Virtually any combination of tilt and shift can be achieved with the SuperRotator functions, but it’s akin to operating a Rubik’s Cube (at least when learning)! Take the time to work with the lens off the camera to understand its movements, then do the same with the lens on the camera. All of the lenses work the same way.
Movements stay put as they should. Other tilt/shift lens designs include locking knobs because without them the movements will occur on their own. Especially designs from Nikon incur gaps and slop, and things just won’t stay put. Not so with the Hartblei offerings— you can count on the shift and tilt settings to stay exactly where you left them.
Below is an overview, but there’s no substitute for handling the lens and figuring it out in your own head.
The main challenge is figuring out when the shift and tilt movements are at the four 90° settings. This is hard to do by eyeballing, as I found out when first working with the lenses.
Controlling each movement are projection pins, located at 180° from each other for all movements. Hartblei supplied three lengths of these pins: short, medium and long. They simply screw in. The work well as levers for your fingers to push against.
Click any of the images below to see larger versions.
As with even Nikon’s older shift lenses, aperture control is manual, meaning that it stays where you set it, and it’s always stopped down to that aperture. Open the aperture to focus, and close the aperture to shoot.
The aperture rings are a bit unusual: you get 1/2 stops until f/8, then full stops. Furthermore, the 40/4 turns in the opposite direction to the 80mm and 120mm lenses.
The aperture rings have very generous distance between stops, with large engraved numerals, this feels quite luxurious compared to most lenses.
Each lens can be rotated continually 360° in two places: at its midsection and at the rear. By rotating at the midsection, the tilt capability is not affected, allowing the shift mechanism to be combined with tilt.
To rotate at the midsection, press the small lever. This lever can be pressed and the lens body grasped at the same time, fairly quick and easy to do.
To rotate near the lens mount, a small lever must be pressed, This is a more difficult operation, and on the Nikon D3x at least, accessing this lever isn’t easy if it rests under the viewfinder or near the bulge of the battery at bottom. Carrying a small stylus or tool makes it a lot easier to press this lever. This is a weak aspect of the SuperRotator design.
Shifting is accomplished by rotation the large ring in the midsection of the lens. Shifting is unidirectional, which means you’ll have to rotate the lens in order to shift in the desired direction eg 180° in order to achieve a stitched panorama consisting of left/center/right frames.
Shifting the 40/4 — no parallax
One very nice feature of the 40/4 is the fact that because the lens stays fixed when mounted on the tripod, there is no parallax issue. Simply shift and shoot and you’ll have parallax-free frames ready for stitching!
Slightly confusing at first is that the camera moves down to shift the view up. With most lenses, the lens moves down because the camera is fixed. It’s the same thing of course, it just seems different if you’re used to having the lens move.
Tilting can occur in any plane via a ball-and-socket design, operated by the rearmost set of levers.
The rear rotation allows you to align the plane of tilt up or down or anywhere in-between. This can be very confusing, so pay attention! The rotation click-stops help, but one still has to pay attention to what is up/down or left/right vs some other intermediate angle.
Tilted to 8°, we can see a ball-and-socket style design. Visible at center top are two of the levers used to tilt and shift.