To wrap up the discussion about favorite food photography lenses, this post is about a specialty lens called a tilt shift lens.
Now, this is a specialty lens that I do use a lot for jobs that I end up shooting with a 35mm camera. Pictured above is the Canon TS-E 90mm F2.9 Tilt Shift lens.
Canon makes two versions of this lens now. The one I have was made in days of film, and is still extremely sharp, and is still made by Canon. I use it on digital cameras with no problems at all. Canon says it’s for SLR cameras, (no D, for digital).
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The newer one is actually called a macro lens, and is made for digital cameras. Though the one I have is not called a macro lens, you can get very close to your subject, more so than any normal lens. I have not tested the newer lens yet, but I’m sure it’s made to withstand very high resolution files, like the Canon EOS 5DS 50mp camera.
What is a tilt shift lens?
Here’s what’s so special about it, as the name implies, you can change your focal plane – change how the lens will focus your image by tilting it.
There is one knob to tilt the lens, then there is another knob to shift the image around. Those knobs let you move the elements of the lens to enable you to get a whole lot more in focus in your image. Then, there are locking knobs for both of those to keep them in place.
This lens also enables you to do the opposite of above, and make your image have even less depth of field than what the f-stop of 2.8 would give you on that lens.
The latter feature isn’t really used in food photography a whole lot, but you do see it used in landscape photography in a fun way to make a landscape look miniature.
These tilt shift lenses are used a lot for architecture to correct the keystoning effect that can happen when photographing buildings.
Here is the same set up with shooting at f 5.6. The image on the left has no tilt. The image on the right has a tilt shift to get the background a little more in focus. Had I shot at f-16, I could have gotten almost the whole thing in focus.
Imagine the focal plane as if it’s a piece of paper cutting through your shot at the exact angle that you are holding your camera. The focal plane is parallel to your camera sensor.
When you hold your camera at an angle to your subject, your focusing plane will also be at that same angle as your camera.
When you use the tilt feature in this lens – you can change your focus, and really control what is in focus, and what isn’t.
The image above is from one of my lessons, all about focusing your camera in the Food Photography Club where I go into detail about how to focus your camera properly.
With a tilt shift lens, you can tilt the lens to get almost everything in focus, OR tilt the lens so that only one tiny area is actually in focus.
If you are a food blogger wondering why I would want everything in focus, unfortunately, many food photography clients will want you to get everything in focus in your images.
As soon as you need to photograph food that’s in packaging with your dish of food next to it, that’s when you want everything in focus, and that’s when you’ll need this lens.
This image above is an ad I did for Country Crock. Notice the packaging in the shot? You would not be able to get this in focus with a regular lens.
What is the “shift” part of the lens about?
Alright, so I explained all about the lens being able to tilt. So let’s just go over the shifting option you have.
You see, when you tilt your lens, you will actually see your image frame shift in the camera, up or down, or how ever you tilted your lens. This might make you crop something on the edges you don’t want to, so you can shift the image around a little bit to compensate for the image circle moving around on you with a lens tilt.
If you don’t know what that means at this point, that’s ok. It will become very obvious what I’m talking about when you start using the lens.
One drawback of Tilt Shift Lenses
The drawback on this type of lens though, is that it is NOT autofocus. Because of all the moving parts, apparently it’s just not possible to also fit a focusing motor in there as well. So, if you have bad eye balls like I do, this is a challenge, and I’ve got to shoot tethered in order to check my images as I shoot to make sure I got them in focus.
Nikon makes an 85mm Micro tilt shift lens. Unfortunately, they only have one option, and it’s $1979. But I’m sure this bad boy is awesomely sharp.
I have noticed that there are some other brands that I’ve never heard of making tilt shift lenses at half the price of these brands. Just make sure to test the lens before you buy it.
There are also some tilt shift lens adapters that you can put on a regular lens to turn them into a tilt shift lens. I have never tested these, and again, just make sure you can test them out before buying them, or make sure you can return them if they don’t work out.
There you have it. All my favorite lenses mentioned in all the last few posts. If you liked this post, please share it on Facebook, and for more food photography tips, check out my ebook by clicking on the image below.