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Using tilt-shift lenses on Sony A7R2 cameras in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Sony mirrorless cameras have a fairly unique feature : through the use of adapters, they can work with pretty much any type of lens from Canon, Nikon, Leica etc.

This includes the use of the speciality lens for serious architecture work : tilt -shift lenses made by Canon or Nikon (Sony doesn't make these kind of lens).

These type of lens allow users to capture a tall building while keeping its line straight. Look it up if you want to know how these works, it's well documented.

I have been using a Canon 17mm TS-E tilt shift lens for the last 3 years on a Sony A7R, through a Metabones Adapter (Version IV). On a recent trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands, I had the opportunity to test the 17mm TS-E on a Sony A7R2.

As the lens is manual, there are no AF compatibility issue. It's possible to use the standard metering options of the camera but I usually shoot manual. The version IV of the adapter from Metabones is recommended as the version 3 had some internal reflection issue.

The "tilt" feature of the lens, which allowsa greater control of the focus plane also work great on a Sony Camera - but I don't use it in my work, I have yet to master how to use it correctly.

To make the camera setup even more "impressive", it is also possible to use a Extender between the lens and the adapter to have an equivalent 24mm field of view. I'm using successfully a Canon Extender EF 1.4X III and the image quality is great - there is just a very slight loss of sharpness but nothing that Lightroom can't save later. I have also tried the 2x extender to have a 35mm FOV but the loss of quality was more pronounced.

Canon 17mm TS-E mounted on Sony A7R2 with Metabones Adapter (version 4)

Canon 17mm TS-E mounted on Sony A7R2 with Metabones Adapter (version 4)

Reflecting houses in the canals of Amsterdam. Sony A7R2 and the Canon 17mm TS-E, used with Metabones Adapter (version 4). All the movements work perfectly. In this example, lens was shifted up to keep the vertical lines straight.

Reflecting houses in the canals of Amsterdam. Sony A7R2 and the Canon 17mm TS-E, used with Metabones Adapter (version 4). All the movements work perfectly. In this example, lens was shifted up to keep the vertical lines straight.

Colorful sunset in Amsterdam, in front of The Oude church. A shift up was applied to keep the lines the building straight. It's quite visible in the house on the left - this gives a more natural look to the image. Shot with the Sony A7R2 with Canon 17mm TS-E.

Colorful sunset in Amsterdam, in front of The Oude church. A shift up was applied to keep the lines the building straight. It's quite visible in the house on the left - this gives a more natural look to the image. Shot with the Sony A7R2 with Canon 17mm TS-E.

Using the shift feature for pano work

A tilt shift lens can also be used to do pano work. By rotating the lens and shifting left, taking a photo, then shifting right and taking another shot, one can make a panorama with a very wide field of view. The benefit of this technique is that if you attach the lens to the tripod by using a collar, the lens will stay fixed and the camera and (sensor) will do the shift. This allows for a perfect stitch with no parallax issue ! It you move the camera and not the lens, the stitch will not be perfect so it's important that the lens stay fixed during the process.

To be fair, the picture quality tends to degrade a little bit on both extremities of the image as it's the border of the lens image circle. For serious work that will be printed or enlarged, one should crop the image a bit on both sides. As you can see below, for online use, it's fine.

"Shift pano" in the Amsterdam canals, shot with Sony A7R2 and Canon 17mm TS-E. Two photos stitched perfectly for a super wide field of view !

"Shift pano" in the Amsterdam canals, shot with Sony A7R2 and Canon 17mm TS-E. Two photos stitched perfectly for a super wide field of view !

Some limitations

Having worked for the last three years using this combo, I have observed two limitations that I wish could be fixed.

First, and not related to the tilt shift lens, the virtual horizon feature of the Sony A7R and A7R2 cameras is not precise enough. In many occasions, the vertical and horizontal guide are showing "green" when it's actually not perfectly straight. I wish the sensitivity could be set to be "very sensitive" so that it becomes green when it's really perfectly leveled. Maybe having absolute numbers in degrees could help as well. Most of the time I adjust the camera to "green" and then do micro adjustment using my geared ball head by looking at lines in the pictures to make sure it's perfectly straight. For serious architecture work when lines have to be perfectly straight, this is critical.

Second,  I have noticed some flare in the corners using this combo. This is especially visible when you have very strong light such as lamp post in a corner and the camera is shifted. Putting my hand as a natural lens hood sometimes help !

With the Sony Alpha series and the ability to use exotic lenses such as Tilt shift lens with adapter, we are very close to have a "universal camera".  In the context of architecture photography, I have found that it brings the best of both worlds : the quality and technical ability of Canon Tilt shift lens and the versatility and image quality of Sony cameras. Such a great combo !

Tilt shift lenses can be used vertically as well. In this case, a slight shift up was applied. The tree on the left was naturally skewed so nothing I could do about it :-)

Tilt shift lenses can be used vertically as well. In this case, a slight shift up was applied. The tree on the left was naturally skewed so nothing I could do about it :-)