The Weird Lens That Can Invisibly Photograph Mirrors


What if I told you there was a special type
of lens that among many other cool uses, allows you to take a picture of a mirror, straight
on, without getting any of the camera in the reflection at all. Yes, there is such a thing, and I’m going
to tell you about it, so prepare to have your mind blown. Before we jump in, it is essential that I
do my shameless plugs of course. If you haven’t seen my incredible Instagram
account, it has the most amazing tech memes you could possibly imagine, so be sure to
check that out, it’s just @ThioJoe over on Instagram if you want to collapse from
laughing so hard. Also if you want to support my work and get
some cool perks too, consider becoming a channel member by clicking the Join button. With the main level you’ll get my videos
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rank in my discord server, which if you didn’t know about, can be joined by going to Discord.gg/ThioJoe,
so definitely hope to see you over there. Or if you just want to help a little bit there’s
a lower tier, where you still get a badge for comments. And with all that out of the way though, let’s
get started. These days, considering everyone has a camera
right in their pocket, when it comes to taking a picture you’ve probably got it figured
out. You just make sure the thing you want to photograph
is in focus so it’s not blurry, and then the things in front and behind it a certain
distance will be out of focus. But there is one type of lens that most of
you have probably never heard of, that will completely change what you think you know. It’s called, a Tilt-Shift lens. And even if you have heard of it, you might
just know it as that weird effect that makes things look miniature, but the capabilities
of these lenses are so much stranger than that. So let’s get into what these lenses can
do. The two unique abilities of these lenses are
called Tilting and Shifting, wow big surprise. The first one we’ll go over is shifting,
which is actually really easy to understand, and allows that weird ability to take pictures
of mirrors I mentioned at the beginning. You see how every lens works is the light
comes in one end and out the other end, projecting what’s called an “image circle”, and
then you put the image sensor or film in that circle, and it captures a portion of it to
form the image. The bigger the sensor size, the bigger the
image circle needed to cover it. A normal camera lens you buy is specifically
designed to have an image circle just big enough to cover the sensor. But a tilt shift lens is different. It has an image circle much larger than a
typical lens. And on the lens itself, allows you to literally
shift the lens side-to-side or up-and-down, therefore changing where the sensor is located
in the image circle, therefore shifting the image. You might think, well what’s the point of
that, why not just move the camera itself left or right, or put it higher up on the
tripod. But it’s not the same. A shift of just a few millimeters may be equivalent
to moving the lens anywhere from a few feet to a hundred feet or more, depending on the
focal length. This allows some abilities that would be impossible
with a regular lens. For example, if you wanted to take a picture
of a tall building, you’d probably have to point the camera upwards, which makes the
building look warped, with lines converging towards the top. With a tilt-shift lens though, you can just
point the camera level with the ground, then shift the lens up, so the lines all stay parallel
and vertical. To do that with a normal lens, you’d have
to buy high up in the air at the center of the building to get the same picture with
the vertical lines. And now here’s how to do the thing with
the mirror. If you want to take a picture of a mirror
with a regular camera without being in the reflection, you have to stand way off to the
side and turn the camera at a strong angle, which is very obvious that you’re not looking
straight onto it. With a tilt shift lens, you still need to
place the camera just off to the side of the mirror, but you can point it perpendicular
to the mirror, then shift the lens, so the perspective looks like it’s just pointed
directly into it, but it’s not. Shifting is also good for taking panoramas
you stitch together. You can simply shift the lens to the sides,
taking multiple pictures, then stitch them together, so you don’t have any weird distortion
like you might get if you did the same by turning the camera. So that’s shifting, but what about tilting? Well this is actually my favorite, and it’s
where things get really weird. As you probably know, when you focus a camera,
there’s a plane of focus that you can move forward and backward. And that plane is always parallel to the sensor
or film, called the sensor plane. But when you tilt a lens, and keep the sensor
plane the same, something very strange happens. The focal plane actually rotates and tilts
in the same direction as the lens. This allows you extreme control over what’s
in focus, so say you have a row of objects you all want in focus, instead of having to
reduce the aperture to increase the depth of field, you can just rotate the depth of
field so it’s still shallow, but still gets everything in focus. For example, a lot of landscape photographers
actually use tilt shift lenses, then tilt the focal plane forward, so they can basically
get the entire landscape perfectly in focus, instead of just focusing on infinity and sacrificing
some of the focus closer in the scene. Another cool use is the “miniature” effect
you’ve probably seen, and this is actually the result of aiming the whole camera downwards,
and then tilting the lens upward, therefore tilting the focal plane backwards. This results in only a tiny amount of the
scene intersecting with the focal plane, therefore creating a very shallow depth of field, despite
being not being zoomed in. So it tricks our brain into thinking we must
be zooming into something very small. Now I still want to clarify some things, because
the way the focusing works is not as simple as tilting the lens, and the focal plane tilting
by the same amount. The actual way the focal plane relates to
the tilt is called the Scheimpflug principle, but I’ll try to simplify it as best I can
without getting into the math of it. Basically as you tilt the lens, imagine some
lines extending from the sensor plane, the lens plane, and the focal plane. When there is no tilt, all of these are parallel
and vertical. But, as you tilt the lens forward by any amount,
what happens is the focal plane also tilts by an angle such that all three planes intersect
at a single point, no matter what. This means the actual tilt of the focal plane
is determined by both the tilt angle of the lens, and how far the lens is from the camera. An interesting consequence of this, is that
when the lens is tilted, if you try to focus, that also rotates the focal plane further. So you can get a ton of tilt from the focal
plane, with just a tiny bit of tilting the lens, yes, even to the point of the focal
plane literally being perpendicular to the sensor plane. Now if all this sounds amazing, you might
be surprised to find out that none of this is new. The exact math of the Scheimpflug principle
was derived right around the early 1900s, but photographers knew about using tilting
and shifting in lenses since the very beginning of photography itself. In fact, back in the days of cameras with
bellows, they were basically ALL capable of moving the lens around to do the same movements
as a tilt shift lens. So this is a rare instance where modern cameras
actually lost a feature that used to be in all cameras. These old style cameras are still around though,
and if you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my large format camera I bought
recently. This is a field camera so it’s made to be
slightly more portable than other big bellows cameras, but it still can do almost all the
same movements I described. So you can shift the lens any direction, and
also tilt the lens side to side or forward and backwards. What’s nice about these old style cameras
is you can do all these movements no matter what lens you use, as long as it covers the
film obviously. And you can also tilt or shift the lens any
amount, even to an extreme degree, as long as the resulting image circle can still cover
the film. So fun fact, one spec you need to consider
when buying an old lens like this, is the size of the image circle it produces, which
is never something you need to consider with modern lenses, because they’re standardized
and don’t need to do any tilting and shifting. Now there are some other things I should point
out in regards to tilt-shift lenses. When it comes to shifting, you might be wondering
if instead of shifting using a tilt shift, you could just use a wider angle lens. And actually, yes, technically you could. If you were to look at the full image circle
from a tilt shift lens, it would produce the same image as a wider angle lens. But the difference is, with a wider angle
lens you have to use the whole sensor on the whole image, so to get the same image as a
tilt shift lens, you’d have to crop it down a lot, therefore losing a ton of quality. A tilt shift lens basically lets you take
a really wide angle lens, but only capture whatever part of it you want, and at higher
quality because you’re using the whole image sensor on just that part. Make sense? But remember, that just applies to the shifting. You can’t replicate the tilt feature using
any other lens, you need one that can physically tilt the lens. Now by this point you might be wondering how
to get your hands on one of these lenses. And unfortunately, they’re some of the more
expensive lenses out there. Because not only does the manufacturing have
to provide additional controls for tilting and shifting for features, they also need
extremely high quality optics to be able to project such a large image circle. An alternative to shifting could be to just
get an extremely wide angle lens and cropping it down, but remember that will reduce the
resolution of the image substantially. As for tilting the lens, you might see lots
of photo editing effects like on Instagram called “tilt shift”, which can do the
effect where it blurs everything except a certain part of the image. But these obviously can’t do the more useful
ability of a tilt shift lens, which is to get more in focus. Now one possible exception to all this would
be tilt shift adapters, which would go between the camera sensor and lens, then allow you
to add tilting and shifting. I know there are tilt shift adapters for really
high end cameras like hasselblads, but I’m not sure if they really exist for typical
full frame or even APS-C. So you might be able to do a lot of searching and find something
like that, but I haven’t seen too much about it. And anyway that pretty much covers it, let
me know what you think down in the comments. The next video I’d recommend watching is
one I made with 10 awesome computer accessories under $50. I’ll put that link right here if you want
to watch that. So thanks again for watching guys, be sure
to subscribe and let me know what you think, and I’ll see you in the next video.

100 Replies to “The Weird Lens That Can Invisibly Photograph Mirrors”

  1. Fun fact, like 75% of the time I spent making this video was just on all the short animations. Please like the video or I will be sad ๐Ÿ˜‚

  2. Thanks so much! This was so awesome to learn. My brother shared this video with me, now I think I'mma subscribe.

    This is what separates the professionals from the amateurs. The professionals know why and how they do it, and how it works. ("It" being whatever they're doing) If you can explain why or how you do something then you know what you are doing.

  3. Your smirk when you said the name of the explanation for this effect had me wondering if this was another joke video but it was such an awesome topic I had to google it and found out it was a real thing. Thank you ThioJoe for all the cool and sometimes hilarious videos.

  4. So cool and informative. I thought it's a ThioJoke at first ๐Ÿ˜ Thanks for another informative video Thio ๐Ÿ‘

  5. Wow! Thanks for this invaluable information. I never realized before that pointing a camera in a different direction changes the image the camera records. Amazing. Thanks so much!

  6. One of your best videos, so interesting and informative!! Thanks!! ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ‘‘

  7. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO JOE!!! Why!?!? You just effectively helped raise the price for architectural photographers. No more only purchasing tilt-shift lenses at ridiculous prices… Now they're going to be stupid ridiculous. LOL JK

    But seriously, Here's a tip to add to your tip. If people want to even stand a chance at getting remotely, nice capture like you're talking about Or showing in your title image. They need to make sure that they go with a 24mm lens…. at least for a indoor bathroom shots like you're displaying. They Also don't have to buy a tilt-shift lens. They can just buy a shift lens. Or if they want to go even cheaper? They can purchase a lens adapter that helps regular full frame lenses shift and tilt.

    Honestly, I would recommend them going with a shift adapter. Or just a shift lens. They don't really need both functions of tilting and shifting. If they want to get the image you talking about all they need to do is ship. The perspective of the lens.

    24 mm are what I suggest because they lead to really nice uncropped architectural captures.
    Images that you can capture while rather close to the subject. Anything above 24 mm… This commercial photographer would more than likely recommend they stay away from. Unless their subject is at a really far distance. Such as For buildings at a far distance ….

    I repeat. Do not go out and buy a 85 millimeter to shift lens just because it's way cheaper than 24 mm. If they plan on shooting anything that is Close Quarters, like interior captures.

    Quite frankly, I believe that making a purchase of a tilt-shift lens is a working photographer investment… But that's just me.

    Good video Joe.
    Cheers ArtistographerBLU
    Aka BLUtintphotography

  8. You can buy tilt shift adapters for most cameras; although they average around $400. The best thing would be to use it on a smaller sensor camera with a full frame lens.

  9. When I saw this video I thought, ahhh a new 'Joker'. But as I viewed Joe, he seemed very convincing. So much so I Binged it, sure enough this one is true. Knock me down with a feather!

  10. When I started in photography (1966) I used 8X10 & 4X5 view cameras so this is no surprise to me. Good old Mr. Scheimphlug came in handy many times getting more in focus or correcting parallel lines. This was a really good explanation of tilt-shift lenses. Good luck with your view camera. What kind of film are you using?

  11. Learned a lot about tilt shift here… Used to take photos semi professionally but never really got to where I'd learn about those magical lenses…

  12. I don't own a camera, and neither like very much photography.
    To be honest, I don't know what the f**k I'm doing here, but I liked it very much, learned a lot.
    Thanks man, amazing video <3

  13. There a lens one of John Wayne pictures that when close stuff and far stuff was in the focus distance. I used to want the lens but it was 40 years ago. I took pictures of ants and had 4 times lens then 320 mm lens at camera at 4 ft. The ants looked like they were 20 feet tall. Now if I had the lens was close and far away I could of had ants as big a 10 floor building and the ants and the building were in the same shot!

  14. This is literally the best explanation of tilt shift cameras I've ever seen I've literally never understood them before

  15. this is so cool
    never heard abt this type of camera before.

    nice to know how it works too.
    the diagonal/horizontal focal planes blew my mind more than they should have

  16. Very good video! I use a shift lens constantly for travel photos, and I'm always shocked that (almost) nobody else knows what it is!
    Your field camera is gorgeous.

  17. maybe you should start a photography vlog as well ๐Ÿ™‚

    Just to add: for panoramas, the programs used to stitch the images do have the algorithms to "rectify" the images and do many many things with the panorama specially if it is a full-panorama (aka equirectangular, or spherical). It's a dream to get a tilt-shift lens though. As for now, I'll just do my cheap work of stitching hehe

  18. Love your satire! I am always amazed at how many people do not realize that this is all for fin and take it seriously!

  19. My father bought a tilt/shift lens for taking pictures of tall buildings he designed in the 80s. Heโ€™s since passed on and left me one of these beautiful lenses! Itโ€™s a treasure of mine.

  20. I thought this was going to be the kind of video in which you have to make levitate your cat by using a AA battery and a telephone cable.

  21. What an interesting topic. even for a person not that much into photography. Really liked this topic!! Great presentation TOO!

  22. I'm old enough to have used a large-format camera with bellows (4 x 5 inch film size). Both the lens and the film holder can be tilted and shifted in all directions, giving unlimited control of perspective and field of depth.

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