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Can a Crop Ratio Replace a Tilt-Shift Lens?

January 19th, 2018

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24 Responses to “Can a Crop Ratio Replace a Tilt-Shift Lens?”

  • Another negative – tilt-shift lenses are manual focus-only. Auto focus is a boon to those of us with less than perfect vision.

  • Dave, shooting wide at 5.6-8 there is no focusing! Leave it next to infinity and that’s it.

  • What a load of crock! TS lenses slowing it down? I wish he was in my country that I can show him from start to end how I will outshoot him with a TS lens time wise. And then he goes on about tripod movements….WHAT? You will need to do it with any lens to get composition correct in any case. Then he moans about the price tag…. firstly it is not that expensive and you can move on to better paying work with architects and designers.

  • Yep it works. Great solution that I use a lot. Sold my 17TSE.

  • As Chris Farley might say “For the LOVE OF GOD!!!…” why would anyone use a tilt shift lens in a room with an 8ft ceiling? Even just for the purpose of an example? At the very least, raise the camera up to see over an ill-placed sectional sofa while still maintaining verticals. Shouldn’t there be some practicality to the example? Let me see what it does when you point it down a split-level entry stairwell.

  • I’m with Chris Cloete – “what a load of crock!” While it is not necessary for real estate work, it is essential for architecture. And you might be surprised at what you learn as you work with the lens more and more.

  • I love my Nikon 19mm TS. For those of us that like to get it right in camera, it’s a must for RE and architecture. I find it is faster because I don’t have to think about how I’m going to crop the image later while I’m shooting in the field. I see my composition on camera while shooting. As for focus, I agree with John above. It’s a non-issue if shooting at f/7 or so. Not to mention, I can do quick and easy panos with my TS.

  • Are we shooting for quality or quantity? I use TS lenses exclusively these days and haven’t felt that they slowed me down…if anything, they’ve saved me time in post processing work.

  • Thanks for the post Larry!

    Thanks to everyone for their comments.

    To Chris, I’m saying you can zoom in or out to get your composition with a zoom lens, which you can’t do with a tilt shift. How can losing the ability to zoom in and out do anything but slow you down? I’m very happy it’s working for you, but I think for people getting into real estate photography it would slow them down tremendously.

    Keep in mind this video is meant for people starting out in real estate photography who may be tantalized by others who they see using these lenses.

  • Let us be realistic.Ultimate quality may favor the TS by a bit but the flexibility of a zoom outweighs the slight IQ hit that may be taken.

    One is not delivering trash by not using a TS lens and TS user is not necessarily delivering art with their TS lens.
    The scene, camera position, lighting and post processing far outweigh the TS vs. non-TS issue.
    I think many would be surprised at how many high end architectural photographers are using the Canon 11-24.

  • Tough crowd! 😉

    I agree with Andrew’s assertion in the video: “Tilt shift lenses are not a great investment for real estate photographers.”

    A TS lens won’t save you from sloppily composed, poorly lit, ill conceived photographs. And not owning a TS lens isn’t what’s keeping you from “moving on” to better paying work.

  • I don’t disagree with most of his points, at least for someone who is starting out. Spend the money on something more versatile like a high-quality zoom. I was using a 17 TS for all my RE work for a few months, and I don’t think it’s slower or faster than using a regular lens by any means. Now I just shoot a little wide with my zoom and crop out some of the top of the image in post.

  • Friends:
    Without being nasty or critical to any photographer or his/her opinion,
    i wish that, between us photographers should be a bit of respect ,with out calling others bad names “Idiots”
    We are professionals and needn’t go to a low level discussion even if some ones idea is wrong or bad;
    Now to the subject of having or not having an Expensive TS lenses.
    These lenses were manufactured because they do a great job for merely Architecture photography, not necessarily needed if only shooting interior spaces.
    Just because they are expensive does not mean they are useless, and not worth having them in your Bag,
    i had many situations where i was stuck against a tight space and had to shoot a very tall building, this was almost impossible if i didn’t have a TS lenses.
    the TS lenses work in the same principle as a View camera when you had the lens mounted to a standard which was moving up, down, shift sideways. also the back standard *Film plane*
    Instead of setting up a view camera, now days we use this mechanism built into a lens
    i am still using my Sinar P3 for some high end photography projects, for interior and architecture photography i am pleased with my Ts 17mm or 24mm Lenses-

    wish you all a shift free friendship

  • A TS lens is a great tool for certain images. It’s almost a must for anybody shooting architectural work. For day in and day out real estate photography, it’s mostly overkill and a few cheats using a zoom lens to approximate what a shift lens can do are good things to know. There are always lots of things tugging at our budgets. Do we need to spend money on a drone and a license? Is it time to upgrade to a newer body or purchase some back up equipment? New flashes? A Camranger and tablet? The list never ends and the big business question is what new piece of equipment is going to bring the best ROI or in the case of spare bodies/lenses, mitigate the most risk.

    If you need a TS lens for a higher end job with special requirements, a rental is likely only a couple of days away. If you are in a larger city, a camera shop may have one for rent. The bigger “commercial” jobs generally have more lead time. It’s rare that you get a call one afternoon to photograph a company’s new corporate headquarters the next day. If that is the case, somebody pooed the scrooch and they need the image fast more than they need it to be perfect. If you don’t have a camera store nearby with one for rent, faking it isn’t going to be a problem.

    I live by having zoom lenses. If I were working on an Ikea furniture shoot, I would have assistants ready to move anything out of the way to put the camera exactly where I want it. That isn’t an option in RE. I have to place the camera where I can and zoom in or out to get the frame where I want it. If I was only shooting with a prime lens, I’d be spending more time in post cropping every image instead of having a bulk of them nearly finished SOOC with only a light touch or simple preset in Lightroom to have a deliverable product. A TS lens slows me down overall since many of the images I make of a home don’t benefit from it’s capabilities. One day I’m sure I will own one, but there are many other things higher up on the priority list.

  • Andrew, before I offer my thoughts on your post, I must share that I really hate it when comments on a post, start becoming more like personal attacks than constructive criticisms. It’s totally unfair/unhelpful to the author of a post, as well and to readers who have to sift through that nonsense.

    In any case, Andrew, I, too, have some significant concerns about this video clip. I will do my best to offer my points in a constructive way and I hope you’ll accept them in the spirit in which they were intended! In short, my concerns are related to the content of information you’re sharing, as well as the manner in which you’re conveying it.

    In terms of the content, I found that there were a number significant issues with it. First, if you want to present an argument about the VALUE of using a $3K+ TS lens for an RE photographer, that’s a valid assertion — indeed, Scott Hargis has made that very point many times on the PFRE Flickr discussion group. However, to go on to say that all one needs to do to get the basic equivalent of a TS lens is to simply zoom out, take the shot and then, crop it … well, this is creating a false-equivalency. If your thesis were true, then why would the best interiors photographers in the world buy TS lenses rather than zoom lenses? Zooming out on a wide-angle lens (especially on the lower end of the range) invariably brings distortion into play; and it’s NOT something that simple cropping can fix. A severely sloping couch or DR table or island countertop, will still show a severe slope, even if you crop a big chunk of it away. You’d be better off finding the composition you truly want and using the TS lens on-site, rather than zooming-out and banking on a magic crop being there for you, in post!

    Also troubling for me is that you didn’t even show the proper “fake TS lens” technique, which involves raising the camera height, tilting the lens downward to avoid getting too much ceiling, zooming out about 2mm (to allow for a crop, in post, as the tilt will skew the verticals) and then taking the shot. Getting that extra height and tilting down has many advantages (especially when shooting kitchens!) and, IMO, *this* is the technique that would be far more valuable to a beginner RE shooter than the ‘zoom out-and-crop’ method you’re espousing!

    The last point that I want to make revolves around HOW you’re sharing your information. Andrew, as someone who’s done public-speaking for most of my adult life, I very much appreciate the confidence with which you speak in your videos. However, I have personally been experiencing your speaking style in a number of your more recent videos as increasingly authoritative — i.e., even though you are presenting your personal opinion, you’re stating it as if it were absolute fact! For example, in this video on TS lenses, you actually placed on the screen, in large caps, “This technique is arguably better than using a TS lens because it’s faster onsite and it’s effective.” To my mind, Andrew, even if that were true (and I think there’d be a great many TS shooters out there who’d argue to the contrary!!) it is one-dimensional statement because you are not acknowledging so many other potential considerations for using a TS lens. For instance, what if the beginner RE shooter wants to know the benefits of a TS lens? What if he wanted to leverage his use of that lens are part of his marketing/branding? Furthermore, in a recent video in which you talked about RE pricing, you said: “I find that the ‘cost of doing business’ to be almost an absolutely a useless metric” which was followed later by your assertion that “I don’t really see what that number does for me.” While you are entitled to this opinion, as a former senior executive, I was stunned by hearing you say this! Knowing your cost of business is *vital* to ensuring profitability, as well as the long-term stability of your business!

    Anyway, Andrew, please keep doing your videos … I’m sure that there are many folks in the PFRE community that do/will find value in them. I would simply (and respectfully) suggest that if you’re going to be sharing *opinions* on the various topics that you’re putting out there, that you try to do some research, first, toward validating the information you’re sharing and/or augmenting your post with other viewpoints. I would hazard a guess that not only will your post be more well-rounded, they’d be more well-received by your audience.

  • Well said, Tony. I totally agree with you on all of your points. Hopefully, Andrew will as well.

  • Tony,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Your first point about me stating that cropping with a zoom lens, and shooting with a tilt shift is “equivalent”, is not correct. In fact, in the video there is a point where I say “these are not exactly the same”. I understand your point, and if I gave you the impression that I was saying they were exactly “equivalent”, that was not my intention.

    What I was saying, is that for all reasonable intents and purposes when shooting real estate (real estate emphasized), you are not going to have any problem shooting wide and cropping to perform a very effective tilt-shift-lens-like effect. Further, there are of course cases where you can back up with a zoom, and shoot using the slightly longer focal length, and the negative effects you mentioned will be lessened. Yet further, as mentioned in the video, you can use crop ratios to control your field of view very effectively as well. However, if you’d like to make a video and explain why burgeoning real estate photographers should buy tilt-shift lenses for the sole purpose of avoiding that bit of distortion you brought up, I think that would be a much appreciated perspective.

    On that note, let’s us cut to the chase. Would you recommend that beginning real estate photographers run out and buy tilt shift lenses? I have to guess your answer would be “no”. In either case, it would be a pleasure to see a synthesis put together by yourself of why or why not beginners should be using these lenses for real estate, and where your views differ from mine. As you seem very invested in this, I encourage you to put your thoughts out there for everyone. I got the impression here your post here was more of a veiled attack. Counter my video with thoughts of your own, I would love to hear them.

    I certainly don’t want you to be “troubled”. I made a video a while back about the down-tilt method (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlljmg6e1YY). Maybe I should have mentioned this, but I do not prefer this method, and mention why in that video. These videos get quite long and, in my personal estimation, people getting started in the field will have trouble holding their attention through many of the details.

    The last point you brought up might be my favorite. I could have a youtube channel/blog, and say exactly what I thought every single photographer wants to hear…. “tilt shift lenses are amazing, you need one!”…. “the new Sony body is a total game changer”. Whether you like it or not, these are my honest opinions. I am a working professional, currently shooting multimillion dollar projects in my area for builders and architects. I am college educated. I am not sure what else I have to do to gain your approval to state my opinions? I don’t claim to be an “authority”; are you claiming to be an authority? Should I speak less confidently so I don’t offend you?

    In any case, those are my opinions… my real, genuine opinions. Not opinions based on profit or based or what I think people will approve of. And, if you don’t appreciate them or the tone I deliver them in, you’re more than welcome to tune out of course. The channel, and this particular video, are definitely geared toward people getting started (i.e., I am not trying to tell architectural photographers to sell all their TS lenses!), but in any case, I hope you keep watching.

  • Andrew, I will respond to your most recent reply, offline. Thanks for your reply.

  • I must admit I didn’t notice anything in the video that suggested it was aimed at beginners. Anyway, a couple of points – slowing down is not a bad thing at all, and in fact I would suggest it’s necessary to improve your compositional skills and vision. Anyone can set up their tripod in the corner of a room and have their zoom lens wide open. A shift lens will probably encourage the user to think more about composition.

    Lots of photographers want to use real estate as a stepping stone to different/higher paying/higher end/more involved type of work, and would benefit from becoming familiar with a shift lens while shooting real estate.

    There are some compositions that I can get with my 24mm TS-E that I cannot get with my EF 16-35mm, and I know because I’ve tried.

    I guess ultimately it depends on what the photographer’s aspirations are and what market they are currently working in.

  • I would like a tilt shift lens to compose higher and yet shift down to remove the ceiling excess and show more of the floor. I have seen faux techniques that try to replicate the look and they are brutal on horizontal fov once corrected in post. I am a Nikon guy. I had tried the 24mm and wasn’t happy with the distortion when shifting. The newer 19mm is just out of my price range at the moment. It seems like a purchase that I could justify though even for everyday RE use assuming that I could educate potential clients on the benefits of choosing my services compared to the competition.

  • As I watched the video I found myself saying, over and over, “Well….that’s not technically wrong, but….”.

    The core premise in the video is something I agree with, but far too many of the supporting arguments that are made are either misleading, bad advice (in my opinion), or simply wrong. Shift lenses seem to have taken on some sort of symbolic status, such that people who clearly have no idea (or an extremely limited one) of what problem is solved by lens movements are nonetheless absolutely sure they need to own a “TS” lens, and are willing to passionately state their opinion on the matter with little regard to their own experience level. As I’ve said many times, if you can’t articulate the problem you’re trying to solve, then you probably don’t really need the solution. Following that, if you really need a shift lens, then you’ll be able to accurately state why.

    Recently there seems to be a proliferation of educational materials being put forth by people who themselves have a very tenuous grasp of the subject matter. There are also people charging outrageous amounts of money for teaching things they themselves clearly haven’t mastered. Indeed, many have only recently acquired even a basic awareness of the subject they are now instructing! Watching a video series or reading a book is no substitute for experience, and if you’re teaching at the very limits of your own ability, it’s likely that you’re doing your students a disservice.

  • @Matt Davis, Yes, slowing down and working a shot until it’s the best it can be is certainly a good thing to do. On the other hand, you don’t want your tools to be forcing you to be slow once you are more confident with your compositions. There are plenty of images we make in a basic home that just aren’t going to improve much by spending more time on them. A basic bedroom or bathroom is a place where after a while, you just know where to put your tripod, aim your flash and where your exposure is likely to be. Spending any time normalizing your TS lens is wasted. A kitchen might be a good place where a TS lens is useful or in clearing the back of a couch in a living room without gaining a bunch of ceiling but even those situations can be met with a good zoom for most work.

    I have up to 120 minutes on site to create roughly 20 value images and that time is inclusive of my walk through, bringing in and taking away my gear as well as making the images. I hardily wish that every home was ready when I arrive, but most aren’t and I have to chivvy the owner into doing some last minute prep ahead of where I’ll be photographing and also waiting for them to heard pets from one zone to the next and move their pet’s cage back and forth so it’s not in the shot. My clients don’t expect me to do any cleaning and staging (I’ve trained them), but they still want the best images they can get within their budget. If I had the entire day, the time it took to use a TS for many of the images would not be a problem. I can’t charge what I charge and spend an entire day on one job and often times, I cannot spend extra time on a job that might really benefit from the extra attention since I have another booking and I want to squeeze a quick lunch in between to keep my blood sugar up.

  • I think the video could do a better job of explaining how perspective control lenses work to those who have little familiarity with the subject. As far as the time factor, it really depends upon the kind of work you do. For a very high-volume operation where you are shooting many homes in a day, a zoom is probably preferable, and the quality loss from substantial cropping will probably not be much of an issue. However, if shooting a more moderate volume and striving to obtain higher technical quality, using perspective control lenses can become a more viable option, if you can charge enough to justify their expense. As to slowing you down, I find that, when using perspective control lenses, I am working with 24mm and 17mm focal lengths the vast majority of the time and I don’t find moving the tripod around to refine the framing to be a big deal if using a tripod that is not too cumbersome. I have gotten pretty quick with practice. Plus, using a full-frame camera with a high-resolution sensor gives me a bit of room to crop, when necessary, without sacrificing too much image quality. For real estate work, when I do occasionally need longer focal lengths, I will tend to use a medium-range zoom, but that is typically less than 5-10% of the time, and not with every home. Also, I want to point out that there are cases when no zoom can replace the widest perspective control lens, such as an exterior shot of a home on top of a hill and situated on a wide lot, where you need to shoot from the bottom of the hill and maintain a wide view of the landscaping along with the home. Of course this is a pretty extreme situation which is not that common.

  • I’ve been seeing more and more stuff from people on Facebook lately asking if they need TS lenses, but I feel as it’s all in the name of ignorance of how perspective works. Lots of people fail to educate that perspective is a matter of position in space rather than lens choice. Most photographers can recite how cropping in will create an effectively similar image than that of a longer focal length, but fail to recognize that it’s the same phenomenon behind a TS lens. Sure there are several things that can change, such as DOF, aquity, etc, but in the end it’s still just a simple change of field of view sans the tilt. There is material online that shows this quite simply but people still tend to argue with me for some reason. When I briefly worked with a 4×5 view in college I got more ‘distortion’ (not necessarily optical but rather from just being too damn close) from shifting to its limits on a 50mm than from cropping in my 14mm, and it couldn’t be fixed in an enlarger. In my opinion, only if you really need every pixel, then a TS would be necessary. Otherwise if you have a sufficiently quality wide angle then you shouldn’t have to worry.

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