View Full Version : Affordable shift camera

21-Aug-2010, 10:56
I have gotten the opportunity to do some architectural photography, and I would like to make a professional(ish) quality job (I don't get paid, but who knows what it may lead to). I normally use a Canon DSLR, but rather than acquiring a T/S lens for that system, I have been contemplating getting a Large/Medium format with shift abilities. I don't have an enormous amount of cash however, so I'm looking for an affordable solution. It seems some of the chinese options are very affordable, but are they any good? There is a DAYI shift camera on Ebay with a helicoid focus mount and up/down shift abilities, at around 530$ that would leave me with ample financial room for a good lens. But if it sucks, well, then 530$ is a lot of money. So I would very much appreciate any help you can give me.

Kirk Gittings
21-Aug-2010, 11:05
What lens does it have on it? You will need a 28mm for 35 equivilent (or 90 on 4x5 or like a 65 on 6x9 etc.) as your primary lens. Also looking at those on the distributors website, it is not clear if you can do rise whether the camera in in horizontal or vertical position ie whether it shifts up and down and side to side. If it doesn't forget it for architecture.

FWIW I don't personally know any pro architectural photographers who are still shooting film.

21-Aug-2010, 11:13
Hi Kirk,
thanx for the response. No, it really isn't very clear what the camera does or doesn't do shiftwise. If going 4x5 I was thinking along the lines of a 65mm lens. There is of course the option of getting a used field camera with all the movements. And no, I guess no professional arch-photographers shooting film, and if could afford an Alpa with a medium format digiback and Rodenstock HR lens I would get it :-). But, I have access, through a friend, to a very high quality film-scanner, a Flextight I think, so that would have to do, for the time being.

21-Aug-2010, 11:21
Go with the T/S lens. Actually, you only need shift, and used Nikkor PC (perspective control) lenses can be bought reasonably and used with an inexpensive adapter on Canon EOS mount SLRs. They're probably the sharpest lenses that Nikon ever made (be sure to get the Multicoated models, earlier ones had too much flare).

Vick Vickery
21-Aug-2010, 11:42
You can pick up an older Calumet 400 series camera for $100 or so on eBay or sometimes even on sale here by one of the members; add a 90mm WA lens, a couple of film holders, and a tripod and you'll be in business.

Brian Ellis
21-Aug-2010, 13:22
Kirk knows many more pro architectural photographers than I do but FWIW, none of the ones I know use digital equipment anywhere near that elaborate or expensive (and IIRC Kirk doesn't either). I think Bill has a good idea - the older "shift-only" Nikon PC lenses should be pretty inexpensive and you don't use tilt that much for normal architectural photography anyhow. Put one on your Canon and you're good to go without having to learn LF photography just to do what sounds like a one-off job. Of course if you have an interest in LF photography apart from the one purpose you mention that's an entirely different matter.

21-Aug-2010, 13:30
Vick is dead right.

The short rail version (402?) with the ultra flexible bellows is usually very cheap and has plenty of movements for architecture. Add a reasonably priced 90mm (f8 would be dirt cheap, but f5.6 would be much easier to focus) and you'll likely be able to do the vast majority of any architectural images that you would want.

One thing though. Before buying a lens, check out its coverage. In architecture, you sometimes need fairly extreme movements and a lens with only a small image circle will almost immediately start to vignette the image as you use the shifts. The image circle will be smaller wide open than at f22, so be sure to check out both extremes.

Another FYI about the camera. You can easily find a 4x4 recessed lens board for this on the bay, but you don't really need it with a 90mm due to the recessed construction of the front standard and the extreme flex in the bellows so a flat board works fine. The nice thing about a recessed board though is that the rail is long enough to focus even 210mm lenses (long normal)relatively close on a flat board, and using a reversed recessed board with a longer lens like a 210mm will enable you to expand your lens arsenal and still do close details as well as distance views.

Another thing, Jose at Calumet Repairs (1-800-Calumet) still stocks quite a few parts for this camera even though it has been out of production for decades. I got a new bellows from him about four years ago.

Finally, you can preview by going to www.butkus.com to find a manual for the 400 series of Calumet cameras.

Great camera and possibly the best value for money out there.

22-Aug-2010, 02:43
Hi again,
well the thing keeping me from the T/S lens is that I'm using a 1.3 crop Canon camera, so the 24mm T/S will effectively become a 31mm, which might not be wide enough. Of course there's the new 17mm T/S, but in Denmark, where I live, it costs what equals 3000$, which isn't within my budget at all. Also, I've always felt peculiarly drawn towards large and medium format photography. I've been looking at the bay and the various Cambo Wide options. It seems that for less than 2000$ you can get a complete kit. Any experiences with this set? It seems that the lenses are mounted with horizontal shift as standard, which is a bit odd, but maybe that's just me. But I'll definately check out the Calumet camera as well. Thank you all, by the way, for answering my newbie questions so thoroughly.

Daniel Stone
22-Aug-2010, 15:07
this is just my $.02, but if you're planning on making $$$ eventually with architectural photography, you'll need to go to a digital solution. I've assisted a number of arch. photog's here in LA, and NONE of them are using film anymore to make $$$. Most jobs an AD or client is there on sight, and they aren't interested in seeing polaroids(if you shoot them, Fuji-roids now), they want to look at a monitor or on their laptop.

sad to say it, but 100% of the A.P.'s I know aren't using film for commercial work anymore. Most still use film for personal work, but for $$$-making, they use digital.

Can't you rent a great TS lens instead of buying? You'll need to make a deposit for the rental, but its still cheaper than buying a lens...

just my $.02


22-Aug-2010, 15:26
about renting lenses... Here in Denmark, apparently that isn't very common. It is expensive, you could easily pay 100$ renting a high quality lens for one day! And as I can see it, apparently it isn't even possible renting a T/S lens (in Denmark). If, at some point, I had the opportunity to earn real money doing photography, I would obviously find a way to finance (or lease) a digital system. But for now, it has to be the "scanning negatives" digital way. I suppose a system that could later be integrated with a digital back could be a good idea (although I would then need to get "digital lenses").

Sirius Glass
22-Aug-2010, 17:30

Let him get his feet wet and learn the equipment. If necessary he can add a d-back later. Many in the photographic world need d-backs neither to do photography nor to live productive lives.


Lars Daniel
22-Aug-2010, 23:34
Just to be sure: Have you tried shooting architecture with your DSLR and just use photoshop or similar (Lightroom3 has it too) to straighten perspective up. I recently did a small job for Magasinet KBH, and it works like a charm if you have a reasonable number of pixels to work with. (I use a 7d).

23-Aug-2010, 06:22
Hi Lars,
a fellow dane here on the forum, hurray :-). Well, unfortunately I currently only have 8mp (canon 1D2N), which, I think, isn't enough to seriously correct perspectives in Photoshop. I will be getting a 1DIV (skipping the 1D3), but not for about 4-5 months. I think I'll keep my eyes open for either a used View Camera, or a (resonably priced) used Silvestri outfit with shifts. Both such systems could be "upgraded" to a digital back at a later date.