Tilt and shift capabilities for macro and beyond

Discussion in 'Macro' started by alexo, Mar 19, 2017.

  1. I currently have a Canon FD auto bellows, which I use with my Canon 5d2. I reverse mounted my FD 50mm f1.8 lens and the setup is pretty flexible and works quite well.

    However, I'm beginning to experience the limitations of this setup and I wanted to add tilting and shifting capabilities. I came up with a few options, all of which have their pros and cons.

    1. Tilt/Shift bellows. There are a number of bellows units, especially for medium format, which can be adapted for my setup. These run in the ballpark of about $650 and they would pretty much do what I need. However, my tilting options would be limited to macro
    2. Technical camera such as Cambo DB or Arca Swiss Universalis. This setup would allow me to have view camera functions at macro level and for general photography. However, it's EXPENSIVE and I wouldn't want to spend that kind of money if there are other options that would give me this functionality
    3. Adapting a 4x5 camera. This is a somewhat less expensive proposition than tech camera, but the limitations of this setup is that it's heavy, bulky and my choice of lenses for general photography would be limited.
    4. Mounting two tilt/shift adapters (one on the lens and one on the camera with bellows in between). This setup should theoretically give me independent front and rear standard movements. I say theoretically because I've never seen that done and I don't know how well it would work and if there are issues with such a setup. This setup would sort of be a compromise between macro and non-macro, with a macro setup having both front and rear movements and only lens movements available for general photography
    5. Using a TSE lens on bellows. I don't know how well that would work or whether reverse mounting a TSE lens would yield good results. This is one of the cheapest options, but there would be no rear movements for macro, unlike the adapter option (although I could also get a TSE adapter for the rear if that works).
    So, I'm not quite sure what to do. If anyone has had any experience with any or all of these options, or if anyone has anything else to recommend, I'm all ears.

  2. What and how large is your subject matter? It makes a difference.

    Simple Nikon>EOS adapters will let you use the tilt-shift Nikon bellows (e.g.,
    PB-4 Bellows)
    and many lenses, reversed or short.

    Longer focal length (45-90mm) TS-E lenses are available for product work.
  3. AFAIK, The Nikon PB4 bellows only does shifts and swings on the front standard. It has no movement on the rear standard and no rise and fall capabilities. It's the reason I didn't include it.

    My subject matter is less than an inch, but ideally, I would like to maintain my macro capabilities and expand the movements into general photography.
  4. Rear movements aren't needed. With a rigid-bodied camera you tilt or swing the entire camera to achieve the same effect. All that matters is the angle of the image plane with respect to the subject, and that's all that rear movements change.

    A tilt/swing back on a large format camera allows a change of image plane angle without losing your framing and having to reset the camera aim. That's just a convenience that can be easily got around with a small camera. Besides, since it's not possible to swing or tilt the actual image plane of an SLR or DSLR around its axes the idea of using a rear T/S adapter is a non-starter.

    The Nikon PB-4 bellows has a rotating camera mount. Therefore simply rotating the camera and bellows mounting through 90 degrees turns shift into rise/fall and swing into tilt. You very rarely need to shift at right-angles to swing/tilt. Shift is needed to bring the lens axis back into line with the centre of the frame (something of which Nikon should take note with their current T/S lenses!).
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2017
  5. Thank you for your reply. It's very helpful. What about the idea of using tilt/shift lenses on non-tilting bellows? Does that make sense?
  6. There would be very little practical difference between having the front of the bellows tilt and shift, and having a T/S lens mounted on a fixed bellows. Except - there might be vignetting at a smaller T/S setting due to the shifting taking place in front of the mount, rather than in the plane of the mount or slightly behind it.

    Also the T/S bellows are more flexible in that you retain movements regardless of whatever lens is fitted.

    BTW, tilt/shift vignetting in the optical viewfinder of an SLR/DSLR occurs long before the captured image or LiveView vignettes. This is because of the mirror cutting into the optical path. Use of LiveView with a T/S bellows is almost mandatory if you want to make full use of the T/S facility.

    "or whether reverse mounting a TSE lens would yield good results." - Not feasible. Reverse mounting would take away any possibilty of using lens movements. The lens mount would simply waggle about while the lens stayed put. However, you can reverse mount a lens on a T/S bellows and retain movements.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2017
  7. Excellent advice! Thank you. BTW, I always use live view or I shoot tethered through the computer. It's a lot easier to see what's going on than looking through the dark viewfinder.

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