Shifting Perspective

The latest addition to my box of photographic toys is a 24mm tilt-shift lens. It’s the Samyang (aka Rokinon, Bower) 24mm/f3.5 TS. This is a fully manual lens, which means you need to adjust both the aperture and the focus on the lens itself. With Live View this is so easy, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Anyone can do that.

I always liked the technical aspects of photography – or maybe rather, being in control when operating a camera. Knowing what to do. It’s satisfying. And it’s actually a lot of fun to work with a fully manual lens – the aperture ring moves in half-stops (I’m tempted to switch the camera from the 1/3 stop steps to 1/2 stop steps as well), the focus ring moves smooth (“like butter”) and has a nice “solid” feeling with just the right dampening. There’s an actual distance scale with f-stop indicators – something that is sorely missing from essentially all new “G” type Nikkor lenses.

And while I still need some time to wrap my head around the ability to tilt the focal plane, I’m absolutely in love with the shift function already, especially since I’m doing more real estate photography now.

But the possibility to shift the lens up and down (or left and right) does not just allow for much better architecture photos – making panoramas that way is an absolute no-brainer. Since only the lens moves (and not the camera) there’s no need to level the tripod (leveling the camera on the ball head is enough) and no need for extra panorama gear like a nodal slide.

Rainy Desert Road -- Borrego Springs Road, Borrego Springs, California, United States
Rainy Desert Road — vertical panorama (vertorama) stitched from three 24mm images. I should have payed a little more attention to the closest parts while focusing, maybe even turning the image into a “focus pano” with different focus settings – the lowermost part of the image is a bit blurry.

Stitched from three D800 images with good overlap, the photo above is ~64 megapixels. More generally, the photos resulting from such stitching nicely match somewhere into the 4:3 or 4:5 aspect ratio with a little cropping. It’s an absolute joy to work with these panoramas thanks to Lightroom 6’s new pano stitching feature because the resulting file is a (linearized) DNG raw file. Full control over white balance remains, as well as the choice of camera profile. Also, since it is a linearized DNG file (doesn’t need demosaicing anymore), operation is reasonably fast with these big files.

The only things I’m missing now are a) an 82mm polarizer (all my filters are 77mm, ungh) and b) a lens profile for the tilt-shift lens (Lightroom doesn’t have one, unfortunately; I guess I need to make one with Adobe’s lens profiler). Even though it is a prime, it’s a wide angle lens nonetheless, so it does have some lens distortion, as expected.

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