Tilt-Shift Lenses vs Lightroom/Photoshop: In Camera or Fix It in Post?

As an architectural photographer, the main types of lenses I use are tilt-shift lenses. These prime lenses are unique in how they operate because they allow you to move the internal elements parallel to the sensor. This can be extremely useful for perspective control and ideal for shooting architecture. The question is, are they vital or just overpriced? 

Photoshop and Lightroom are two very powerful image editors. I've tried a whole host of options but based on how I prefer to work I generally use these two pieces of software more than most others. One of the features is the ability to correct the vertical and horizontal perspective in an image. This is a really useful tool and one that I use regularly. What I wanted to know what was just how powerful these tools were and how they compared to shooting with tilt-shift lenses. In a recent video, I decided to compare both methods to see what kind of results you could produce. Considering the fact that I had already spent so much money on buying tilt-shift lenses, one could say I had a slight bias. Having said that I wanted to remain objective throughout and decided to a do full comparison using a number of different lenses and methods. 

Check out the full video to see how each method compares to one another and let me know what you think. I'll be sure to reply to as many comments as I can. 

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17 Comments

Great video. One question, is there tilt shift solution for Fuji users?

Usman Dawood's picture

Thank you :).

As far as I know you can adapt tilt-shift lenses to both APSC and MF fuji cameras but there are no current native options.

Richard Kralicek's picture

I'd say get an adapter for Canon if you can find the Canon FD 35/2.8 tiltshift lens. This one still has the aperture ring on it, so you don't need an adapter with built in extra aperture blades.

https://irvingphotographydenver.com/canon-fd-series-35mm-tilt-shift-2-8/

In case you have the money there are also adaptors than can control the Canon aperture on the Fuji, but - as far as I know - they're not that good for AF, which is fine as tiltshift lenses don't have AF. Then you can go for the newer Canons, but they are pretty expensive, as they are niche lenses.

michael andrew's picture

I’ll preface this that I use the 17mm and 24mm TsE Canons extensively, that’s said, they are pretty sharp/correct/nice optics without any adjustments to begin with. When I try my 14mm Samyang on some shoots, the super weird mustache distortion and odd contrast and colors seem to make a less desirable image in my opinion.

However, as far as correcting the 14mm image for Architecture it is ok and passable. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes it is quite the effort in post and the losses are too much and noticeable, especially since I own the 17 TSE. I rarely use the 14mm for shooting interiors/Architecture or landscape anymore, it’s soley for Astro/sports/video.

I value the time saved not having to do it in post.

Usman Dawood's picture

I completely agree man, I don't want to shoot any architecture or interiors without a tilt shift lens it's just not worth the time and hassle when I can get it all done with the lens.

michael andrew's picture

It makes sense if you are on a budget and can’t spend 2k per lens. At that rate a 200$ used 14 Samyang is a fine option and producing worthy results.

I feel spoiled when I can use the 17mm TSE.

michaeljin's picture

Honestly, its a matter of:

1. Do you have the cash to splash on a hyper specialized prime lens.
2. Do you have adequate time on-location to use it.

If you're doing architectural or interior design work where time on location is less a factor, I would say take the extra time to get it right in-camera. By doing it optically you are saving time in post while preserving your pixel count.

If you're doing real estate where you are often on a pretty tight time limit, TS is less practical that a standard ultra-wide zoom. You end up eating it in post, but that beats an annoyed homeowner or realtor.

As a Nikon shooter, I'm jealous of the options that Canon shooters have. The Nikon 19mm is an amazing lens, but there isn't much else in the way of quality TS options as I find the 24mm to be a bit soft.

Andy Day's picture

Nice vid, Usman! Enjoyed that. Useful info.

dale clark's picture

Another thing to think about (touched on above as well), the Canon 17/24 mm T/s are super sharp prime lenses (not using t/S features) as well. I'm sure the longer focal length versions are are too. I believe some think the T/S are mainly for buildings, interiors, etc...that is just not the case. Very versatile lenses to own.

Len Cardinale's picture

Hi Usman, How critical is using a tilt/shift lens when shooting real estate or architectural interiors compared to a wide angle lens using the correction tools in lightroom? Thanks, Len

Usman Dawood's picture

for real estate I think it depends. I’m not convinced that you definitely need a tilt shift lens because I’ve seen plenty of photographers make lots of money using relatively cheaper lenses. Remember it’s a business so making money is the aim not buying gear.

On the other hand I can imagine a tilt shift lens could slightly speed up the process. Also it depends on if you’re shooting super mansions vs shooting regular homes.

Personally I’d make it entirely a financial decision.

Len Cardinale's picture

Thank you for your quick response. One more question if I could. Would you consider using a product such as a ColorChecker Passport for mixed interior lighting, i.e. ambient, strobe and florescent?

Thank you again,
Len

Usman Dawood's picture

Absolutely. I don’t shoot anything meaningful without one.

Colour passport is invaluable. Love it!

Scott Basile's picture

Good video thanks Usman. IMO some interior examples would better show where a tilt-shift really shines. There are some images that are simply impossible to get without using a tilt shift. Like when the camera position is dictated by a door frame or some other static object, and you can't "point" the camera at your subject. Sometimes shifting in a certain direction is the only way to get the comp you want. Plus shooting a one-point with a shift isn't possible without a tilt-shift lens. If you try and fake that shot in post it looks like crap.

Edward Porter's picture

As someone that has been exclusively using TS lenses for the past 8 years, I absolutely cannot go back to zooms. They improve speed on all fronts, composition quality, and sharpness.

People claiming it slows them down haven't developed the familiarity needed to become a speed demon. Less fiddling with the height of the tripod or trying to figure out the variable tilt of each image on a zoom lens in post. Level. Compose. It's that simple.

Seeing the image exactly as intended not only speeds up the whole process - it makes you a master composer. No more guesswork on what the final result will be. Your compositions are completed right before your eyes. With the power of perspective shift, you can correct or abandon angles with certainty. It's the difference between a singer that can hit a note and one that has to use auto-tune.