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The Nikon 19mm PC-E Tilt/Shift Review

The Nikon 19mm PC-E Tilt/Shift Review
TrueToad 12417

The Nikon 19mm PC-E Tilt/Shift Review

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Awesome Tilt & Shift

Product Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): This is the best Nikon wide Perspective Control Lens to date - amazing sharpness and professional controls.

I have a passion for wide angle lens and I have a passion for PCE lens - now what do I do?  The only thing I could do, I bought this lens. This lens opens many opportunities that a normal lens cannot achieve, from artistic shots, distortion-free, in lens pano stacking, and focus control.  

Given the fact this lens is mostly a manual lens with a specific design function it will not appeal to everyone. But if you are reading this article I suspect you are interested in one for yourself. When I first became interested in PCE lens, I did not think too much of them and passed them over due to my misconceptions.  I was just mis-informed and thought what do i "really" need a PCE for? After making my first PCE purchase, I began to understand the benefits, sure it is the manual lens, for the most part, this lens is a "thinking"  photographers lens, capable of providing some interesting effects + the ability to manage those converging lines.

I have two other Nikkor PCEs, but this version is a bit different so let us outline the differences:

First: Angle of View, @ 97 degrees on a FX body while the closest Nikkor PCE is the 24mm PCE @ 84 degrees. Obviously, the 19mm PCE offers a wider almost distortion free angle of view.  Providing greater ability to bring taller and wider subjects into view without moving further back, and in some situations not possible. The wider angle, in my opinion, is a blessing and 19 seems about right.   

Second: This new PCE has a better-engineered tilt-shift mechanism: this is the best-engineered PCE lens Nikon has ever made. Turning the knobs allow for fine incremental adjustments with the ability to lock in that setting for a no "creep" lens angle.  The older PCE lens have tension knobs and if you did not torque tightly the lens had a tendency to creep during some situations. This new 19mm PCE deals with that issue much better and overall the 19mm PCE has better user mechanics.  You will enjoy using this PCE.

Third: Nikon designed the lens to support Tilt / Shift on the same axis. The other Nikon PCEs supported Tilt on one axis and you had to rotate the lens to shift on that same axes. The new setup is a blessing as it offers much more creative control for your shooting pleasure; Moving the tilt can provide focus control for objects not on the same plane, or provide focus from foreground to far ground. With this focus control, you are in control even at f/4 aperture.

Fourth: You noticed the front element is exposed. So you apply filters at the back of the lens, the 19mm PCE has a rear slot for filters, unlike the other Nikkor PCEs which support screw on filters.  The exposed element poses a few risk, just like my Circular Fisheye the glass needs to be protected when not in use while carrying the lens around or risk damage to the front glass.  Obviously, the drawback in the design was mentioned "damage" to the glass through unintentional contact with a hard surface.   The second drawback is shooting in misty/snowy weather, this may be challenging as droplets forming on the exposed glass will impact the image.  Nikon did apply their new fluorine coatings to the glass - which help repel water and smudges, watch the Nikon videos for this coating, it is impressive.  Nikon includes a snap-on front lens cover which securely fits the lens with a push button indent to release and lock in place.

Finally: The 19mm has a greater complexity in lens elements and groupings 17 elements and 13 groups vs 13 elements and 10 groups for the Nikkor 24mm PCE - most people don't really care about this, and neither do I. What matters most is the 19mm PCE is 1/2 stop slower than the 24mm.  Given the fact these lens are normally found on a tripod - 1/2 is not that concerning. Optically this lens is high on the charts for resolution capturing capability - it is SHARP edge to edge.

In Common: The PCE line of Nikon lenses are designed for FX camera bodies - Nikon has a camera compatibility listing. All I can say is yes you can use these PCEs on DX and FX bodies with some limitations depending on the PCE lens. Some PCE lens knobs may strike the camera's pentaprism but a simple solution is to rotate in the other direction, and of course, the DX is a crop sensor, so your 19 turns into a 28.5mm.

Cost: At nearly $3,400.00 USD the Nikkor 19mm is targeted to the professionals who make income with this lens but many others, such as my self will eventually acquire one because they are such a delight to use, maybe after the initial release as pricing hopefully falls by a couple hundred or wait until one shows up on Nikon's refurbished site.  Anyway, gasp 3,400 USD for a PCE lens- but what a lens it is. What puzzles me is how can Canon offer their PCE at less cost overall as compared to Nikon.  If you are a pro shooter making a living doing interiors or buildings - this is the must-have lens.

Functionally: Yes! Nikon knocked it out of the park with this PCE.  It does everything you need it to do as a PCE. Nikon fans who have been waiting for a tilt/shift functionality on the same axis  - your wait is over - Nikon finally did it, no more sending your PCE back to Nikon. Most all PCE lenses are a specialized lens indeed and most people will not even consider buying one and thus why the price is probably higher than normal - due to less demand.  I have both the 24mm and 45mm PCE lens, I plan on using my 19mm for indoor, outdoor, architectural and nature photography.

Ergonomically speaking the Nikkor 19mm is superior over any Nikon PCE thus far. The Knobs are larger and easier to use, you now have sure lock click indents with positive stops and a non-creeping lens. In my images I posted, you might notice that small switch to allow you positive locking as you rotate the lens around the axis.  All this makes the newer 19mm King of the PCE line, ergonomically speaking.

Sharpness and Image Quality: There are a few shots below, not my best examples but with time more will be added.  From a technical standpoint, I find this lens to be extremely sharp and delivers exceptional images. Compared to my 24mm PCE, yes the 19mm does edge out for delivery of better images - but some may not like the exposed front lens element or ability to add a front filter.

Challenges of this PCE: The front exposed element and shooting in less than perfect weather will show any water droplets in your images, yes it happened to me. Lke all PCEs you need to be thinking of focus and exposure at the "normal" settings before you tilt or shift, trying to determine focus and exposure after you shifted/tilted will be a challenge, unless you have a "sekonic 858" light meter in your pocket.

In the meantime lets take a look at the closest Nikkor PCE the 24mm and see how the new lens stacks up. 

Cost & Comparison of Technical Specifications

Nikkor 19mm Technical Specifications Nikkor 24 mm Technical Specifications
Cost $3,400.00   Cost $2,200.00
Mount Type Nikon F-Bayonet Mount Type Nikon F-Bayonet
Focal Length 19mm Focal Length 24mm
Maximum Aperture f/4 Maximum Aperture f/3.5
Minimum Aperture f/32 Minimum Aperture f/32
Format FX/35mm Format FX/35mm
Maximum Angle of View (DX-format) 73° Maximum Angle of View (DX-format) 61°
Maximum Angle of View (FX-format) 97° Maximum Angle of View (FX-format) 84°
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 0.18x Maximum Reproduction Ratio 0.37x
Lens Elements 17 Lens Elements 13
Lens Groups 13 Lens Groups 10
Compatible Format(s) FX& DX in crop mode Compatible Format(s) FX& DX in crop mode
Diaphragm Blades 9 Diaphragm Blades 9
Distance Information Yes Distance Information Yes
Nano Crystal Coat Yes Nano Crystal Coat Yes
ED Glass Elements 3 ED Glass Elements 3
Fluorine Coat Yes Fluorine Coat No
Aspherical Elements 2 Aspherical Elements 3
Super Integrated Coating Yes Super Integrated Coating Yes
Minimum Focus Distance 0.9 ft. (0.25 m) from focal plane Minimum Focus Distance 0.7ft.
Close Range Correction ? Not stated Close Range Correction Yes
Focus Mode Manual Focus Mode Manual
Filter Size Front Filters Not Possible Filter Size 77mm
Perspective Control Horizontal and vertical shift and tilt Perspective Control Horizontal and vertical shift and tilt
Shift: ± 12 mm Not stated
Tilt: ± 7.5° Not stated
Rotation Rotates 90° left and right with stops every 30°; tilt mechanism rotates 90° left with a stop at 45° can be tilted parallel or perpendicular to shift Rotation Rotates 90° left and right with tilt mechanism rotation as well. CAN NOT be tilted parallel or perpendicular to shift.
E-type Yes E-type Yes
Approx. Dimensions (Diameter x Length) 3.5in. Approx. Dimensions (Diameter x Length) 3.2in.
(89mm) (82.5mm)
x4.8in. x4.3in.
(124mm) (108mm)
Approx. Weight 31.2oz./ 885 g Approx. Weight 25.7oz./ 730g

The Big Question You May Have: Which Nikon PCE lens should you start with or choose?  Like any lens purchase, one focal length may be better suited to your needs but since you found this article maybe your interest is in the wider lens? The choice between the 19mm PCE and the 24mm PCE is a matter of funds available and your intended use.  If you have the funds, I would go with the 19mm. The 24mm is a fantastic lens, and sharp as well and is more compatible with older Nikon cameras overall because it retains the legacy aperture ring.

If you are starting out I can recommend the 24mm or 45mm.Nikkor PCEs; while the 24 will be more useful in the architect realm and the 45 more of a general purpose PCE such as product shooting and has macro capabilities. The 85mm PCE, of course, is better geared for product shooting but in a pinch can also serve as a portraiture lens, I do not own an 85mm PCE since I own a Nikkor 85mm 1.4 - cannot justify the extra cost.

Does TrueToad recommend this Nikkor 19mm PCE - YES! It is a solid lens with great ergonomics and fantastic versatility as a PCE in the wide angle end of the spectrum.  If you can afford one, go for it, otherwise, wait for the price reductions for the 24mm PCE.

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I live at the edge of the forest in semi-moist locations, I enjoy larva, and other delights. Although I am toothless and mostly warty, I am a sight to see.

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Photographer's Notes

Buy your Nikon 19mm PCE from Amazon - click the image.


Many photographers will not consider a  PCE lens unless they have very specific photographic requirements for it. I was like that also until I bought one. The PCE is a mis-understood lens which has the ability to help expand your photographic horizons beyond "normal" into the creative or even fine art.

Big Question I am asked: Now that I have the 19mm PCE will I be selling the 24mm PCE? Good question, Time will tell, I will spend some time with the new 19mm to see how well it works before I decide if I will be selling off the 24mm PCE, but I have the feeling the 24mm will find a new home eventually. 

I am a believer in selling gear I do not use and re-invest the funds in other gear.  A good example was my recent purchase of  the new 600mm.  That was made possible by selling my older 600mm and a old 80-200 + kicking in a few $$.  Make the pain much easier.

How to Use a PCE: Most people who discover this article might be weighing a purchase. I receive a few questions on how to use a PCE - which I refer folks to a series of videos that are more motivational but have good content on different ways to use a PCE. PCE lens have two faces the technical and the artistic. From a Technical standpoint your basically keeping the lens level and using the shift feature to help include the room, building or subject into the frame without the need to point the lens up or down all the while maintaining straight lines.

The artistic aspect allows you to use the lens features in ways to express your creativity and while I can not tell you how to be creative you will soon find your own ways.  Digital allows for experimentation without real cost.

  • Nikkor 19mm f/4E ED PC-E
  • Nikkor 24mm f/3.5D ED PC-E
  • Nikkor 45mm f/2.8D ED PC-E
Camera Body
  • Nikon D810


Collapse Expand Comments (2)
John Beerlap

Nice article. I would love to get this lens some day!


The 19mm PCE is a nice & super sharp lens - the one draw back is the extended front element. One needs to be more careful and aware when using the 19mm PCE to avoid damage or when shooting in bad weather + the inconvenience of filter attachments.


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