|Here is a shot that I took a few
years ago in Berlin. I wanted to frame the ruins
of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church)
with the broken links of the chain, and also include the
skyscraper at the right.
To achieve this, even using an extreme wideangle lens (the 45mm Mir 26 in Hartblei Super-Rotator mount), I had to tilt the camera up. The result? The buildings on the left and right appear to be tilting seriously inwards at the top. To avoid this, the back of the camera has to be absolutely upright, i.e., normal hold – parallel to the buildings.
|Here is the result:
Both pictures taken with the Hartblei 45mm Super-Rotator lens with zero shift onto Fuji NPH 400 negative film in a Pentacon Six TL 1/250 f/9.5
The “falling over buildings ” problem is solved, but another – bigger! – problem has taken its place. Not only have I lost the top of the skyscraper and even the top of the broken chain, I have gained a vast expanse of boring and unwanted foreground.
One hundred years ago, this would have not presented a problem; the photographer merely slid upwards the lens board, which moved the lens up, cutting out the unwanted foreground and including the top of the building. But how can one do that with an SLR camera?
When the new company Exakta GmbH announced the
Exakta 66 in 1984, one of the top selling points was
that it would be a vehicle for the outstanding lenses
produced by Joseph Schneider of Bad Kreuznach, the
quality of whose lenses was already well
established. At the time they were providing
zoom lenses for the Hasselblad, and a range of lenses
for Rollei and other cameras.
|Among the lenses to be offered in
the Exakta 66 mount was the Schneider PCS Super-Angulon
f/4.5 55mm shift lens.
Far right, an image of the lens in use, from the 1986 (?) publicity brochure.
The Super-Angulon is well known as an outstanding
lens that has been available for many years in mounts
for Rollei SLRs, and also for the Bronica ETRS.
The illustrations in the Exakta 66 literature seemed to
indicate that it was indeed produced in the Exakta 66
mount, although the list price of DM6,890 + sales tax in
1988 must have led to very few of them being
sold! At Photokina in Köln (Cologne, Germany) in
2002 I handled one of these lenses in the Rollei
6000-System mount. It is of course beautifully
engineered, although it is extremely heavy (1.65
kilograms in Exakta 66 mount, according to Exakta’s
literature). The recommended retail price, this
time including German sales tax, was €8,400 (that’s
eight thousand four hundred Euros – enough to pay for a
good nearly new small family car!)
Joseph Schneider-Kreuznach 55mm Super-Angulon PCS
for the Exakta 66 – in the flesh!
|So Schneider really did
make this lens in the Exakta 66 mount! Here is one
that I saw and photographed. Unfortunately, it was
not for sale!
In the photograph to the right it is mounted on a Pentacon Six to which the excellent Exakta 66 “waist-level finder” has been added – a superb combination for landscape photography (and some other situations!).
We note a few slight stylistic differences, compared with the lens shown in the Exakta 66 literature, and illustrated above,
principally, the positioning of the lettering that gives the lens name data.
image circle of shift lenses
|An unmasked image projected by a lens will
be round, with a gradual fall-off in brightness and
definition towards the edges. Lenses and
cameras are designed so that the part of the
projected image that is included within the
exposed area (i.e., the image recorded on film)
meets certain criteria as regards sharpness and does
not have noticeable fall-off in light intensity
Of course, in order to cover the film area completely with acceptable sharpness and without vignetting – even when shifted to the maximum extent – any shift lens has to have a much larger image circle than a non-shift lens, and this must increase the diameter of the lens elements and the mount that holds them and with it the weight and the manufacturing cost.
Arsenal in Kiev have produced
their own “Arsat” 55mm shift lens, which is
reputedly one of the sharpest lenses available in
the Pentacon Six mount. Results in fact prove
to be extremely satisfactory.
See examples at the bottom of this page.
Hartblei in Kiev realised that
the image circle projected by the Arsenal 45mm Mir
26 and the 65mm Mir 38 wide-angle lenses is large
enough to enable the optical components to be put in
a mount with a shift facility. They have
designed some excellent mounts for these lenses, and
also apply their own outstanding multi-coating to
the optical elements. Here are the details of
these three shift lenses:
Arsenal also produced 45mm & 65mm shift lenses, bearing their ARSAT brand name.
General requirements of shift lenses
A shift lens does not
need to be as wide as its non-shift counterpart.
Why is this?
Most shift lenses are used to
increase coverage in a given direction while
maintaning the back of the camera absolutely
vertical. The most common use is for
architectural shots (pictures of buildings), as on
this page: to avoid having to tilt the camera up
in order to include in the picture the top of the
building. Tilting the camera up results in the
famous "falling building syndrome", in
which the building seems to be falling over
A wider lens may enable you to
include the top of the building in the picture,
without tilting the camera up. However, it
will also include at the bottom of the picture a lot
of ground (pavement, grass, etc) that is probably
not wanted and will have to be cut out of the final
By shifting the lens up,
you will get that coverage at the top of the
scene, without the unwanted ground.
The most commonly-needed
shift direction is up – normally
for architecture. Of course, when using a
camera that has a square format, like the Pentacon
Six, it is possible to turn the camera on its side,
or even up-side down, to get a shift in the required
direction. However, using the Pentacon Six on
its side is less comfortable than the right way up,
and using it upside down is decidedly difficult –
and how would you attach it to a tripod?!
All five lenses (the 45mm lenses from Hartblei and from Arsat, the 65mm lenses from Hartblei and Arsat, and the 55mm lens from Arsat only) are in mounts that rotate – so it is possible to shift down as well as up, sideways, or even in other diagonal directions if required.For some landscape shots it may be desirable to shift the lens sideways. In fact, for static subjects it is possible to take two pictures, one with the lens shifted to the left and the other with the lens shifted to the right, and then to combine the results in software, in order to obtain a medium format panoramic shot in which the dimensions of film used for the final image are 54mm high (the actual height of images in “6×6” cameras) × 78mm wide!! You can see an example of this here.
of the above requirements
When using a shift or shift & tilt lens in most-real-life situations, the most important tilt is DOWN, but the most important shift is UP.
This is because tilt lenses are mostly used in table-top photography, to increase depth of field, and in this type of photography the camera is usually a little higher than the object being photographed. See for instance here.
But shift lenses are mostly used in architectural photography, to be able to include more of the height of a building (ideally, all of it) without needing to tilt the camera and the lens up, which would result in converging verticals in the image of the building. i.e., it would give the appearance that the building was falling over backwards.
All of the Ukrainian shift lenses so far seen have a rotating camera mount, with détentes, so that the lens can be rotated through 360 degrees, clicking into a détente slot every 15°. This means that there are 24 détente positions, so that the user can shift the lens UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT or in any one of a further 20 different intermediate positions.
orientation is LOCKED in the chosen position, so
that it will not accidently be moved to a different
release the lock, the user merely presses a little
lever behind the main body of the lens, while
rotating the lens to the desired new position.
St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire, England
Pentacon Six Fuji NP160 PRO negative film 1/125 sec f/16, Hand-held
All shot from approximately the same position
80mm Biometar lens
40mm Zenza Bronica lens in Pentacon Six mount
Here I have almost unconsciously tilted the camera slightly up, to improve the composition.
Consequence? The Abbey appears to be falling over backwards.
And there is still too much foreground (grass).
45mm ARSAT shift lens, shifted 10mm up
With this lens, I have got slightly less width, but the composition is better, with less grass.
(And again I seem to have tilted the camera slightly up!
For architectural shots, one really should use a tripod and a spirit level!)
The Hartblei 45mm and Arsat 55mm lenses offer a maximum
shift range of 12mm. However, the Hartblei 45mm lens has
the 11 & 12mm shift positions marked in red, which means
that with this degree of shift there is likely to be some
vignetting on the opposite edge to the shift, and this extreme
shift should only be used if the image is to be cropped, or
the lens is mounted on a camera with a 6×4.5cm nominal film
gate or film back. The Hartblei 65mm lens has a maximum
shift range of 10mm, with the 10mm position marked in red for
the same reason.
Other shift lenses
There is a report on the 45mm Arsat
shift lens here.
Reports on 45mm shift lenses from Hartblei begin here and shift shift/tilt
lenses from Wiese are described here.
You can visit the Wiese-Fototechnik website here.
So what is the quality of the images produced by these lenses?
The Hartblei 45mm and 65mm shift lenses
|For the non-shifted
performance of the 45mm and 65mm lenses, I would refer
you to the Wide-Angle
lens tests section. Of course, even apart from
the shift capabilities, there are some major
The following pictures are not really a fair test: taken late afternoon on a winter’s day, shot into the sun, which is actually within the picture area (!), just behind one of the palm trees, the hot spot on the right is not a lens fault but the lighting at the time. Thus, the fall-off in lighting from this spot is not vignetting. This side of the building was in the shadow, resulting in a lack of contrast and in particular a lack of shadow detail. However, these two pictures do show the relative field of view of the 45mm and 65mm Hartblei shift lenses, both shifted up by 9mm. With a steeply rising pavement, we couldn’t have got a shot of this house without tilting the camera up – if we hadn’t had a shift lens! In spite of the adverse circumstances, we did get two shots with virtually no vertical keystoning, and no vignetting!
Hartblei 45mm Super-Rotator lens:
1/125 f/16 9mm shift up 0° tilt
1/125 f/16, 9mm shift up
|The lamp post on the left in the
45mm picture reveals some barrel distortion, though I
may have had the camera slightly tilted up, which makes
it appear worse (no tripod and no spirit level used – I
wanted to get the picture taken before the owner came
out and asked me what I was up to!) By the way,
the tree stump just left of centre is twisted –
that’s not a distortion introduced by the lens!
Finally, here is that problem Berlin view again, this time using the 45mm Hartblei Super-Rotator with the full 12mm shift. I'm repeating the other two shots beside it, to enable you to make easy comparisons. All shots taken from exactly the same position, with a Pentacon Six TL at 1/250 f/9.5 with Fuji NPH 400.
Hartblei 45mm Super-Rotator
Zero shift. Camera body tilted up
Hartblei 45mm Super-Rotator
Zero shift. Camera body held upright (parallel to subject)
To see a larger copy of each image, click
on the image.
In my opinion, the results really are excellent.
I am really impressed with
the lens, and will now start using it regularly.
The Arsat 55mm shift lens
||To give an idea of scale, here is the 55mm
Arsat shift lens next to the 50mm Flektogon. A
shift lens will normally be more bulky than a
non-shift lens, because
||Note that it is not normally practical to
build an automatic aperture link into shift lenses
(although Schneider apparently did it with their PCS
Super Angulon!). All other shift lenses that I
have seen have a manual pre-set aperture.
However, for the type of photography for which such
lenses are designed, which is careful and methodical
and usually using a tripod, this is not a
The Arsat 55mm shift lens even has an easy-to-use stop down ring (labelled “A” in the image on the left) so that the pre-set aperture can be easily found without taking one’s eye from the viewfinder and it has a cable release socket on the lens (labelled “B” in the same image), to provide automatic stopping down of the lens via a double cable release.
||With a double cable release, pressing one
plunger first stops down the lens and then fires the
Adjust the timing of the two cables by rotating and locking the rings marked “A” and “B” on the image to the left.
I have marked each cable with a paper collar (visible at the far end of each cable) marked “camera” and “lens”, respectively, so that I don’t inadvertently connect the cables the wrong way round.
See a super-wide panorama shot with the Arsat 55mm shift lens here.
These shift lenses are available new from Michael
Fourman at www.kievcamera.net
and from Gevorg Vartanyan at www.araxfoto.com
Here are two comparison shots taken with seconds of each other from the same spot with the 55mm Arsat shift lens, both with the Pentacon Six at 1/250 f/14 on Fuji NPH 400 negative film
Zero shift, but camera tilted up
Lens fully shifted up (12mm) Camera (virtually) horizontal
|This looks like a truly great lens. Straight lines right to the edges, no discernable vignetting, even at maximum shift, and virtually no visible chromatic aberrations even with enormous enlargements. An ideal shift lens for the Pentacon Six – and coincidentally with the same focal length as the hyper-rare and hyper-expensive Schneider PCS Super-Angulon f/4.5 55mm shift lens|
|Here is another
example. I arrived at the small square in front of
the Cathedral in Jerez de la Frontera in Spain shortly
before sunset. Contrast was high and the shadows
were long and dark. Even from the other side of the
street in front of the square, with my back pressed
against a wall, and with a wide-angle lens on my Pentacon
Six, I could not include the top of the Cathedral Clock
Tower (unusually, not connected to the main Cathedral
building but in front of it) and some sky above it without
tilting the camera up at a steep angle.
|The result was this image:||Fortunately, I had the 55mm Arsat shift lens on my camera! With the lens shifted the full 12mm up, the result was this image:|
|Both images were
shot on Fiji NPS 160 film (although I had to change to a
new roll of film between the two shots). Both had
the same exposure: 1/125 f/19, hand-held.
For a further test image shot with this lens, plus analysis of its performance, see here.
For more information on shift lenses, and a further
comparison between a wide-angle lens and a shift lens,
Shift or Wide?
To go back to the beginning of the Lens Data section,
click below and then choose the range of lenses that you want
to read about.
Back to beginning of the Lens Data section
To go back to the beginning of the lens tests, click
below and then choose the focal length that you want to read
Back to beginning of lens tests
© TRA December 2005 Latest revision: May