How To

Make your own tilt-shift lens

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Old technology made new
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Mercuria - tilt shift 1
Home made tilt shift
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I'd been interested for some time in trying to reproduce the miniature-effect that can be achieved through a tilt shift lens with selective focus and a narrow depth of field. However, a "real" til-shift lens was beyond my budget and I preferred to try to achieve the effect "in-camera" rather than by post-processing. Having read a number of guides available on the internet I cobbled together various elements from different cameras to come up with my own version of a tilt-shift lens.

My set-up comprises an Olympus OM-10 body, on which I have mounted the bellows from an old slide duplicator kit which had been bundled with an Ebay camera purchase (and lying in the back of a cupboard). Alternatively you could use the rubber gator for a car's gearstick or make your own bellows from some dark material. The lens is from a Mamiya C330 TLR. As you can see, the "sighting" lens is completely redundant, it adds to the already considerable weight of the camera but does give it a certain amount of style. Due to the weight of the set-up, everything is secured and re-secured with elastic bands.

Version 2 of the tilt-shift has already been built using a cheap enlarger lens bought on Ebay for about £5. If you're interested in building your own lens you will need to find a spare lens that's built for a film format which is larger than that of the camera on which you'll be using the lens. By way of example, the OM-10 is a 35mm camera. The Mamiya 330 TLR lens is a medium format lens. The fact that the lens is larger allows you to twist and distort the lens away from the focal plane and still have the frame filled with the image you are trying to capture - rather than seeing the sides of the lens.

To use the lens I can use the OM-10 body and viewfinder in the normal way. I simply twist and turn the lens away from the focal plane and once I'm happy with the results I can shoot away. Relying on the camera's exposure meter still seems to work pretty well and I bracket a couple of stops just to make sure. In all, this simple set-up is fun to make and can produce some surprisingly effective results.

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7 responses

  • The Areographers

    The Areographers gave props (19 Oct 2008):

    Wow I've never heard of this effect before. How cool.

  • Thomas Brauer

    Thomas Brauer said (26 Oct 2008):

    Excellent. I was considering writing on this myself, by you've done a terrific job. I like your bellows technique as well. Thanks.

  • Michael Adams

    Michael Adams gave props (4 Mar 2009):

    Great idea here and wonderful way of showing this to us! Great job!

  • Catherine Hadler

    Catherine Hadler gave props (4 Mar 2009):

    whoah, good news for the technically minded. Great shots ;o)

  • Lisa Dotzauer

    Lisa Dotzauer gave props (6 Aug 2009):

    WOW! I so need to try that! Great idea

  • Kendall Adams

    Kendall Adams said (9 Aug 2010):

    Fantastic idea! I'm trying to figure out how the focus would work. Any ideas to enlighten me? Thanks


  • David Brooks

    David Brooks said (9 Aug 2010):

    As it may help answer questions for others I came across the following link with a "how to" guide, which is far more comprehensive than mine.

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