Guest post: Shift panos – using shift lenses to create mini panos

Grand canyon sunrise pano © Brian Valente

Today's guest post on shift panos is by Brian Valente:

Panoramic photos have become quite popular in recent years. The software to process multiple shots into a single wide (or tall) image has dramatically improved, and there are many hardware options available to shoot great panos. I originally wrote about panoramas in Outdoor Photographer in 20XX and since then pano photography has just exploded. And who doesn’t love a great pano?

Panoramas don’t have any formula on how many shots you should take. It’s often an artistic choice.

Challenges with Traditional Approach to Panos

Not every panoramic photo (‘pano’) has to be that opportunity to create an epic super wide angle vista you know will someday hang in that museum. A lot of times panos can be simple enhancements to the composition and framing that help include additional elements without having to resort to a wider lens. Sometimes I think of it as the “foreground enhancer” because I often use it to include foreground elements I would otherwise not be able to frame into the shot. It also allows you to change your aspect ratio – instead of the built-in 4:3 you can shoot something taller or wider.

However, panos are not as easy as maybe we’d like, and there can be a lot of gear and added complexity involved **. Usually you have a pano head that allows you to precisely adjust the lens and camera positions, and to minimize parallax when the images are stitched together, thus avoiding a lot of artifacts.

Challenges with ‘traditional approach’ to shooting panos include:

  • Pano heads add expense and weight (which may also require a better tripod)
  • You can’t easily switch in and out of “pano mode” when you have all this extra gear on your tripod
  • You have to adjust the pano equipment just right to set the entrance pupil (also erroneously called the “nodal point”). This feels at times like an artful guessing game.
  • Zoom lenses may result in focal length shifts, which can ruin the image
  • Requires additional setup time
  • (**Just to be clear we’re talking about creating high quality panos. Yes, you can handhold your images and they will stitch together into a pano (there are even PnS cameras that automatically create a pano for you as you just sweep the camera from left to right). But these often create stitching issues and may not be the sharpest images)

Shift lenses as an alternative to pano hardware

Turns out, using perspective control (PC) lenses is a great way to create panos and avoid a lot of the headaches mentioned above. PC lenses (also called shift/tilt lenses, or just shift lenses) are a great and easy way to create panos that are limited in range, but still go beyond traditional framing.

Shift lenses have a built in feature of the lens that allows you to move the lens up/down or left/right relative to the sensor, and as a result you can change the framing without moving the camera. In addition to using it to recompose your frame, we can also take a series of images at different shift points, and combine them to create a pano.

Here’s a great example of a shift pano:

I traveled with a group to Shenandoah area to photograph the fall colors. We came upon a lake at sunset and everyone started shooting this wonderful boathouse nestled in the trees:

Shenandoah sunrise 1 © Brian Valente

The problem was, everyone was taking pretty much exactly the same shot! Definitely not what I was after. Looking down I noticed some really amazing leaves in the lake, and decided to shoot a 5 frame shift pano to get something a little different: in this case a potentially interesting foreground. This shows the 5 frames I shot, along with the final stitched image:

Start by shifting up the Nikon PC-E NIKKOR 24mm f/3.5D lens (though not all the way)

End with the Nikon PC-E NIKKOR 24mm f/3.5D lens shifted down (though not all the way)

Shenandoah sunrise 2 © Brian Valente

This worked out really well for a number of reasons:

  1. Time was short, as the morning light was moving quickly. I already had my shift lens on, so I could instantly switch to pano mode and get the shots I needed.
  2. Assembling the image was simple, and I didn’t need any specialized tools to fine tune the pano.
  3. I had a unique image from exactly the same vantage point as the other photographers

Advantages of shift panos:

  • Doesn’t require special hardware
  • You can switch out of pano mode quickly
  • Zero parallax issues when stitching (entrance pupil doesn’t move)
  • You can use a polarizer
  • Simple to operate
  • Easily shoot horizontal or vertical panos

How to shoot Shift Panos

Fortunately shooting shift panos is quite easy.

First you need a shift lens (see below for more details and recommendations). When framing your subject, you should use the shift function to determine your desired begin and end points of the pano, and then position the camera at shift of 0 in the middle of that range.

A Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 shift lens (old school) in non-shifted mode

A Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 shift lens (old school) shifted nearly all the way. Note that the older Nikon shift lenses shift in only one direction, though it can be rotated to shift up-down or left-right

Choosing a lens for shift panos

Nikon Shift/Tilt Lenses

Latest Nikon shift/tilt PC lenses are fantastic, and priced accordingly. The “E” part of the PC-E lenses means electronic diaphragm. This basically means does a pretty good job of determining proper exposure even when the lens is shifted or tilted, and is a LOT more convenient than the older non-E shift lenses. They are also nano-coated for reducing flares, and wonderfully sharp. Like other PC lenses, they will definitely introduce CA when shifted or tilted. Contrary to my standard practice of using a flat field lens for panos (typically a 50mm) I often use the 24mm when doing shift panos because it does not introduce that bending effect I really dislike when you are shifting.

Nikon’s older shift lenses

These are a great bargain and can be a really inexpensive way to get into high quality panos. You only need shift, so you aren’t spending the extra $$ on features you don’t need like tilt. Nikon made a series of them through the years, these are the most frequent ones you will see on eBay and other places that carry used Nikon lenses:

  • Nikon PC Nikkor Perspective Control 28mm F/3.5 Lens
  • Nikon PC Nikkor 35mm F/2.8 Lens
  • Nikon PC Micro-Nikkor D 85mm F/2.8 Lens

Third party shift/tilt adapters and lenses

Don’t have a lot of experience here, but in general you would be looking for a medium format lens and the adapter. You need an image circle large enough. Unless you already own a high quality medium format lens, by the time you go through all the expense, you are probably better off looking at a classic Nikon shift lens.

Some Russian shift/tilts adapted for various lens mounts. No experience here but the reviews seem to be mixed. Hartblei is one of the companies you will see here.

Adapting bellows/large format lenses

Adapting bellows or a large format camera system is also possible, and in fact I have a Cambo X2 (thanks to a recent guest posting) and love it. While it would get the job done, it’s a bit overkill and I would not recommend it because:

  • It’s large and cumbersome
  • You have the added expense of a view camera and some good large format lenses
  • You can’t easily switch between pano and non-pano setups
  • It requires support that can handle heavier load
  • Opposite of the idea of a simple, fast setup for panos

Additional thoughts and tips for shift panos

  • It’s tempting to think of panos as horizontal, but I often find shooting vertical panos to eek out a little more foreground than I would otherwise have.
  • Using PC lenses can introduce a lot of chromatic aberrations – just the nature of the lens. The more you shift the more it shows. Lightroom 4 has excellent CA removal, and there are other tools as well.
  • Avoid shifts to the absolute maximum of the lens. If you do, be prepared that the end shots may have heavy vignetting or distortion, and may not entirely usable. Better lenses minimize this, but it’s still there. (You may have noticed some obstruction in the Shenandoah sunrise image above at the top of the sky frame in the corners – that’s actually a mattebox and filter that’s getting in the way due to the high degree of shift)
  • For older shift lenses that shift in only one direction, you can shift in one direction to capture half the pano, then rotate the lens 180 degrees and shoot the second half of the pano. Or you can just shoot with the range of the shift in one direction.
  • I tend to use between 3-5 shots per shift pano, following the general rule that shots should overlap about 30-40%
  • Follow general pano recommendations: manual exposure, manual white balance, manual ISO, manual focus. Avoid setting auto anything!
  • Works better on DX cameras, since most (all?) shift lenses are full frame. Larger image circle so you can shift more without running into limitations of lenses. The downside is they are not as wide.

Additional Examples

These additional examples show standard framing and a shift pano framing images for comparison:



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  • peteee363

    i find a much simpler way, use a mega wide lens, say a 14mm lens. then just crop out the sky and water, say when shooting a skyline. it looks like a pano, without the work. just be careful to keep the main subject in the center of your frame, so you can adjust the top and bottom to suit your needs. when the clouds are colorful, i crop out more water, when the sky is drab, i crop out more sky. i do not have a d800 yet, but with the 36mp, you will still have 18-24mp left of the original, while tricking the eye of having shot a pano.

    • softondemand

      what is pano

      • Ben

        The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music

        • BartyL

          No no no! A panto is a form of theatre, incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, cross-dressing and mild sexual innuendo.

          Not unlike an NR comments thread.

          • Nick

            You’ve both misunderstood – not piano or panto, pano.

            It’s Italian bread.

            • PixelBrine

              Pinto?……..Like the bean?

            • ollieb


            • 103David

              No, no, no. A pinto was a decidedly sub-standard automobile marketed by the Ford motor company during the early 1970’s. Although notorious for bursting into flames at the slightest tap to the rear bumper, most buyers did not notice as the competing autos from general motors were the Vega (catastrophic meltdown of the aluminum/iron engine block at any speed,) and the American Motors Gremlin (so estheticly challenged as to be actually illegal in some locals.)

        • Stanley77

          Grocho Marks did a wonderful version on ‘You bet Your Life’ of ‘I Love a Pano’, that guy could play and sing!

          • JorPet

            Wow, he sounds a lot like Groucho Marx. Wonder if they were related?

      • peteee363

        the poster referred to panos, short for panoramas, pano would be short for the singular. i didn’t know you had issues with my comment, after reading the poster using the same shortened name. perhaps you suffer from a very limited attention span.

        • SLRist

          Perhaps you suffer from a very limited punctuation span.

        • Thanks for explaining what a “pano” is. My spell checker and I didn’t know either and I have a couple of old shift lenses from my film days that are now going to get a second life.

          • awesome

            I guess I’m lucky that I’m on this thing called “The Internet” and can use this other thing called “Google”.

        • dgs

          I just love Nikon Rumors!

          • Sahaja

            People need to pass the time while they wait for more D600 rumors or their left AF problem to be fixed.

            • C_V

              You ment to say for more D400 rumors 😉

              Really wondering when it’s going to come en IF it’s going to come!
              Any word on this?

            • Bondi Beach

              Well, now that KR and TH agree on the D800, I guess we gotta do something

      • jdl

        totally agree, I find that this trick is working well quite well. This pic was crop using a 1/3 ratio at 21mm:

        • ATM

          Now try and make a large print of your image.

          • jdl

            Oh, I will. The image is still 7360×2453 at 240dpi (~18mpx).

            Anyway. thanks, I guess.

          • Bondi Beach

            One aspect of using a pano rather than an ultrawide is the perspective effect is quite different. The sand in the image that you have supplied has an angularity on both sides of the frame. In your composition, this helps to focus the eye on the person, which works brilliantly. If, on the other hand, your artistic desire was to render the hugeness of the landscape (such as the Grand Canyon shot above) stitching would help to remove a specific focus and force the viewer to take in the whole scene. (imho)

            • @Bondi Beach thanks for the explanation, I was wondering what the difference would be as well.

              Just wondering what would be better… Shooting with DX Camera for Architecture; would a PC-E lens be better than say an Ultrawide zoom e.g 11-16mm? I can’t decide since the PC-E lenses aren’t as wide…

            • jdl

              @Bondi Beach
              I Totally agree with your comment.

              Both techniques will produce different (interesting) results! And that picture of the Grand Canyon is simply astonishing! I’ll be sure to try something similar when I’ll get hands on PC-E lens one day.


      • Um

        Not exactly. Although it is a type of breading, panko is the crust used on tonkatsu dishes.

      • awesome

        “pano” is like “google”, except that one is a word and the other is a search engine.

    • preston

      Yes, that works fine if you’re using a D800 and aren’t printing too large. It becomes a problem if you’ve got a D700 and you want a print that is over 24″ long. Then I will want to double the resolution by stitching.

      • peteee363

        i shoot a d700 now, and regularly print up to 24″ x 72″ prints now, with the resolution being excellent up to 24″x 60″, over 60″ the grain/noise starts to show. now it is not as sharp as 4×5 neg prints, but it looks great.

        • preston

          peteee363, yes I know you can print large with a D700. I just prefer to have prints that have very high native resolution. I have printed 36″ wide (and properly enlarged in photoshop from 4250 pixels wide to 8650 pixels to be printed at 240 ppi) and could easily see artifacts from the enlarging. One of the joys of large high-res prints is when you approach from a ways away you understand the whole scene but as you get closer to see more and more detail that you didnt know was there in the first place.

          • peteee363

            that is why i do miss my 4 x 5, but i imagine shooting a 36 mp will soon get me pretty close. and the dslr does not always need a tripod, or all the other stuff i was lugging around.

      • NAH! you just go into photoshop and resize! I have printed 60inch images from 8mp cameras!

        thats why pros dont need high megapixel cameras!

        I do a few panos! I do gigapanos too!
        Bristol UK
        Made of up to 1000 10mp shots at 200mm or actually 300mm! From Cabot Tower

        San Diego Downtown
        about 200 high res images.


    • Hi peteee363

      Yes, that’s possible, although quite limiting in a number of ways. As others have pointed out, you are effectively throwing away a huge amount of resolution (50% of the sensor?) for no reason. The second is that you are limited to wide angles, which means you can’t use different foreground/background compression. I often like to use a standard focal length because I don’t want the added wide angle distortion. I often use the 45mm PC-E lens for just that reason (On my pano head I use a 50mm f1.4 most of the time, followed by the 85mm).

      Here’s a great example of a flat compression pano that I don’t think you could achieve on a cropped wide angle!i=1614259120&k=7HTppwH

      Again, my point was not that it is the only way to create a pano, just one of the easier ways to do it while maintaining maximum resolution and flexibility of lens choice (within the range of shift lenses of course!).

      Cheers -Brian

  • ShaoLynx

    …and what’s wrong with using PTGUI?
    pano’s are big fun, although I must admit I haven’t used my D800 for making one, yet…
    Bow, there’s a thought for my upcoming vacation.
    Some pano’s can be tricky, though, like close-up pano’s, especially, where dealing with parallax error becomes rather difficult. But PTGUI manages quite well.
    Have a look at an example, if you’re interested:

    • peanutgallery

      And what is ” PTGUI”?

    • Sahaja

      There is also Hugin, a free and open source alternative to PTGui.

      • iamlucky13

        I also use Hugin, and am generally satisfied with it. It is far, far more accurate than Photostitch, the program Canon provides (or at least used to) with their cameras. Photostitch is really easy to use, but you can end up with lots of stitching artifacts, especially if you’re not using a Canon camera (it is apparently profiled for distortion and vignetting on most Canon cameras).

        A warning though – Hug-in is mind-boggling complex. I typically just do basic stitches, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of fiddling to get a perfect stitch this way (even with my 18-70, which has a fair amount of barrel distortion and a modest amount of vignetting to correct for at 18mm), but it took me a while to figure out first of all, how to do the most basic steps, and then after that, which adjustments I can ignore, and I’m still figuring out which adjustments are frequently useful.

        I’ve never tried using panorama tools in Photoshop (too cheap to buy PS), so I can’t comment on how well that works.

    • Gsum

      “…and what’s wrong with using PTGUI?”

      I have the impression that the OP is using Photo$hop or similar rather than a proper stitcher such as PTGUI, hence his need to use a shift lens. Photo$hop is hopeless at overlaying accurately and is very slow as it is compiled to use only a single core; PTGUI is compiled for multi-core. There’s no need to use shift lenses if properly designed software is used.
      I’ve been doing vertical and horizontal pans for several years, both to produce high resolution composites and to ensure that the whole image, from a few inches from the lens to infinity, is in sharp focus.
      As PTGUI works by pattern matching, it is very forgiving of parallax errors and rarely fails to overlay the image overlaps accurately. All you have to do is to shoot in manual exposure mode and remember to rotate the camera about its focal plane when taking the shots. I usually work handheld – no need for a tripod unless shooting at low shutter speeds. This needs a bit of practice though.
      It’s best to use lenses of at least 28mm focal length as PTGUI removes the distortion, that is inherent in wider lenses, during the stitching process. If you need to widen the angle of the resulting composite, just take more images.
      Stitching multiple images also means that you don’t need to buy, or lug around, that heavy 17-35 mm zoom. A standard lens or medium wide prime is all that’s needed. If you want gigapixel images, use a telephoto lens but be careful to provide sufficient overlap of the images. The only limitation of PTGUI is that it cannot pattern match images that contain only random artefacts e.g. sky and water. These images can be matched manually.

      • Reilly Diefenbach

        PTGui has some strong points. Best sky blending, more and better projections. Stitching is horrible, though, regularly slicing people and cars in half, misaligning branches, bawling for control points.
        Some day, they’ll combine the best features of Autopano Pro (the best stitcher in existence) and PTGui…

    • Nothing’s wrong with using PTGUI – I use it all the time! it’s a great program.

      This is not a replacement for big panos, just an alternative way to do smaller ones. A lot of times I’ll find myself shooting an image and I just need a bit of extra foreground that I couldn’t get otherwise, and I don’t want to use a wide angle and change the compression. Also setting up the pano gear takes a while and sometimes when the light is fading it may take too much time.

      Cheers – Brian

  • frederic

    fwiw, this works well as long as you don’t have very close (near field) objects within the frame. since it’s the optical axis of the lens moving and not the sensor, you may get stereo effects with those elements.
    some adapters exist to counter that, basically the lens is fixed to the tripod so that only the body/sensor shifts.

    but then it’s rarely an issue with most landscape panos, agreed…

    • Sahaja

      Maybe we need a camera with back (sensor) movements as well. 🙂

      Some clever engineer could probably design an IBIS system that could be used for sensor shifts and tilts as well.

      • frederic

        for now we’d need, at least, Nikon to put a tripod mount on the T/S lenses front, that’s for sure.
        a body with back movements such as on pancake tech cameras (alpa, cambo, arca swiss) would imply a new range of lenses with large image circles. can’t see Nikon entering those territories, unfortunately…

    • nico

      Frederic : any details on these adapters? could not find anything on google…

      • frederic

        just below Reza Rivani gave a link to the most sturdy one I know of, the JMBS at

    • Correct. The author claims “no parallax” but that’s incorrect given his description of how he’s doing it. The multiple shots he takes and the fact that he has no truly near/ far overlap in any of his panels are masking what really happens.

      Basically, the front of the shift lens must remain in a fixed position to not get parallax. With most setups, that means that you (1) take a picture unshifted; (2) shift the lens one direction and slide the body an equal amount in the other direction on an Arca Swiss mount for the second shot; (3) shift the lens the other direction and again slide the body the equivalent amount in the opposite direction in the mount. Done right, the front of the lens remains in the same position for all three shots.

      Personally, I wish the Japanese companies would pay a lot more attention to what we shooters actually do in the field. The current PC-E lenses have no real way to mount them so that the front element would stay stationary, which makes for a cumbersome shooting technique to overcome the parallax problem. It seems that they’re still engineering to techniques used in the 70’s and 80’s, and haven’t yet caught up to what we’re doing with products these days. Seems to me that being able to say “simple pano source images” is a marketing selling point and would sell more PC-E lenses.

      • Reilly Diefenbach

        Sure glad I got my “not recommended” D800e!

    • Hi Frederic – I’d be interested to know more about this. Many of my shift panos have closeup foreground (the leaves in the shenandoah example were about 3′ away). I don’t know what would constitute “close up” such that it would create that issue, but I haven’t experienced it so far

      Cheers – Brian

  • AM

    A fisheye an distortion correction is simpler.

    • AM

      I meant, a fisheye AND distortion correction is simpler.

  • AGNOS (an Italian manufacturer of panorama-heads) has a model specicially made for PC lenses:
    (JMBS Jumbo MultiBigShoot Plus)

  • I’ve been shooting 99% of my work this way for years on Canon gear, not that I’m particularly loyal, but the TS-E 24 mk2 wipes the floor with the Nikon 24, not to mention the TS-E17, Nikon in their infinite wisdom made the D800, which I think is fantastic despite the poor mid range body build quality, what a sensor! If they upgrade the 24 and put out the 17 shift they patented, I might just might be tempted!

    • frederic

      the PC-E 24 is a great lens, even on the D800, can’t honestly see why it’d need an upgrade ?
      now a PC-E 17, may Nikon hear you indeed.

      • Dumbo2

        The PC-E 24 does not really work with the D800.
        Its soft even unshifted and produces a very tiny DOF only.
        I tested 3 of them and had to give back all of them.
        Now I’m with a 14-24 which is sharp but unfortunatly is no shift lens.

        • frederic

          this contradicts my experience, so I may be lucky and got a a super stellar sample.
          however, like in digital MF territories diffraction now kicks in early and proper focusing is becoming critical… and not that easy to achieve on a DSLR. as for that ‘tiny DOF’ it’s a consequence of the increased magnification, reducing the zone you consider to be sufficiently sharp. can’t see how it’d be different with a 14-24, or any other lens with the same angle of view ?

        • Hi Dumbo2

          I have used all my PC-E lenses with the D800 and they work just fine. Is it a mechanical issue or not getting the image quality you want?

          Cheers -Brian

    • Dominik

      “Poor mid range body build quality.”

      No different to a 5D mk3 and a lot better than a mk2. You can thank Canon for the death of pro build high res cameras like the 1Ds and D3x. There is no market for them after the mk2.

      Besides, at $3000 you can have a spare in your bag and still plenty of change left over compared to $8000 pro cameras.

      • Calibrator

        > You can thank Canon for the death of pro build high res cameras like the 1Ds and D3x. There is no market for them after the mk2.

        Sorry, but that’s utter nonsense.

        There is only one group that ultimately decides what is being made: The people who actually purchase the cameras.

        And the people have spoken: Give us a high-res camera for much less than $8000. If Nikon had clever marketing people back then they would’ve priced the D3x exactly the same as the D3s but no: They wanted to milk the folks that needed the higher res as best as they can – or so they thought.
        If masses of people had bought the D3x (or more D700s) instead of the Full-HD-enabled 5DMII then the photo world would be a different place right now.

        So yes, thanks Canon for the competition and to bring down prices!
        And yes, thanks Canon for playing the megapixel game (18MP in most crop sensor units since 2010) until you got your arse whupped by Nikon at it.

        And yes, lots of people don’t need a camera that is built like a M1 Abrams and can survive the Lebanon, Westbank and Syria together.
        Your mileage may differ, of course, and perhaps Nikon will hear you and announce a D4x soon…

    • Reilly Diefenbach

      Poor build quality? You really pulled that one of your ass.

  • Snw

    My first film camera that i got as a kid was this ugly little thing.. but it used APS films and gave me the ability to make panoramas.. it was awesome.. too bad that film cost too much where i live 🙁

    • Um

      No postal delivery service where you live either?

  • Art

    Of course, this post brings up the question: Are the fall color photos taken with the camera pictured? If so, that would be awesome! (And congrats for getting an early preview!)

    • ericnl

      try to look over your borders, there is more to this world than your own backyard.
      when it’s spring in the place where you live, it’s autumn on the other side of the world…

      • Art

        That is what some say. However, in reality, it isn’t true. If you could see the earth as it truly is, it would look like a square pizza with arugula on top. 😉

        • Art

          Oh, also if you read the caption it says: “Shenandoah Sunrise” which very much U.S. East Coast. (not too far from Washington D.C.)

        • Sahaja

          Arugula the leafy vegetable? (roquette)

      • Um

        That was very polite of a Nederlander. 😉

  • Ken Elliott

    Nice post. I’d like to mention a few factors that may be of value – or not.

    1 – A RRS Pano Elements Package is about US$360, with their most expensive package at US$895.
    2 – The Nikon 24 mm f/3.5 PC-E Nikkor ED sells for close to $2000 at BH Photo.
    3 – nearly all view cameras can do this and much more. For US$150, you can attach a DSLR to the back of a sub-$500 Sinar F view camera. It’s a lot of fun, too.

    So if you have a shit lens, you can get by without all the other stuff. But as someone else pointed out, you are moving the nodal point. That may affect the image.

    If you don’t have the shift lens, you might be better off getting a pano kit.

    There is also the Bellows Nikkor and PB5 bellows that allows tilt and shift.

    A used Sinar view camera is dirt cheap if you don’t mind using film. It will also blow away all our DSLRs in quality.

    • Carsten

      A pano slider will not avoid parallax errors, they are great for stereographic images, but there you want the parallax error.

      Good quality alternatives are OM shift lenses reworked for F-mount (some are rather pricey because they that good).

      Anyway, cropping is a poor alternative, you throw away a lot of pixels. Note the article was about high-quality panos – just creating something wide with cropping or ICE doesn’t cut it

      • I’m not sure if you meant to reply to me or to the comments above.

        FYI – Used properly, the RRS Pano Elements Package will avoid parallax errors because it revolves around the nodal point.

    • Hi Ken Elliott,

      Those are all other good options for doing panos. I do most of my panos with my RRS pano head.

      Here are a couple observations on your post:

      – in my experience, to properly frame a pano, you need the vertical adjustment which means the $900 package (which I have and works great). you don’t have to get the $2000 24mm PC-E lens, you could use less expensive earlier models.

      – Yes the view camera is another option which I covered in my article – it’s a bit more limiting (no wide angles really available, shifts are limited by the mirror box, weight, complexity, etc.). I have and use the Cambo X-2 which is a better

      – Overall, the point of my article was not to say it’s the only way, but it’s much more convenient, faster, and more compact than the options you outlined. They can all work, and have varying degrees of success and results. The shift pano to me is the lightweight, fast, compact way to do a certain type of pano.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I’d love to see more large format/DSLR conversions and the results. The Schneider APO digitars are wonderful lenses, for sure.

      Cheers – Brian

  • Jorgen


  • Carmine Monoxide

    I just love the “problem” this guy had: that all the people out on the shoot were taking the same shot.

    As an amateur who has little time for the hobby, I’ve only ever shot alone so I’ve never had the chance to experience the anxiety of being in a group of photogs and feeling the competitive need to get something “unique.” I guess if this guy had been alone the pano would never have happened.

    The stress of this group competition must be unbearable.

    • Hi Carmine

      lol I don’t have that problem much, believe me! Whether I’m alone or with a group, I always strive to get a shot that I feel is unique. Anyone else could trek out there and take that first exact same shot, and probably did (this was fall last year). So my personal photography style is to find the shot that both speaks to me artistically as well as something I feel is a unique interpretation of the scene.

      Cheers – Brian

  • D400

    I love to shoot architechtual panos that start from the floor and go way up into the rafters, and I love to have a pillar, or sometimes two, really really close to the camera. It never stitches cleanly. Would this change if I rotated camera round the center of focus instead of using it on a ball head straight?

    • gsum

      Correct. And use decent stitching software e.g. PTGUI.

  • D400

    I have also heard that the nikon 24 tilt shift quality is totally useless on the D800E. Is this true?

    • frederic

      nope, it’s totally wrong, if we’re talking about the current PC-E version.
      chromatic aberrations are more pronounced with important movements, and that’s to be expected from T/S lenses. otherwise the lens is extremely sharp and contrasty if focused properly and not stopped down too much (I stick to f8, probably could go to down to f11).

  • Ralph

    *Technique Question*

    I have the 24 PC-E and i have it set as it comes out of the factory. So i often tilt to focus the foreground and distance for max DOF. The shift then allows me to do a pano while tilted, works nicely.

    To do a vertical pano with a TS lens it would be ideal to tilt and then shift for a pan, but both those movements are in the same direction where the Nikon TS lens has the two functions at 90 deg. I know people change this by unscewing the lens and doing a fix, but thats not practical out in the field.

    Does the vertical pano above require the mod to the lens or is it done with each shot refocused?

    I do wish nikon would fix this issue, the Canon allows the change from 0 to 90deg as a lens setting.

    • EAJ

      With Nikon PC-E lenses in their stock configuration you cannot use tilt with rise or fall (“vertical shift”). You can use rise or fall with swing (“horizontal tilt”), but as you know swing provides little utility for most landscapes. It’s unfortunate.

      • Ralph

        Most of my use is landscape, so out of the box is fine. You can tilt while doing horizontal panos. The mod n a 24mm is easy, apparently not so for the 45 and 85 due to the length of the wiring.

        It’s a shame they aren’t like the Canons.

    • Hi ralph

      No it does not require the lens modification (although I have done the mod myself). You just rotate the PC lens until the shift is vertical, and you are good to go. If you needed both shift *and* tilt on the same axis, then yes you would need the mod.

      Cheers – Brian

  • Hi there!

    I do have a problem with the statement “Zero parallax issues when stitching (entrance pupil doesn’t move)”.

    According to my understanding this is only true when fixing the lens on a tripod and shifting the camera instead of the lens. Otherwise the entrance pupil will move along with the shift.

    A 3D adapter might help to shift the camera the same amount into the reverse direction when shifting the lens, and hence having the lens at the exactly the same position.


    • Ralph

      Good point, it would be better if the PC-E had a tripod mount, but it would need to be positioned on the lens side of the shift point.

    • EAJ

      I agree Joerg. The RRS L-plates provide enough latitude for this maneuver, even in portrait mode if you plan ahead.

    • Hi Joerg,

      Technically yes there is a movement in the entrance pupil, but what I said was zero parallax “issues when stitching”, which is slightly different. Stitching a shift pano results in zero issues, whereas with a pano head, there is always a little bit of parallax because you can never get the pano head precisely aligned (I shoot most of my wider panos with RRS Gear as well).

      Cheers – Brian

  • Anonymus Maximus 1st

    Hi Brian Valente,

    Thanks for the Guest Post.
    I enjoyed reading it and it inspired me to take the old 35 shift for a walk.

    • Thanks! – yes the older 35mm shift lens gets new life!

      Cheers -Brian

  • Landscape Photo

    Congrats !

  • Interesting shot, nice technique if you’ve got a PC-E lens handy (not that any of us actually do). I’ve found that using my Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 and overlapping images by 50% or more between frames, I can get very minimal issues with foreground and background matching when “stitched”, even in Photoshop. I’ve done a number of 6+ frame panoramic shots with this method and have had nice results, even without a proper panoramic head.

    Clearly the PC-E method eliminates some of the headache, shame it makes my wallet cry.

    • Daniel

      There is only a 10% difference in price between the 14-24 f/2.8 and the 24mm PC-E, so if your wallet isn’t crying yet it’s at least tearing up and whimpering.

  • Reminded me of a historical record from Nikon of the shift lens.

    Scroll down and there are two examples of using shift for a panorama image.

    There is also Zörk Phototechnic who make a ProShift adapter. You can use medium format lenses on smaller bodies.

  • Mike

    Good article, love the pano example. I’ve been thinking about doing a few this way, although not vertical, which is a great twist.

  • sgts

    pc and tilt shift lenses are not the same thing,

    • peteee363

      the older nikkor pc lenses were only shift lenses. the newer pc-e lenses do both shift and tilt/swing. so the newer lenses are different from the old ones. but if you do not think you need the swing, the old ones work just fine. except they only made a 28mm. today they make a 24mm pc-e, it gives you just that little extra width my old one was lacking.

  • dolph Lundgren

    “Zero parallax issues when stitching (entrance pupil doesn’t move)”

    Not correct!
    The entrance pupil actually does move; when shifting the lens up/down, you do move the entrance pupil, of corse you do. In order to achieve multiple “zero parallax” shots, you should set the lens fixed on a tripod via it’s tripod collar (which is lacking on PC-E Nikkors) and shift the camera up or down.
    That’s why PC-E Nikkor 45/2.8 costs $1.800 and “real” PC lenses, like Schneider PC TS Super-Angulon 50/2.8, cost almost twice as much.

    • Doc Snyder

      +1 for the Super Angulon, two independent rotation planes (one shift, one tilt) and tripod mount. Only downside: Shift is only towards one direction, so pano with 3 images (shift fully +, no shift, shift fully -) needs a 180° rotation.

    • Hi Dolph –

      As I posted in another comment, I didn’t mean to suggest the entrance pupil does not move, what I said is that there are no parallax issues when stitching that result from anby movement in the entrance pupil. The entrance pupil may shift left-right or up-down, but it does not change distance relative to the sensor, which is where parallax errors would be introduced.

      Cheers – Brian

  • rocky

    Heads up! The D500 will have a curved sensor to eliminate ALL those problems!

    • Doc Snyder

      My local dealer says something else, it’s with that new ray direction technology and won’t need any focusing anymore. It detects where light beams come from and all focusing and depth of field is done when turning the NEF into a JPEG.

      • rocky

        Sooo sweeeet!

        • gsum

          And soooo lacking of resolution.

  • Yeah, if I had a D800E, I’d probably just shoot on the 14-24 and crop. Jeez.

    Okay seriously, I can’t wait to see what a D400 can do with a 24 PC-E! 24 megapixels DX, and oodles of tilt. It’s gonna be heaven! I’d almost rather have a D400 (if the sensor is good) and a 24 PC-E, than a D800 and a 14-24…

    Damn I remember back in the day, doing manual stitches in Photoshop CS for panos from a D70 and a crappy kit / Tokina lens. Took like 8 hours of warping and blending. We’ve come quite far since then!


    • gsum

      Photo$hop CS hasn’t!

    • expo01

      We’re talking about panoramas here. To create those with a PC lens you need to shift it. The amount of shift is limited by the lens (the lens covers more than your fullframe sensor). This means you don’t get more shift just because you use a smaller sensor. In other words, the D800 + a 24 PC is your best option.

      • Actually, that is *exactly* what I mean. If I use a DX sensor with a 24 PC lens, I’ll be able to create a “skinnier” image than a 24 PC on an FX sensor.

        So yes, I understand that my effective FOV is still less than full-frame. I’m just saying that with a DX sensor it’d be a lot easier to approach 1:3 ratio images natively than with a FX sensor.

        I would still love to have a 24 PC on a D800 for tilting purposes!


  • I hit on this idea when I first got my 24mm PC-E and needed to take a shot of the lobby of a courthouse. There was a wrinkle though — when I combined a change in the focal plane (tilt) with the use of shift for pano, the tilt had to be adjusted for each shot to line up the focal plane in each shot. At least, that’s what I found then – it would be easier today after a few years of practice.

  • Reilly Diefenbach

    I have a hard time believing anyone could tell the difference between a handheld pano of a distant subject and all this tilt shift folderol. The DPR landscape forum has tons of panos that look just fine without a tripod.

    • Hi Reilly – at online resolutions no i don’t think you’ll see much difference. If you print them quite large, you may see artifacting. The point of the article was not to suggest it was the only or best way to shoot panos, only a simple and easy way to do this that didn’t involve the expense and complexity of a pano head.

      Cheers -Brian

  • Great idea about using the PC lens to shift a vertical Pano. I have the lens and never thought of using it that way. Thanks for sharing that idea.
    Can’t wait to try my PC-E on my D800.

    Question: what is the advantage of having the Nikon PC-E lens converted by Nikon
    They take the screws out and twist it 180? I never understood why you would do that.
    Maybe you could explain that mod, you the first person I ran into who shots with the PC-E lens on Nikon.

    • Louis — one advantage, at least in landscape photography, is that it allows you to shift up and down while moving the focal plane to cover the ground from the closest in the view to the horizon. That lets you open up a bit and avoid problems that come from smaller apertures (like diffraction and problems from movement with longer exposures, etc). The way the lens comes, the movement of the focal plane is perpendicular to the shift. That’s not as useful in some situations. Ideally, you should be able to rotate the shift and tilt independently.

  • Shy

    Unfortunately It is not clear to me who wrote the article but certainly is a good contribution to this site and particularly to me. I am in the waiting process for the 24mm PCE and this article is encouraging. I have done many panos using nodal head (rail and rotator), actually I built an improved version using several pieces that allowed me to tilt (camera + lens), altough does not offer same advantages as a tilt lens, cause you don’t have the image plane inclination that allows you to play with DOF.

    Regarding using a super wide angle lens, you can “mimic” the use of a tilt and shift lens in post processing but, again, it is not the same, super wide are used for “different” esthetical purposes and are specialized tools, as well as PCE lenses are.

    If someone wants to try panos without the use of a PCE I strongly recommend a prime (fixed focal), manual focusing is better, lens, rail and rotating device mounted on tripod, external shutter release highly recommended, either wireless or cable, I use cable, but overall patience to set up properly the levels. Use manual mode shutting and make shure to messure first the correct exposure for all your frames and decide which will be your base point if needed your can stack (HDR).

    Include all level adjustments aids you need that is very important, I also do them by my own and are very cheap by the way, and old CD, acrylic plate, aluminum or thin metal base with bubble levels glued. You need to check level on the base of the tripods head, rail (if you need some shifting) and camera (as a mean to double check level).

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