I’ve been playing with a tilt/shift lens on a digital SLR. I’m hoping to get sharper landscapes by not having to stop down as far to get the foreground and background in focus. Thus, the tilting action of the lens is what’s of interest to me.
The trick with a tilting lens, whether on a view camera or a little SLR is to find two representative spots in the plane of the image and get them both in focus. You’ve got two controls that affect the focus: the focus ring, which affects the distance from the lens to the image plane, and the tilt. The problem is that, once you get one spot sharp with one control, changing the other affects both. I try to deal with this by setting the tilt to zero and first focusing on an object in the middle of the image, then tilting the lens to bring the foreground and background into focus, tweaking the focus ring as necessary.
With a view camera, you can check focus with a loupe. With the SLR, it’s harder. The ground glass finder is nearly useless, especially with modern finders on autofocus cameras, which are not optimized for focus. You can take a picture and zoom in on an area to check sharpness, but there’s no interactivity there. I’ve found that the best tool is the live view mode.
It would be really nice if you could zoom in on two different areas of the image at the same time, but, sadly, this doesn’t appear to be an option. Maybe the camera manufacturers will add this ability as an inducement for their customers to buy the expensive tilt/shift lenses.
Outdoors, it’s hard to see the LCD display on the back of the camera. There are hoods and snoots you can buy to make it easier, but in my experiments, I’ve been using a simple darkcloth; the same one that I’ve used with a view camera. It seems anachronistic but it works. In addition to its practical advantages, I’m sure it provides amusement to bystanders.
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