The tilt – shift lens in landscape photography

Coming from the good old film days of photography and having used large and medium format cameras that allow for plenty of movement of the lens and / or film boards, the tilt – shift lens has been a favorite of mine for many years.


By tilting the lens in the direction of the focal plane, you can keep both foreground and background tacksharp while maintaining a relatively wide aperture. 


There are several advantages to using these types of lenses, and they are:

  1. The image circle on these lenses is much larger than on an equivalent focal length lens thereby making the image captured much sharper from edge to edge.
  2. By tilting the lens (ever so slightly) towards the focal plane, one can photograph finely focused near to far at a relatively wide aperture allowing for motion stopping of leaves or anything else that moves.
  3. By using the shift function of the lens one can take a panoramic photo of the subject and give a much wider perspective with tons of detail.
  4. By using the shift function one can raise or lower the lens to capture the subject without keystoning (building appears to be falling backwards!)
  5. Due to the mechanical structure, these lenses are manual focus and will require you to slow down, compose, and capture the image as intended. No million images to go through in Lightroom or other software!

Of course there are some disadvantages to using these lenses, but they are of no concern provided you use the lens often and get tons of practice. Standing 6’ tall, I usually do not need to tilt my lens more than 0.50° to get my foreground (near the tripod’s leg) and the background completely sharp.

This is one lens, however, where I would highly recommend you rent the lens before you decide to buy.

Shifting the lens in the various directions a 24mm lens appears more like a 10mm lens – but there will always be more detail in the photo.

Here are a few links to some very useful information on the use of Perspective Control lenses:

Darwin Wiggett’s e-book on Tilt-Shift Lenses

Ken Rockwell on Why Tilt and Shift

Peter Hill on Tilt & Shift Photography

Go out and shoot. Get ready for some of our fabulous tours at Magnum Excursions.


One comment on “The tilt – shift lens in landscape photography

  1. kyle78234 says:

    Alright, so originally I really liked the first picture. I still do of course, it’s beautiful! But the second picture is amazing… Your eyes get caught in it and you almost can’t look away… Wow! Thanks so much for posting these! 🙂

    ~My Blog

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