted focal plane. There is an FAQ on the LensBaby web site that explains this quite clearly. So if what you want is a real tilted focal plane, forget the LensBaby.
  5. The LensBaby can tilt the focal plane -- but the lens itself is a "selective focus" lens, which is marketing speak for the fact that it has a severely curved "plane" of focus (at least for the standard lenses; I think the soft focus lens might have a relatively flat plane of focus, but I don't have one so I cannot confirm). It doesn't act like a conventional tilt lens.
  6. cannot tilt and shift at the same time.​
    Wrong. It comes from the factory set to tilt and shift in the same plane. That is what some people object to, but it is a simple modification to make the adjustment planes orthogonal. Some people do it in the field because it isn't obvious which will best beforehand. This field modification is supposedly much more complex with the newer model (PC-E) because of the wiring harness but otherwise the optics are similar. As for limits with a D90, you need to try the combination to see if it can be adjusted to do what you want.
  7. thanks! that cleared everything up.
    Sounds like the salesman didn't understand the differences between the new 24 PC-E and the older 35 and 28 lenses... but this doesn't apply to the 85. Sounds like there is one one version of the 85 out there.
    And I read on the much-maligned equipment-oriented website, that these lenses bump into the viewfinder on the D90, but rereading his review it's clear he has looked at the 24 and not the 85, but incorrectly extended his 24mm observations to the 85mm lens. Although everybody likes to diss his website, and he steered me wrong here, I still find it very useful.
    Thanks for the education!
  8. Regarding switching the tilt and shift planes oneself, while others report success, I failed miserably with my own 85mm PC (not E). It seemed that the electrical connector ribbon between the two halves was too short to permit the switch, and while I was trying to come up with an orientation that would work, I broke the connector It was a $300 repair bill from Nikon. There may be variations in the ribbon length—and there are certainly variations in fine motor skills—or maybe I was just unlucky. Anyway, you should know that there is some risk doing it yourself.
  9. Just in case it's relevant, if we're talking about the Lensbaby price range... I picked up a 35mm f/2.8 tilt-shift from KievCamera - possibly an Arsat MC (I don't have it to hand) third-party tilt-shift to use on my D700 when I switched to Nikon. The square base makes it a pain to mount, although it's just possible (on an F5 you have to take the prism off...) and the design means it's impossible to get the tilt and shift in the same plane. Bear that in mind if you consider a third-party solution - I'll settle for not combining them, or fixing the perspective in Photoshop, but it would have been nice to line them up. I was, however, extremely happy with my Hartblei Super-Rotator when I was still shooting Canon - other than that it would have helped to have a camera with live view!

    I've never been entirely clear why the manufacturers ship the lenses with the tilt and shift at 90 degrees - unless it's a cynical attempt to get people to pay to have them switched. I accept that there are some scenarios in which this is useful, but I've never found someone who could convince me that it wouldn't be more commen to want them in-plane. If anyone has a good explanation, it would stop me from grinding my teeth at the manufacturer's stupidity next time I use my lens.
  10. More times than not, I compose a close-up shot and dial in some tilt, which many times changes the composition slightly. Then by fine tuning on shift, this allows me to frame my subject without changing my camera support position.
    Yes it's a "lazy factor" for me. I use the lens more so in the vertical or angled perspective, than the standard horizontal position. Rotating the lens 45 degrees also reduces the maximum aperture half a stop.
    If you get the 1st version, like my own, you do have to meter by adjusting the aperture ring for correct exposure, then press the stop down plunger before taking your shot, which I sometimes can forget to do.
    I's also the sharpest micro that I have ever laid my hands on.
  11. Steven - I think (if I understand your workflow) that's another argument for making tilt and shift move in the same direction. I'm assuming you can rotate the whole lens en masse (since my Arsat would if it didn't foul the prism, and my super-rotator obviously does), separately from the issue of the relative angle of tilt and shift. I've never used the Nikkor PC-E lenses, so I could be way off.
    Rotating the lens 45 degrees also reduces the maximum aperture half a stop.​
    Say what now?
  12. The part of this discussion that seems missing (or that I missed) is that a lensbaby is nowhere near the quality of optic than that of a Nikon TS lens. While I enjoy lensbabies for their creative aspects, I would never ever use one in architectural work, for example. To illustrate the problem: a lensbaby does not have enough image circle to maintain optical performance on the edges, nor of a design to give consistent results along a tilted optical plane.
  13. I have the older 85 Tilt-Shift and it was very easy to modify it so the Tilt and Shift are both along the same axis. A small Philips screwdriver, turn the lens 90 degrees, and screw back together. Three minutes and it's all done. I did not have any issue with the electronic connector cable - apparently, mine was long enough to accommodate the modification.
  14. It can tilt and shift simultaneously, just that as mentioned, the planes of tilt and shift are fixed. In Hartblei's and Canon's newest TS lenses both can be freely adjusted. In practice, I only find this an issue in macro shots where it would be convenient to tilt to fix for recomposition caused by tilting and even then fixed planes are ok as long as they are oriented the right way. So for food shots I don't see this as an issue.
    The lens itself is sharp and well made and I'm pretty sure that the "hitting the overhang" -problem only applied to the 24, not the 85. They have a slightly different layout, which explains this.
  15. My mistake. It loses 2.8 focused closer than approx. 5 feet. It must have been a coincidence while changing rotation that I noticed the F stop change.
    In any case, while I don't have a Lensbaby, I can hardly fathom it could even hold a candle to one of Nikon's better lenses.
    (Maybe if I gutted an old Planar and stacked my own glass.)
  16. Just curious what focal length you use to shoot food with now? I could be wrong about it, as I haven't shot product with 35mm, but 85mm seems a bit long to me. I shot table top for years with 4x5 and for most food and more descriptive product shots, I used a 210mm. If you crop a 35mm to 4x5 aspect ratio, that is essentially about a 50mm lens. The 85mm is more like a 340mm on 4x5, which is a bit long--I don't think I ever even used my 300mm for general table top work. Anyway, that is on a FF 35mm, on a crop sensor it would be a very long lens equivalent. Everyone shoots differently, just thought I would mention this if it wasn't considered.
  17. John -- good point. I usually use my 105, sometimes 50 with a DX camera. I plan to upgrade to FX next year. My choice of focal lengths is a bit influenced by close focusing distance (the 50 and my 28 sometimes don't focus close enough, but my 105 micro does) and the fact that I really like side views. I think "real" food photographers (I aspire to be one) probably use shorter lenses than me.
  18. The 45 mm PC-E would be my choice for table top photography with a crop sensor. The 85 would work better with full
    frame cameras. I don't know which of these models would/would not bump the camera's prism housing.

    45 mm on a crop sensor is about 240 mm on 4x5, just about right for non-macro table top work.
  19. I've never been entirely clear why the manufacturers ship the lenses with the tilt and shift at 90 degrees​
    If you shoot a building facade at an angle, shift up and tilt sideways corrects the perspective and puts everything in focus so there's actually a use for having the axes perpendicular.
  20. The Lens Baby might give you more flexibility, but the image quality is not even in the same ballpark as a Nikkor. It is more of a gimmicky novelty lens than a serious piece of glass.
  21. Correcting the Micro Nikkor 85mm lens to tilt and shift in the same direction is not really difficult if you are careful not to rotate it in the wrong direction. My first try was. I realized that the interconnect wiring was too short after I reassembled the lens. I dissembled it, rotated it 180 degrees and put it back together. It worked fine. It s now my favorite lens for macros.
  22. Steven Paulsen - My mistake. It loses 2.8 focused closer than approx. 5 feet. It must have been a coincidence while changing rotation that I noticed the F stop change.​
    That's perfectly normal for all modern macro lenses. The lens computes the "effective aperture" and displays that for you. An 85mm f2.8 has a 30.4mm aperture. When you focus to 5 feet, you rack the lens out 6mm. Now, at 91mm from the focal plane, a 30.4mm aperture is f3.0 (91mm/30.4mm). It's great when you're using external metering. You'd have a slight underexposure if you didn't correct the aperture. We used to do this with elaborate tables that told us a lens's "bellows factor". Now, the difference at 5 feet, f2.8 to f3.0 is only 1/5 of a stop, and is just enough to ruin a slide.
    Andrew Garrard - I've never been entirely clear why the manufacturers ship the lenses with the tilt and shift at 90 degrees.​
    Personally, I've always thought it was because in product, we sometimes have the product at a jaunty angle to the camera (3/4 on for a computer tower) and need our focus plane to match that, adjusting left and right, while we use the shift to be able to move up and down, such as moving down for a "heroic" perspective.
  23. Personally, I think 85mm is fine for product on a DX camera. I do a lot of FF product, especially jewelry, with a 105mm or 135mm on a PB-4 tilt/shift bellows.
    I've always felt that short lenses on small product macros tends to exaggerate perspective, and make the small object look like a giant version of itself, or like it's being viewed by shrunken people.
    Then again, I also go down to 43mm, so there's always different perspectives suitable for different shots. I'd still consider 85mm good for a general purpose product lens, especially with food.
  24. It should be clarified that lenses that offer tilt / swing only tend to have a greater range adjustment than those that do both, e.g., Nikon TE and Canon TS lenses. Also, lenses designed for larger image formats tend to have larger image circles than manufacturers' dedicated TE/TS lenses. For instance, enlarger or large format lenses, such as those use on the Zoerk Multi Focus System or other systems that allow plane of focus adjustment, have image circles of 70mm or more; the dedicated tilt/shift lenses from Nikon/Canon (and others) usually offer about 8-10 degrees of tilt - max. This limits their potential for selective focus effects, and sometimes for the Schliempflug effect (effective depth of field increase by aligning the subject and image planes). Finally, at full extent of movement -- again, because of the smaller image circle -- the manufacturers' TE/TS lenses sometimes exhibit deterioration in image quality, which does not occur with lenses have a much larger image circle.
  25. WRT the comparison to a 210mm on 5x4, remember the OP is saying that he'll eventually be using this lens on a full-frame camera. Also you can't directly compare focal lengths and formats for close-up studio use, because the magnification ratio gets wildly different the closer you get to your subject.
    At infinity focus a 210mm lens on 5x4 equates to a 63mm lens on the 24*36mm format, but when you get down to, say, 1.5metres from the subject, then 5x4 is showing a mag ratio of 1:7. Your 210mm lens has to be racked out another 34mm or so to focus and gives you an effective focal length of 244mm. You'd then have to use a 70mm lens on FF digital to get the same perspective.
    As you get even closer with 5x4 the mag ratio increases further, as does the EFL of the lens. With the LF camera a metre from the subject you've got an EFL of 265mm or close to 80mm on FF. Meanwhile the smaller format is still working at a modest mag ratio of about 1:12 and breathin' easy.
    For FF read "full-frame" by the way. I refuse to lend credence to the stupid abbreviation FX.
  26. Steven wrote:
    My mistake. It loses 2.8 focused closer than approx. 5 feet. It must have been a coincidence while changing rotation that I noticed the F stop change.​
    Phew. I thought I was horrible confused there for a moment. :)

    Oskar wrote:
    If you shoot a building facade at an angle, shift up and tilt sideways corrects the perspective and puts everything in focus so there's actually a use for having the axes perpendicular.​
    I agree that having tilt and shift out-of-plane can have its place, I'd just have thought the more common case is shooting the building straight-on. In which case, if you want to fix verticals and sort out the focal plane, you need them both in line. Maybe that's an unfair assumption - I've not used my TS lenses enough to claim expertise (at least in shift), and I've not yet picked up a 5x4. Some day...

    Joseph wrote:
    Personally, I've always thought it was because in product, we sometimes have the product at a jaunty angle to the camera (3/4 on for a computer tower) and need our focus plane to match that, adjusting left and right, while we use the shift to be able to move up and down, such as moving down for a "heroic" perspective.​
    I guess that makes sense, but it still doesn't feel like it would be more common than, for example, trying to take a squared-off shot without the camera in the way of the product lighting, or dodging reflections. Not that the alternative isn't useful, just that I've have thought in-plane was more useful. I bow to the fact that you and Oskar have both claimed a good use for it, though - my previous discussions with people using T-S lenses gave me the impression that most people switch them to being in-plane most of the time. I'll miss my super-rotator a bit when I get around to ebaying it (but it's Canon-fit, so I can't really justify keeping it for my back-up body).

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone.
  27. If you want to experiment with variable focal plane effects cheaply before committing to the purchase of another lens (even the Lensbabies are pricey for what they do), you can use any lens you already own to see if you like the effect well enough to justify buying a specialized lens.
    Google freelensing and check out the illustrations showing how it's done and the hundreds of sample photos on Flickr and elsewhere. It's easy to do with most SLRs/dSLRs and interchangeable lenses. As long as you can adjust the exposure to compensate and the camera will function with the lens detached, it's easy to experiment with. Even if you have to guess at the exposure the histogram makes it a snap.
    If you're worried about dust getting on the sensor you can rig up a simple plastic bag between the lens and body. Cut holes in the plastic bag for the lens and body lens mount opening. Tape the bag to the lens and body. I'd recommend painter's blue masking tape - works great, doesn't leave a gooey residue behind.
    I've used it mostly with an old 80mm enlarger lens and black plastic bag from an empty container of b&w enlarging paper. I use a T-mount fastened to the bag for the body mount, and a jam nut on the side where the lens goes. It's easier to use this trick with the camera mounted on a tripod. Leaves one hand free to waggle the lens around and another hand free to operate the camera.
    You'll probably quickly tire of the hassle of this improvised trick, but at least it'll help you decide whether buying a specialized lens is worthwhile.

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