FotodioX Pro TLT ROKR Review

Mamiya 35mm f3.5

I’ve talked a lot recently about the tilt-shift lens adapter that I’m using with my Mamiya lens. Two days ago, I reviewed the Mamiya 35mm f3.5 lens. Today, I’m reviewing the adapter that allows me to attach the Mamiya lens to the Fujifilm GFX 50R camera. I’m using an adapter by FotodioX, a company that makes a mind-blowing number of lens adapters, in addition to other photography accessories.

They have 3 different adapters to let you attach a Mamiya 645 lens to a Fuji GFX camera. I bought TLT ROKR, the most expensive at about $300, allowing tilt-shift photography. I’m most interested in architecture and using it for the shift feature, which I explain in this post.

Amazingly, Fotodiox makes over seventy TLT ROKR versions, allowing you to attach a vast array of lenses for the popular cameras. I’m assuming, though not sure, that most TLT ROKRs work in the same way.

Build Quality

The TLT ROKR is a solid adapter made entirely of metal. Most of the body is painted black, with some of the controls in unpainted silver. A single knob is brass colored. Both the connection to the camera body and the lens are solid with the right amount of resistance — it’s neither too tight nor loose. It also comes in a rather fancy wood box. The overall impression is of a high-quality and precise instrument.

User Interface

This is the first time I’ve ever used a tilt-shift adapter or lens. Thus, when I talk about the user interface, I have no other reference. Perhaps this adapter works like any other, but I’m not sure.

Fundamentally, this adapter mimics the accordion-like bellows you see in those old, large cameras. Those cameras are not used often, but the flexible bellows allow a type of photography that is still very useful. It makes the lens move independently from the film or sensor. This freedom of movement enables you to fine-tune the plane of focus and shift your compositions.

Unlike the bellows, however, the tilt-shift adapter doesn’t have the same easy free-form movement. It only tilts to one side, which can be tightened or loosened with the brass knob. It shifts up and down, controlled by a silver button. What if you want to tilt in another direction or go left or right? Then, you can rotate the lens to accommodate this, adjusted with yet another metal control. Using these various controls, you can manipulate the lens in any direction you want. It might just take you some extra manipulations to get there. I find the processes fiddly but easy to understand once I got the hang of it.

The specifications claim up to a 10-degree tilt, 20mm of shift, and 360 degrees of rotation. Here’s a YouTube video of the TLT ROKR in action, which shows the movements.

My TLT ROKR is strictly manual focus. I don’t know if there are any autofocus TLT ROKRs, but I’m guessing no. Also, there are no electronic communications between the lens and camera through the adapter. Thus, I don’t get any aperture setting saved in the photograph’s EXIF data.

Results

I’m generally happy with the results, and I’ve posted many photos using the TLT ROKR with the Mamiya 35mm f3.5 combo. However, it’s not without its issues. Your results will depend a lot on the camera and lens combination you use.

The issues that I mention below are not due to the TLT ROKR adapter. Rather, it’s because I’ve shifted the image too much and was using the optically weak part of the lens. In general, the smaller the sensor and the bigger the lens’ image circle, the more you can shift. I used the Fujifilm GFX 50R, which has a sensor that is 70% larger than full-frame. Using the same Mamiya lens on a full-frame camera should lessen the optical issues.

Skyline, Congress Avenue Bridge - Austin, Texas

This first image looks pretty good, except you might notice the vignette (the dark area) in the upper left corner. I’ve shifted the lens too much and basically hit the edge of the lens’ image circle. I’ve reduced some of the vignetting with post-processing tools. I suppose additional post-processing can brighten the dark area if you have the skills to do so.

Distorted Skyscrapers - Austin, Texas

This second image is a lot more serious, showing massive distortion of the skyscrapers. Notice the abnormal bending of both the buildings on the left and right. The distortions become worse as they approach the edges and again are caused by shifting the lens too much into the optically weak area. In addition to the distortion, the sharpness has also drops dramatically.

This issue is exacerbated by shooting architecture. Photographs of more organic subjects, like clouds, for example, won’t look nearly as problematic.

I’ll reiterate that these issues are not due to the TLT ROKR adapter. It has to do with the lens’ optical weakness. I’ve gotten around this by not shifting the lens to the maximum. I ease off somewhat, and if needed, I can apply digital post-processing to further correct any perspective distortion.

Issues

It’s easy for me to manually focus the lens since I can punch in 100% magnification on the EVF (or back LCD) and adjust the sharpness in real-time. In doing so, I noticed that my distance scale on the lens is off. I usually shoot my cityscapes at f16. Using a hyperfocal distance calculator, I determined that focusing at about 7 feet should make everything from 3.5 feet to infinity in focus. However, on the Mamiya 35mm f3.5, I was most in focus at about 5 feet. I’m not sure if this is an issue with the lens or the lens adapter. This hasn’t affected my actual photography, and I have not looked into it deeper. I just adjust my distance scale to 5 feet on the lens, set the aperture to f16, and I know everything I shoot is perfectly sharp.

The second issue is due to the fiddly-ness of the adapter’s interface. After making various adjustments, it’s not always easy to set the adapter completely neutral — without any shifts. There are no markings or indents to know that I have the lens perfectly centered. Also, I find that the brass knob may become loose, and the lens might be slightly tilted without realizing it. I have to take extra effort to make sure all the TLT ROKR controls are set exactly as they may have changed between use.

Conclusion

At $300 for the FotodioX Pro TLT ROKR, I’m more than satisfied with the results. Not only does it allow me to use the Mamiya 35mm f3.5 for my architecture photography. But it has also opened up new options with the tilt-shift capability. Tilt-shift lenses are expensive, and not many are made for the various camera platforms. Fujifilm, for example, makes no tilt-shift lenses for either the X mount or GFX mount. Using this adapter is an inexpensive way to get into this type of photography.

While there are limitations with this combination, high-quality images are possible. Your mileage will vary depending on the camera and lens you use. The Fujifilm GFX 50R, FotodioX TLT ROKR, and Mamiya 35mm f3.5 is an effective combination. With care, I believe you can make professional-quality photographs. The weakest link is the Mamiya lens.

There is another option that may yield higher quality images but with a much higher cost. I can use a Canon lens adapter without the tilt-shift capability and use the Canon TS-E 24mm f3.5 lens. Except, the Canon lens costs $1900. That’s certainly more than I want to spend at this time. However, if I were a professional architectural photographer, it’s a combination that I might consider.

For now, FotodioX Pro TLT ROKR has opened up a new and enjoyable type of photography with excellent results. I’ll leave you with one more YouTube video that shows the TLT ROKR in action.

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10 thoughts on “FotodioX Pro TLT ROKR Review

  1. Good morning

    I’m a long time reader, but an infrequent commenter (this may actually be a first).

    The issue you bring up about the mis-reading of the focus distance is a trait of almost all adapters. Typically all good adapter makers strive to make their adapters a fraction of a millimeter shorter than they need to be for proper infinity focus. This is referenced when they say the adapter is made to allow beyond infinity focus.

    They do this to allow for the different manufacturing tolerances between camera bodies and lenses, and if the adapter is too thick, the lens will never focus at infinity. So, since everyone wants their lenses to focus at infinity and almost no one notices (or cares) that they can’t focus quite as close as the lens markings show, they make the adapter short to avoid the need to replace adapters that are too long.

    PaulB

    1. Hi PauB, thank you for your comment and continued visits. Regarding the adapter distance issue, I figured it was something like this. However, I wasn’t sure about the details so I didn’t want to talk about it. Good to know this is how good adapters work. It’s my first experience with an adapter and it has been quite good so far.

      Thank you again for clarifying.

      Andy

  2. OOPS! I forgot to add a “PS” to the above.

    If you are finding adapting lenses to your GFX an interesting experiment, and have some full frame lenses in your collection, consider adapters to use them as well. I recently obtained a Fuji GFX 50R (thanks fo the recommendations (images)), and I am experimenting with the lens mounts noted below. Some lenses are proving to be eye openers, even if they don’t cover the full sensor.

    Canon EF
    Nikon F
    Leica R
    Leica M

    The Fotodiox GFX-EF lens is the only electronic (expensive) adapter I have, and there are a lot of used mechanical adapters available. I’m using cheap mechanical adapters to mount the Nikon F and Leica R lenses on the EF adapter, and a $50 7Artisans GFX adapter for the Leica M lenses.

    So far it is great fun.
    PaulB

    1. Hi PaulB, you’ve been reading my mind. I’ve been mulling a second adapter purchase, for Canon EF. I too am considering the FotodioX EF auto-focus version. How is it working for you? Which Canon lenses have you tried?

      1. I have the lenses below.

        Canon 16-35 F2.8
        Zeiss 50mm F1.4 Planar (pre-Milvus)
        Canon 85 f1.8
        Canon 200mm f2.8L

        I haven’t updated my adapter (or camera) firmware yet, so autofocus performance is a little spotty with the 85 and 200. The 16-35 seems to perform best right now. I will get the firmware updates done in the next few days and will try again.

        And for some reason the adapter reads the 50mm as the Canon f1.8 rather than an f1.4. But optically it is quite good.

        Coverage of the 16-35 is pretty good from 24mm up to 35mm. Below 24mm the image circle gets pretty small. At 16mm I will probably just us the 35mm mode and call it good at 30.8MP.

        Finally, yesterday I found a screaming deal on a demo Zeiss 85mm F1.4 Planar (pre-Milvus) in Nikon F-mount that I will need to try in the next week. It should be a good addition, at least at the 9:16 crop if not full frame.

        PaulB

      2. Hi PaulB,

        This is great. Thanks for the detail on these lenses. If I do get mine, I’ll have to blog about my experiences. Looks like there is very little overlap between our lenses. We only have the Canon 85mm f1.8 in common.

        Andy

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