A tilt-shift lens is most likely not the first one you’ll buy after the kit lens. But, a specialized lens like this can be a great problem-solver in many situations, or add a new dose of creativity to your shots. In this video, Jon Lorentz of Canon USA gives you some tips on using tilt-shift lenses, so you’ll get some ideas about how they can improve your photographic work.
Tilt-shift lenses are often used for architecture and interiors, but you’ll also see wonderful landscapes, products or portraits taken with these lenses. They differ from standard wide or telephoto lenses because their optics can be moved (shifted) up/down or left/right to correct perspective in a photo. In addition, the front section of the lens can be tilted at an angle upward/downward or left/right. This changes the plane of what’s in sharp focus in your image.
An easy example to demonstrate the use of tilt-shift lenses is using a wide angle lens to photograph a building. Normally, you’ll point the camera upward and see the vertical lines of the building leaning inward, almost like a pyramid.
If you use a tilt-shift lens, you can correct this: the camera can be faced straight ahead, and you can use the shift feature to raise the front section of the lens. This way, you’ll avoid the pyramid effect and keep the lines of the building parallel.
You can use the tilt feature to change the plane of what’s in focus. This is useful in situations when you can’t get everything sharp front-to-back, and tilting the lens will help you get everything in focus. Scenic and landscape photos are a good example of this, but it’s applicable to other types of shots as well.
Other than getting everything in sharp focus, you can go the other way around and limit what’s in sharp focus. Some photographers capture distant subjects, landscapes, and cityscapes like this to achieve the so-called “miniature effect.”
Tilt-shift lenses give you flexibility and creativity. On the minus side, they’re pretty expensive. For example, Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L will set you back $2,150. Rokinon 24mm f/3.5 ED AS UMC is more affordable ($750), but it’s still a lot compared to their other lenses. However, if you’re an advanced amateur or a professional, maybe you should consider investing in a tilt-shift lens, especially if you’re shooting architecture and interiors. And if you just wanna play with it and try out the effect it produces, you can always DIY it for $30 or even $10.