UPDATE: A new tripod mount is now available as an accessory for the tilt-shift adapter.
The following blog post has two goals: To highlight a new tilt and shift adapter for micro four thirds (M4/3) bodies and hopefully to set the starting point for a forthcoming series about my first steps and learning experience with tilt and shift photography. Until now I have no hands-on experience with tilt and shift photography whatsoever, but I intend to delve into this technique. If you want to learn about the theory behind this technique, I recommend the tilt-shift ebook by Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou or THIS highly educational resource. In short, tilt describes a movement of the lens relative to the sensor in order to control depth of field, while shift is a movement parallel to the sensor to adjust perspective or to create composite photographs (e.g., panoramas).
I have been looking into possibilities to control sharpness or blur more creatively and deliberately since a while. A classical technique for this purpose consists of tilting the lens, but it requires specialized, dedicated and very expensive lenses. However, the slim bodies of compact system cameras enable a new and more economical alternative. It is possible to mount lenses that were intended for thicker cameras on slim camera bodies through the use of adapters that bridge the difference in depth between the two bodies (to be exact, it is not the thickness of the bodies, but rather the flange focal distance that is relevant). If the difference between the different flange focal distances is large enough, it is possible to accomodate a tilt and shift mechanism in the adapter. This solution is much less costly than a dedicated tilt and sift lens and it can transform a huge number of "normal" different lenses into tilt and shift lenses. You could even "create" a tilt and shift zoom lens!
Following my web researches and through inquires I have learned unexpectedly, that the German company Mirex has just developed a tilt and shift adapter with a M4/3 bayonet and a Canon EF mount (it is not even listed on the Mirex website yet). Mirex has been producing nicely built and refined tilt and shift adapters with different mount and bayonet combinations for a while, but this is the first model for a compact system camera (only one other company sells similar adapters that look like copies of the Mirex design). Personally, I find the M4/3-Canon EF mount combination perfect and most versatile. Thanks to the different flange focal distances, this Mirex adapter could also be used on Sony NEX cameras (with a 1.25 mm thick adapter) and in addition to Canon EF lenses (without aperture control) many other "old" lenses (e.g., Nikon, Olympus Zuiko, Leica R or even medium format lenses) can be mounted.
The Mirex adapter is smooth and well built and allows defined and controlled shift and tilt movements (only perpendicular to each other). The maximal shift movement is 15 mm in both directions, which (theoretically) enables capturing an image width of 47.3 mm. Note that this is even wider than full-frame and therefore larger than the diameter of the image circle of many lenses that are likely to be used. The lens can be tilted by 10°, but only in one direction. However, a rotating mechanism allows to move the tilt into any direction (it snaps in defined positions every 22.5°).
Since the whole tilt and shift adapter is rather large in diameter, rotating the lens requires space. Before the purchase, I have been warned that the adapter is not compatible with the popular Olympus OM-D E-M5 and that it may touch the flash housing on certain Panasonic Lumix bodies. The adapter just fits the Lumix GH-1, but it is necessary to exchange to original screw that loosens or tightens the tilt mechanism with the included allen head screw (see the photograph below). Shifting the lens fully to the right may interfere with the grip and with holding the camera. Personally, I am not worried by this because I will use the shift movement mostly with the camera mounted on a tripod (e.g., for panoramas), which brings me to a really great feature of the Mirex adapter: There are three holes on the lower part of the housing (see for example the first photograph below), that serve to attach a tripod mount. This accessory is not yet available, but it seems like a worthwhile and useful addition and indicates foresightful planning.
The photographs below are meant to give you an impression of this interesting tool and to help you picture its functioning. So far, I have a very positive impression of the Mirex tilt and shift adapter and I really look forward delving into tilt and shift photography. If you have any questions concerning the adapter I am sure that the representatives of Mirex will gladly respond (they were very responsive in my experience), but I would also be glad to answer possible questions.
I hope that I can soon provide you with my first tilt and/or shift examples and wish you a nice day and good weekend!
Same view as the illustration above, but with full shift in place.
P.S. The tilt and shift adapter that is described here and which provoked me to write this text was purchased from Mirex. I am not associated with Mirex and I do not receive any form of compensation for writing this text.