Introduction: Printable Tilt-Shift Lens Adapter

Picture of Printable Tilt-Shift Lens Adapter

How to make your own 3D Printed Tilt-Shift Lens Adapter. Tilt-shift lenses are used to create a miniature effect or a very shallow depth of field in your photography. This has long been a great and well documented DIY project, mostly because professional tilt-shift lens and adaptors are very expensive (we’re talking $1000- 3000). I have created several plunger type adapters following this tutorial, much love to Bhautik Joshi's project which got me into tilt-shift photography and is a great and much used resource.  After a lot of experimentation and some impressive results, I decided it was time for a more durable solution that I could print at home on my 3D printer. 

The results is a simple, cheap, lite, and durable adapter designed to fit a micro 4/3 Panasonic GF1 to Nikon e-series mount. All files are up on thingaverse and 123D gallery under creative commons, so you can download, edit, and remix to fit your needs. Be advised that to have the best results you need to use a micro 4/3 camera with a standard 35mm lens. I really think this is just the beginning for printable adaptors and hopefully the community will take the idea and create deviations for all different kinds of camera/lens combination. 
******All votes appreciated :)*******

Step 1: What You Need + How It Works

Picture of What You Need + How It Works
The things you'll need for this project are pretty simple the only difficult part is selecting a proper camera/lens combo, which your can find more information on here
  1. DSLR Body - This will help you get the appropriate measurements for creating the adaptor and also help you in selecting the right lens. For this tutorial I’ll be using a Panasonic GF1 micro 4/3 camera.
  2. 35mm/Medium/Large format Lens - This depends on the type of camera body you have. 35mm and Medium format lens can be found on eBay pretty cheap, and the size lens you're looking for will depend on the type of camera you’re using. For guide-on camera body lens combinations check out this guide. However, you'll get the best results using a lens that is design for a larger format camera then you currently have. more about this here.  Example: Micro 4/3 camera with a 35mm type lens or  Canon Rebel body with a medium format lens type. For this project I’ll be using a Nikon series E 50mm 1.8 which I picked up on eBay for less than $30. 
  3. Calipers - Used to take measurements for the lens and camera for 3D model.
  4. 3D printer or Access to one - While it’s easy to print this off on your own printer at home, if you don’t have a printer you still have options. Look for a local hacker/maker space in your area using if nothing is close or they don’t have access to a 3D printer you can upload your project files to,  and have your part mailed to you. I use them a lot for laser cut projects and have never had any issues, great service. 
  5. 3D modeling program - (PC only) or (mac + PC)
How it Works: Explained by Griffin of IndyMogul
see more of their DIY tips at

Step 2: Take Measurements

Picture of Take Measurements

We need 3 basic measurements before we can create a 3D model.

Camera Mount (adapter base)
Measures the lens that came with your camera (see image below for details on this measurement). Be sure to first measure the diameter excluding the three tabs. To do this place your calipers just inside two of the tabs and write down the nubmer. Then grab the lens that came with your camera and measure the small tabs Lenght x Weight x Height of one tab and then the distance to the next tab.  It may help to sketch this out on paper.  You might be able to find some lens measurements on this chart  or you can see if an model exists in Google’s 3D warehouse.

Lens Mount (Lens you'll attach to the adapter)
Again follow the images below to take measurements of lens that you'll be attaching to your adapter. Depending on how secure you want your lens to attach depends on the details of this measurement. I was able to get away with a simple measurement of the diameter of the Nikon e mount and was able to make sure the 3D print would be a simple press fit. (it does not lock in place, it simply presses in place instead)

Focal Distance 
Once you have selected your lens it’s time to figure out which distance it needs to be away from your camera sensor to make clear images. 

Warning: Always be aware that removing your lens exposes your sensor to dust which could stick to your sensor and mess things up. So, be very careful with this next part and try to be in a room with little to no air movement i.e. fans, windows, a/c.

Remove your existing lens from your camera body, then hold up the body and newly purchased lens until the image comes into focus (see images below). This is by no means an exact science but here are some time saving tips. Open your aperture on your lens all the way. In this case I opened mine to 1.8. Use a tripod so you can use your free hand to adjust or measure the final distance once things look in focus. You can also use a toilet paper roll during this step to help judge distance by holding the roll as a makeshift temporary adaptor, slowing cutting off sections of the roll to make it shorter and shorter until you find the correct distance. Once you have a pretty good idea of the distance from body mount to the lens, write it down and head to the computer to draw things up.

Degree of tilt
This is up for experimentation but my current model is using somewhere between a 5 and 20 degree tilt. I seem to get the best results and most range with a 10-12 degree tilt, so try that a starting point.  Here is a guide which will help you establish the perfect tilt.

Step 3: Create 3D Model

Picture of Create 3D Model
Feel free to download and modify my existing model, which can save you some time. However, I’ll also walk you through how I created this model based off the measurements we took in the previous steps. Before getting started with your first 3D model, it is good to get a grasp on some of the consideration and limitations of 3D printing. Ponoko has a great post on this topic here. A big consideration to keep in mind is that overhangs of more than 45 degrees will require a support structure which equals more printing material. Below you'll see the video of me working on this model in skechup, I've only been working in sketchup for a few weeks so if you got some pointer leave a comment below, try to keep it constructive. 

Here are the basics steps in sketchup (I'll post a video soon)
  1. work in mm
  2. Circle from center Radius 
  3. offset inside by 2mm
  4. delete center
  5. divided offset by 6
  6. top view
  7. offset 3 tabs 1.5mm byond outter ring
  8. Line tool connect tabs to ring (l) use esc to end line
  9. iso view
  10. highlight all reverse faces
  11. extrude tabs 2mm
  12. extrude circle 5mm
  13. select all right click group
  14. draw new circle on face
  15. offset 2mm and extrude 10mm
  16. select top face and rotate tool
  17. view left face
  18. rotate 10 degrees
  19. measure inner diameter
  20. highlight top again and scale till dia meets lens dia
  21. highlight all group and save as .stl using this extenuation

Step 4: Print and Test

Picture of Print and Test

Once the file is ready to print, make sure everything is ready to go. Once your print completes give it a good cleaning to remove any loose strings, dust, ozozy bumps, or anything that could potentially fall off and ruin your lens or camera sensor. I like to use a utility knife to clean up the print and then blow it off with and air compressor.

Attach your adapter to your lens and then to the camera. While attaching to the lens, ensure that it is a snug fit that will hold up to wind and the great outdoors. If it is loose on the lens or the adaptor mount make small adjustments with a knife to remove it and use super glue or tape to hold up parts that are too loose. Make sure things are not sticky or wet when you try to reattach them. If something’s way off, re-measure and make the required adjustments to your 3D model and reprint. This is part of the fun, I mean your freaking manufacturing  at home how cool is that!!! To add a good miniature effect to your photographs, shoot subjects from a high angle . It creates the illusion of looking down at a miniature model.

Step 5: Resources

Picture of Resources

About Tilt-Shift


sgrant5 (author)2012-05-10

Looks like a great alternative! Would love one of the spares!
Nice work!

JoeMurphy (author)sgrant52012-05-10

just sent you a msg

fritsjan (author)2012-05-10

I voted for you, very clever idea, I also like your movie, well done!
When I have some time I will try to make an adapter for a sony nex 5n.

chimera15 (author)2012-12-04

I agree with the criticism, but this is a great place for me to start and understand how lenses work in general. I printed this out for my nikon, and I realized very quickly I had to add an element to it to get it to focus correctly. I was able to get some miniaturization effect, as well I'm able to control a focal plane in the way I would expect from a tilt shifted lens. The key for me was to add an element from a salvaged lens that corrected for the lens floating out in space at an angle. This gives me something concrete to go on to modify to the next step of creating something variable. Thanks a bunch.

siouxsette (author)2012-05-10

I dont want to be disrespectfull, and I have a hard time not laughing,
but please explain to me how is it a Tilt-SHIFT adapter, as there is no shifting adjustment?!?

Or to be more precise no adjustment whatsoever!

As there is no shift, forget architectural photography, etc. and the tilting beeing fixed, you cant adjust your focal plane, so the tilt is useless if you want to carefully compose your frame AND control apparent depth of field, be it for 'creative' portraits, packaging shots, products shots, scenery..

Apart for allowing you to participate in the fad of
"hey, it looks like a model train scenery" for everything else, This could be known as 'The utterly useless cone of garbage, with adaptey bits in the ends" But certainly not as a Tilt-Shift Adapter...

The other toy T-S adapters geared towards funny photography are way better:
You cant really shoot serious crap with them, but for so called creative photography, they give you some control on the effect you produce!
This one doesn't!

You really should call it a fixed tilt adapter, as it it what it is...

chimera15 (author)siouxsette2012-12-04

I agree with the criticism, but this is a great place for me to start and understand how lenses work in general. I printed this out for my nikon, and I realized very quickly I had to add an element to it to get it to focus correctly. I was able to get some miniaturization effect, as well I'm able to control a focal plane in the way I would expect from a tilt shifted lens. The key for me was to add an element from a salvaged lens that corrected for the lens floating out in space at an angle. This gives me something concrete to go on to modify to the next step of creating something variable. Thanks a bunch.

mnpazan (author)2012-05-12

I kind of agree with him at least in that the name should be changed. I got this link in my email and thought "Brilliant! Using 3D printing so I don't have to go scavenging for rare lens mount hardware to cannibalize like with all those other DIY tilt-shift mods!", only to start reading and find it it's not tilt shift at all, either in functionality or in purpose.

The base idea is still a great one though, and you're absolutely right that once the idea's out there anyone can run with it to make the real thing, so I'm still very appreciative, rather than vitriolic like Siouxsette. I just feel calling this tilt shift is at best a wee bit of a tease/chain-yank for people who already know what tilt shift is, and at worst completely misrepresenting what tilt shift is and what it's actually used for to people who haven't heard of it before.

JoeMurphy (author)mnpazan2012-05-14

I got to say I was not as concerned with the shifting aspest of this project when I created the initial model. However, after revisiting the model and taking some measurements it does have a slight shift of 1.5mm downward. While I admit it this was just a coincidence and was not planned for, I think I'm willing to call it a "Static Tilt-Shift" But your comments have got me thinking, and I've come up with an additional solution to make the shift more controllable. This is still a work in progress but it would basically be a 2 piece design that would allow for greater control of the shifting. here is the link to the files

noomsi (author)2012-05-11

Lovely little project.
I'd love one for my G3 but unfortunately I'm in the uK.

JoeMurphy (author)noomsi2012-05-11

check out i'm sure there is a 3D printer in your area!

jsousa2 (author)2012-05-11

Very nice .... I have a GH1 and a Nikon F401 with the kit lens that would love that adapter... and ... I also have that 20mm f/1.7 lens :]

It gives me chills to see your camera sensor exposed for so long >_>

A very nice project, some sort of mechanical join would be more useful for at least a tilt movement, I wonder if a not overly complex system is possible.

JoeMurphy (author)jsousa22012-05-11

Trust me. My stomach turns every time i remove me lens, and see that sensor. Already working on a more adjustable version. Stay tunned!

jsousa2 (author)2012-05-11

This makes me want a 3d printer ... great job, it also shows how to make any kind of adapter for a camera... not just a tilt-shift effect one :]

Good job, you have my vote!

RightShoe (author)2012-05-10


Do you think to sell them? I would love to buy one if possible.

If it is possible, do you do Canon mounts too? Thank you :)

philpp (author)2012-05-10

hey that is way cool I would love one of these I have a GF1 too.
I have been looking at these and you are right the cost heaps.
I'm in Australia though :(

urant (author)2012-05-10

Great Work!

I've just got a new 3/4 camera, and due to lens costs....well, you know how it is, it's just the thing to get the old hamster in the skull working!

I've got an old point and shoot camera with great glass, and I'm starting to toy around with the idea of gutting it from the old camera and adapting it to the new 3/4 mount.

Any Ideas?

griffinity (author)2012-05-10

Sweet! You got my vote!

JoeMurphy (author)griffinity2012-05-10

thanks @griffnity

exadore (author)2012-05-10

I'm interested in an adapter, and I'll cover YOUR costs via PayPal.

JoeMurphy (author)exadore2012-05-10

send me a private message with your details and I'll mail you one.

james123cb (author)2012-05-10

Great project! Love the video.

JoeMurphy (author)james123cb2012-05-10

thanks james!

alaskanbychoice (author)2012-05-08

Nice job I hope you win, because I'd like to see what you come up with next with that printer. What settings do you use when you tilt shift for video ?

Thanks! I rarely use tilt shift lens for video, but I do a lot of time-lapse (take a picture every 3 seconds) which I turn into video later.

I've already built a slider for my DSLR ( Canon 60D ) camera using skate wheels and tubing. I have an intervalometer in the works through kickstarter and I have two other cameras that will already shoot time-lapse ( a GoPro and a Plot Watcher ). What programs do you use to turn your time-lapse into a movie ? Thanks

quicktime pro 7 has always worked the best for me.


alaskanbychoice (author)2012-05-08

How many did you print before you got it right ?

Actually the 2nd adapter worked great, but then I printed about 12 more trying to refine the degree of tilt and use less material.

About This Instructable




Bio: Maker of things. Small business builder. Follow my latest project on Twitter @joe_murphy
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