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Why are my images "tilted" or mis-aligned ?

Discussion in 'Pentax Chat' started by matthew123, Nov 19, 2006.

  1. matthew123

    matthew123 Member

    I was taking pictures tonight and the majority seem to be "tilted". The bottom right corner of many images tilts down.
    Is this because the sensor is not aligned with the camera body ?
    I recently got it back from the pentax service department, where they cleaned dust off the sensor.
    My camera is a recently bought pentax k100d which for the most part I really like. It is my first slr camera (digital or film), and I'm still learning how to use it off the "auto pict" mode.
    Already I've produced some pictures that I am really happy with.
    This issue concerns me - any advice on this would be much appreciated.
  2. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    It could be that, or just as likely (perhaps even more so) it could be that you are holding the camera at a slight tilt without noticing when you are shooting (its very easy to do! ;)).

    To test, if you have a tripod, set the camera on it - levelling the thing by using a spirit level - and take a picture of something with obvious horizontal lines, such as a brick wall. If the pictures still come out with a slant, then you may possibly have a problem
  3. matthew123

    matthew123 Member

    I admit that I may be unconsciously holding it on a tilt. In fact I (sort-of) noticed that The shutter coming down seems to move the camera slightly. As I mentioned, it's my first slr.
    That being said, I was being very careful in trying to align the camera as the image I was composing had distinct horizontal lines (streetcar tracks). I was doing this because I noticed in previous pictures that lines within an image that are not parallel near the perimeter of the picture "frame" are very distracting.
    When I later looked back at my earlier pictures, I noticed that many have the same "tilt".
    I will perform a test as you suggest. I'll let you know how it goes.
  4. welshwizard645

    welshwizard645 Well-Known Member

    Problem also affects me and it seems that the more you do to solve the problem, the worse it gets... :D
  5. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    Of course, you could use any tilt as part of your style. See this extract by John Szarkowski on how Garry Winogrand developed his distinctive style using a 28mm lens on the street.

    Image © the estate of Garry Winogrand. From Masters of Photography
  6. scm

    scm Well-Known Member

    Does your camera allow the superimposition of grid lines on the viewfinder? I find those on my F80 and D200 are a boon to getting the alignment right.
  7. Done_rundleCams

    Done_rundleCams AP Forum Ambassador to Canada

    Evening Matthew,

    All I can offer is: "welcome to the wonderful, albeit tilted, world of digital photography :rolleyes:. Never "noticed" it in my film days but once I started shooting digital....there it was .

    Cheers and, BTW, Welcome to the AP Forums :)

  8. matthew123

    matthew123 Member

    I looked at every decent camera store in Toronto for a level to mount on the camera, but nobody has any in stock.....
    So my official "spirit level" test will have to wait.
    I don't know if I can get a grid to display on the viewfinder, will have to read the manual. Does any one have a definite answer to this ?
    I like the photo showing how a tilt can become an element of style, however after having paid just over $1,000.00 (Canadian) for the camera with lenses - I think I have every right to expect it to be put together properly - that is: no tilted sensor, or viewfinder, or whatever it is.
    I'd like to ask Welshwizard what steps he has taken to try to get alignment fixed. Please respond if you read this - thanks.
    Finally, with the "tilt" problem in mind, I took more photos trying to be VERY careful with alignment and noticed that the catured image is larger than what I saw in the viewfnder. Why is that? Is this why all reviews state a "viewfinder percentage" ?
    Finally, what is the technical reason that 100% of captured image cannot be displayed in viewfinder?
    O.K., O.K., - I'll pipe down now and read the manual!
    Thanks for any additional help - this photography thing is good fun apart from the technical glitches!
  9. Paul_G

    Paul_G Well-Known Member

    Basically, cost and weight. A viewfinder with 100% coverage needs a bigger pentaprism (or mirror) and focusing screen, which would cost more and weigh more. Having said that, there's not really much excuse with a C-size sensor considering it's so much smaller than a 35mm frame. One justification with 35mm is that the area outside of the viewfinder would be masked either by the neg carrier when a machine print was made or by the slide mount, so what you saw in the viewfinder reflected broadly what you saw on the resulting image.

    You're right that this is why reviews state a percentage coverage for the viewfinder.

  10. oldtimer

    oldtimer Well-Known Member

    It seems to be a common problem!
    My tilt is either 2 or 4 degrees, depending on the day! Seldom happened with film.
    I know its me - tripod shots are fine (you do not need a spirit level - just align the focus lines and use a remote release (I think we talked about a DIY job somewhere else in this forum (or perhaps it was the Pentax Users forum)))
    The more I try to avoid it the worse it gets. I surmise that I am very abrupt on the shutter so I try very hard to gently squeeze the release - by which time the shot has past and I have missed it!
    Now I try to shoot on a tilt with an opposite bias but that does not work either
    Strange that these things are never mentioned in camera reviews.

  11. johnriley1uk

    johnriley1uk Well-Known Member

    This is very strange indeed, but more than likely not the camera. My "pet hate" is the competition entry that has a tilting horizon, and even in AP there are numerous published examples of work where the picture is clearly tilted.

    Part of the problem is that in many images there are several possible angles that could be "correct" - line one up, and another may be wrong. The solution is not a spirit level but just a practised eye that can make a decision about what looks right, regardless of whether that is technically straight or not.

    However, this is the same for film or digital. At least with digital Photoshop offers the easy post-capture remedy!
  12. HelenEdith

    HelenEdith Well-Known Member

    Has anybody considered whether anti-shake could result in tilted images?

    As far as tilt from an operator point of view is concerned, I found that my tilting improved greatly after I'd manually untilted a lot of images on the computer. I think it concentrated my mind on getting it right in camera. Possibly it's practice as well. If I have to adjust a horizon, it's usually not by very much, but the pictures I took with my first SLR (which I still own) back in the 1970s needed a lot of horizon straightening when I got around to scanning them.

    I do get it wrong sometimes all the same, and I've even had a consistently wrong series of pictures where I've lined the tripod up by eye and got it wrong! :eek:
  13. HelenEdith

    HelenEdith Well-Known Member

    I spoke too soon! I managed to set my tripod up over one degree tilted yesterday and had to fix my images in PhotoShop! I could have sworn that I'd lined everything up by eye. With the viewfinder being less than 100%, I sometimes think that the angle at which you look through the viewfinder can change which 95% (or less!) that you can actually see. Maybe I should ask Santa for a spirit level for Christmas...
  14. matthew123

    matthew123 Member

    I have been searching in other forums about this issue and have found quite a few references to tilted images with pentax digital slr cameras in particular.
    I must say that I am quite dissapointed that pentax have not addressed this issue considering the time period this issue has been associated with their cameras.
    I did a test today suggested from another forum - I took a picture of the camera in a mirror to see whether or not the image frame aligned with the edges of the camera body. There is some tilt - in the same direction as when I first noticed this. It is not as severe as the images I mentioned first, so it may be a combination of a tilted sensor and my own bias perhaps.
    However the "floating sensor" may exacerbate the tilting (but this was an issue noticed on pentax cameras prior to the anti-shake feature).
    I like the camera so will probably just live with the tilting issue. I find it a good camera to learn with. I was out tonight playing in manual mode, taking night shots. I think I had some insight into relationships between f stops and shutter speeds - also factored in iso setting as well.
    I need a tripod - anti-shake only goes so far.
    I just wish pentax would pay much more attention to quality control in manufacturing processes - they obviously have talent in designing value into entry level dslr's. Just follow through to finished output and their success would seem assured. If not, I suspect brand loyalty will not be established.
    I notice that many photo enthusiasts are dogmatic about their equipment. This is strange to me - like an architect being dogmatic about his pencil type or drawing software. It happens with them too (I know this - mac users being the most dogmatic), but is no indication of architectural quality whatsoever.
    I bought a pentax camera because the camera salesman convinced me it was the best value in my price range, I will stick with pentax long term only if they are committed to quality finished product.
    They must admit that this is a problem with their cameras - and solve it.
    Thanks to all for input and suggestions.
  15. johnriley1uk

    johnriley1uk Well-Known Member

    As far as I can recall, this issue has never come up on the PentaxUser forums, where I moderate, and I'm sure it would have if it were an issue. Many people do, on the other hand, have problems with their horizon lines, and it is quite independent of camera make.

    It is especially noticeable in landscapes with a horizon line and in architectural shots, and if available a grid focusing screen might help.

    Other than that, it really is just practice.
  16. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    Being a Mac user myself, I don't we're necessarily dogmatic about them. Having pride in an excellent tool and wanting to promote its values isn't the same thing (plus a very few of the Windows people can be splenetic about Macs for some reason). We do have fun ribbing them about viruses though! :D

    As for camera build quality, I will quote from a review by David Kilpatrick of Sony's Alpha 100 in f/2 magazine (the last issue before it lost the plot somewhat IMHO).

    "One of the guests (at the November 2005 lauch of the Nikon D200), was owner of a major London repair firm specialising in cleaning and servicing Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Between the cocktails and further cocktails, he described just how badly made even the top professional DSLRs really are. The big news agencies and newsspapers get their new DSLRs adjusted and recalibrated to much finer standards than you'll ever get off the shelf. It's like tuning up cars.

    As for the consumer market, entry level DSLRs - well, they were a joke. Sensors could be tilted, in the wrong focal plane, not even in the centre of the field. Focus could be wrong on the focusing screen but right on the sensor and the AF would agree with neither

    The author goes on to describe how these things can all be fixed by measurement and mechanical adjustment to bring them within fine tolerances (presumably what the firm mentioned above does), but the practice is to merely set rather loose tolerances - determined by software calibration - and if the camera falls within them then it is passed regardless. This can mean exposure may be out by up to 1/3 of a stop, shutter speeds within the same 1/3 stop accuracy, and perhaps worst, the sensor within 1 degree of being correctly positioned. Half a degree out would probably be regarded as an acceptable error.

    These details were gleaned by the author after studying Minolta service manuals which found their way into the public domain following the takeover by Sony. The same is quite probably true for the other major marques (excepting Olympus, whose DSLRs he notes, are put together with excellent accuracy).

    Not wishing to be alarmist, I will say that he further comments that things have improved markedly on this front in recent times.
  17. johnriley1uk

    johnriley1uk Well-Known Member

    As I think about it, there is another factor that might seem to lead to tilting, and it's lenses.

    Modern zooms are often designed with the priority on sharp, contrasty images that impress on small prints. The things that is often let go a little is distortion. There is a lack of ability to render straight lines as straight lines. At the wide angle lens this will usually give barrel distortion and at the telephoto end pincushion distortion.

    If you want correct "drawing" you will need to spend more money for either a more expensive zoom, a good prime or maybe even a macro lens. Only the macro lens will be pretty much guaranteed to have virtually zero distortion and a flat field.
  18. Dave_Cox

    Dave_Cox Well-Known Member

    I've noticed quite a few tilted images from my DL2, which don't occur in older film cameras. I'm prepared to accept it only because I can adjust it on the PC. I don't think it's good or acceptable that any company would sell a product that was lax on quality standards, especially considering the price of a DSLR. Most modern cameras in the amatuer market don't have interchangable screens so that's not an option - I asked Pentax and the DL2 doesn't.
    I have noticed that the kit 18-55 is not good at holding straight lines so this could be part of the issue - photographs of large mansions display curved horizontal & vertical lines even at the longer end of the range. An older Pentax manual focus lens may be an answer to this problem, but without a proper screen with manual-focus aids on the camera may still not be a total solution.Cost also becomes an issue - look at PK-A onwards lenses on Ebay and they are mostly above the price when new! (Have lots of others got similar feelings towards the new lenses?)
    Having said all the above, I still reckon the DL2 is better than the equivalent Canon & Nikons - and I have used them too.
  19. johnriley1uk

    johnriley1uk Well-Known Member

    The Pentax viewfinders are amongst the best around, and focusing manual focus lenses is quite easy. In addition, a focus confirmation indicator will assist. Some users do change the screens on these cameras, probably cutting down MX or LX screens, but I don't personally fancy doing that.
  20. Dave_Cox

    Dave_Cox Well-Known Member

    John, I know that the viewfinder is about the best in it's class - it's one of the resons I chose the camera. I'd just prefer it to have a microprism or split image.
    Just bought a Vivitar 28mm f2.8 lens in PK-A fit, so I'm looking forward to trying that out on the DL2. It should give me a reasonable standard lens of good optical capability.

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