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I shoot primarily with a Nikon D300, and that's not likely to change soon. The camera does everything I need it to do, but this. I also use a 17-55 lens, which I know that Thom castigates as being too expensive for not enough lens, but it's worked well for me for years.

I'm on a trip in Italy at the moment, though, and having some serious problems with looking up at large buildings going to infinity. Consider Il Duomo:

Il Duomo

It doesn't actually tilt inward like that, it's a pretty solidly built structure. For some reason, I'm really noticing on this trip that my building shots are just mangled.

Is this readily solved in post production such that the resulting image is printable and usable for something other than internet slideshows? Or should I be looking at a tilt-shift lens for this? And if I do look at the lens, I've been told that the flash overhang on the d300 means that the nikon 24mm lens won't fit-- is that true?

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11 Answers 11

up vote 19 down vote accepted

A tilt-shift lens is indeed the best way to correct this effect in-camera, but even then, it can look odd if the distortion is quite high. The example you have given should be OK. If you want to do it in post-processing, Lightroom 3 now has built-in perspective correction tools. When you use them, a grid overlays the photo which is updated live, so you can spot when the verticals become parallel. With a high-enough resolution image, this should produce results almost as good as with a T/S lens, for a lot less money.

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Thanks, I didn't know that LR3 had this built in. I'll check that out. –  mmr Jul 23 '10 at 20:44

You don't actually need tilt for perspective correction, only shift is relevant here. There are some shift adapters offered to go between a DSLR body and a medium format lens, these would help out as well; note though, that medium format lenses come in relatively longer focal lengths - e.g. 45mm is already ultra-wide for medium format.

An option for getting a better perspective optically without specialized gear is to use a wider angle lens. Hold the camera so the lens is horizontally level (perhaps in portrait orientation) so the building fills upper half of the frame, take the picture, and crop later. That's roughly how shift lens works anyway, only now you'll waste about half of your megapixels because image circle of a non-shift lens is smaller and fixed. Here's an image for which this method was used (except cropping, as I happened to like the extra pavement):

Tallinn town hall

Whatever method of perspective correction is used, a slightly leaning building will look more natural in photo than one with perfectly parallel lines, at least as long as we don't learn hovering in the air all day. This tip does not apply to photos meant for an architecture magazine.

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This is one of the purposes of tilt-shift lenses, and they are often used in professional architectural photography to avoid distortions

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Yes, you can use software like Hugin to correct this. The results may not be quite as good as a tilt-shift lens, but they will certainly good enough for printing except at the most humongous sizes. (A image like this with lots of horizontals and verticals will work great in Hugin as it will be very easy to set the control points.) Also, it will be much cheaper and less fiddly on-site (you can correct the perspective looking at a large computer screen instead of a tiny viewfinder).

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3  
And you get less aliasing and better use of your pixel's doing it optical on-site than digitally post-processing (Resampling to correct perspective will lose data.) –  Jared Updike Jul 22 '10 at 21:38
    
@Jared: That's true. My contention is that the effect of that data loss is generally negligible. –  Reid Jul 22 '10 at 21:49

Many photo processing programs will have a "perspective correction" or equivalent mode that can improve the geometry of a shot like this. It may be worth playing around with this in post-processing to see how you like the results before you pop for a new lens. When framing your shot, be sure to leave a little extra room around your subject, however, because the corrected image is going to be trapezoidal in shape, and you're going to end up cropping the image to get back to a printable picture.

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Ex: If the following link works, this will show a really quick correction using Paint Shop Pro: blog.componentoriented.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/… –  D. Lambert Jul 23 '10 at 1:06

Depends how much of this sort of photography you do. Tilt-shift lens are very expensive so unless you do this for a living then it's probably not worth it.

Alternatively, as you suggest this is easy solved in post. Most photo editing software contains some sort of perspective correction function.

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You'll also have to accept manual focus for the price :) –  Karel Jul 22 '10 at 21:19

While the tilt-shift lens is expensive, i have rented lenses from LensRentals.com. i have had awesome experienced with LensRentals.com - i rented a tilt-shift (Nikon 85mm f/2.8 PC-E) for 21 days for about $260 all-in, including insurance and shipping. They also have the 45mm PC lens if you're interested (it's probably better for building/architecture photography).

Certainly not free, but a great opportunity to try something that you wouldn't normally get to do. Other times i've rented lenses i was considering buying, and this is a great way to get the experience you want with Lens Rentals's first-quality glass.

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Yes.

It took me a while to understand why it was different than holding the camera above your head. This article helped me:

Pentax K-7 Sensor shift (Composition adjust)

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A tilt and shift lens allows you to redirect the plane of focus in an image to exaggerate the sharpness of a particular area (or plane). This is accomplished by moving the lens up, down, or sideways (or often a combination of the two) that allows the photographer to achieve some interesting effects, such as achieving the maximum possible depth of field in a landscape image while still using a large aperture (which would normally greatly restrict depth of field). Product photography also benefits from the use of tilt and shift (or perspective control) lenses as it allows the product in question to be pin sharp and in focus from near to far. Ansel Adams used this technique to incredible effect in many of his photographs.

In answer to your question, yes, a tilt and shift lens will allow you to remove the converging verticals you mention above. I'd recommend renting one for a week or so to try and get the hang of it...it's quite tricky at first. Also, a full frame camera such as a D700 will greatly improve the effect you'll see as the D300's APS-C sensor will give greater depth of field and restrict the effect. See below for a D300 shot I took in Newcastle for an example! Hope this helps.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cochranephotography/4820897414/

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In Photoshop, with the image open, select:
Filter/Distort/Lens Correction
It's a lot cheaper than buying a Shift Lens for the occasional correction and in most cases, is very effective.

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As previus say, tilt-shift lens are expensive, I also add, that you need and a good tripod to make them really horizontial, and they are big and a little heavy. Also tilt-shift lens did not have extreme quality, as other lens (at least when I have made the checks some years ago).

There is a very fast and easy way to correct the distortion on photoshop with the crop tool.

here is a tutorial about. http://akvis.com/en/photoshop-tips/perspective-distortion.php

I have deside to not use them because I am not profesional and not leave by photograph, so I just go with the crop tool from the ps.

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