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Arsat 35mm f/2.8 Tilt/Shift lens - Printable Version

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Arsat 35mm f/2.8 Tilt/Shift lens - Kombisaurus - Mar 23, 2007

I finally got around to getting a lens for my 30D I've been wanting for quite a long time - a tilt/shift lens.

I couldn't justify the cost of one of the Canon TSE lenses, so I ended up getting a Ukrainian-made Arsat 35mm f/2.8 tilt/shift lens from eBay.
The specs and some links to galleries and reviews can be found at http://www.araxfoto.com/specials/tilt-shift-35/
It arrived the day before yesterday, and of course I had to go out and take some shots with it.

My initial thoughts are:
* It is manual - very manual! Manual Focus only, manual aperture only, and manual metering (the camera's metering gets thrown right off if you are using any tilt or shift). The only auto thing not affected is the white balance.
* It is very difficult to focus accurately - the small viewfinder of a 30D with the standard focus screen is not good for manual focus - and this is made even more difficult when tilting because the distance markers on the focus ring no longer relate to actual distances from the camera. I found myself doing lots of chimping and zooming in to check the focus on my shots after taking them.
* It is solidly built, but not exactly precision built. Comparing this lens to my Canon lenses is a bit like comparing a Bulldozer to the Space Shuttle. It's a lot less complicated and less automated, but nevertheless it's well put together and does the job at hand.
* Optically it is much better in the centre than the edges of the frame. I haven't done exhaustive tests yet, but I've struggled to get anything really sharp towards the edges, whereas I've managed to get some beautifully sharp images in the centre of the frame - as good as any prime lens should be.
* It's fairly soft at f/2.8, especially towards the edges.
* It tilts! + and - 8 degrees. This alters the plane of focus, allowing interesting effects to give an apparent increase or descrease in depth of field.
* It shifts! Up to 11mm but only in one direction (although it can be rotated 180deg to make it shift the other direction). This allows the exaggeration or reduction of perspective distortion in photographs. It also allows a simple means of taking multi-shot panoramas.
* It rotates! The lens (and therefore the shift and tilt) can be rotated 360deg+ on the mount in 30deg increments. The 30D's protruding in-built flash prevents the lens from rotating a full 360deg when the lens is at its maximum tilt or shift, but it isn't a big deal (just straighten it a bit, rotate, then go back to how it was).
* It has no electrical connection to the camera at all. This not only means the focus and aperture are fully manual (and you need to stop down the aperture after focussing otherwise the viewfinder gets dark), but it also means the Exif information doesn't contain any information about the lens.
* The Tilt is fixed at 90deg offset to the Shift, the same as Canon's TSE lenses by default. The difference however is that the Canon TSE lenses can be easily modified to allow the Tilt to be in-line with the Shift, but this lens cannot be changed.
* It is not a lens you'd use when you're in a hurry!

Ok, so the points above might give you plenty of reasons not to own one of these lenses. But they don't take into account the biggest single reason why you would want this lens - it can produce photos that are impossible or difficult to achieve with "normal" lenses (although some of these effects can be emulated in photoshop). It also seems to have a very distinctive character, and the very hands-on approach required when taking photos with it ensures you consider your photographs very carefully.

But enough words, I'll let my first batch of shots speak for themselves.

Click Here to see the photos.

Arsat 35mm f/2.8 Tilt/Shift lens - shuttertalk - Mar 24, 2007

Cool - thanks for giving us the lowdown. Out of interest, how much do they cost and how easy are they to get?

Arsat 35mm f/2.8 Tilt/Shift lens - Kombisaurus - Mar 24, 2007

I paid US$450 for mine including freight (which took 1 week exactly from the Ukraine to Australia! Cool). It worked out about a third of what a Canon TSE lens would cost me.
I've had my eye on them for a while but it's been hard to justify money for a lens like this that might not get used very often. Unfortunately it seems the prices have gone up a bit over the last 6-12 months too.

If you look at places such as Araxfoto (http://www.araxfoto.com/specials/tilt-shift-35) then availability seems to vary - but there are usually a few on eBay somewhere.

If you are just looking for a way to experiment with lens movements and have some fun then a lensbaby might be a cheaper alternative to allow you to take tilt photos (http://www.lensbabies.com). They vary from US$96 through to US$270 for the 3G.