H-Cam Master TS adapter

by Jack Flesher


tiltnswing4The H-Cam TS adapter on a Sony A7r body with Canon EF to Nikon G lens adapter, Nikon 17-35/2.8 AF-D lens 

There is a pretty good thread already started on this unit right in our forums at: http://www.getdpi.com/forum/sony/51166-final-version-hcam-master-ts-14-24mm.html

Note: On some browsers and/or systems, you may need to click twice on each image to see them at the full size as posted or see the crops at 100%. This is part of our workaround for Retina displays to render properly. 

The purpose of this article is to expand slightly on the adapter’s capabilities with lenses other than the Nikon 14-24 zoom. Note that much of how this unit gets used requires a good working knowledge of basic view camera movements, and it is well beyond the scope of this article for me to elaborate greatly on how those work. Two excellent resources for learning about camera movements, why they work and when to use them are, View Camera Technique by Leslie Stroebel, an in-depth treatise; and The Camera by Ansel Adams, a simpler introduction.

That said, there are a few basics that need to be understood so the benefits of an adapter such as the H-Cam Master TS can be likewise understood. The first basic is that a little bit of lens tilt will alter your PoF (Plane of Focus) off the perpendicular to your lens path in such a way you can adjust it to better match your desired subject plane.  This is referred to as the “Scheimpflug principle” named after the Austrian army Captain who discovered it during WW1 aerial photography runs.  The second basic is that lenses often have an IC (Image Circle) that is larger than necessary to cover the format they’re designed for.  Here, the “shift” or “rise-fall” movements in a camera or adapter can be utilized in such a way to expand an image area or alter the perspective of the camera’s actual taking position to that of one several feet left or right, or several feet higher or lower.  Furthermore, if the lens is held stationary during these movements, the resulting capture frames are “parallax free” and can be easily “stitched” to provide a larger final image.  Lastly, the reader should understand that these movements can then be combined in a number of creative ways to overcome a variety of photographic challenges.

The first thing you notice about the H-Cam adapter when you pull it out of the box is that it is a very well made mechanical device. Upon closer inspection, it becomes immediately clear that someone who understood the practical needs of a photographer designed it.  The adapter utilizes a Sony EF mount on the camera side. This makes sense because the little Sony EF bodies have very short flange focal lengths, which allow for the mechanicals of the adapter to be placed between the body and the lens. Next, the adapter uses a Canon EF mount is used on the lens side. This likewise makes sense as the Canon EF mount has the shortest flange focal of contemporary manufacturers (other than Sony), and is short enough to allow for further adapters to mount other lens makes to.  As a result, we have an adapter that allows for both shift and tilt movements on a Sony EF body coupled with a lensmount that allows for our mounting an essentially endless list of lenses to.  The adapter then allows for the mounts at both ends to be rotated. This in turn allows the tilt angle to not only be rotated 90º from tilt to swing, but anywhere in-between to allow for “indirect” tilt and swing combined movements. The camera can then be independently rotated from landscape to portrait, and again anywhere in-between to accommodate the desired body orientation to be level, though this latter combination will require an adjustment of your tripod head to achieve the desired camera body position.  In the picture below, I show the camera set in landscape orientation with the adapter at roughly 45º, the lens has approximately 1.4º of tilt at a 45º angle, which nets out to a combined adjustment of 1º downward tilt and 1º left swing:




The versatility can be further expanded if mounting a “Tilt-Shift” lens to the adapter, in which case you now have virtually unlimited combinations of easily implemented movements to overcome most any photographic obstacle. Here the PC-E lens is at maximum rise and left swing, while the H-Cam itself is at maximum tilt down and maximum shift right:

24tse1Sony A7r, H-Cam TS and Nikkor 85mm PC-E lens
24tse2Sony A7r, H-Cam TS and Nikkor 85mm PC-E lens

In use the H-Cam Master simply converts a Sony EF body into a technical camera platform. With the appropriate adapters, you can mount most any contemporary DSLR lens, and of course mount almost any medium format camera lens.  The obvious advantage of using medium format lenses on this adapter is their significantly larger IC’s.  The nit will be finding a selection that generates enough resolution to take advantage of your Sony base cameras pixel pitch, though I am certain several exist that will be more than “good enough.”  An upside is that many older “all manual” medium format lenses can be purchased very inexpensively right now, and the “all manual” part is an advantage for most technical camera platform applications.   Also, with some lenses, the Canon to-whatever-camera-mount adapter may need the required linkage to actuate the aperture. This is the case with newer Nikon G lenses. The downside here is aperture is not 100% accurately set, so you must learn your adapters nuances with your lenses. For me, I put a mark on the adapter that signifies “approximately” f8 on any Nikon G lens. (Most pre-G Nikon lenses can be manually stopped down to their exact aperture.)

Here are a few sample images from the 50 Sigma ART on the H-Cam adapter. The first shows tilt enhancing usable DoF (Depth of Field) in a typical landscape application. Note the lens is being used at about f8, and from experience I know I’ll need just under 2º tilt to get max DoF with a 50mm.  (NOTE: basic Scheimpflug math will tell you that for a camera height of 5 feet and near subject at 5 feet on the ground in front of you and a far subject at infinity on a level ground horizon, you will need approximately 1º of tilt per every 30mm of lens focal length – hence my use of just under 2º for this shot):

valvenpoppies Full Image
cropvalveCrop from lower-mid frame  


Crop from upper-mid frame

This next image is with the same lens, still tilted and now shifted to the adapters maximum of 15mm both left and right. Note that while we have a fairly large IC it is not all “usable” as outer render poorly and get worse as we move further out – how usable these parts of the IC are will be up to the individual artist and the image details needed. Keep in mind that field curvature of your individual lens will play a large part in how well this region of the image appears. But the takeaway is that many DSLR lenses can and do have at least a partially usable IC well beyond the format they were designed for:

3framestitchFull 3-frame stitch
cropoutsideicCrop from upper LH outside IC 
cropoutsideiclrCrop from lower RH outside IC 

Obviously, if one wants to stitch, a lens designed for a medium format camera will have a significantly larger, more usable IC that could be employed using the appropriate MF to Canon adapter on the H-Cam. I further suspect any lens from Mamiya 645 or RB/RZ or Hasselblad would prove very good optically, but unfortunately I do not own any I could test at this time. I do happen to already own a Mamiya 645 to Canon adapter however, so I may experiment with this further if I get so inspired – and if that happens I will be sure to report back with images and my thoughts.

I could go on and on testing a variety of my lenses, but end of day I typically only need tilts in my moderately wide to normal ranges of lenses, and occasionally light tele ranges.  Extreme wides already have extensive DoF if stopped down to f8 or so and rarely need tilt unless you have a definitive foreground element right in front of the camera. Similarly, long teles are usually used for isolations and rarely need tilt or shift, though you could of course use one on the adapter if you had a specific need like certain table-top or macro applications.  You’ll want to test your own lenses for their maximum usable shift ranges, just be aware that field curvature, which gets more extreme the closer you get to the edge of any given lens’ IC, may affect net focus accuracy. Oh, one final comment – the unit takes up the space of about one narrow lens slot in your bag – a huge advantage in that you can easily have it with you when you actually need it!

HCamsideIt’s thin! (Canon to Nikkor G lens adapter shown mounted in H-Cam unit.) 
HCamfrontIt’s compact and lightweight too!  (Canon to Nikkor G lens adapter shown mounted in H-Cam unit.)