Over the last few years I’ve been testing and reviewing all sorts of vintage lenses, rarely touching on a subject of adapters. Eventually I will do an in-depth post about all the adapters I use for vintage lenses, but this time I want to take a closer look at a very unusual adapter, which in a way works like any other lens adapter, but with addition of a TILT functionality, usually found in Tilt/Shift lenses as well as special effect lenses like LENS BABY.
TILT functionality has two main purposes: selective focus and ability to make things appear miniature, both of which are very strong effects with a potential to bring some very creative visuals to the project at hand.
Unlike the tilt/shift lenses, this adapter is very cheap and unlike Lens Baby lenses it doesn’t lock you into a specific optic. With an adapter you can simply use any lens with a compatible mount. In my case, it’s an M42 to E-mount adapter, which allows me to use any M42 mount lens on any E-mount camera. There are plenty of other versions for MFT (M4/3) and E-mount cameras, which include Canon EF, Nikon F, Olympus OM, Minolta MD, Contax C/Y, Pentax K and a few other mounts.
If you search of one of these adapters on ebay, you’ll notice that some of these adapters also have the SHIFT functionality, turning any lens into a proper tilt/shift lens, but these adapters are expensive, slightly defeating the purpose of this post, as it’s all about adding an additional creative element to affordable vintage lenses. If you are going to be spending $$$ on such adapter, you might as well start looking at proper tilt/shift lenses.
So this time let’s concentrate on the cheap TILT adapters and the difference they can bring to your projects.
There are a few types of TILT adapters, but my one has a ring with a scale from 1 to 8 indicating the (approx) degree of tilt. This allows to you vary the strength of the TILT effect. The adapter can also be rotated 360° (with click stops) to the desired position.
Below is a visual example of how TILT adapter works by Zexun Tan.
You can find a more scientific explanation on how TILT effect works here, but in short, when adapter is pointed up or down you get a horizontal line of focus, great for adding a shallow depth of field to wide angle shots and potentially making a distant scenes appear miniature (subject to position and composition).
When adapter is pointed to the left or right, you get a vertical line of focus, which works great for addition of selective focus/ DOF effect to otherwise flat looking scenes.
It’s also possible to position adapter at other angles creating various angled lines of focus, that can keep both foreground and background subjects in focus. When used carefully it can create yet another very strong effect that can’t be achieve any other way. The closest thing to this effect is a split diopter method, which is also an interesting effect, but doesn’t have as much control.
Below are some examples of the of the lines of created by using TILT adapter.
The possibilities are really endless and it’s a lot of fun finding out how different lenses, f-stops, camera positions, compositions & subjects affect the results.
Although the effect is most obvious with wide angle lenses (which otherwise have a very deep field of view), it’s also possible to utilize it with telephoto lenses for close ups and even macro shots, especially when performing focus pulls, which look particularly unusual with focus going from side to side, or up and down, rather than strictly from foreground to background.
I’ve used this adapter for the little web promo below and although it’s not very obvious, about 50% of shots have the selective focus effect achieved using of this adapter.
Conclusion: I highly recommend getting one! They add so much creativity for very little money. The $30 one I bought is pretty solid and woks fine as a regular M42 to E-mount adapter too. Personally I wouldn’t but one of the $150-200 ones unless as wanted both tilt and shift functionalities, but for $30-50, this TILT adapter definitely worth it.
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