Lensbaby- does it do tilt/shift?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Ruahrc, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    I have heard about the Lensbaby but never really researched it in depth or tried one. I am curious if it can replicate the scheimpflug effect that a true tilt/shift lens can, or if it uses a different mechanism?

    The new Lensbaby Tilt seems like you can turn any compatible lens into a lensbaby composer, right? In the demo video they showed a tilt shift effect where they got a slice of focus, but is this true T/S?

    I think the difference is that the lensbaby system just rotates the lens around relative to the sensor plane, so the plane of focus cuts into and out of the sensor. The rear element moves relative to the sensor. In a true T/S lens, does the rear element move with respect to the sensor? Maybe that is what is needed in order to create the scheimpflug effect.

    I am mainly interested in T/S lenses for their ability to tilt the plane of focus for increased DoF for example in landscapes. AFAIK I don't think the lensbaby system can do this, but anyone here know for sure?

  2. chmilar macrumors member

    Sep 25, 2003
    Lensbabies do tilt and swing. They do not shift.
  3. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    As far as I understand, it can actually do that. You cannot shift, though, which means that falling lines will still fall ;) Have a look at the galleries on the lensbaby homepage.
  4. emorydunn macrumors 6502


    Jun 5, 2006
    Austin Texas
    The other big thing about the Lensbaby is that unlike a tilt-shift lens the plane of focus is in a circle instead of a line. But you can achieve some similar effects to a tilt-shift lens.
  5. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    The original lensbaby is not a replacement for a tilt/shift lens. While it can tilt (and swing) and thus approximate Scheimpflug, the optics are absolutely terrible (single or double element or something) and the curvature of field and spherical aberrations are crazy bad. That's not to say you couldn't get a cool photo with it; it just wouldn't be sharp... Think of it kind of like a tilt/shift holga.

    The lensbaby tilt adapter, while only allowing tilt and swing (and not rise and fall, which I consider essential for landscapes) would be sharp, in theory. Your question about the rear element, however, complicates things slightly...

    Near-symmetrical lenses (think large format and rangefinder lenses) focus as you move the entire lens relative to the film plane. Most SLR lenses use helical focusing, which in most cases only moves the front elements but still works in essentially the same way (optical engineers can correct me here, since I'm sure I'm simplifying). But even lenses with helical focusing rings can be focused instead by changing their distance from the film plane, hence macro tubes, the lensbaby tilt, etc.

    What complicates this is that some lenses, particularly wide angle retrofocus (slr) lenses, have additional elements linked to the helicoid called "floating elements," which then correct for spherical aberration, etc. at close focus ranges. Large format lenses lack floating elements, and so you have to buy application-specific macro lenses. Rangefinders are bad for subject matter near the camera (parallax issues) so I'm not sure if rangefinder lenses have floating elements as a rule. I know the near-symmetrical modern noctilux does. By using a misaligned adapter (such as a Nikon/Canon adapter that doesn't hit infinity correctly), macro tube, or something like this lensbaby adapter--anything that upsets the flange distance in some way--you might subtly upset the balance between focus and floating element corrections, resulting in soft corners. In theory. But in practice, moving the entire lens in such an adapter as this should have a similar effect focus-wise to a true tilt/shift lens. But the optical design won't be quite as perfect (almost certainly not an issue at landscape f-stops, possibly not even an issue even wide open) and you won't get rise and fall.

    But honestly, if you want the most flexibility there's only once choice. I think I hear large format calling your name...
  6. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    I thought that's the whole point of a lensbaby, to give you this Diana/Holga look? It's not supposed to have a good optics.
  7. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    Yeah, it's the whole point, but it's also why the lens is inappropriate for "traditional" landscapes, even though it technically has tilt and swing. I used to own a lensbaby and it's very cool but you'd be insane to try and get a "group f64" look with it. It's overpriced, well-made, and special-purpose.

    Long story short the new "lensbaby tilt" adapter is appropriate for Scheimpflug but less flexible than a true tilt/shift lens or view camera would be. If you have a camera that's compatible with it and some Nikon lenses I bet it's very cool.
  8. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    I agree. Plus, it's a cheap way to do some sort of tilt without spending an arm, a leg and your first-born.
  9. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    For selective focus it's great. For Scheimpflug it's bad. The new tilt adapter might be good for both.

    But to be honest, I don't even get how people accurately use Scheimpflug on an SLR. I'd think the ground glass would be too small to do any better than estimating--but then again given the tiny depth of field on small formats maybe estimating is all you need. I've only heard horror stories about digital medium format view cameras. They've got too much resolution for their own good and so you need to make movements accurate to within a few microns (in theory).
  10. Ruahrc thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    The more recent DSLRs with liveview work well for Scheimpflug as you can view the image at 100% on the LCD screen.

    Re: the tilt transformer, I still don't think it is doing real Scheimpflug. I see many examples of pseudo-DoF where they have decreased it for that "miniatures" effect, but have never seen an example of a Lensbaby actually increasing depth of field a la scheimpflug. Where I get confused though is that products like this: (http://www.novoflex.com/en/products/macro-accessories/bellows-systems/tilt-shift-bellows/) seem to essentially be the same thing as the tilt transformer (holding the lens tilted with respect to the film plane), so where's the difference?
  11. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    That should work well, although it would be slow since you'd have to use it like you would with a view camera, adjusting each corner little by little.

    It is. Whether it's as user friendly as using a tilt/shift lens is another matter. Remember, it's not atually increasing the depth of field but changing the focal plane. It's much easier to make the focal plane "wrong" than to line it up perfectly.

    Edit: Okay I'm going to come off as stupid by trying to explain this and doing a bad job, but here goes. The Scheimpflug principle is this: if you take the focal plane you want (like, the side of a building, a fence, a field leading into the mountains, etc.) and imagine that plane extends infinitely and then also imagine your film plane extends infinitely, the two planes intersect in a line (unless they're parallel as is the case with normal lenses).

    If you then you position your lens (using tilt/swing) until the plane extending from it its optical center intersects with the line created by the other two planes, then you will have the desired plane of focus in your photo.

    So just by virtue of the fact that the adapter does tilt/swing, it's doing Scheimpflug.
  12. chmilar macrumors member

    Sep 25, 2003
    That is known as the "hinge rule".

    The Scheimpflug principle is in effect anytime the lens and image planes are not parallel. Most often it is used to put more of the scene in focus, but using it for the pseudo-miniature effect is also using the Scheimpflug principle.

    One final thing to be aware of with a tilt transformer is that most lenses have an image circle that just covers the film area. If you try tilting it, the edge of the image circle will cut through your film plane so part of the image will be black.

    Real tilt-shift lenses are designed with large image circles to avoid this problem. If you just want a toy to play with, a lensbaby is fine. If you are serious about tilt-shift, you are better off getting a lens designed for that purpose.
  13. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    Well...I never stipulated that the desired focal plane be of something (okay I did imply it), but yes, true. I knew I would get into semantic trouble with that post. Are you an architectural photographer, btw? Or just a tilt/shift enthusiast?

    Anyhow, these adapters appear to only be compatible with APS-C and 4/3 chips, which would mean any full frame lens should have decent coverage for basic tilt/swing. So coverage might not be an issue...

    Otherwise, yes! I've heard only incredible things about Canon's tilt/shift range and Nikon's isn't bad either. And once you have lens rise (well, if you're shooting landscapes, at least) it's pretty hard to live without it.

    If I had the money I would be using a 5DII with tilt/shift lenses. What a nice camera... First I need to get my hands on a Toyo 45a, though. Much cheaper.
  14. chmilar macrumors member

    Sep 25, 2003
    I shoot landscape with a 4x5 camera, which has tilt, swing, rise/fall, and shift.

    A lot of landscape shots use a little tilt to get the entire groundplane into focus. Rise/fall is used frequently, too. Swing and shift are rarely needed.

    But an architectural photographer uses all of the movements.

    And yes, if you are using full-frame 35mm lenses onto APS-C or smaller sensors, you have a lot of room for movement. On the other hand, Some medium format photographers are actually using Canon's new TS lenses to cover 36x48mm sensors (using the Hartblei B1 camera, for example), and still have enough image circle for movements, so those lenses are quite impressive.
  15. Ruahrc thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Do I understand it right when I say that Rise/Tilt are really the same as Shift/Swing, except one is vertical and the other is horizontal?

    I'm pretty jealous of those Canon TS-Es myself. IMO they are superior to the Nikon PC-E lenses as they can be rotated to tilt/shift in any direction, as opposed to being fixed on the Nikon lenses. You can set up the lens to tilt and rise in the same direction, or 90 degrees to each other, but that's it- and it is not a setting you can change in the field as it requires a trip to Nikon service, or disassembly of the lens if you choose to do it yourself. And that 17mm TS-E sounds like a great focal length for a DX tilt shifter.
  16. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    Since I only use camera movements in large format I may be wrong but, perspective-control lens-wise:

    Tilt/swing constitutes the "tilt" part.
    Rise/fall/shift left/shift right constitutes the "shift" part.

    Of course, not every lens has all these movements available, at least not at once, hence the ambiguous names like "perspective control."

    For view cameras, it's simple: rise/fall is moving the lens up or down, shift is moving left or right, tilt/swing is the Scheimpflug part (rotating the plane of focus).

    The Canon 17mm lens looks unbelievable. It has a huge image circle and it's fast, plus it's got tons of movements. There are equivalent ultra-wide lenses for large format (58mm super angulon xl and 55mm apo-grandagon), but neither have enough coverage for anything but extremely minimal movements. For digital medium format view cameras, the closest thing is the $7,000 23mm digaron-s, which is a stop slower and with less coverage...and it costs $2,000 more if you want an electronic shutter. The Canon seems like the ideal ultra-wide for landscapes, architecture, etc.

    Then again, if you try large format or if you ever print large, you might be surprised to find you abandon ultra-wide lenses. When you view a print really large, converging vertical lines (an issue with any system without rise/fall) and corner distortion become really apparent. The best large format prints I've seen were taken from 135mm to 300mm (gentle wide angle to gentle telephoto) with full perspective correction. Look around at paintings of landscapes. You'll rarely see trees converging or perspective distortion in the corners. For that kind of look (not necessarily the look everyone wants) 4x5 is basically great. It's great for other stuff, too, but slow.

    Not to be a view camera snob, because if I could afford a Canon outfit I'd buy it. Also, my large format photographs so far are terrible. It's kind of hard.
  17. Diane B macrumors regular

    Jun 20, 2010
    Western NC foothills
    Lensbaby Tilt Transformer/Focus front vs TS

    Okay, since I have the original LB (2.0-Canon mount for FF), the original Composer in 4/3rds mount that I use with adapter on m4/3rds G1 snd GF1 and the new Tilt Transformer/Focus Front combo (Making it a Composer but with 40mm instead of LB normal 50mm) AND an EF 45f/2.8TS shot on a 5D and have shot 24mm TS I'll interject here. On top of that, I decided to try a Nikon to FD adapter to use my FD lenses eith the TT (which is like using a 1.4x extension tube) and just got a used Nikon 35/2 lens today to use with TT.

    I understand the principle and use that knowledge to shoot with the TS. The LB, whether the 2 or Composer, does not act the same though I can do quite controlled selective focus--which is what LB is known for besides their several specialized optics (soft, single glass, pinhole/zone plate and fisheye all usable with Composer). I can't increase the perception of increased DOF with the LB. With the Tilt Transformer and the FD or Nikon lens mounted I am working on controlling the wedge of focus which is possible because you are changing the plane of focus and have easy ability to change aperture but its not as easy controlling it as with the EF TS. These are only for mirrorless cameras like the Panasonic Gs, the Olympus m4/3 and the Sony NEX at least for now. The develooer explains the reasons on one of the forums at LB. Beyone that with the msgnified liveview for manual focusing they work well for the LB

    So, they won't take the place of a TS for its traditional uses since they don't shift but one can certainly use patience ( you need that with any TS) and do quite well with the tilt.

    Diane B
  18. Ruahrc thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Thanks for the response Diane. Sounds logical that it does to "proper" scheimpflug but also logical that it doesn't work on Nikon bodies due to the image circle issues. Doh! Looks like "real" T/S lenses are still the required option for FF/DX users.

  19. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    You may have another option...


    But unless you're shooting full frame, 50mm may not be an attractive focal length. These seem to be studio, not landscape lenses.

    The prices are also astronomical, likely for optics no better (and possibly worse!) than Canon's.

    Also, a lot of photographers interested in landscape work have forsaken view cameras for digital point and shoot cameras or dSLRs. Most of the time using a tripod and stopping down will result in a "good enough" image much more cheaply than using a view camera or dSLR with tilt/shift lenses, both of which require tripods anyway. If all you want is tilt, most of what you're paying for is the chance to use f8 instead of f16--and in certain situations only. Is that worth all the money to you?

    Or, for very cheap used, you could get lots of movements and lots of focal lengths:

    Attached Files:

  20. Ruahrc thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    I really doubt that Schneider's optics are worse than Canon's.

    There are other 3rd party T/S manufacturers as well. The Hartblei super-rotators look like good alternatives too.

    Is it worth all the money to me? I think so. It's not just being able to use f/8 vs. f/16, it's the ability to get DoF from 2 inches to infinity. To get DoF that would require apertures of f/64 or greater (and far into where diffraction has begun to rob you of image quality anyways).

    When you walk into the gallery of an accomplished photographer and see large format prints hanging on the wall printed at 40x60 or more and "nose to the glass" sharp- you start to wonder what "good enough" really means to you, having seen what can be done.
  21. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    Fair enough, go for it then. Just remember that even with tilt you may still be stopping down to f8 in most cases and f11 or f16 on occasion. Few scenes are strictly planar.

    Let me know what you choose and how it works out. I may be in the market for a T/S lens for digital in a year or so.
  22. Ruahrc thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    To add to my last comment, I recently rented a Zeiss 35mm prime lens. Zeiss lenses are supposedly individually calibrated at the factory so their infinity focus stop is accurate (the optical design of many zooms is such that you are actually focusing beyond infinity when you put the focus ring all the way to the far stop). The plethora of markings on it allows for easy setting of hyperfocal distance.

    Anyhow, I took a few shots of a scene with the focus set both on the hyperfocal distance, and at the infinity stop. The one focused at infiinity had clearly more detail/better focus at the extreme faraway parts of the image than the hyperfocally focused one.

    Just to illustrate that hyperfocal distance and "DoF" are not absolutes. The lens will only have one exact plane of perfect focus ever, terms like depth of field are only used for "acceptable" focus, a term that can mean different things to different people. In the examples I had, there was a clear difference which ones were hyperfocal and which ones were infinity focus. T/S lenses (typically) get more of your subject closer to the plane of focus, thereby improving sharpness, even when something like a hyperfocal technique might have covered it "by the numbers".

    Unfortunately, a T/S is not in my near future either. I am looking to pick up a different lens or two first, to get more quality in the general-use stuff before I start focusing on specialty lenses. I made this post mainly because someone I knew mentioned the tilt transformer to me, and we got to wondering if it could actually be used to replace the function of a TS lens.
  23. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    You're right, it's just that T/S isn't a magic bullet. Most deep focus large format photography is still shot around f32 (somewhat ironically, the point and which diffraction starts to cancel out the benefits of the large negative).

    You're also right about hyperfocal technique. Depth of field scales usually correlate with what's "generally acceptable" for 8X10 enlargements and, even then, are generous. Take into account that APS-C is cropped to half the surface area of 135 and then magnified about 20X (if you're viewing it per-pixel) and depth of field scales are WAY off.

    There are two books about this available here:


    I need to read these, but they're kind of boring... From what I gather, their message is what you've already discovered: hyperfocal technique is inadequate for large landscape prints.

    Then again, you can beat diffraction limits, depth of field limits, etc. by image stitching, with room to spare for perspective correction--and so trounce 8X10 with a high-end point and shoot... It's just not so fun.
  24. egis macrumors member

    Sep 3, 2008
    Bethesda, Maryland

    I have looked into this suite of lens plugins....beware tilt/shift is only for Nikon bodies.

  25. chmilar macrumors member

    Sep 25, 2003
    Another option is helicon focus:


    In brief, you bracket focus, and then use the software to choose the sharpest image for different objects in the scene. It sounds like it also tries to interpolate and deconvolve from out-of-focus areas.

    Some photographers who have moved from large format film to medium format digital are using helicon focus to achieve the deep focus they lost when they no longer have tilt.

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