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Tips & Tricks

What Is A Tilt Shift Lens And How Do You Use It?

By Paul Faecks on June 24th 2014

Architecture and landscape photographers often use fancy Tilt-Shift lenses. But how do they actually work? In this video, Vincent Laforet, a well-known photographer and educator for Canon, will show you everything you should know about Tilt Shift lenses and what sets them apart from conventional lenses.


Basically, what makes a tilt shift lens different from other, conventional lenses is its ability to tilt and shift the lens. By tilting the lens, you can change the framing of the shot without distorting the perspective. The shifting is used to specifically control the plane of focus.


A “normal” lens usually focuses on a specific distance, while shifting the lens allows to focus on a specific area rather than on a distance. That is how the miniature effect works.

Tilt Shift lenses can be crazy expensive, the Canon 17mm Tilt Shift lens, for example, will cost you $2,499. If you want to create creative miniature-styled photos for a more affordable option, then the Lensbaby Tilt Shift lens could be something for you.

Would you consider getting yourself a Tilt Shift lens?

[via PetaPixel, Canon Pro/ images via screencaps]

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Paul Faecks is a portrait- and fine art photographer, based in Berlin. If you want to check out his latest work, you can do so by following him on Instagram or by liking his Facebook Page

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Barry Cunningham

    I recently noticed another option which I have not tried yet.
    Zykkor make tilt / swing adapters that mount Hasselblad lenses on most common DSLR bodies.
    They go for around $219 on Amazon. They would seem to make sense since the image circles on the Hasselblad lenses are much larger than even the full-frame the DSLR sensors.
    Of course, this is only a cheaper alternative IF (big if) you’re a little old school and happen to have a Hasselblad lens lying around. 8^)

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  2. Paul Muirhead

    TS lenses make excellent primes when not being used in tilt/shift modes. However, it’s important to remember that all TS lenses are manual focus.
    Besides landscape and architecture, these can be used for portraits with creative twists. For example, the shift function allows you to take what looks like a head-on shot of a mirror (say, a boudoir shot) without actually being in the mirror’s reflection.
    I have wanted either the 17mm or 24mm for a long time, but at $2500 and $2200, respectively, I don’t take enough head-on mirror shots ;) to justify buying either one. Instead, I have rented them (from to play, experiment, and get the shots I needed at the time.

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  3. David COLAT

    Interesting video, i thought that this kind of lense was only used to “minify” people :-).
    I’m wondering, if tilt-lenses are still “dust-proof” with all this mechanism to rotate/shift the lense ?

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