Tilt Shift Bellows

Large format photographers using cameras with bellows have always had the luxury of being able to adjust the lens and/or sensor plane so they are not parallel. This technique is performed to alter the plane of focus. While a conventionally parallel set-up provides front to back sharpness from a focus point parallel to the sensor, the adjusted lens, swung or tilted, places the focus plane at a different angle. This is a very useful technique for landscape photography, allowing sharp focus from close range to infinity, even at wide open apertures. But it’s also incredibly useful for macro photography. With this in mind Photography Attic has taken a set of BPM camera bellows and modified them to create a versatile set of custom bellows with tilt, swing and also shift options.

Custom modified bellows

The bellows lens and camera platforms are individually mounted on a pair of small ball & socket heads which can be attached to a straight bracket like the one you would use with a flash gun. You can then slide the ball and socket along the flash bracket to extend the bellows increase magnification. And then tilt the front or rear panel to create the new plane of focus.

Custom bellows with tilt

Here’s an example of the tilted bellows in action. A small 25mm pocket watch has been photographed at an angle. Rather than head on and parallel to the camera lens. The lens was then tilted on the camera bellows set up and as a result the widest aperture of f/2.8 can be used with full front to back sharpness. As a comparison a second shot was taken with the lens set conventionally parallel to the film plane. Notice how the sharpness falls off to the rear.

close up with normal bellows

close up subject taken with tilted bellows

Another option is to use the swing feature. Here the lens is angled in a clockwise or anti clockwise direction to provide sharer front to back focus on an upright subject.
Custom bellows with swing

You can also adjust to provide a combination of both tilt and swing when the subject is not horizontal or vertical.

This process is technically known as the Scheimpflug Principle. If you would like to lean more check out the wikipedia page here: Scheimpflug Principle

You can buy a set of modified bellows with tilt shift here:Custom Tilt Shift Bellows You will also need to buy a bracket to mount them on.

Join the conversation


  1. Is there a system to have a bellows for 35mm digital, with tilt, shift and rise/fall functions for architecture, landscape, product photography? I don’t mean for macro photography. I understand there would need to be special lenses produced to perform this. I know there are 35mm tilt shift lenses out there, but to have a bellows and a selection of lenses made for general use, instead of the need to acquire a number of tilt shift lenses with all the bulky mechanics that each would have. Just one bellows and a few small lenses, like it is with large format, would be ideal. The Novoflex system seems to be dedicated to macro and not general use with the Scheimpflug Principle available for what I’m searching for here. The key here are the lenses, more than the bellows, as bellows can be obtained. So, are the lenses out there to photograph this way with 35mm digital? It would be great to have such a system.

    1. Hi Simon. As you rightly say most of the options are with bellows for macro photography. One way would be to buy a tilt shift lens in a mount that can be used on other bodies with an adaptor, such as the ARAX 35mm TS…in Pentax screw mount. Then you could adapt easily to other bodies with a bayonet to screw adaptor.

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