Since Canon came out with a patent application showing it is looking at putting servos in tilt/shift lenses to automate the tilt function (changing the angle of the focal plane), we’ve been looking for signs they may put this into production. Today Canon Rumors reports they’ve heard that Canon will release a 14mm f/4 and a 24mm f/3.5 later this year. The rumor appears to be taking details directly from a patent application Canon filed in 2019.
Tilt/shift lenses are often slightly smaller apertures for their size because both the tilt and the shift effect require extra room around the center of the image circle so that these adjustments don’t wind up creating darkened edges.
Canon’s patent, described on Northlight Images, shows a very specific set of operating methods, with three different motors. One changes the focus (a first, as tilt/shift lenses have never been able to handle autofocus previously), another changes the tilt, and then a ring motor that stretches all the way around the end of the lens controls shift. There are various control units between these motors, which implies that information from the settings of one motor will be able to inform the operation of the others, a critical function for proper tilt/shift setting. The implication is that this very complicated set of mutually-dependent factors may be made much simpler by having the camera control the logic and operation.
People who have owned Canon tilt/shift lenses for many years often find that the controls for both tilt and shift – particularly the screws provided for tightening positions – experience wear and slippage. Making these controls internally set may vastly improve toughness and water resistance.
Tilt/shift lenses are among the most expensive lenses canon makes, especially for relatively dark primes. Tilt/shift lense made more than two decades ago still sell online for $500 in OK condition, while new ones sell for more than $2,000.
Photographers who have not previously played with tilt/shift technology will often not have an appreciation for how complicated it is to properly set the controls, making the interdependent combination of settings a natural for automation.
Canon has not indicated it will accomplish some of the more complex theoretical automation applications, such as automatically determining the proper plane of focus to get both eyes in focus.