Meet the optical superheroes: They can straighten tall buildings with a single shift, give you insanely deep focus without insanely small apertures, or limit focus to a single eyelash. And they do it as you shoot, with no messing around in software.They’re popular with architectural, product, portrait, and nature shooters who strive for perfect perspective, and treasured by others for the unusual effects they can produce.
The Anti-Topple Shift
Bell shifted his 17mm f/4L Canon TS-E lens from top to bottom to take three separate horizontal images of the Phillips Exeter Academy library, later stitching them together in Photoshop CS5, Exposure in a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 0.3 sec at f/11, ISO 500.
Tilt your camera up to take in a tall building or other structure and it will seem to topple—the parallel lines will appear to converge as they rise. With a tilt/shift lens, you can keep the camera back parallel to the building, and shift the lens upward to take in more of the structure and less of the foreground.
How it works: A T/S lens casts a much bigger image circle than conventional lenses, so much so that you have ample leeway to move the sensor or film plane up, down, or sideways within the circle.
How to do it: It’s an intuitive action. To take in something higher than camera position, just shift the lens upward. (A bubble level in the accessory shoe will help keep the camera squared with your subject.) Conversely, to take in something lower—if you’re photographing a structure from an elevated position—shift the lens downward. And yes, you’ll run into a limit to how far you can shift.