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08-11-2011, 12:01 PM   #1
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Why are T&S lenses so expensive and "special"?

Other than that you have to virtually increase the registration distance for wide angle lenses, there is not much more than additional (simple?) mechanics and a bit larger imaging circle.

Few numbers from e-bay:

Pentax SMC shift 28mm f3.5
559.00 +14.00 BIN
643.62 +18.58 BIN
441.06 +23.11 (Cheapest) BIN
Etc.. (no auctions)

Mamiya 645* 35mm f3.5 C Ultra-Wide-Angl​e Lens:
210.59 +24.75 BIN
Item image
Mamiya 645 AF/AFD/ZD 35mm f/3.5:
700.00 Free BIN
MAMIYA C 645 45mm 2.8:
156.99 +14.00 BIN
Mir-26V 45mm f3.5 (As new, case, filters):
130.00 +16.00 BIN+BO

I suspect there even was some companies manufacturing 120 to 135 format T&S adapters. (e.g. https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/lens-clubs/91033-tilt-shift-lens-club-4.html#post1433300)
And most likely the use of medium format optics would be an overkill, so a dedicated 35mm/APS-C T&S should be even cheaper.
Why do manufacturers present them in such exclusive position and make them so hardly available?

* - "Mamiya 645 register distance is 63.3mm." Thats nearly 2 cm of space to shift and tilt.

08-11-2011, 01:10 PM   #2
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I'll guess that demand drives supply. I.e. there ain't much market for them, so there's no economy-of-scale to push prices down. Similar to M42 focusing helicoids, which are in the neighborhood of US$80-120: Little demand and thus high prices. Oh bother.
08-11-2011, 05:30 PM   #3
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they are mechanically complex lenses, and there really isn't much of a demand from them because for many people they are tricky to use. I currently use a Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 T/S lens from Nikon and I couldn't do without if for landscape work - it's like having a mini digital 4X5, I wish Pentax would come out with an equivalent for their 645D system.
08-13-2011, 02:05 PM   #4
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I read, a long while back, that Canon makes a loss on every one of the T-S lenses it sells, even at the high prices they command, because of the low production volumes. But it makes them because it shows they are a "serious" lensmaker - that if you someday happened to need one, you could get one. I assume the same was true of Pentax when they were also doing so.

08-14-2011, 08:55 AM   #5
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How much has post processing reduced the premium of a shift or tilt shift lens?
08-14-2011, 09:06 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by abacus07 Quote
How much has post processing reduced the premium of a shift or tilt shift lens?
For us casual-type shooters, it's tremendous. Since I first used the Perspective Correction tool, I've been happy a a tornado in a trailer park. T&S is still pretty irreplaceable if you need full-resolution images of fairly extreme subjects, as heavy PC s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s parts of the picture, just like defishing. Shrink after stretching to maintain resolution, eh? But for moderate PC, it's just gravy.

And heavy PC can perversely give GREAT distortion. Shoot a plain rectangle (like a window) from a corner angle. Now rectify the window with the PC tool and watch everything else in the picture s-t-r-e-t-c-h tremendously. If a subject is within that window, you've *really* surrealistically isolated the subject from their surroundings. Can't do that with a T&S lens AFAIK.
08-14-2011, 02:37 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by abacus07 Quote
How much has post processing reduced the premium of a shift or tilt shift lens?
As RioRico says, if you can lose some quality, in many cases you can use post-processing instead of optics. There are however, some shots you simply cannot get without a tilt/swing lens. For example, this one (not mine!):
Peering into the Miniascape | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Only a tilted lens could throw both subjects so near and so distant into focus simaltaneously.

(You could try merging photos, but that's very tricky if the objects in the scene are moving, or if the lens extends when you change the focal distance).
08-14-2011, 03:46 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by abacus07 Quote
How much has post processing reduced the premium of a shift or tilt shift lens?
T/S lenses also help with photographers who use extreme near/far compositions they let you manipulate the DOF to cover both subjects while staying under the diffraction limit. Many users of the Pentax 645D focus stack their images a T/S lens would eliminate/reduce the need for this.

08-14-2011, 08:47 PM   #9
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I have an old Pentax Shift lens, and it is HEAVY. Why? - well just from the shift perspective, you are shifting the center of the optics over 11mm off to one side. That means that the focus circle projected by the optics needs to be substantially larger than a full frame lens (since these were full frame lenses back when they were made for film). So, what you have is a 645 set of optics to project this enlarged circle on to the sensor - actually if you stitch the entire possible set of images together - you have an image well over 60MP - compared to a 40MP 645D - its a 9k by 7.5k pixel image (base a K20D, a K5 image would only be larger). Therefore the optics need to be a tad larger.

Also, looking at the shift operation again, as you shift the lens, that means that the image quality needs not only to be in the center of the lenses, but beyond out to the edges, since you are using a much larger percentage of the face of the lenses. You are using the edges of the lenses and the outer extents of the image circle in the main body of the image to stitch everything together. The distortion needs to be extremely well controlled across the entire face of the entire lens.

So the optics are going to cost more - $ubstantially more. The mechanical issues will be more. Shift is simple, as the shift is isolated into a single plane. Tilting presents additional mechanical problems, so the cost$ just mount.

Better design, better optics, better materials, better construction, better QC, and the folks that purchase these items know what they want, and since they are paying a substantial price, demand a quality item.

Now if your going to go to an actual 645 lens, then you need to look at the focal length. 35mm, 45mm, 75mm are pretty narrow, however reasonably common. Pentax is has a new 25mm 645D lens out for $5,000. The older K28mm/f3.5 shift can be had around $500. So using that additional 20mm of registration distance for the tilt and shift mechanism is just fine, but then you need to find a sufficiently wide 645 lens to really make it work for architecture, or you are just as stuck as you were before. Yes, you can find pretty reasonable 45, 50, 80mm older film 645 lenses, but try to find a 28mm, or 24mm. They are impossible to find and if you are lucky enough it will cost you an arm and a leg.

That's why Tilt Shift Lenses are so expen$ive.


Last edited by interested_observer; 08-15-2011 at 04:34 AM.
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