Why Do Tilt-Shift Lenses Cost So Much?

Tilt-shift lenses are highly specialized pieces of equipment that many photographers will go their entire careers without ever touching. As such, you might wonder why those weird lenses are so expensive in the first place. This interesting video explores just that question.

Coming to you from ZY Productions, this great video takes a look at tilt-shift lenses and what it is that makes them so expensive. Tilt-shift lenses allow you to control both the angle of the lens plane relative to the image plane (allowing you to control depth of field independently of aperture) and to shift the position of the image without moving the camera itself (this can help correct converging parallels). This makes them tremendously useful for certain genres, particularly architecture. But those specialized capabilities come with some unique engineering challenges and thus, some higher prices. 

If you've never shot with a tilt-shift lens before, I recommend renting one or picking up a used copy, even if you don't need them for your work. They're simply a bunch of fun to shoot with and will challenge your inner photography geek with their unique functions. Check out the video above for the full rundown! 

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21 Comments

William Howell's picture

I want a tilt shift lens, so badly, but I cannot afford it. I will have one though, someday.

Michael Jin's picture

I've been eyeing the Nikon 19mm for a while now. I cannot get myself to pull the trigger, though...

Chris Cameron's picture

I pulled the trigger on one and it is awesome.

Tony Tumminello's picture

Rokinon/Samyang has a 24mm f3.5 TS lens for ~$700 new which is "affordable" in the realm of tilt-shift lenses at least. The ergonomics aren't fantastic but it seems to perform about as well as the Canon 24mm f3.5L II in terms of pure image quality in every review I've read on it.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Well to be honest neither Nikon or Canon have that great ergonomics either, but yes better than Samyang with its tiny plastic knobs.

Richard Kralicek's picture

Image quality depends on how much you stop down, which you normally do for landscape or architecture, so I guess that's not the problem (I own 3 Canon TS-E, 17mm, 45mm and 90mm (old one), both second hand). You won't get that much sharpness when shooting @f4 and tilted. Those who don't need that regime won't miss it.

Richard Kralicek's picture

Watch the second hand market, in case you use Canon or can use Canon lenses via adapters. I got two older tilt shift lenses (45mm and 90mm) second hand (clean lenses and everything fine) for the amount of less than one new Canon TS-E 50mm/f2.8 macro lens. Sometimes you'll find an older FD mount Canon 35mm/2.8 which would be great for mirrorless cams, where you can use an adapter.

Andrea Brizzi's picture

Great subject. Thanks. I exclusively shoot architecture and interiors and theses lenses are essential to me. If you consider their high resale value, the cost of use (depreciation) of these glasses is in fact quite low. I wish more manufacturers made TS lenses. Only Canon, Nikon and the Rokinon/Samyang offer them! No Leica, no Zeiss...

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Well for MF there are both adapters and bellows, but yes for 35mm the selection is quite narrow. I do however have two Schneider Kreuznach T/S lenses that are made for 35mm. Excellent lenses.

Rod Kestel's picture

Of course for occasional use you can tweak perspective in photoshop. Unless you had a big need or deep pockets I don't imagine it'd be worth it.

Andrea Brizzi's picture

Rod: yes, you can straighten convergence in post production, but it will cost a lot of pixels. But you cannot create stitch panorama. I understand these are niche issues, but they are vital for someone in my line of work

Rod Kestel's picture

For sure, if you were to do this often it'd save a shirt load of work...esp if it is your work. Hadn't occurred to me about their use in panorama.

Dunno about the architecture thing, can't say I've ever given it much thought, or noticed when it's not used. Is it something clients care about? I'd guess it matters more for interiors.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Yes, that should be mandatory for anyone shooting architecture regardless. However, T/S is used for more thing then straight lines.. try tilting the focal plane in post..

If you have an APS-C mirrorless (Fuji X, Sony E, or Canon M) there tilt-shift adapters that use FF SLR lenses like Olympus OM and Nikon F. There are some great and cheap vintage lenses that can be used, but to get wide and ultra-wide you may be best off with a Rokinon super wide made for Nikon F.

Laughing Cow's picture

Never used a tilt-shift lens. I prefer to use a view camera.

For $25, it can be done with software: https://www.epaperpress.com/ptlens/index.html

Paul Lindqvist's picture

There seems to be quite a misconception regarding how and for what a T/S lens is used.

No, it's a substitute for a view camera. For my photographs, software is fine.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Again your claim that it can be done with software shows the lack of understanding why some of us use these lenses. If your happy with ptlens so be it, doesn't really mean anything though.

Laughing Cow's picture

It does not exist a software able to manage/control the Scheimpflug principle…
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheimpflug_principle

Ivan Lantsov's picture

they can