DIY Shift Lens

I have always liked the idea of owning a shift lens and a recent webinar reignited my interest.
Several considerations came to mind: price, availability, camera fitting and could I justify it?
Firstly the price, they were expensive, second, not many available, thirdly which camera, Nikon, Fuji or Panasonic? As for justifying one, maybe in the future

In the meantime, I came up with an idea. Make my own and fit a full frame lens (Nikon) to a APSC body (Fuji) Again small issue being the adapters that were available were in some cases more expensive than a purpose made shift lens.

What is a shift lens I hear you ask?

Put simply, the lens is built with a slide arrangement that enables the optical centre of the lens to be moved to the left and right or up and down. This function can be ideal for photographing a tall building using a 35mm, digital (full frame or APSC) or medium format camera without having to resort to using a large format camera with built in rise and fall facilities or having to resort to wide angle lenses. In addition a larger image can be created by making a series of exposures shifting the lens before the next frame is taken and subsequently stitching together in image editing software.

Why fit a full frame lens to a APSC camera body? The image circle, i.e. The coverage area of the lens is sufficient to allow a reasonable degree of movement of the lens without causing fall off of image. Additionally adapters are available to fit alternative lenses to smaller format lenses and these move the lens away from the camera body, meaning that the shift mechanism can be placed between lens and camera body without causing loss of infinity focus.

From concept to finished adapter.

The main body of the adapter needed to be large enough to accommodate the lens and allow for lens shift but not so large as to obscure the camera controls.

The Mark 1 adapter used a series of 80mm discs of 3mm thick ply glued together, the adapter to body mount was provided from a set of Fuji X series extension tubes whilst the lens to adapter mount was cut into the front ply disc. The slide arrangement was via a series of overlapping sections designed to eliminate light leakage. The rear discs were chamfered to enable the lens removal button to be operated.

          Original disc selection.

This set up was too basic to provide satisfactory results, whilst the adapter worked it was clear that further improvements were needed.

Mark 2 version saw the rear section redesigned to incorporate a rotating mechanism, this was created with several overlapping discs bonded together and held in place by the innermost disc. The lens to adapter now utilised a lens mount taken from a set of Nikon extension tubes.
Results were better with these improvements, however there was still room for some fine tuning.

Rotator mechanism. On the Mark 3 version the slider arrangement was modified.

Mark 3 had a new front end made from 80mm squares of 3mm ply, this meant that the slide mechanism could be made a lot more accurately. Also a spirit level can be used to ensure the adapter and camera body are both in alignment, an issue with previous versions produced a series of successive exposed frames that ran out of square. The rotation mechanism had a nylon spacer inserted to remove the excess play that had caused the discs to rotate in an unpredictable way.

Mark 3 with lens mounted

Common to all versions: all were sprayed with a matt black paint to reduce internal and exterior reflections

Finally I had an adapter that worked in a predictable manner.

Adapter and Nikon lens on Fuji body.

Adapter in side shift position.

Worth mentioning, ensure that when using such a device whether manufactured by a lens maker or DIY version that you take a meter reading then set camera to manual and transfer settings. If left on Auto, as the lens is moved lighter and darker areas will influence the camera meter resulting in uneven exposures.

Final thought.Would I now consider purchasing a ‘proper’ shift lens? Well the answer to that is maybe! It depends on how much I now used my DIY model, although on the DIY version the lens is interchangeable.


Camera used horizontally with vertical shift.

Camera used horizontally with horizontal shift.

By C

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