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  #1  
Old 07-24-2006, 01:32 AM
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Testing new tilt/shift lens - side by side comps

Last year I had the chance to watch Hiro Soga (one of my favorite knife photographers whose work appears in the beautiful Japanese magazine KNIFE) shoot a few knives. He didn't want to let me watch but he had to because I managed to hook him up with a special photo opportunity.

Anyway, needless to say I learned a ton but one thing he emphasized was how much he liked shooting knives with his 24 and 90 mm Canon tilt/shift lenses. Of the two he preferred the 90 mm and I resolved right then to save my $ and get one. They run about $1,100 - f 2.8, no auto focus, very sharp, universally praised but with a bit of a learning curve attached.

People who shoot buildings and bridges, macro shooters, product shooters (that's us), panorama freaks and such often use these interesting lenses. Basically it takes the plane of focus (what we think of as depth of field) which is normally horizontal with respect to the face of the camera and allows you to twist and turn that plane so you get your whole object in focus. That's as opposed to having parts of knife and sheath not quite fully inside the plane of focus, or, saying it another way, outside the depth of field.

This first picture is with no tilt and no shift, so the lens is functioning like any other lens. You can see, especially if you study the hair on the hide, that the front of the sheath is sharp but the back isn't. Also the tip of the blade is obviously very soft.



In the second image I dialed in minus 2 degrees of tilt and minus 1 degree of shift and that brought everything into focus.



So what's the big deal? Maybe nothing depending on how you like to shoot knives. I like to change the perspective around and try different things. I also like to shoot as close as I can to the knife which means that the dof (depth of field) will be very narrow. Therefore historically I've had a lot of the kind of problems one gets with parts of the knife or sheath hanging outside the plane of focus. To solve those problems I've had to back up from the knife, try to get more light onto it so I could use a smaller aperture (bigger f number), take two images with different focus points and blend them in photoshop etc. etc. etc. So, for me the tilt/shift lens will hopefully free me up to be more creative and still get as sharp an image as I possibly can. Now, that's what I hope. I guess I'll find out over time if the investment was worth it.

I admit the benefit in these examples may seem subtle. I'm new to this lens and with more experience I could probably produce a more obvious example. But even though this is only the second shot I've done with the lens it's clear to me it's a powerful tool that will do lots of great things in experienced hands. The main thing it will do for me is allow me to arrange the knife shot the way I want to instead of the way I have to because of standard lens limitations. There are other things it will do for the knife photographer but I don't want to get into all of that unless there's a lot of interest on the part of forum members.

There's also a nice tutorial of sorts at the Fred Miranda Photography web-site that really illustrates what a TS lens can do much better than I can. Here's the link for any who are interested.
http://www.fredmiranda.com/TS-E90/


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Old 07-24-2006, 02:08 AM
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Upon closer inspection I see I left the top back of the sheath a little soft so I could've done a better job of tweaking the settings on the lens - but, when I ran the second image through my usual work-flow it really took the processing well and sharpened up quite a bit.

You may or may not like the effect but the out of focus background around the knife is often a desired effect and with the TS lens it can be controlled and put where the photographer wants it. I like that effect because it really lets the knife "pop" off the page visually.



Remember, I'm no expert at this. These examples were the best I could do quickly on a Sunday night and represent only the second time I've even used the lens. If you aren't impressed, that's fine. But please hold off on any final judgements until I (or someone else) can master this animal and show what it can really do. The way I see it is if Hiro Soga swears by it, then there's gotta be something there.


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Old 07-24-2006, 06:48 AM
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Very interesting.

Thanks Buddy. I know I prompted you for this work, and you spend quite a bit of time doing so. As you allowed there is going to be more that you will learn, and showing real-world examples will confirm this lens. I easily see the differences as you pointed out.

I think I would also like to have one. Probably not for my website/dealer work which I need to move through quickly, but for thoise complicated long-knife and portfolio shots. Like all lenses, one is never enough

How open was your aperature to achieve the low DOF that this has?

*sometime* shoot a long knife in portrait mode. that will be a most-utilized benefit.

Is Mr. Higo the man who shot Bill Moran on the cover of 'Master of the Forge'. What a pro!

Coop


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Old 07-24-2006, 07:34 AM
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Terrill Hoffman Terrill Hoffman is offline
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Now Buddy, it is really hard to evaluate a lens by looking at .jpg's reduced for the web. Go ahead and ship that lens to me for a serious tryout (just a couple of years) and I'll let you know how well it does.
I will say I miss using my 4x5. The tilts and shifts were just downright fun!


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Old 07-24-2006, 09:10 AM
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Terrill - OK sure, "It's in the mail." Remember, if I was traditional Asian and you said you liked my lens, I'd have to give it to you! Fortunately I'm not. In fact I'm a product of the same distressed Redneck Viking gene pool you come out of, aren't I? Seriously, I guess the T/S lens for 35 mmSLR (now full frame digital) is an extension of the same capability that was/is built into medium format 4X5 cameras. I never used a 4X5 but the tilt/shift mechanism has got to be simpler than all the moving parts this thing has. It's wild! Got 4 different knobs and moves every whichaway - very confusing for a guy like me.

Coop - Yes, thank you for urging me to do a side by side image comparison. In answer to your question in a different thread I did use this lens to shoot that big Fisk camp knife on the cougar background. Thanks for your compliments on that image. That was the first time I used this lens and in practice it's a lot easier than the description of it sounds. It's all visual. You just look through your view-finder and twiddle until everything comes into focus. CAVEAT - I learned that I needed to switch view-finder focusing screens from the standard one or I wouldn't be able to tell if everything was in focus. I got an EC-B from Canon - a laser matte split section blah blah blah whatever it's called. There are a couple that will work but you have to be able to see what's in focus and what's not all over the field of view, not just in the center. ALSO - it is reccommended that one get the 'angle finder' attachment, a little dog-leg thingy that replaces the eye-piece over the view-finder. It roatates around so you can have your camera at any angle but still look through the view-finder without contorting yourself too much. It's neat and works great. Kind of like having one of those rotating and twisting lcd screens that come with the nicer point 'n shoot digitals. You have to figure in the cost of these two accessories with the lens.

More details: I shot this test at f5.6. It would've been much more dramatic if I'd shot at 2.8 but not very realistic for what we do in everyday life when shooting knives. The camera looked down on the arrangement at about 40 degrees with the lens 26 inches from the knife. That's close so the dof was very thin. I could've moved farther away and not needed the TS lens but by the time I would've cropped the image as in pic #3 above I would've lost some detail. This is another advantage of the lens. It will focus as close as 18 inches - very close for a telephoto lens which is what this is.

Yes, the long blades cry out for use of this lens but I need to learn how to work it better before I try that. When I watched Hiro shooting in his mobile studio with this same lens he backed off so there was about 5 feet from the lens to the blade looking down at maybe a 75 degree angle.

More later.......


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Old 07-24-2006, 09:21 AM
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BTW, just for fun here's this beautiful Cactus Rose Hunter (Gib Guignard RIP and Chuck Burrows) which I shot maybe 2 years ago and actually won the photo of the week contest with! Wow. Look how soft most of it is. There are several reasons for that but mainly it's a function of that fixed immovable plane of focus.



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Last edited by Buddy Thomason; 07-24-2006 at 09:23 AM.
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Old 07-24-2006, 10:04 AM
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I had often wondered how some shots were so focused, and the fade begins at a certain distance, verry acurately. Sounds like you're aquired a wonderful toy!

Simply mind bogling realy...

G.


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Old 07-24-2006, 10:08 AM
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"distressed Redneck Viking gene pool "
You've got me nailed!


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