My Photo Blog

Tilt Shift Lenses That Never Were

In the days prior to digital, I shot mostly 4X5″ and 2 1/4″ transparency film. When professional digital cameras started coming out they were made as camera backs that attached to existing camera systems. At that time they also had to be attached to a computer to operate, which kept them tied to the studio. In the late 1990’s Kodak came out with the first hand held professional digital cameras. This was great, but I missed the tilts, swings and shifts of a view camera. So, it just felt right to make an adapter to fit my Kodak DCS 660 and mount it on the the back of a view camera. The down side of this, was that all of the lenses acted as a telephoto. Since then Canon, Nikon and other manufactures started making tilt shift lenses for 35mm cameras, and for the most part they fill the needs. Now to address the title of this post. What do you do if you need a focal length that’s not available? If you decided to use a 50mm lens from your 35mm camera, on a view camera, it may work as a macro lens, but beyond that, it can not get close enough to the sensor to focus on anything else, or have a large enough image circle to cover lens shifts. The solution I found was in my medium format lenses, since they were designed to bridge a space of over 4″ from lens to film plane on a Mamiya RB67. I recycled the lens mount from an old RB67 camera body and attached it to a recessed 4X5 lens board, I now have both a 50mm and a 65mm tilt shift lens. This extends my lens selection beyond my 24mm and a 90mm Canon tilt shift lenses, plus several view camera lenses. Below is a photo of my lens board and camera back. On the left is the camera mount and on the right is my lens board with a 50mm Mamiya RB lens. Please also notice the bag bellows which allow unrestricted movements. Standard bellows would be too compressed to allow enough movement. The benefits, beside having additional focal lengths, is the ability to tilt, swing and shift both the lens and film plane.

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