There are a lot of different lens types out there: prime, zoom, wide angle, telephoto, macro and others. Another type of lens is tilt/shift (TS), which Nikon calls “Perspective Control” (PC). These lenses are not as generally well known, but they do a lot of different and interesting things that may appeal to you. In this article, we’ll be discussing tilt/shift lenses, what they do, which to get and why you might want one.
The idea of a TS lens derives from view cameras. A view camera is one of those old-timey looking things with a large back and a bellows connecting to the lens that is up front. It’s not really old-timey, though. These cameras are still very much in use for large format images. Figure 1 shows a diagram of a view camera.
In a view camera, the film plane is located in the rear standard, and the lens plane is located in the front standard. The front standard can rotate the lens around the lens horizontal axis (up and down, or tilt), and rotate around the vertical axis (left and right, or swing). It can move in parallel to the sensor or film plane, allowing you to move the lens in a rise and fall motion (up and down), or shift it (left and right). It can also do combinations of these moves. For example, the lens can shift upwards, while also swung to the left. At the same time, it could also be tilted downwards. The rear standard can also tilt and swing. These abilities in a large format camera give great creative control over perspective, plane of focus, and depth of field. Note that in DSLRs, the terms “tilt” and “swing” are usually combined into just “tilt” with “rise and fall” and “shift” just called “shift”.
DSLRs do not have this ability to physically make these movements as the lens is typically connected directly to the camera body through an immovable mount. In 1961, Nikon built the first PC lens manufactured for an SLR camera, the 35 mm f/3.5 PC-Nikkor shift lens. It took Canon 12 years to come out with a lens that both tilted and shifted in 1973. Today we have available three Nikon PC lenses: 24mm f/3.5D ED PC-E, 45mm f/2.8D ED PC-E and 85mm f/2.8D ED PC-E tilt-shift lenses. In addition to these manufacturers, you can now find this type of lens from Schneider Optics, Samyang and others.
TS lenses are able to shift by projecting a very large image circle onto the sensor plane of the camera, and allowing the front of the lens to be moved about in parallel with the sensor plane. All lenses project a circular image towards the sensor plane, which is easily seen when putting a DX type cropped lens onto an FX full frame body, as shown in figure 2.
TS lenses project an even larger circle onto the sensor plane, as shown in figure 3.
To read the rest of the article, please log in. This article is available only for registered Nikonians members. If you are not registered yet, please do so. To discover the world of Nikonians and the advantages of being a registered member, take our short discovery tour.
More articles that might interest you