Photographer cuts a Canon lens into half and use duct tape to make miniature tilt-shift effects around the world

Price of a broken 50mm 1.8 – S$25
Price of duct tape – S$2

Photos – priceless

The Canon 50mm 1.8 is known to be very fragile – usually breaking into several components if dropped. I wanted to make a DIY tilt-shift project and asked on the forum for a broken 50mm on sale. I got mine for S$25; the rest is history.
Tilt-shift is a special type of lens usually used for architectural photography. Many have however used the lens for a miniature effect because it changes the plane of focusing. Usually professional tilt-shift lens can easily cost more than one grand for the mechanics and precision optics. However, a homemade version can be done with less than US$20.

ScreenHunter_132 Dec. 12 21.13 ScreenHunter_133 Dec. 12 21.13

witonosfreestyle diy tiltshift held


Footages taken with this lens.

Duct tape is definitely the choice as a quick prototyping material (every NSman knows this). I intended to make a prototype which was completed in 2010 – and I have been taking it with me ever since. Due to the poor workmanship (usually glue failure in cold climate countries) there has been at least 4 repairs done.
These are some photographs taken using the lens:

Hakodate, Japan.
Hakodate, Japan.
Nanjing, China.
Nanjing, China.
Perth, Australia.
Perth, Australia.
Kathmandu, Nepal.
Kathmandu, Nepal.
Namche Bazaar, Nepal.
Namche Bazaar, Nepal.
Taipei, Taiwan.
Taipei, Taiwan.
Schwangau, Germany.
Schwangau, Germany.
Berlin, Germany.
Berlin, Germany.
Venice, Italy.
Venice, Italy.
Prague, Czech Republic.
Prague, Czech Republic.
Innsbruck, Austria. 1/2000 F3.5 ISO320
Innsbruck, Austria.
1/2000 F3.5 ISO320
OCBC cycling event on 30th Mar 2014
OCBC cycling event on 30th Mar 2014, with Canon EOS 5D mk II.
fesvrere ff
The tilt effect isn’t very obvious here. This was taken at 4km away from the fateful Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant. Please follow the story of Japan 2 years after tsunami.
It also survived the most torturous environment at the Himalayas. The black tip mountain behind is Everest.
It also survived the most torturous environment at the Himalayas. The black tip mountain behind is Everest. Please read the story of the climb to Everest base camp.
Photograph taken by my cousin from United States when we met at Berlin.
Photograph of myself taken by my cousin from United States when we met at Berlin.

The making

I had a lot more photos and video stored in a laptop that is STOLEN IN BARCELONA together with my camera gears on 6 Aug 2014… luckily the lens is still with me.

I wish one day somebody will find the footage and return the precious memory and photographs of my friends’ wedding..

If time and resources permit, I would like to study how the real tilt-shift mechanism works and perhaps build a better prototype.

Thanks for viewing! Hope you like it!

Please visit my facebook page :

Special thanks to Xiangyun for editing. Check out her writing, baking and photography at

Also, check out the mk3 and mk4 aka universal adaptor

3 Oct 2015 update:

Until recently (5 years after this DIY) I finally thought I should monetize on this… I have not make any profit with these DIYs, not to mention many failed DIYs that left me with dead cameras/lenses.. so please support me by clicking below! Any amount is appreciated!

$1 – Aah… coffee
<$5 – Mmm… lunch meal
<$10 – Woo… ramen
<$25 – Waa… steak
>$50 – WOW! Thank you!



26 thoughts on “Photographer cuts a Canon lens into half and use duct tape to make miniature tilt-shift effects around the world

    1. Yes and no.
      1) Photoshop’s blur can be done to simulate the effect. The closest simulation you could get is with Nik’s plugging ‘Bokeh’, but it still limited especially when it comes to foreground background objects and off-focusing point-light-source.
      2) Technically no, the field of plane of focus is very different from the ‘blur’ effect. It also changes the perspective. Please take a look at–shift_photography

    2. It look like you have a lot to learn about the difference between the capabilities of optical effects and post production. No, you definitely could not do the same thing with blur in Photoshop.

  1. Where, exactly, did you saw the lens? How far from the mount, in e.g. millimeters?
    I assume that all of the “glass” is in the outer part of your lens, and the only thing fixed to the camera is actually the lens mount?
    I have to say, you shots and the film turned out really really awesome!
    Great work!!

    1. Thanks! You will find the glass elements all in one chunk with the circuit board. That’s the ‘outer’ part. Remove it and you have the plastic casing together with the mount as one part. The objective is to move the glass freely from the mount, while mounting the electrical contacts on the mount.

      Now cut that part with the mount plus around 3mm of the case intact, you will be using that 3mm as for glue/epoxy/tape to link to the glass element. The rest is how you do the tilt mechanism. Ideally it should be mechanical mount that could hold the weight by itself… I was lazy, so I just use the tape to form a bellow.

  2. Great work! Love the photos and the DIY approach. A couple questions, as this is my first try taking apart a lens:

    The cable that connects the mount ring to the board is the only part that remains connected between the two pieces, correct?

    Disassembly – It appears you removed the inner cover on rear mount AND the side barrel cover before sawing correct? Did you re-use either of them?

    Re-assembly – Did you have to glue or solder any camera components back together? Did you glue the one piece of black cloth to the outer part and another piece of black cloth to the mount part? Then duct tape to form the bellow?


    1. Dear Ricardo, I am happy that this DIY had inspired many others how to ‘hack’ your lens without spending big bucks on expensive professional equipments, but I am really not encouraging this modification at the expense of spoiling your equipment if you do not know what you are doing! To answer your question, you can google for better step-by-step tutorials of dismantling the Canon 50mm 1.8. Yes that cable is the only part transmitting signals. Definitely you have to remove the glass elements before you know where to cut. This is simple enough to DIY without any soldering unlike my other DIY custom 65mm macro extension tube. I used black tape and hot glue when I first made it in 2008 while I was still studying, its not a very good idea as it disintegrated itself when I brought it to the Himalayas in 2012. Now I use industrial grade epoxy.

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