Back in the old days, a photographer would mount his camera on a tripod, do some shutter/aperture calculations, carefully focus the lens, shift the movement of the lens parallel to the image plane, and, if necessary, also tilt (rotate) the lens relative to the image plane. A great deal of work, but exposure was controlled, the focal point was correct, and the shifting of the lens kept things like buildings nice and parallel.
Today, things have gotten easier, but also much sloppier in the process. Most lenses are fixed and do not move relative to the plane of the film or sensor. Point a camera upward, and buildings lean in on each other. Point it down, and things lean apart. This is horrifyingly unacceptable for any type of architectural photography. It’s amazing how many sloppy “professional” photos are out there with buildings leaning all over the place like drunk sailors. And even worse is simply the mere presence of an Automatic switch on an SLR.
I used to digitally tilt/shift my photos in Photoshop, but this has its drawbacks. You’ll end up interpolating pixels on one side of the photograph and losing pixels on the other side, not to mention introducing other distortions and cropping out parts of the photo in the process
Enough was enough. After reading all the rave reviews (including the 9.9 rating over at fredmiranda), I had pick myself up a Canon TS-E 17mm tilt/shift lens. It simply seemed like one of life’s necessities.
This is one masterpiece of a hunk of glass that is made for mounting on a tripod and getting all sorts of TLC in the form of manual tweaking–there’s nothing automatic about this lens. If you’re the kind of person who loves fussing with every possible adjustment, who wouldn’t dream of taking a single picture in Automatic mode, and is obsessed with your perfectly-parallel buildings, a tilt/shift lens like this may be for you.
I haven’t tried this lens for fake miniature tilt/shift pictures yet (all the rage these days), but you can see my digital fakes of tilt/shift fake miniatures here.
This baby does take some getting used to. I’m trying to find time to spend with it, but here are some first photos with the TS-E 17mm: