Tilt and Transform

Two of the photos in this post were taken with the Lensbaby Tilt Transformer and some old manual focus Nikkor lenses on the OMD EM5. Another was shot through standard Olympus glass. Can you guess which is which?

After seeing the type of 3-d focus adjustments and perspective shifts a fully functional view camera makes possible, I wanted to incorporate at least an aspect of it in my own work. I can’t really justify buying and caring for a large-format field camera right now, so the Lensbaby setup with F mount lenses was a relatively cheap alternative to try out the technique.

Having tilt adjustment of the lens, even without shift ability or a bellows extension in between the elements (sensor or film plane, and lens board) still makes for some really interesting possibilities.

The bee shot was one of a series in which I tried to use the focal plane “slice” aligned through two or three flowers. This created the way out-of-focus region that looks to me like an ocean of blur around the islands of focus.

Since the two intended sharp focus points were not in the same plane as the camera back, the only other option for getting them in focus would be to stop down the aperture, but then everything in between would also be in focus as well as some distance in front and behind them. The 2-d slice through 3-d space is a really nice option that you can’t really get any other way.

For the first shot, I used a Lensbaby Transformer with an old Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AIS. The useful characteristics of this lens are that it is sharp across the whole frame, it’s lightweight, and has a minimum focus distance of less than a foot even though it’s not a macro lens.

The ground squirrel hidden in the old rusty drainage pipe was probably looking at the huge lens and wondering if he should run. Luckily he watched me for a bit after diving out-of-the-way.

This one was taken with the 75-300mm M. Zuiko zoom lens, and is only meant to provide a gauge for the DOF a long lens will give you on the OMD. The ends of the pipe in the frame are blurred, but the central section is pretty sharp.

I also took more or less the same shot with the Vivitar (Series 1) 70-200mm f/2.8 lens I’ve had for more than half of my life. It was attached to a 2x tele-extender on a Nikon F3. I’ll have to develop the film to see which version I like better.

The shot above is of an average Summer sailing day on the bay across from San Francisco. It was taken with a monstrous combination of the manual focus Vivitar zoom at full extension, a 2x Nikon tele-extender, which was then attached to the Lensbaby Tilt Transformer on the OMD. Those sails are more than a mile away! I was in the wrong position as the sun was already heading West, but figured it was worth a try.

This is not an easy combination to handle since there is no tripod mount on the lens, and you need to hand-hold about 2 pounds of glass that sticks out what feels like a couple of feet in front of the camera. I was worried the torque from the precariously extended lens would cause issues if I mounted the OMD on the lightweight tripod I normally use.

Olympus’ 5-axis image stabilization worked, but the Lensbaby was probably not perfectly aligned perpendicular to the sensor, so there is a little bit of focus softening going on. This is the equivalent of 200mm x 2 x 2 = 800mm, and produced a soft, but dreamy looking picture that responded to sharpening and added contrast.

There was also intense chromatic aberration that I didn’t see with the 28mm lens, so here is the color version for reference. While it is not sharp on close inspection, considering this is hand-held at 800mm, I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect anything more than a surprisingly pleasant glow.

Experimenting with old MF glass on the OMD through the Lensbaby adaptor is an interesting experience. It makes me think we are probably missing an important photographic tool when we use lenses that are locked in one position. However, the payoffs seems to be more consistent image quality and cheaper equipment. At least there is one easy way to take back some of the additional flexibility photographers had for a hundred years or so.

The best of the old works with the latest and greatest. Pictured are the Nikon F3 with 28/2.8, 50/1.8 and 70-200/2.8 lenses. All of which work just fine on the OMD with Tilt Transformer attached.

The best of the old works with the latest and greatest. Pictured are the Nikon F3 with 28/2.8, 50/1.8 and 70-200/2.8 lenses. All of which work just fine on the OMD with Tilt Transformer attached.


2 thoughts on “Tilt and Transform

  1. hi there. nice post. I just purchased a tilt trasformer and was looking forward to try it out with my OM-D, however it seems to me that it doesn’t quite fit very well? I managed to screw it on the mount but only by applying some considerable pressure, not sure this is very healthy for the camera mount. did you experience any issue? cheers andrea

    • Hi Andrea, I haven’t had any problems mounting it. At least my copy feels like it has the same tightness as a normal lens mount. Sorry to hear about the problem. Thanks for the feedback on my post.

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