Tilt-Shift Lenses vs. Photoshop Lightroom

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Since the days when the view camera declined in popularity and the 35mm camera came to the fore, photographers have been plagued by the distortion phenomenon known as “keystoning.” Keystoning occurs when vertical lines converge as the camera and lens are tilted above or below the horizontal plane. Today, digital images can magically generate geometric corrections with post-processing software, like Photoshop and Lightroom, instead of the aforementioned view camera or an expensive tilt-shift or perspective control lens. So, with all the “advancements” in the tech world, we are left with this question: Which method is better—correcting geometric distortion through optical means or by digital correction?

Non-product photographs © Todd Vorenkamp

This image illustrates what happens to the lines of a building when you tilt the camera above the horizon.

What is Keystoning?

Keystoning is a type of perspective distortion also known as converging verticals. The term keystoning comes from the name and form of the wedge-shaped stone at the top of a masonry arch.

To understand this distortion, imagine standing in the middle of the proverbial two-lane highway that extends across the desert to the horizon. As the you look down the road, the farther away you look, the narrower the road appears. The road does not physically narrow, but, because distant but equally sized objects appear smaller than closer ones, the road appears to narrow.

Now, stand at the base of a tall rectangular building and look up. The same thing happens. The top floors appear to be narrower than the bottom floor—the same distortion effect.

Tilting a camera and lens vertically emphasizes this distortion. The same distortion occurs in the human eye, but we do some mental distortion correction in our brains that helps keep it from looking like all buildings are going to fall over backwards when we look up at them. And, of course, to our eyes, this effect is more noticeable in tall skyscrapers than in shorter buildings.

For a bit more on the topic, click here. If you would like to press on, let’s press on.

Another illustration of keystoning

Is Keystoning Bad? 

Most architectural photographers remove keystoning from their images. If you pay attention, this is one thing that can separate the pros from the amateurs in real estate and architectural photography. However, because the human eye experiences this distortion (not to the extremes of photographic lenses) leaving a bit of keystoning can help an image of a building or structure look more normal to the viewer’s eye. How much keystoning is in the image really boils down to what looks good to your eye as the photographer, and your photographic intent. Extreme keystoning can work in an image if you are trying to emphasize height or distortion, and zeroing all keystoning on a tall structure can make it look a bit unnatural.

Fun Fact: If you are looking at a painting or drawing of a building and you see keystoning, it is likely that the artist based the rendering on a non-geometrically corrected photograph and not the actual building.

A tilt-shift lens

How Do We Avoid or Reduce Keystoning?

Not long ago, you had to employ a “perspective-control (PC)” or “shift lens” to avoid keystoning/converging lines in 35mm photographs of architectural subjects. Large format photographers could often shift (and tilt) their bellowed cameras to achieve the same effect. And, if you are working in the darkroom, there is a way to correct for keystoning during processing by tilting the film plane on an enlarger.

In today’s digital post-processing world, it is becoming ever easier and more seamless to perform geometric corrections in Lightroom and Photoshop. Even Snapseed, on my iPhone, allows photographers to bend lines. In Lightroom, the corrections traditionally fell under the “Lens Corrections” section. Currently, the Lens Corrections tab is used for correcting lens distortion, and the “Transform” tab does vertical and horizontal corrections, among other things. In Photoshop, under the “Filters” menu, is “Lens Corrections”—a one-stop destination for the recently split Lightroom options. And, for smartphone shooters, Snapseed’s geometric corrections can be found under “Perspective.”

Mug shots of four tilt-shift and one perspective control lens

Is it Better to Correct Optically or Electronically?

To analyze the different methods of correcting for keystoning, I set out with a pair of lenses—the Nikon PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED tilt-shift lens, and my long-time workhorse, the discontinued Leica/Schneider PC-Super-Angulon-R 28mm f/2.8 perspective control lens (adapted with a Nikon F mount). My plan for capture was to shoot the same building with the lens shifted and then tilt the camera above the horizon to capture an image that would be corrected geometrically, later, in Lightroom. The post-processing plan involves adding the geometric corrections to the “tilted” shots and then doing some pixel peeping to see which method resulted in the cleanest images—the optically perspective shifted, or electronically corrected in Lightroom.

Here are the results:

Camera: Nikon D600

Lens: Nikon PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED

Aperture: f/8

Subject: Federal Courthouse, in Brooklyn, New York

Here is the courthouse with the tilt-shift 19mm lens shifted.
Here is the courthouse with the tilt-shift 19mm lens tilted up above the horizon.
Here is the courthouse with the above “tilted” image geometrically corrected in Lightroom.
100% crop of the eagle in the shifted image.
100% crop of the eagle in the tilted image.
100% crop of the eagle in the digitally corrected image.
100% crop of the lower right corner in the shifted image.
100% crop of the lower right corner in the tilted image.
100% crop of the lower right corner in the digitally corrected image.
Shifted
Corrected
Shifted and corrected image comparison (click on images to see at full width).

Analysis: The tilt-shift lens-shifted image and digitally corrected image look very similar. Does the lens-shifted image look more natural? Also, note that the digitally corrected shot has smaller dimensions than the lens-shifted image due to the post-correction crop, and some real estate is lost on the edges. The corner crops show no real effect on either image, other than the extreme distortion in the tilted shot and the fact that the lens-shifted image is noticeably wider than the digitally corrected image (note the position of the window with the flare and the surveillance camera). The crop of the eagle at the top of the building shows a much cleaner image from the lens-shifted lens than the digitally corrected photograph.

Conclusion: Without pixel peeping, you could make an argument for the overall look of either the lens-shifted image or the digitally corrected shot. You certainly lose field of view when cropping, after applying the geometric correction in post-processing, so if you need to shoot wide (most architectural shooters do), you might be better off with a shift or tilt-shift lens. Bolstering that argument is the cleanliness of the eagle in the optically shifted 100% crops.


Camera: Nikon D600

Lens: Leica/Schneider PC-Super-Angulon-R 28mm f/2.8

Aperture: f/4

Subject: Federal Courthouse, in Brooklyn, New York

Courthouse with the perspective control 28mm lens shifted.
Courthouse with the perspective control 28mm lens shifted to its maximum position.
Courthouse with the perspective control 28mm lens tilted up above the horizon.
Courthouse with the above “tilted” image geometrically corrected in Lightroom.
100% crop of the front door in the shifted image.
100% crop of the front door in the fully shifted image.
100% crop of the front door in the tilted image.
100% crop of the front door in the digitally corrected image.
100% crop of the window in the top of the frame in the shifted image.
100% crop of the window in the top of the frame in the fully shifted image.
100% crop of the window in the top of the frame in the tilted image.
100% crop of the window in the top of the frame in the digitally corrected image.
Shifted
Corrected
Shifted and corrected image comparison (click on images to see at full width).

Analysis: Again, the perspective control lens-shifted image and digitally corrected image look very similar, but we have lost the wider field of view. The door crops show that the digitally corrected image loses a bit of sharpness when compared to the lens-shifted images, but at the top of the frame, it looks like the digitally corrected image held up better than the shifted and fully shifted images. Likely, shooting at f/8 would have yielded better results here for both sets of images.

Conclusion: Here, the Super-Angulon lens appears to do better when pixel-peeped farther from the edge when shifted. At normal size, the digitally corrected image and lens-shifted images match well, except for the loss of the wider field of view following the post-processing crops.


Camera: Nikon D750

Lens: Nikon PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED

Aperture: f/8

Subject: Borough Hall, in Brooklyn, New York

Borough Hall with the tilt-shift 19mm lens in its centered position—not shifted.
The hall with the tilt-shift 19mm lens shifted up.
The hall with the tilt-shift 19mm lens angled upward.
The hall with the above “tilted” image geometrically corrected in Lightroom.
Crop with the tilt-shift 19mm lens in its centered position—not shifted.
Crop with the tilt-shift 19mm lens shifted up.
Crop with the tilt-shift 19mm lens angled upward.
Crop from the image geometrically corrected in Lightroom.
Shifted
Corrected
Shifted and corrected image comparison (click on images to see at full width).

Analysis: Once again, the lens-shifted image and digitally corrected image look very similar, but we have lost the wider field of view following the geometric correction and crop—not a big deal if you can move farther away, but, at Borough Hall, I was backed up against a fence. The center crops show that the digitally corrected image loses sharpness when compared to the lens-shifted images.

Conclusion: Here, the tilt-shift lens appears shows the same advantage as before—an advantage in pixel-peeped sharpness and the true, wider field of view.

Final Thoughts

Digital geometric corrections are easy to create and handy for all types of photographers. If you are a casual shooter—photographing architectural landmarks while traveling, for instance—the digital geometric corrections available in Lightroom, Photoshop, or on your phone, are superb tools for making images of buildings and other structures look more natural to those viewing your images. Also, for real estate photographers and those sharing lower-resolution files, post-processing software for geometric corrections is really all you need.

However, for the professional or student architectural photographer, the true wide-angle perspective of a tilt-shift or perspective control lens, coupled with the higher overall image quality gained from optical lens corrections will give an advantage over digitally corrected files.

Have the digital corrections available to today’s photographers eliminated the need for a perspective control or tilt-shift lens? What do you think? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

50 Comments

Hey Todd, nice article.

I worked with a Sinar 4x5 35 years ago in school and quite a bit for three years in my professional work. As noted, shifting the plane of focus is something you can’t do in 35mm and it does have its uses. However, the biggest disadvantage of view cameras for field work is the pure bulk of the equipment and time to operate it. Hardly a grab-n-go proposition!

I use Transform on a regular basis for my architectural exterior and interior shoots. A few things I haven’t seen mentioned:

  1. One big advantage of the digital process is the built-in lens corrections within Camera Raw. Believe it or not, the Nikkor 8–15mm ready-made profile can correct an image taken at 8 mm fisheye! Try it sometime.
  2. Digital geometry correction is a two-step process, enabling the lens correction and using transform yields the best results.
  3. Enabling “Remove Chromatic Aberration” is extremely helpful when pushing pixels around, especially for the geometric corrections you’ve described.
  4. Bridge can do it too! Don’t think ill of me, but Bridge is an excellent workflow—especially in an enterprise environment. Transform is in the main header bar (like Lightroom, it used to be in Lens Correction). Same Camera Raw as Lightroom and Photoshop.

For architectural exteriors, I use a Nikkor 14–24mm lens on a D800 and raise it using a Lastolite Extending Handle, which elevates the camera to about 14 feet off the ground, then trigger the camera with a radio remote (all purchased from B&H, of course). I can usually get a high resolution image in the 2x3 ratio, but in some cases need to crop to a 3x4 ratio to retain subject matter.

Hi Richard,

Thanks for the props!

Fantastic tips! I was not aware you could do this in Bridge—I assume it is a function of ACR, correct?

I definitely forgot the lens corrections mention...probably because none of my lenses make the list!

Thanks for stopping by, taking the time to comment, and shopping at B&H!

As an architectural photographer for more than 40 years, 25 of which were spent behind a 4x5 camera, I welcome the flexibility of utilizing Photoshop to correct perspective distortion.  While TS lenses are cool, you have to purchase a lot of different lenses to capture architecture from differing vantage points.  With my 4x5, I used 65mm, 75mm, 90mm, 135mm, 150mm and 210/360mm lenses depending upon how I wanted to represent the building or interior.  I now shoot - on a Nikon D800 - with a 16-35mm zoom and simply correct perspective in Photoshop.  My clients aren't pixel peepers -nor am I.  

Hey John,

Thanks for sharing your experience! Good to know!

Great article, Todd. For myself, as a tourist shooting archy, I tend to the wide angle, allowing for the future post-processing loss of some detail. I don't really need to see the layer of cement holding the structure together.

Thank you for the kind words, John.

Well said, Sir! Thank you for stopping by!

View cameras (mentioned at the head of the article) offer another advantage not available from PS or the lenses mentioned: they can select a "plane of sharpest focus" that is independent of the "plane of no parallax". Software does a lousy job of correcting focus and the lenses don't have enough freedoms of motion to do it all. I recommend that photographers read about view cameras or talk to some one who is familiar with their operation and theory of use. It's a great way to improve photography with standard equipment since you become better aware of the trade offs made by framing, focusing, and camera position and orientation decisions.

Hey Jeff,

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! View cameras for everyone!

I've done comprehensive tests to compare using a tilt/shift vs. using software.

What I found was that architectural details are not treated the same, and software corrects distortion unevenly from the center to the edges.  This can lead to irregularly shaped objects such as windows, not being a perfect rectangle a they usually are.  It's definitely visible without pixel peeping.  

I still think the best way to shoot architecture to get perfect proportions is to use a view camera, something I've started to do.

Hey Milosh,

I cannot wait until there is an affordable digital 4x5 or 8x10 view camera!

How cool will that be?

Thanks for reading!

Dear Todd, there's one major mistake in your article: you write "Keystoning occurs when vertical lines converge as the LENS is tilted above or below the horizontal plane" or "Tilting a LENS vertically emphasizes this distortion". I understand that it's quicker than explaining that it is the non-parallelism between the sensor/the film and a specific plane of the subject the real reason for keystoning, but it leads to a substantial misunderstanding: people may think that mounting a T/S lens will prevent them from keystoning, while it is obvious that no lens may obtain parallel lines if the sensor and the plane of the subject are not parallel. By the way, you have horizontal keystoning to, when you turn the camera - therefore the sensor - to the right or to the left instead of up and down.

Best,

saverio

Hey SAVERIO,

Yes sir, you are correct. I could have been more specific in this case and I will do a quick text edit, but one thing I do not want to do is dive too deeply into the physics and math here as I want the article to focus on the results and not the why.

And, you are correct, you can definitely get horizontal keystoning as well. I am writing (in my head) a tips article for "shooting straight"...but have not yet put pen to paper.

Thanks for reading!

Todd Vorenkamp wrote:

Hey SAVERIO,

Yes sir, you are correct. I could have been more specific in this case and I will do a quick text edit, but one thing I do not want to do is dive too deeply into the physics and math here as I want the article to focus on the results and not the why.

And, you are correct, you can definitely get horizontal keystoning as well. I am writing (in my head) a tips article for "shooting straight"...but have not yet put pen to paper.

Thanks for reading!

Carry on, Todd, some folk do like to impress, if only their self!! (pardon poor English)

Aye-aye, John! Cheers!

Thanks, Todd, for your answer. Having taught this for more than 25 years and having written a book on view cameras and some articles on architecture photography - one specifically  dealing with perspective and the means (optical or digital) to contro it - I felt that some precision might be of help. I understand that to some folks this may appear like an ego thing but they are wrong and they are childishly losing an opportunity to learn something they do not know.

looking forward to reading your next article!

all the best

Hey Saverio,

No worries! I appreciate your comment. Precision is always a good thing...as long as we don't get lost in the math! I am not good at math! :)

The next article(s) are already published...

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/11-tips-how-to-photograph-lighthouses

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/10-tips-and-techniques-for-photographing-lighthouses-at-night

Thanks again for stopping by and reading Explora!

There were two reasons why I bought a couple of tilt-shifts. 

One was because the previous own was a pro who'd decided to quit and sold all his gear - and when he bought it, he must have been suffering from an extremely severe case of GAS, because both the lenses I bought (and the one I didn't bother with) were virtually untouched.  So I have two virtually brand new Nikon t-s lenses (the 24 & the 85), for way less than the normal price of either of them.

The other was because I do a lot of what might best be described as architectural photography.  And I'm fed up to the back teeth with losing too much of the picture, during the process of correcting verticals.  It is FAR better to capture the image you want to end up with, in camera, before ANY PP starts.  Then if there's any need to crop, it's going to be minor and you won't lose key parts of the subject matter.

I am delighted to learn there's little or no discernable difference in image quality.  But there's a hell of a difference in framing the shot - and I am thrilled to bits with the contribution the t-s lenses make to that part of the process.

BTW - if anyone's looking for a program to correct verticals, DxO make a great program for that - ViewPoint 3.  It's generally possible to let it do the corrections on auto.  Occasionally it slips up, because it can't grab enough info to run the program on auto, but then it's very user friendly (once you get the hang of it) doing it manually in ViewPoint.  And you can also tweak horizontals, to correct the perspective, if you want to.

Hey jean,

Nice luck there finding the recovering GAS addict!

There is a slight difference, and I find the tilt-shift a better option, but one thing I failed to mention above is that using a tilt-shift lens has a pleasure all its own. Anytime I find myself doing photography that is more involved than pointing and shooting, I feel a closer connection to the image be it working at night with high ISO test shots and timers and releases to manually shifting a PC lens.

Thanks for stopping by! I might give the DxO software a try!

I have been struggling with this problem for 50 years.  I used to use a Curtigon Schneider perspective correcting lens with my Pentax Spotmatic which helped some.  I also tried tilting the easel in the darkroom but it only did a partial job and only if I was square on.  I guess an angled tilt would work but it was difficult to achieve.  Digital correction works much better for two reasons.  (1) you are rarely square on when you take the picture as you were at Borough Hall or the courthouse around the corner.  You are usually at a slight or even great angle.  Thus there is both horizontal and vertical distortion.  This can be easily corrected in photoshop by using the distortion command.  (2) correction changes the proportions of the subject.  This is obvious in you pictures of the courthouse but you do not address it.  The central semi-circular block has totally different proportions in the shift lens and digitally corrected pictures.  After making a digital correction to the converging lines at the top, you need to elongate the subject by stretching it up or down.  Alternatively, make the correction by widening the top and narrowing the bottom.  Incidentally the cropping loss is frequently of insignificant matter or sky which can be cloned in.

You should also note that the distortion only occurs with a wide angle lens.  With a 55 mm the perspective in the picture will match the perspective we perceive in eyesight.  With a longer focal length the distortion is actually in the opposite direction.

I am sure that an optical solution would be better to a digital one just as I am sure that film is better than digital and that a view camera is better than a 35MM.  But given the limitations of all these, digital correction seems to work best.

Hey David,

Oh, how I hate not being able to be squared up to a structure! And, even then, I hate finding out later that I was a foot or two off!

I will stick with my findings that optical is better than digital, but the magic of the digital corrections is that they are available to anyone using any lens.

Thanks for stopping by!

The comments about creating software corrections by starting with excess resolution are very true, which is why I use a 36mp camera. It’s very important to let the correction software reduce the total pixels, and not to up-sample in any of the software one is using. It’s also important to do the corrections off the raw file if you can, and to do it with the correct method, which involves computed aerial projection. Avoid fast, simple methods like distorting only along one side, as you completely distort the proportions of the subject. Drawing lines on key edges (DXO, or the simple method in Capture One) almost never delivers the exactness I require. I don’t know which method you used in your examples, but the photos digitally corrected show some proportion distortion. Aerial projection is the most “accurate” or similar to using a shifted lens.

In Camera Raw, that means going to the lens corrections tab and the manual sub-tab. In this tab, you can drag sliders, but exact work is best done by putting numbers in the Vertical and/or Horizontal number boxes. The Rotation slider/number box allows exactness to one-tenth of a degree, pretty phenomenal. Capture One has even finer number inputs for its aerial projection approach. Enable the grid display and be patient with these adjustments; it takes some time to figure out a complex correction, especially because it is almost impossible to level a tripod to perfection. I find if I set up carefully, I will almost always still need some small bit of rotation with a vertical correction. I use horizontal correction much less, but it is very useful when needed.

The wider the lens, and the more it is tilted, the greater the correction needed, and the greater the digital artifacts created at the corners with software correction. There is a limit to what is acceptable, and if you find yourself at a 50 or 60 setting in the Camera Raw vertical correction box, results at the corners are going to suffer. No question, delivering the same angle of view with a good T/S lens will be superior to shooting a wider capture and then correcting in software. But digital corrections make any lens a functional shift lens, and that includes the focal lengths not available in T/S. Anything longer than 28mm or 35mm adjusted digitally makes results that are virtually indistinguishable from an equivalent T/S lens. Use fixed focal length lenses to avoid the distortions introduced by zooms.

Hey Jeffery,

Good stuff! May you explain "aerial projection?" This is the first I have heard of it.

I generally start by leveling the image and then moving to the lens corrections—as you mentioned, getting a perfectly level shot out of the blocks is nearly impossible, even with bubble levels and the camera's artificial horizon.

Thanks for reading and sharing your methods and techniques!

First let me apologize for the delay in my response; I did not see your question until now. Aerial projection:  I should have said computed aerial projection. A straight projection is the same as setting up your slide projector or view camera dead-on straight and an image is unchanged. If you were to tilt the screen (or groundglass) that the image is projected upon around an axis drawn through the center (vertical or horizontal) you stretch the image on one side and reduce it on the opposite side. It's important to make an equal negative adjustment on one side as you make a positive adjustment in the other; this mimics the effect of a view camera capturing the scene, with the back held vertical (for architecture) and the lens shifted up or down, or otherwise. Note that in a view camera, there is a virtual infinity of light rays coming off the subject and the correction made by the view camera is limited only by the quality of the lens. With a software correction you are going to pay a penalty in resolution and pixel quality, and there is no extra image circle to fill in the side that is reduced.  Capture One and Camera Raw software computes the effect of projecting the image plane at an angle based on the number you select; the higher the number in a given dimension, the more the image is changed as though projected as I described. The proof:  I bought the 19mm Nikon tilt shift and tested it on an extreme architectural correction shifted up to near maximum. With the camera remaining in the same position, I put on the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 (a wonderful lens), with almost the same angle of view. I then tilted the camera back to capture the same building. In Capture One I corrected the 20mm shot to have parallel vertical lines, a very extreme correction which pinches a lot of image area off the capture. Important:  do not let the software scale the image to keep the same pixel count. Let it lose the resolution and you will be better off. I took the corrected 20mm shot and pasted it into the 19mm shot. The correction was an exact match for the effect of shifting the lens, but with a great deal of image area cropped away by the correction. And of course the quality of the pixels near the extremes of the 20mm corrected image were noticeably worse and less clean, with less detail and visible artifacts at 100%. Thus the 19mm lens is a great tool to capture more image area, more faithfully.

Jeffery,

6 months of me sitting at the edge of my seat waiting for you to reply! 6 months! :)

Thanks for circling back and explaining. It is nice to see that your tests agreed with my results. Shift lenses forever!

Cheers!

A few thoughts (from an architectural photographer):

In Lightroom (and other software like Capture One) you can get the look of the corrected image even closer to the shifted image by using the aspect slider. The shifted image is taller and stretching the software corrected image vertically will align this.

Getting a hold of the narrower field of view in the digitally corrected photos is no problem if a wider angle lens is used. Nikon’s or Sigma’s 14-24 mm lenses are great examples. And in real world scenarios somebody who wouldn’t have a tilt-shift lens might rather have one of those.

In the end the needed final resolution can even out the sharpness differences. If you shoot with a current DSLR like the Nikon D810 or D850 you have plenty of pixels to work with and most clients will rarely need that much resolution (even though they think they do ...). So once you scale down to, say 24 megapixels there won’t be any issues with a digitally corrected  image.

Lastly, even though many declare it a matter of taste whether images are keystone corrected or not, in architectural photography a main reason to correct is that especially contemporary architecture often features slanted lines and only in a corrected image will you be able to truly discern them from real verticals ...

All great points! Thanks for sharing your techniques and thoughts, Thomas!

As an architectural shooter, I find that for interiors, quite often 17mm TS is too wide and yields too much depth/distortion. My approach is to shoot with a 24mm TS, but in 2-3 shifts to capture the entire space. Then I stitch them together in post. This gives me a very wide field of view, but with a more compressed look than I would get with a 17. I think that TS is a better approach than pixel interpolation.

David A. wrote:

"My approach is to shoot with a 24mm TS, but in 2-3 shifts to capture the entire space."

Hi David, Interesting point: you mean you shoot shifting  Left-center-Right or Bottom-center_Top without moving the camera position?
Any way to see some samples of the results?
I too shoot interiors and architecture.

Thanks!

Hey piero,

In case David doesn't circle back, my guess is you could do horizontal or vertical panoramic images, depending on the space you are shooting.

yes I understand I can shift on both axis and stitch later, I'd like to see some results with interiors or architecture.

Thanks

Hey piero,

Let's see if David comes back to share some images. Cheers!

Thanks for sharing that technique, David! I will have to give that a try, myself!

Oh, by the way, the Tilt-Shift lenses that I've been using are also much sharper in the corners that normal wide angle lenses (in general).

I would agree with that assessment. They are designed to have a much larger image circle than a standard 35mm lens, therefore, the decline in sharpness as you get towards the edges happens much further out than on a "regular" lens.

I'm a landscape and seascape photographer so I don't see buildings in my photos very often.  However, I use the my Tilt Shift lenses in the Tilt position to get a deeper field of focus.  While I'll leave it to you to research on the Web, the Scheimpflug principle allows us to change the plane of focus thus giving us deep focus.  It takes quite a bit of practice and some patience with the math but without doing focus stacking, I don't know of any way to do it in Lightroom, Photoshop, or any other piece of software.  Do you?

I have both Canon and Nikon tilt-shift gear.  I just got the Nikon 19 tilt shift and so I'm anxious to try it out.  I had been using the 24 tilt-shift but it was limited to a single axis and the new 19 works more like the Canon tilt shift gear.

Hey Bruce,

Great points. As someone else pointed out, there are a lot of other uses for a tilt-shift lens, but my focus here was on the perspective control function only.

To answer your question, I do not know of a way to simulate the Scheimpflug principle electronically.

I am sure you are going to love that Nikon 19mm. The example I had was amazingly sharp. Unfortunately, I would be using it on an adapter for my Fujifilm X-T2, and the fact that it is an "E" lens means that I could never stop it down from f/4.

Thanks for reading!

I require perspective control for mountain landscapes and I also need very large format images (380+ megapixels typically).  My solution is to shoot heavily overlapping images with a high quality prime lens, usually my Nikkor 105 on a D800e, and stitch them with with a program such as PTGUI.  I can adjust the projection and apparent eye height in that program and, if needed, do a further shift in photoshop.  The extra pixels compensate for any loss and I can shoot as wide as I wish.  It takes many images and an hour of computer time to grind through it, but it is worth it if the product is a 4 x 8 foot 300 dpi image.

Hey Robert,

Another interesting technique! Thanks for sharing!

An hour of computing time...wow!

Good article Todd. In comparing tilt-shift type lenses vs digital processing, I'm wondering if you've tried the comparison with any of the dedicated perspective correction plug-ins. For example, I have DxO Viewpoint2. I haven't compared it to the correction functions of Photoshop or Lightroom or to a tilt-shift lens.

Hey Stephen,

Thanks for reading and the question. I just posted Geoff's comment in the next thread. He says that the DxO way is the best method, but I have not personally tried it.

What have you found?

Another method not discussed here is possible if you have a wide enough lens.  Shoot the photo with the camera vertical and do not tilt the camera back.  This usually means getting a whole lot of street in the bottom of the photo, but you can crop that away.   The building will be perfectly square.   If you own a super wide, this is a great option.

And of course anything you can do to gain altitude will help.  Can you shoot from the 2-3 floor of the building behind you for example. 

Hey Bradley,

Great points! You can see that (a bit) in the vertical photos of Borough Hall above, but the sides of the building do get cut off. Panorama time?

I love the thought of shooting from adjacent buildings, but, at least in the big city, this isn't always practical—access to the buildings I have to shoot is sometimes difficult when working for a subcontractor, much less the building across the street! And, even then, do they have windows that open?

Good stuff! Thanks for stopping by!

 ^^This is the correct answer.

Shooting wide with a good lens such as the 14-24, and enough resolution (D810/D850), you can get as clean a shot cropping in and you're left with ~24mp image.  And then on top of that:  process your images to DNG through the DxO plugin in Lightroom.  DxO will take your raw file and apply the 'best' lens corrections to it for your body/lens combination.  Then it sends it back to LR as a DNG where you still have full raw control of it, but with the optics now far superior to the tilt/shift lenses.  Unfortunately, because of the nature of tilt/shifts, DxO doesn't have lens profiles for them.

To sum it up, from my many tests, the sharpness order goes:
1.Wide angle lens DNG created thru DxO and cropped in
2.Tilt/Shift lens raw w/ standard LR profiles
3.Wide angle lens raw cropped in with standard LR profiles

Hey Geoff,

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing your results!

I wonder if other readers will chime in here.

Cheers,

Todd

As a user of Olympus OM-D cameras, not the right system for those who depend on tilt-shift, I've become fond of Lightroom's "transform" feature, so I wonder at times about acquiring a Canon or Nikon.  But who wants to be a tourist doing careful architectural shots, perhaps with a tripod?  

Digital geometric corrections do provide a way to train the eye, or maybe corrupt it.  

Hey David,

Thanks for stopping by! I have a few thoughts for you...

Micro Four Thirds cameras are certainly tilt-shift friendly because you can adapt almost any brand lens to your camera. The disadvantage is that you will not really ever have a wide-angle tilt-shift with the smaller sensor. I shoot my Leica 28mm on APS-C, so a bit handicapped as far as wide-angle goes. The advantage, and one that I enjoy with the APS-C cameras, is that at full shift you will still get superb corner-to-corner sharpness. With most tilt-shift lenses, on full frame, at maximum throw, you will see some softness on the edges.

And, as far as casual tourist shots, yeah...I don't usually travel with my tilt-shift unless I know I want to specifically focus on some architectural work. So, for casual, the electronic corrections are really nice to have!

Indeed, the options to attach lenses to micro four thirds cameras are nearly endless, something that Blackmagic picked up on for video, and that Panasonic no doubt had in mind.  I happily picked up legacy Olympus four thirds lenses when they were readily available and cheap.

Shhhh! Don't let everyone in on the secret!

I want to try my hand at using tilt/shift lenses. I'd probably rent one for a week to get familiar with T/S lenses. I've seen videos where the shift function is great for doing panoramas; I think one of Canon's reps, Rudy Winston, did a video of using tilt/shift lenses. With Canon EF lenses, there's such a variety: 17mm, 24mm, 45, 50, 90, and 135. But I'd probably try the 17 or 24.

This is a panorama that I did with film: Canon A-1, Canon FD 28mm f2.8, Kodak Portra 400; three frames stitched together using Corel PaintShop Pro. A-1 was set on full manual since I didn't want shutter speed or aperture changing.
https://flic.kr/p/dRtfdP

Hey Ralph,

Yep, you can definitely use tilt-shift for panoramas. They work great and keep everything straight.

Too bad you can't adapt older lenses to your Canon as there are some great used tilt-shift lenses on the market from a few brands.

Renting first is smart, but, unless you are doing architectural stuff often, you will likely find that the tilt-shift only rides in your camera bag occasionally...something to think about before you make the financial plunge!

Good to see you, Ralph!

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