Lensbaby Tilt Transformer review

After debating with myself for ages I finally replaced my old digital compact camera with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1. It had to be a camera small enough to carry around with me all the time, should shoot RAW and offer exchangeable lenses. Instead of the new GF2 I bought the older GF1 including the 20mm F1.7 pancake lens. In contrast to the GF2, the GF1 has a remote control port and that way can be used for timelaps recordings. Together with the GF1 I directly purchased the Lensbaby Tilt Transformer, which makes it possible not only to connect Nikon mount lenses to this camera but also tilt up to twice as far as standard tilt-shift lenses. The lens is mounted to the unique Tilt Transformer’s swivel ball which is also being used by the Lensbaby Composer.

With the Tilt Transformer focus and aperture both have to be adjusted manually and the GF1 had to be set to shoot without a lens. The easiest to use are old Nikon mount lenses with an aperture ring like my good old 50mm lens (came with my first Nikon SLR). Unfortunately only 3 of my Nikon mount lenses have an aperture ring. If a lens does not have an aperture ring one has to press the release lever and rotate the lens counter-clockwise to change the aperture. That’s a little bit fiddly, but as low-tech solution it works and is usable. In general I am just very pleased that I can use any of my DSLR lenses on the GF1 and play with the tilt effect. In the future I will probably also get a regular Nikon to micro four thirds lens adapter.

The tilt can be locked by tightening the large locking ring just as on the Lensbaby Composer. Unfortunately when I was using the Manfrotto tripod quick release plate on the GF1 the locking ring got blocked, which made it difficult to use. Because on the small dimensions of other micro four thirds or Sony NEX cameras that might be an issue for some people.

The test pictures above have all been taken with the Nikkor 85mm 1:1.8 D lens on the Tilt Transformer in aperture priority mode and ISO 100 on the GF1. I am personally very please with these first results.

Next I tried the video function of the GF1. The GF1 only shoots 720P but I think that’s fine for most web-videos and maybe one day I will get myself a GH2 or if I win the lottery the Panasonic AG-AF100 video camera. For the video I used my old Nikkor 28-105mm 1:3.5-4.5 D lens, which also offers a macro mode. It is an affordable lens with an aperture ring.

Lensbaby Tilt Transformer from Harald Walker on Vimeo.

The Tilt Transformer is my 3rd Lensbaby product and I think I will like this one the most. Mostly because I can use my various Nikon mount glasses, offering better quality and more flexibility, but also because it keeps my DSLR free, so I don’t have to choose between regular photography and Lensbaby style, when I am shooting. Instead I can just leave the Tilt Transformer on the GF1 and bend the world whenever I feel like it.

4 thoughts

  1. Is that the pancake 50mm 1.8 Ais?

    What prime lenses do you recommend for the tilt tranformer? Planning to get a GH1. Wouldn’t a wider focal length be better than the 50mm? considering the 2x crop factor?

  2. Try to get a lens – new or used – with an aperture ring. There is still a lot of choice on the market.

    If a wide focal length is better than the 50mm depends on your own taste and what you want to shoot. I like the 50mm on 35mm, so in that case one would have to go for a wide angle. Nikon has some nice old prime lenses from 20mm to 35mm in the price range of 250 – 500 EURO for a new lens. Sigma has some similar lenses as well in that category.

    Otherwise have a look at Philip Bloom’s blog post ‘Which lenses for your GH1/ GH2/ AF100/ AF101 etc…?

    The lens on the photo is a ca. 25 year old Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8. I also shot some photos with my Sigma 30mm 1:1.4 DC HSM which looked quiet nice.

  3. Can the tilt transformer be used as a regular nikon to micro adaptor? As in could the focus ring be locked into place so the nikon lens could be use without the lensbaby blur?

  4. You can lock it and if you lock it in the straight position there should not be the tilt/blur effect. But there is no aid to find the exact straight position, so it will never be as precise as a dedicated adapter. I indent to buy a regular Nikon to micro adapter if I go further with Micro Four Thirds. I wanted to buy the GH2 but as long as it doesn’t offer better 25P support I am not going to buy that camera.

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