Canon 35mm Tilt Shift 2.8

The Original Tilt Shift Lens

In 1973 Canon introduced the world’s first ever 35mm Tilt Shift lens! It was designed to help architecture photographers correct the unnatural perspectives often encountered when photographing buildings. The tilt function of the lens allows the focus plane to be altered to control the depth of field for part of the image, often referred to as perspective control. This is particularly helpful for photographing structures in wide angle photos to keep the buildings as straight up and down as possible.

While architecture photography was perhaps the lens’s initial design purpose… many other commercial applications have been discovered since its inception. Of course creatives realized they could use the tilt feature to not only improve focus, but also to dramatically de-focus the scene as well! This can create an alluring look that has lent itself to the fine art and wedding  photography look for decades. This practice works exceptionally well in wide angle lenses to help achieve a shallower DOF.

We picked up our classic tilt shift from eBay for much less than a modern 24mm TS. Comparing these two lenses isn’t quite the same technically. But, for our artistic purposes we are happy having another tool available to create an ethereal effect. For many photographers, spending thousands of dollars on a single specialty lens (like the modern TS) just doesn’t make much sense. But to attain a classic FD mount TS and adapt it to modern cameras makes a lot of sense for fine art photos on the cheap!

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Quirks & Adaptation

Using this lens is certainly very different from a typical lens experience. The lens has many dials to manually adjust focus, aperture, tilt and shift settings. It’s certainly fun to experiment with and create new works of art. However, due to its complexity it’s probably best not to learn this one on the job. This classic lens does exhibited a bit of yellow casting, probably due to it’s age. This is a quick Lightroom fix and we actually have a preset that resolves this particular issue fast!

Initially, this lens was designed to be used with the old Canon FD mount Film cameras (such as F1 & AE1). However, in 1987 Canon made a major change to their camera mounts and their entire previous lens line was deprecated. To make this lens work on modern DSLRs or Mirrorless cameras requires an adapter. For use we choose to shoot this lens on our Canon 6d and selected the EdMika adapter. We preferred his adapter because of it’s precision build and permanent nature. This adapter actually completely replaces the existing mount making it work seamlessly with Canon cameras.

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Tilt & Shift

The tilt motion affords the photographer the ability to tilt the plane of focus of the lens relative to the sensor. This gives the photographer a wedge shaped DOF that throws part of the image in and out of focus. The tilt has enormous artistic uses and should be at least considered by many fine art photographers.

The shift motion allows the photographer to shift the placement of the lens’s imaging circle relative to the sensor. This is helpful for panoramic images via a tripod or to change the focal plane to reach something higher or lower than the camara sensor can see at the lens’s native focal length.

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Conclusion

This lens brought a completely new function to photographers. Many iterations from Canon and a variety of other companies have become available since. Some have worked better and some worse,  but regardless this lens design started something new in the photography world. The tilt shift look is a highly sought after style for some photographer’s vision. For us we like the look enough to have the option available. However, it’s not something that we use with any great frequency. But, as a professional photographer, can you really have too many tricks up your sleeve?

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Canon Vintage FD
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More Resources

Are you interested in learning more about this lens?  There are lots of great useful resources all of the web to help us photographers achieve our photographic dreams!  We have included some of the articles and resources that were helpful for us when researching our own gear purchase.