The photo above is straight off the camera (SOOC), with no processing whatsoever except I resized it for the web.
Last week Photojojo (my absolute favorite photography blog/store) started carrying the little Japanese NeinGrenze 5000T, a pocket-sized, dedicated tilt-shift, point-and-shoot camera. For $150. Having just received a paycheck, I was feeling particularly impulsive and I ordered one immediately. A few days later I had it in my hands and have been learning my way around it. Lots of trial-and-error, to say the least.
Tilt-shift photography is a niche genre that has started finding its way into the mainstream more and more as of late. The effect can be done in post-production fairly easily, as evidenced by the popularity of such software as TiltShift Generator and Instagram. If you’re not familiar with the technique, check out some amazing examples here! Of course, software can do just about anything these days, but it never looks quite the same as the effect produced by hardware. Unfortunately, true tilt-shift lenses for your SLR start at about $1300. Another option is a Lensbaby, which costs between $150 and $400 depending which model you get. I owned a Control Freak for awhile, but I ended up selling it because I found it too difficult to use.
The NeinGrenze 5000T is easy to use, but not easy to master. Constructed entirely of plastic and extremely lightweight, it’s definitely a toy. In truth, it feels like it shouldn’t have cost more than $50, but I suppose what I spent is the price one pays for immediate gratification, and for having the “first” of anything. I predict that the demand for this camera will create a market for other affordable tilt-shift hardware.
You have control over whether or not the flash fires, size and quality of the images (JPG only), white balance (daylight, cloudy, tungsten, etc.), EV (+/- 2), ISO (100 or 200), saturation and sharpness (low, normal, high), color (standard, vivid, sepia, or monochrome), and whether it shoots in burst. The flash takes forever to load and whites everything out, so for me I think it’s best to just consider this as an outdoor, bright light camera only – sans flash. Also, I’ve found that it tends to overexpose the scene in general, so when I remember I set the EV to -2.0. Other than that, I leave everything else on the default settings.
Shooting with the NeinGrenze 5000T is an exercise in patience and whimsicality. My biggest qualm with its functionality is that it puts a blue/green cast on every photo, and there is no way to turn that off. Through the viewfinder colors appear normal, and your choice of white balance is reflected, but the output is generally the same. As a result, when I shoot outside I set it to “cloudy” mode since that makes everything a bit orange, in an attempt to force the photo to not be so blue. Be prepared to run each photo through your editing software of choice if you want to achieve more realistic coloring.
You can move the lens slightly with a little switch to make it a macro shot or wide, but once that’s done it seems to pick its sweet spot of focus arbitrarily. In the first photo, the bike is in focus which is way off to the right. On the other hand, in the photo of the leaves (color corrected) the focus is in the center. You can vaguely tell via the camera’s LCD where the focal point is when you’re framing an image, but it’s kind of a guessing game at the same time since the LCD isn’t super high quality. Fortunately, since the output quality isn’t that high, I put an old 1GB SD card in and can take around 800 photos before it will be full. So you can take a LOT of versions of each photo you want and hope that one comes out!
In this photo taken with macro mode (color adjusted), the sweet spot plane is along the bottom:
To make focusing even trickier, there appears to be some amount of shutter lag. So you have to be willing to sit VERY still, or use a tripod, and it helps if your subject is inanimate! It also shoots video:
I hope this review was helpful! If you have any specific questions, please leave them in the comments!