I have begun using the Canon tilt / shift lenses increasingly more in the past 6 months; I have the 24mm and 45mm. There are certain situations where having the ability to tilt or shift is really advantageous – I thought I would touch on tilt today, and shift tomorrow.
Many people mistakenly think tilting the lens gives you increased depth of field for a given aperture. That is probably a nice simple way to think of it, but isn’t exactly correct. Each aperture still has the same amount of depth of field, but instead of having the region in focus limited to a vertical plane, by tilting the lens the region in focus can now run in a more horizontal manner – in this case beginning at the flowers just a few inches away, and continuing to the mountains. By having the area of focus angle across the scene instead of running straight up and down, it now takes less depth of field to keep the foreground and background in focus. Interestingly enough, if the above photo lacked depth of field, the flowers and mountains could still be in focus, but the valley in between might not be, because I used a large amount of tilt. It takes a little to get used to using tilt.
The thing about a lens that can tilt is it now opens up all kind of fun opportunities. In this photo I’m laying on the ground just inches from the flowers – almost like a macro shot, but still have the mountains in focus. The possibilities are exciting. These maybe better examples; Grand Tetons, Red Rock Canyon.
In all these examples, I used a tripod and a fairly small aperture since I was already pushing the limits of depth of field. There are other advantages to having tilt. In situations where the foreground isn’t as close, you can tilt and use a much larger aperture then would normally be required such as f/8 – this is helpful when you need the extra shutter speed. A common example is shooting in a field of flowers with some wind. The trade off between stopping the movement and lack of depth of field can leave you with soft photos – but by tilting the lens, you can have the best of both worlds; a relatively fast shutter and adequate depth of field.
If you are not familiar with the lens I’m talking about, below is a photo of the 45mm pointed straight up and fully tilted to the left. As you can see, it doesn’t really tilt much, but even a little tilt can make a big difference.I really think one of these lenses could make a big difference when it comes to landscape photography.
I began with the Canon 45mm tilt / shift lens, and later purchased the Canon 24mm tilt / shift lens. One day I hope to finish my collection with the final lens from this series, the Canon 90mm tilt shift lens.