View Full Version : Front Tilt or Reat Tilt on a Linhof Tech... Which Do You Use?

Scott Rosenberg
22-Aug-2004, 02:49

i feel a bit foolish asking this question, as i know, or rather i think i know the answer, but am looking for a little clarification. i've been learning the nuances of LF shooting for the past six months or so and have gotten considerably more comfortable with the equipment in that time. i just finished reading Jack Dykinga's Large Format Nature Photography, and noticed that he uses mostly rear tilt to maximize depth of field. before you tell me to stop cluttering the servers and just go ready Strobel's book, know that i have already ordered it and am anxiously awaiting it's arrival. my questions about tilts are:

- it's my understanding that front tilts will increase depth of field, rear tilts will increase of depth of field but also change the scale of objects in the foreground... is this correct?

- does the choice of front vs. rear tilts come down to a decision as to the relative scale of foreground to background objects... or is it a matter of convenience, as rear tilts on a monorail seem a bit easier than on the tech IV?

- what is your preferred method of getting near-to-far focus and why?


Bob Salomon
22-Aug-2004, 05:01
" it's my understanding that front tilts will increase depth of field, rear tilts will increase of depth of field but also change the scale of objects in the foreground... is this correct?"

Neither is correct

Depth of field is controlled only by the aperture you use.

Front and rear tilts and swings adjust the plane of sharp focus. Apertur adjusts the depth of focus. Rear tilts and swings control not only the plane of focus but also the shape of the object photographed. Front tilts and swings have no effect on the shape of the objects.

David A. Goldfarb
22-Aug-2004, 05:52
For near/far compositions, I would tend to swing and tilt on the front standard before moving to the rear standard, to adjust the plane of focus.

Set up a shot and try it both ways, and see which you like. Shoot Polaroid, if you have it.

Walter Glover
22-Aug-2004, 06:02

If you are shooting the sort of landscape stuff that Jack Dykinga illustrates then the integrity of the shape of elements may not alwaysbe sacrosanct. (Irregular forms can be very forgiving!) Using rear tilt keeps the framed images within the best area of optical performance of most lenses (the middle). When I had Technikas and found myself in this situation I would mount the camera to the tripod by means of the fitting on the front door of the camera. I would frame up on a scene (usually from an elevated viewpoint) and then release the side arms and pull the rear section of the camera back either one notch or two to get the plane of sharp focus roughly where it was wanted. I would then use the lens standard to make small adjustments. It's quick, simple and effective. Attempting to achieve the same using the four rods that extend the camera back invariably proved more fidgetty.

It is a particularly useful approach also when working with a longer lens to draw in dstant objects since it produces exagerated diminishing perspective laterally. As I recall John Sexton did this with a shot of a foreground rock and a distant surfer striding out of the sea.


Scott Rosenberg
22-Aug-2004, 06:19
bob... i understand that depth of field is controlled by aperture; i understand the tilting the front or rear standard changes the plane of focus, not the depth of field. it's my understanding that the result of these movements is greater near-far focus; i guess i misspoke when i said 'greater depth of field'; since i thought the net result relative to the film was an increased field of sharp focus, i thought the two interchangeable.

why you state 'neither is correct' and then go on to confirm my supposition is a bit unclear to me. i guess i'm still missing something here. anyhow, thank you for confirming my belief that tilting the rear standard will effect both the plane of sharp focus as well the shape of the objects and that the front standard will only effect the plane of sharp focus.

david... thanks for the response. i usually work with the front standard, but after reading dykinga's book, i thought i might be off in my approach. i'll shoot some polaroids this weekend using different combinations or front and rear tilt to get a better handle on all this.

thanks again, bob and david. i appreciate the help.

David A. Goldfarb
22-Aug-2004, 06:45
I think Walter's point is also important, that the neutral appearance of near vs. far isn't sacrosanct, and the exaggerated effect that you might get with a rear tilt can add dynamism to some compositions, and you might like that or you might find it overly dramatic in the way that a red filter can sometimes be.

22-Aug-2004, 07:08
Jack likes to use the rear standard for focusing as well as movements, which makes sense with his ARCA, and naturally carries it over to his WISTA. But using Technika rear movements are a real major PITA. while front tilt (and other movements) are easy to use.

Brian Ellis
22-Aug-2004, 07:29
Setting aside the technical difference between changing the plane of focus and changing depth of field, the answer to your questions is (1) yes, (2) usually a matter of convenience with landscape photography, (3) front tilt with a Linhof Technika.

The fact that tilting the back affects the shape of objects is important with things like product photography or architecture but generally isn't important for landscape work. Whether I use front or back tilt to change the plane of focus in landscape photography is for me a matter of convenience - it's a lot easier to use front tilt on my Technika than it is to use back tilt. With my 8x10 Deardorff either is equally convenient unless the bellows is fully extended but I still tend to use front tilt just because that's what I've gotten used to. However, when the Deardorff's bellows is fully extended I have no choice - I have to use back tilt because I can't conveniently reach the front of the camera from under the darkcloth.

Scott Rosenberg
22-Aug-2004, 07:43
walter... i think we were replying to the thread at the same time, as i didn't see your informative response until after i posted my reply. thanks for the insight, like most things, as illustrated by david's filter remark, it comes down to the photographers vision of the final print.

bill... jack's methodology makes a lot of sense when you put it that way, and is only confirmed by what brian said about his practices.

brian... thank you for the succinct response and for relating your experiences with the technika.

to all, i appreciate the assistance.

Leonard Evens
22-Aug-2004, 08:12
I think others have answered your questions, but let me add some additional information which may be helpful in understanding depth of field when the front or back standard are tilted.

Let me start with the front standard (lens plane). As you may already know, the Scheimpflug Principle tells you that the image plane, the lens plane, and the plane of exact focus in the scene (subject plane) all intersect in a single line. But there is another line called the hinge line which is also important. With the image plane (film plane) vertical, the hinge line is located (usually) directly below the lens at a certain distance depending on the tilt. The smaller the tilt angle, the greater the distance. The region which is in adequate focus is a wedge starting at the hinge line and bounded by two planes, one above the subject plane and one below, with the subject plane roughly centered in the wedge. It is quite narrow near the lens and widens as you move away from the lens. The size of the wedge angle depends on the aperture. As you change the distance between the standards by focusing, this wedge swivels on the hinge line. If you focus by moving the front standard, the hinge line and the wedge also move forward or back, but for scenes sufficiently far away, this is a neglible amount and can be ignored. For close-ups, it could be important. If you focus by moving the rear standard, it is not an issue.

If you tilt the rear standard instead, the situation is essentially the same except for the location of the hinge line. The hinge line will be parallel to the Scheimpflug line but some distance in front of it. One way to think of where it is is as follows. With the back tilted, imagine rotating the entire camera so that the rear standard is now vertical. The hinge line will be vertically below the lens as indicated above. Now imagine rotating the camera back to its original position including the hinge line in the rotation. That will put it in the proper position.

All this assumes no swings. With swings or swings combined with tilts, the principles are the same, but it is hard to describe in words.

Try a google search on Merklinger, who has written extensively on this subject. You may also find some animations which illustrate the principles.

As others have noted, Dykinga uses rear tilts because it is convenient and he likes the effect on the shapes of objects. You have to decide for yourself whether that works for you. Note, however, that it is not a matter of either/or. Once you understand the effects of the movements, you can choose front tilt or rear tilt or even a combination of both depending on the particular photographic effect you desire for that scene.

Rick Heitman
22-Aug-2004, 10:46
I beleive that only the aperture will affect depth of field. Tiliting the front lens will help bring in focus of the farest point but will not affetc depth of field.

22-Aug-2004, 13:23

"before you tell me to stop cluttering the servers and just go ready Strobel's book, know that i have already ordered it and am anxiously awaiting it's arrival"

Get ready for a LOT of slogging as you go through Strobel's book. I absolutely hated reading it in spite of the fact that it's an immensely popular book. That said, there is an abundance of information in it...much of it of a very technical manner.

I started out reading Jim Stone's book, "A User's Guide to the View Camera" and found it a lot more understandable. The other books that are very good are the Sinar Handbooks... although they focused (sic) on Sinar cameras the principles are applicable to other view cameras.

Lastly, many of the users on this forum have a wealth of knowledge and experience and can make the journey a lot easier than many books. Ask the questions and heed the responses!

Enjoy the learning curve... it's only the beginning :>)


steve simmons
22-Aug-2004, 14:00
I use front swing and tilt to rotate the plane of focus so that it more closely aligns with the plan of the subject. I use back swing and tilt to alter size and shape relationsips for objects in different parts of the scene. To use them interchangeably and without pre-thought is to miss one of the advantages of the view camera.

steve simmons www.viewcmera.com

22-Aug-2004, 15:47
Steve, you do this on a Technika?

steve simmons
22-Aug-2004, 17:42
I was responding in general. Dyinga does not use a Technika as far as I know.


Frank Petronio
22-Aug-2004, 20:26
base tilts rule, axis tilts drool

Jeff Conrad
22-Aug-2004, 20:34
Tilting the front or rear standard does affect the
DoF—increasing the tilt actually decreases the DoF. This isn’t
necessarily a problem, because the benefits of repositioning the plane of
focus often exceed the losses that result from the decrease in DoF. When
either standard is tilted, of course, the DoF is the angular space between
two planes that intersect in the plane of the lens.

The most difficult tradeoff between maximizing DoF and repositioning the
plane of focus arises in scenes that have both height and depth. This
situation is illustrated quite well in Harold Merklinger’s Addendum
to <cite>Focusing the View Camera</cite>. A PDF version (http://www.trenholm.org/hmmerk/FVCADNDM.pdf) is
available on his web site.

Scott Rosenberg
23-Aug-2004, 04:06
great responses, all.

jeff... i especially appreciate the link to Merklinger’s article. that really went a long way to clarifying things for me, especially the 'depth of field' issue noted early in this thread.

the learning curve for LF is pretty steep, but with assistance from this forum and the books i'm reading, i think i'm coming along. as an aside, i got my first real 4x5 chromes back from the lab taken on a recent trip to canada and am completely stunned. the detail is absolutely incredible... i'm totally sold on large format.

thanks again,

Kirk Keyes
23-Aug-2004, 11:23
Hi Scott,

I use a Technika IV and I use rear tilt quite often. I like the "near-far" look for landscapes that one gets doing this.

What I do is set the Technika on the tripod, place the lens on the camera and roughly focus it (no point in being precise at this point), and then adjust the framing by tilting the camera and tripod head until I get the framing I'm looking for. Since we are looking for near-far, that means the camera is pointing towards the foreground.

I then pull the top of the rear standard back away from the lens somewhat. This will change the plane of focus and also probably put the image out of focus. It will also change the framing a little on the foreground so I may readjust the framing a little.

I then go back and forth between making adjustments to the focus and adjusting the angle of the back. To do this I usually focus on a foregound object first, and then adjust the angle of the back until my distant object is in focus. I then go back and look at the foreground object to see if it is still in focus (sometimes it is not) and then I repeat that process. It only takes a couple of times to do this and get it all in focus.

The front tilt method doesn't require this extra work for focussing or framing. But then you don't get that near-far look either.

Another concern with front tilts is lens coverage - if you have a lens that has a smaller image circle, you can run out of coverage when you tilt the lens. This will result in vignetting of the image. I usually don't like that look... So if you have new lenses with huge image circles, you probably don't have to worry about that, but if you have older lenses, like a 135 f/5.6 Symmar or equivalent lens, you might.


steve simmons
23-Aug-2004, 12:35
Tilting the front or rear standard does affect the DoF—increasing the tilt actually decreases the DoF???????????????????????????????

DOFis determined by reproduction ratio. Rotating the plane of focus does not really affect DOF.

steve simmons

steve simmons
23-Aug-2004, 13:00
I should have said that DOF is determined by reproduction ratio and f-stop.

steve simmons

Jeff Conrad
23-Aug-2004, 14:22
DOF is determined by reproduction ratio. Rotating the plane of focus does
not really affect DOF.


Have you reviewed Merklinger's Addendum? What he's saying is that as the
tilt increases, the angular distance between the planes that define the
near and far limits of DoF decreases. My independent calculations
(computing the planes of focus from lens tilt and focus distance) seem to
bear out his claim. My practical experience in similar situations also
seems to bear this out; in some cases, less tilt seems to allow a smaller

The situation described would have been an excellent test case for a Sinar e
(which I've never even seen). For me, it's always involved a lot of trial
and error.

john borrelli
18-Sep-2017, 07:43
Just a few rambling thoughts which will have generally already been mentioned in far better form. I think when Jack switched from 35mm film equipment to LF he faced a steep learning curve and probably came to feel he needed to simplify things in order to be successful in his career change to landscape photography. At some point, early on I’m guessing, he settled on primarily using the Arca and a small group of lenses. He became enamored with wide angle lenses, the widest of these had small image circles. He started using back tilt more but didn’t like changing his technique because he wanted simplicity to help with the learning curve. He became enamored with making the foreground look more dramatic and these kind of images were more commercially successful for him. He was always trying to keep things simple so he taped notes to his lens boards and monorails to simplify things and in the process, as time went on, he found he was able to produce the same kind of image with the same technical quality faster and faster. He described a scene in his book, where he detailed how quickly he could set up his camera to make that image. In the book you are referencing the book’s cover image is described over a series of pages: ”Recomposing and refocusing quickly, I managed to expose half a dozen sheets before the sun finally dropped out of sight." And in fact, i think this speed is one of the more under appreciated things in LF landscape photography. Time and time again, you will take an hour to set up the camera, consider the movements, consider all things metaphotographic, only to find the light over your shoulder is spectacular though the landscape may be more mundane. You will then need Jack Dykinga speed to get that shot. From one who misses that great shot every time all the best, John

Bob Salomon
18-Sep-2017, 08:45
You are adding on to a thread that was last used over 13 years ago!

john borrelli
18-Sep-2017, 09:48
Ha Ha! True the Gregory Crewdson thread I tried restarting is also old, but it could be of interest to some. :)