Free-Lensing: Turn Your Old Lens Into a Tilt-Shift Lens

Free-Lensing: Turn Your Old Lens Into a Tilt-Shift Lens

Israeli based photographer Dima Vazinovich is specializing in news, documentary and wedding photography. One thing that separates him from other photographers in the industry is the unique and creative look his photography has. Recently Dima decided to try adding a new kind of look to his portfolio, and the results are truly amazing. The idea: “Freelensing” / tilt shifting with a cheap broken 50mm 1.8 lens to create magical images.

Dima told Fstoppers about the idea and also gave us a step-by-step of how he hacked the lens:
"The free lensing technique was around for a while and i’ve been using it for a year or so. I tried it with many different lenses (35mm/85mm/135mm) and also couple of my old M43 55mm lenses.

"Some call it 'lens whacking' and some know it as 'free lensing,' but both use the same technique of detaching the lens from the camera, holding it close to the mount and slightly moving it to get the right focus.

"I remember talking to Sam Hurd about his technique of free lensing and he told me about his 50mm f/1.8G that he broke and took the mount off to get much more movement when you hold it near your camera body. He wrote a small article on his blog about his 50mm lens he's using. He glued the aperture so it will stay wide open at F1.8 since nikon lenses default makes the aperture closed, and canon lenses default makes them open. After my last shoot using the free lensing technique I learned that focusing at open apertures can be really hard so I decided to go the DIY route and build something to help me control it."




Take your old Nikon/Canon 50mm 1.8 lens, if you have a broken one its even better - if not - you can just get one on ebay for really cheap.
Take out the 3 screws from the back and take the mount off. When taking it off you will have to cut the cord (orange) that is connected to the lens.




Get the mount and the aperture ring out to get the lens clear of parts that could fall apart.
The aperture ring is not connected with any screws in the Nikon lens, but might be connected in the Canon lens.



Take a small piece of an old AA battery plastic cover and glue it to the aperture ring so a part of it still sticks out and you can move it to control the aperture.
To make sure it stays in place use a small piece of duct tape around the lens mount (as seen in the picture), so by moving the duct tape to the side you control your aperture.




To make it easy to move the lens next to your camera, use a chainsaw to cut the plastic on the sides of the lens. Thats not mandatory, but it helps later when using this lens. The removal of the plastic also helps more sunlight leak in to create very interesting effects.

The easiest way to use this lens is to set the focus to infinity and move until you get your subject in focus. If needed, you can always use the focus ring to change it manually.













All Photos provided from Dima and are used with permission.

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Andrew Griswold's picture

I havent had as much time as I'd like with freelensing the old 50 but its quite the effect when you can master it like Dima here. Now that I know its this simple to get an even further reach on that tilt shift effect I may have to pick up another 50 1.8. Very nice article! (WHY DID I SELL THAT SILLY FIFTY!!) Haha

Haha that's what I'm thinking!! I gave it away to my friend. DAMMIT.

Dang. I wish people gave me lenses... 

Mark Kauzlarich's picture

Would have been easier to follow his pictures if he didn't free-lens them himself.

Why not using babylense? less dangerous for the camera sensor no?

But more expensive...

 Couple of dust cleaning will cost you the 50 already, then what is more expensive?

I like the idea, but I'm not comfortable with free lensing and exposing the indside of my camera to the elements. That's a good way to damage it and by the time you spend the money to buy a new body you could've used the same money to buy an actual tilt shift or lensbaby.

Kailash Gyawali's picture

check out some of the freelensing photos i did few days back

RUSS's picture

 nicely done :-)

Looks really good , i would try closing the F stop a lil bit to get more focus on the object your trying to focus on , 

I get what he's saying about glueing the aperture open on a nikon "G" lens, which has no aperture ring....but the photo you're showing is a "D" lens, which DOES have an aperture ring, and CAN be set with the aperture wide open, off the camera....i know b/c i do it all the just turn the aperture ring to f/1.8, rather than f/ far as taking the mount apart, the reason he's doing that, is so he can get the rear element closer to the mount, where it's supposed to be, and still be able to move the lens around....the problem with trying to free-lens on nikons (or any digital slr for that matter) is that as soon as the lens comes off the mount, even a FRACTION of an inch, your far focus ability goes from infinity to like 5's drastically different.  Like putting an extension tube on your your subject has to be the only reason i can see why he took the mount off, is so that he can get the rear element back into its original position, and still be able to focus at normal working distances, while still being able to move the lens around.  Smart.  But please clarify the bit about nikon lenses being stopped down by default....that's only "G" lenses, which you didn't show in the photos.

Hi i do this for some time now, but more cleaner and safety way using diy tilt lens like this

its one way but when using the lens open like this you can get alot of nice light leaks that would get you that look that no other tilt shift lens will 

Any solution on how to protect the rear element? Been trying to find something to cover the glass when transporting or having it in my pouch when I am at a gig. 

I tried looking for bottle caps, but they are all slightly too small to cover the rear element.