I started writing this in the past tense before even deciding which film to use, in fact, I had not even put this lens on the camera before. The camera in question being the Canon EOS-1 — the first in its well known lineup — and this lens being the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 which I had only played with indoors a few times to try to understand the tilting/swinging of the focal plane.
Shifting is pretty easy to understand. The image circle is more inline with what you’d find on medium format lens which allows you to effectively shift the film plane around within the image circle. This allows for perspective correction of building, for eg, so the parallel verticals of the building don’t converge toward the top. Tilting takes a little more thought. It can be used to either expand the effective depth of field by shifting the plane of focus, or if used more creatively, can be used to selectively blur parts of the image.
The film I chose was Ilford HP5+ since it is capable of being pushed if needed. Darkness of winter is upon us after all. I picked a location that allowed for some perspective control, and allowed for various tilt techniques that I definitely understand now I’ve used it and seen the results…
The location was a park on a hill that overlooked the city and the ocean, and had vertical totem poles which are inspired by the Pacific Northwest First Nations and created by Ainu people, indigenous people of Japan. The large totems symbolize their gods from the spirit world, and the smaller ones the people. Although I see the totems a few times every week and often use them to test cameras or lenses, I don’t think I ever really looked into their meaning until now. Near to the park were trails that took me to the university where I work and study on top of a small mountain.
Simon Fraser University has amazing architecture accomplished in the late 1960’s by Arthur Erickson of Vancouver, British Columbia. The Academic Quadrangle is a union of all academic disciplines in one common space to learn as opposed to how many other universities separate them around their campus. Unfortunately, there was not an active display of sharing in this space due to our social restrictions and online learning in place during this pandemic. Much of the campus is also under construction.
I said at the beginning that I started writing this before I actually went out shooting. I wanted to mention this as I felt really that writing out what I was going to do and where I would do it actually motivated me to accomplish my goals rather quickly. I stuck with using HP5+ as I had planned, but in hindsight, I feel I may have been better off with FP4+ which I also had on hand. It was very sunny and I had intended on shooting wide open. Thankfully the EOS-1 has shutter speeds up to 1/8000th, so the technology came to the rescue in terms of allowing me to achieve the look I wanted from the lens.
Prior to taking the EOS-1 out on this walk, it was getting a ‘bc’ error which is not uncommon with these cameras. The solution, which I found on many sites, was to open the front casing and tap it with a magnet a few times. Voila. I dry fired about 30 times just to be sure, and another handful of times right before loading the film.
The Canon EOS-1 is a wonderful camera to use. It feels nice, looks nice, and even sounds nice. It has only one AF point, right in the centre, which means you have to lock focus on your subject and then re-frame. However, when you use a manual focus lens like the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5, it doesn’t matter if you have even 100 AF points (when using tilt at least).
I enjoyed using the 24mm TS-E lens, but may have tried too hard to tilt and swing without thinking carefully about what I was doing. It can be a great way to isolate a subject or expand the focal plane in a direction you want it, but if you’re just messing around like me you’ll also get a bunch of questionable shots as to, ‘why?’.
A few tilted shots ended up working out very well and were often the ones I planned out, whereas some were a bit more haphazard. It isn’t easy to tell if your focal plane is exactly where you want it when manually focusing and not having the greatest eyesight, so a few didn’t quite line up. However, it focuses very smoothly and can get as close as 0.3m.
One issue with the lens that is that the tilt and shift are 90 degrees apart. i.e. you can’t tilt and shift on the same axis. It is possible to simply take the back off and turn it 90 degrees to fix this, but then you can’t tilt and shift on opposite axes. This is fixed on the current version.
Anyway, I had fun forcing myself to shoot an entire roll with a lens I haven’t really used much before which has a focal length that is much wider than I am used to for a fixed lens. There were maybe a few too many of similar images but I didn’t give myself enough time to walk everywhere I would have liked to. Maybe some of the images are a bit rushed and not well executed, but overall the results are decent… just ignore the hairs and dust from my digitization…
Hope you enjoyed a whole roll!
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14 thoughts on “36 Frames / Whole Roll Tilting & Shifting with a Canon 24mm TS-E – #FullRollFriday – By Kevin Ortner”
Thanks for this piece! I have often wondered about those tilt-shift lenses. I found your thoughts about capturing a moving crane relatable. I can’t tell you how many times I have done that with my cameras over the years! I wonder if anybody else does that? Funny thing is, I never end up using those frames for anything.
You’re welcome! They are fun lenses to use, but I don’t think I can recommend one unless you need one for what it can do.
And I am happy to find I’m not alone with those snap shots that don’t pan out!
These are cool. The Erickson buildings are legendary… yes, I’m an architect and I’d love to get my paws on a tilt/shift. There’s an old Pentax one that would work nicely with either my ME Super or my MX bodies, and which changes hands for the approx. value of my summer holiday. As regards 2021, how much of a gambling man am I?
Yes, I was hesitant to like the architecture at the campus, but after years being there they are simply beautiful.
The nice thing with the older lenses is that you will be able to sell them for what you pay (if you’re careful). I lucked out and got this lens for $700 in a lot that had another $700 worth of stuff that I sold. So… it was free.
Thanks for the comment!
Back in the 1980’s I shot for a real estate company that acquired apartment complexes and resold them as limited partnerships. I shot with a Canon F1-n and quickly realized I needed the shifting capability in tight spaces to keep my verticals correct and still have a usable photo. The F1-n allowed for changing focusing screens so I purchased the one with a grid and this enabled perfect verticals. I was always amazed at the shots I could get with that lens, a 35 T&S. Even if I had a ladder to stand on it wasn’t the same perspective as with the lens shifted. It was perfect for situations when the sky was ugly, shift down, or the foreground was ugly, shift up for more sky. I never had need for the tilting mechanism so I didn’t explore that feature. In recent years I have used the lens to shoot cityscape panoramas that enable perfect stitching because the verticals all are kept correct. The most complex I shot had 10 frames,five frames across, one up and one down. I used Velvia 50 and the resolution of that file is amazing. I still shoot with a F1-n and this is one of my under used but most prized lenses. Keep exploring the uses for this lens and I think you may find it has a special place in your kit. Thanks for shining some light on an under utilized/appreciated lens.
It really is a special lens and as I said in a previous reply, I essentially got it for free. I first thought, I wouldn’t find the need for the lens and wanted to keep some of the other items in the lot. After taking it out for this posting, there is no way I will sell it now!
Thanks for commenting.
Small-screen famous as the shooting location for parts of Caprica City in the 00s reboot of Battlestar Galactica
Hehe. Yup! I was wondering if anyone would notice.
Another one grateful to see what tilt shift lenses can achieve over here! I don’t think I’ll even own one as the cost is too much for me.
However I’m commenting because I love your captions. Particularly the one where you retook for the correct exposure and then said it wasn’t worth it. So relatable! Gah and so frustrating!
They are expensive for what they are, but I suppose.. cheap? for if you truly needed one. Most of us don’t need one.
Cool! I do particularly like the effect with the landscape lake photos. Very ethereal. I’ve always wanted to try a T/S lens. You can fake it nowdays with digital perspective correction and other effects but I think I’d enjoy the real thing. Thank you!
Yeah there are some images where it worked very well to take what might have been a mundane shot and made it a little more interesting. If you get your hands on one, give it a day or two to feel comfortable with it. I felt it wasn’t for me after the first 10 minutes, but not anymore!
A fascinating set of pics, I’ve often wanted a T&S lens but couldn’t justify it.
The architecture and the nature shots are all interesting to see, especially the one you describe as ‘disorintating’
I did buy a LensBaby edge80 which does a similar thing, but is more of an art/toy application.
Have you used the lens much since this roll?
Hi and thanks!
I can only speak of the 24mm TS lens but I suspect from Canon the other focal lengths are equally as good. For a wide angle it is possibly worth the price.
I have taken it out a couple more times and really like it. The hardest thing I find is manual focusing. It is quite sharp wide open when you get the focus right and the shifting is very useful in busy situations as is the tilt. The newer version would be better since the shift and tilt work on their own axes rather than this version where rotating one also rotates the other. Often I want to shift up/down and want to tilt up/down but can’t unless I have a screwdriver to fix them this way (which can be done but then you can’t have them in the previous orientation unless you reverse the process).
Anyway, it’s a good lens but I wouldn’t have bought one if I didn’t get a good deal on a large lot of items. I also will not be selling it which is rare for me and hopefully says something about the lens being great.