October 10, 2010

Lensbaby Tilt Transformer

Panasonic AF100/AF101 and Sony Handycam NEX-VG10E users who want to create a tilt/shift effect with their cameras will be able to fit a new Lensbaby Composer with Tilt Transformer, which will allow them to mount any Nikon lens and tilt up to twice the amount of standard tilt-shift lenses.

The adaptor will initially fit any Panasonic or Olympus digital camera using a Micro Four Thirds mount (such as the upcoming AF100/AF101) and will also come in a version later in the year for alpha-mount cameras such as Sony's NEX range, priced at $250 and $350 respectively.

The Tilt Transformer allows users to capture pictures that have a slice of focus through the image, bordered by a soft blur. Lensbaby already makes relatively inexpensive, lower-quality Optic Swap lenses allowing interesting tilt/shift type effects, but the ability to fit a higher quality lens make them even more interesting. It gives 12.5ยบ of tilt in any direction.

“We got excited when we realized that the Lensbaby Optic Swap system could be extended to include Nikon mount camera lenses, including primes, fisheyes, zooms and macro lenses," said Craig Strong, Lensbaby Co-Founder and President.

Tilting a Nikon mount lens on the Tilt Transformer will place the slice of focus in different orientations within the image. Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal slices are possible depending on the direction the lens is tilted. Objects in both the foreground and background can be in focus within that slice. For example, a user can focus on one person close up in the left portion of the frame while also focusing on someone standing much further away from the camera on the right side of the frame. The ability to focus on several items at once (while blurring out the rest of the image) when each item is placed at a different distance from the camera, is typically possible only with traditional tilt-shift lenses or view cameras. It can also be achieved in post, but that is easier for a single frame than for a video clip.

The size of the slice of focus is dependent upon the aperture used. For example, f/1.4 will produce a very thin slice of focus with abundant blur. F/22 will produce a very wide slice of focus with just at tiny bit of blur. Also, when tilting extremely and shooting at a very wide open aperture like f/1.4 the slice of focus will appear even thinner than when shooting at f/1.4 with minimal tilt.

There is also a built-in mechanism that allows Nikon G lenses to function properly at all apertures. Nikon G lenses do not have an aperture ring on the lens itself. This mechanism allows the aperture to open and close by manually rotating the lens.

The Tilt Transformer is also compatible with the Lensbaby Optic Swap System and ships with a Double Glass Optic installed, while other optics can be swapped in and out, for different effects (such as Pinhole or Soft Focus). The Lensbaby optics typically give a round, gradient blur effect rather than the slice of focus you'd get by adding the Nikon lens.

There's a good review of the Tilt Transformer on DP Review's Micro Four Thirds forum (with photos).

By David Fox

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