As a “tilt” lens, the TTArtisan Tilt 50mm F1.4 is designed so you can literally tilt the optical path axis relative to the image sensor in the host camera. So what’s the big deal? In short, it gives you tremendous control over depth of field, regardless of lens focal length or aperture setting.
On the one hand, you can tilt the plane of focus in the same direction as the subject to create a large depth of field to keep very close areas and a distant background in focus at the same time, even with a wide aperture. On the other hand, you can apply a shift in the opposite direction to keep a small area in focus while blurring the rest of the scene to create a “toy camera” effect.
Many premium “perspective” lenses offer both tilt and shift capabilities. The latter is useful for correcting perspective effects, e.g. B. Keeping posts parallel in architectural photography so that buildings don’t appear tilted upwards inwards. This TTArtisan lens is more of a single function optic with only one tilt function, as opposed to the way the Laowa FF S 20mm F4.0 C-Dreamer offers shift with no tilt. It’s a full-frame compatible lens and is currently available in Sony E and Leica L-mount options, the latter allowing native use with Panasonic and Sigma mirrorless cameras.
Assemble: Sony E, Leica L
Lens construction: 7 elements in 6 groups
viewing angle: 45 degrees
membrane sheets: 12
Minimum opening: f 16
Minimum focus distance: 0.5m
tilt angle: 8 degrees
Filter size: 62mm
In the past there have been lenses with perspective control that only allowed tilt and shift capabilities in one orientation, notably from Nikon. Although the TTArtisans only offers a tilt function, it features a full 90 degree rotation, allowing you to apply tilt in both horizontal and vertical directions. The maximum tilt angle of 8 degrees is a matter of course and ensures extensive control over the depth of field.
Of course, when you set the tilt to zero degrees, the lens works as a standard 50mm f/1.4 prime, making it useful for normal shots, especially if you want a bright aperture to enable fast shutter speeds in dim light to freeze motion .
Even so, “normal” photography is somewhat hampered as the lens is a fully manual optic. With no onboard electronics to communicate with the host camera body, you must manually set the aperture and manually focus using the lens’s built-in control rings. This isn’t as painful as it might sound, as mirrorless cameras typically offer a “focus peaking” indicator to help with accurate manual focusing, allowing for a bright viewfinder image even with narrow apertures.
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The optical path contains seven elements in six groups and includes two high refractive index elements which help to allow for a fairly compact, lightweight design. The aperture stop is particularly rounded, based on 12 blades.
construction and handling
As with dual function tilt and shift lenses, a single function tilt or shift lens must produce a significantly oversized image circle. This allows you to tilt or pan towards the edge of the image circle and still cover the entire area of the image sensor. And in this case, that’s a full-frame image sensor. With that in mind, the TTArtisan is quite compact and lightweight at 70mm in length with a 62mm filter mounting thread and weighing 452g.
The focus and aperture ring work quite smoothly and precisely. The aperture ring is unclicked, which is ideal for video recording, less so for stills. Another bonus for video recording is that both the focus and aperture control rings are knurled to be compatible with most focus followers.
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As well as having a clearly marked focus distance and aperture scale, the lens also has a depth of field scale. Of course, this becomes meaningless once you start using tilt. The tilt function itself has a locking screw to prevent accidental movement, as does the rotation mechanism, both of which have scale markings on the lens barrel. The tilt mechanism has a click stop at its center for a zero tilt setting, and the rotation control has click increments at 25 degree intervals.
Build quality feels very good for a lens this cheap to buy, but there are no weather seals.
When you look at the performance of this lens, it’s worth putting things in perspective, so to speak. For reference, the Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro Tilt-Shift and Nikon PC-E Micro 45mm f/2.8D ED both cost a few grand or more, and the Laowa FF S 20mm F4.0 C-Dreamer is north of a wing. At around £197 / $199 the TTArtisan Tilt 50mm is a small fraction of the price. If you’re only interested in a tilt function, it’s only about a tenth the price of most tilt & shift lenses and the Laowa Shift lens doesn’t offer a tilt function anyway. Another plus is that the TTArtisan has a much brighter f/1.4 aperture than any other lens.
In our testing, absolute sharpness proved fairly lackluster even at standard trim with no tilt applied. In the center of the frame, the sharpness is roughly equal to the corner sharpness we’ve experienced on many recent mirrorless lenses. And it drops even further at the edges of the frame with apertures of f/2.8 and wider. Stopping down between f/4 and f/8 actually sharpens better off-center, which can play into your hands if you use a lot of tilt to minimize depth of field.
Color fringing is noticeable off the central area of the frame and barrel distortion is quite pronounced for a 50mm prime lens. Automatic in-camera corrections are not available. Vignetting at the corners of the left or right side of the frame is very pronounced when using a tilt of more than 2-3 degrees to the right or left, respectively, with zero degrees rotation, which requires a slight cropping of the images.
While the sharpness isn’t great, the lens bounces back with a nice bokeh for out-of-focus areas in images. That’s a big plus when using the tilt feature to minimize depth of field and create a toy camera effect.
There’s no autofocus, of course, and you also have to set the aperture manually via the onboard control ring, but all in all the performance is pretty good for such a cheap tilt lens.
We conduct a series of laboratory tests under controlled conditions using the Imatest Master test suite. Photographs of test charts are taken across the range of apertures and zooms (where available) and then analyzed for sharpness, distortion and chromatic aberrations.
We use Imatest Spatial Frequency Response (SFR) charts and analysis software to plot lens resolution at center of frame, corners and center-to-center distances across the range of aperture settings and zoom lenses at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).
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Our lab tests for sharpness were recorded with no tilt. Overall sharpness is uninspiring at most apertures. It’s disappointing from f/1.4 to f/4 and peaks at f/11 to f/16. At apertures between f/4 and f/8, the lens is actually sharper away from the central area of the frame, which is the Performance can improve when a large tilt angle is used to minimize depth of field.
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There are hardly any color fringes across the entire aperture range in the middle of the image section. Outside of the center, however, color fringes can be noticeable with all apertures.
We would expect very little distortion from a 50mm prime lens, but the TTArtisan produces noticeable barrel distortion.
There are times when blur is more important than absolute sharpness. As a tilting lens, this TTArtisan can reduce the effective depth of field to a tiny level, creating the classic “toy camera” effect. At the other end of the scale, it can give you a virtually infinite depth of field to keep everything sharp, from near foreground areas to the far horizon, for objects that are in the tilted plane of focus. The sharpness itself is pretty mediocre, and there’s noticeable color fringing and barrel distortion, but this fully manual lens is still tremendously versatile. Considering it’s only about a tenth the price of high-end tilt and shift (or perspective control) lenses, it’s a good buy for the price.
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