Bottom line: For less than half the price of a new Canon tilt-shift lens – the Hasselblad-to-EOS tilt adapter plus a used 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar lens are a serviceable tilt alternative. Some may not prefer the “mechanical” nature of this setup – but I dig it.
A few years ago – I borrowed a neighbor’s Canon tilt-shift lens for a family portrait session – and – as you might imagine – it was very cool. Since then – I’ve been looking for a reasonably priced tilt system.
There were essentially two options that I found: used EOS tilt-lenses (still very cool – and still very expensive) – and tilt adapters.
Now – I think the DIY route is pretty cool – but I was hesitant to commit to that path for daily use (though I’m persuaded it is the most economical path to tilt photography).
Of the hard-to-find adapters – a few have recently become available on Amazon in two flavors: the Pentacon 6 mount (the lenses that most folks talk about on the web for this application) and Hasselblad.
The P6 lenses seem to be reasonably priced – but can be tough to come by if you’re in North America. I was considering one on eBay when I became intrigued by the Hasselblads – and found some used at KEH. The one I settled on was a 80mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Planar C rated “Bargain” for under $350 (maybe ‘cuz it didn’t come with caps or a hood). The glass is essentially in new condition – and mechanically it’s clean and smooth. This particular one is an older copy – and it’s chrome.
And how rare are the Hasselblad-to-EOS adapters? Well – the web seems to be pretty light on examples and write ups – except for a few images that have been posted to Flickr. And – I guess as it’s Hasselblad – and not Pentacon 6 – the adapter is roughly twice the cost.
On Amazon – it’s listed as being made by Zykkor – and it does what it’s supposed to do. It tilts from 0 to 8 degrees – and rotates 360 degrees (with about 12 stops within that rotation). However – my copy was pretty dirty / grimy on the EOS side when I received it (from the machining process?). So – I spent a bit of time cleaning it with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) and paper towels – then I took the rocket blower to it – and let it air dry for a few hours (pretty easy to let it just sit there – as the lens hadn’t yet arrived).
The Hasselblad-to-adapter connection is pretty good – and the adapter-to-EOS connection is better. Of course – don’t expect any lens information or auto settings to work. Simply shooting your camera in either aperture priority or manual will likely work best.
It is possible to stop the lens down mechanically – but for these images – I kept the lens wide open (f/2.8).
As for the focal length – 80mm is a bit longer than I’d prefer – but it was the least expensive option. As I understand – the 80mm lenses for medium format cameras are much like the 50mm’s for SLR’s – good quality, abundant, and lower cost than other fixed lenses in its class.
As for the trio of tree photos? They’re from one of my favorite spots to test lenses – Finley Wildlife Refuge. Now none of these photos are magazine covers – but my primary purpose was to test the tilt and the glass.
So – why isn’t everyone running to pick these systems up? Well – a few reasons – I think.
First – there’s no “shift” with this system. Serious architectural – and some landscape folks will want to be able to control the perspective with “shift”.
Second – well – the parts can be hard to find. For example – the Pentacon 6 lenses seem to be mostly hanging out in Europe and there doesn’t appear to be a lot of copies available in North America. As for the adapters – they seem to be floating around in dusty corners of the web (though – as mentioned above – a few have recently popped up in the Amazon marketplace – and some are available on eBay).
And fourth – it’s a pretty mechanical setup, has manual focus, and (in this case) manual aperture setting.
So – Hasselblad? Pentacon 6? Which system to go with? Probably doesn’t matter a whole lot. If you can get your hands on Pentacon glass – you’ll likely pay less – and still be quite happy with the results. But – I just liked the idea of shooting with some of that vintage Zeiss glass.