Musings on Photography

28mm PC-Nikkor, redux

Posted in equipment, landscape, process by Paul Butzi on March 26, 2007


I went out yesterday afternoon, taking photographs in the valley (which is currently flooded due to the arrival of another Pineapple Express ™). As an experiment, the only lens I used was the PC-Nikkor on the EOS-5d.  My goal was to play with the lens, trying out using the lens to make panoramic format photos with an aspect ratio of 2:1.

There’s no particular reason to choose 2:1 – with two exposures the 11mm shift of the lens lets you make an image that’s 24mm x 58mm, an aspect ratio just about the same as a 7×17 camera.  But 2:1 is what I did with cropping on the 4×5, and I thought it would be fun to try it again.  It took me a while to get a grip on the combination of the aspect ratio and focal length and in the end I had the feeling that I’d like a focal length that’s just a smidgen shorter.  Since the focal length I used to do 2:1 on the 4×5 was a 135mm lens (equivlent to to about a 65mm in this format), this was a bit of a surprise, and the whole thing felt quite a bit different – much wider, and it strangely the frame felt much longer.  But fun!  With the wider lens, there’s more of a sense of interval to the panoramic frame.  Reading it now this doesn’t seem like it’s very well articulated, but with the wider lens it’s easier to get a sense of rythm to the arrangment of things; I don’t know why.

The rotating aspect of the PC Nikkor (which allows you to shift in any direction) has click stops, so that you can reliably reset the shift repeatably to a number of angles – directly left and directly right (as well as up and down).  Alas, hitting the detent doesn’t quite put you back to the same spot reliably, so that the two images are often just slightly offset vertically.  Not a big problem but annoying.

All this makes me think that the Canon 24mm TS-E would be a great choice.  I suspect the next week will see me ordering one.

6 Responses

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  1. Joe Reifer said, on March 26, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    I’d advise renting a Canon 24mm TS-E before buying. If you are finicky about optical quality, you will be dismayed to find the 24mm is the least sharp of Canon’s three tilt-shift offerings. An acceptable compromise for some of those who need tilt. If you have the budget and can find one, have a look at the Olympus 24mm shift lens, or Contax 35mm shift.



  2. StephaneB said, on March 26, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Being the least sharp of a series of exceptional optics does not make the 24 mm TS-E a lens to be dismayed at. It s a fine lens. Many people have unreasonable expectations and can’t understand the concept of working aperture. This lens is a very very wide lens with a largish coverage made for SLR cameras. It is bound to have compromises!

    f/3.5 is there for framing and focus. By f/8 it is plenty sharp with no shift. By f/16 it is fine with shifts. By fine, I mean 12×18 prints from a 5D will be really sharp. I use it from f/5.6 hand-held for general wide photography and at f/11-f/16 for critical quality on tripod with shifts.

  3. StephaneB said, on March 26, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    I should have added I even use it with the 1.4x TC for a 35 mm equivalent with movements. Even used that way, sharpness is not a problem.

    I have changed the 5D focusing screen for the Ee-S to get better focus precision.

  4. Paul Butzi said, on March 27, 2007 at 11:09 am


    I’ve heard the comments that the 24mm TS-E is not the sharpest of the TS-E lenses. As Stephane points out, that’s not really the question. The question is really “Is there another 24mm tilt/shift lens that can be mounted on a 5d that is sharper than the Canon 24mm TS-E?”

    Have you actually tested a 24mm TS-E against the other options? I would be very interested in seeing how it stacks up when compared head to head against, say, the Olympus 24mm f/3.5 shift lens.

  5. Howard Slavitt said, on March 28, 2007 at 6:41 am

    Paul: I use the 24mm TSE. You might want to buy a couple copies and test them, and keep the sharper one. I did. Both samples that I tested of the 24mm tse were sharp before using shift, but one of the two quickly degraded towards the edges of the frame when shifted; the one I kept gets a bit softer at the edges but is still sharp enough, even shifted all the way at f11 and f16. Printing two merged shifted photos for a panoramic, will easily be fantastic at up to 30″ wide, and probably up to 40″ or so. There’s supposed to be a lot of sample variation with the Olympus 24mm shift lens as well. I think these optics are just hard to make. BTW, my 24mm TSE, when tilted, but not shifted, gives me plenty of sharpness to print up to 24″ x 16″ on a continuous tone printer, like a Lightjet 5000. . . . The biggest problem with the 24mm tse when shifted all the way is light falloff at the edges. I’m sure there’s a way to correct it in Photoshop, but I haven’t yet figured out how. Even stopped down to f16, and using Photoshops lens correction filter, it’s not easy to get a perfect correction.

  6. wck said, on September 24, 2009 at 7:42 am

    I have a 28 mm Nikkor PC lens. When I use the rise it slips down slowly.Is there some adjustment to tighten it?

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