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Tilt/Shift Lenses

One of the greatest advantages of using a view camera (the old-fashioned style with a bellows) is that they are capable of tilts, shifts and swings. This nifty feature lets the camera remain level while the lens is tilted or angled in order to reduce the effect of convergence (where lines look like they are coming together).

Some 35mm camera manufacturers (Nikon and Canon in particular) have designed lenses that that have a similar function in the 35mm format (these are often referred to as Perspective Control [PC] lenses). These lenses are often used in architectural photography, but have excellent applications in landscape photography, especially in the wide-angle focal lengths of 28 and 35mm.

Hasselblad has taken a slightly different approach: Instead of making a lens with the tilt and shift functions, they have designed two camera bodies that do this. The Hasselblad Flexbody has a bellows body that permits shift and tilt, and the Arcbody which is designed more like the 35mm perspective control lenses.

There are many different applications for these lenses, but here are two examples. In a stand of tall trees, you want to photograph the trees from base to canopy, but you don't have enough room to move back and create the photograph from a distance. As a result, you use a wide angle lens which is tilted up to get the whole tree in the photo. The finished photograph will appear as if the base is much larger then the canopy, and the canopy will appear to recede into the distance. With a PC lens, the camera would be kept level while the lens would be tilted upwards, resulting in an image that retains the natural shape of the tree. In another area, you want to create an image of a field of wildflowers with a mountain in the background. Both elements are importnat to your composition and you want to keep both in focus. Without a tilt/shift lens, depth of field may be too limited for the composiiton. With a PC lens, keeping the camera level and tilting the lens changes the plane of focus. In other words, instead of the depth of field extending out horizontally, it extends from the plane of focus, Down. As a result, the depth of field needed to create the image is decreased!

Think of the possibilities!

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