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Altering Lenses For Peak Performance

  • May 10, 2010
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Altering Lenses For Peak Performance

I have had many discussions about the different lens options other than Zeiss ZE’s and Canon’s that mount to the Canon cameras.  Zeiss took it to the next level with their Canon mount CP2’s and their new Zooms that come out this summer.  I support your creative vision; not what someone tells you is right for the camera or the fact that it has a Canon mount. Test for yourself, push the envelope, think out of the lens box.

Kowa 200mm 2.8
Kowa 200mm Prim Lens 2.8
Kowa 100mm Prime
Kowa 100mm Prime Lens
One of Herb Ritt's favorite medium format lenses Mamiya z180mm
One of Herb Ritts favorite Medium Format Lenses Mamiya z180mm

Using Lomo anamorphics, I think is very interesting. http://members.optusnet.com.au/~smort1/lomos/lomos Putting the Kowa’s on the camera will blow your mind with their contrast and flaring abilities. http://www.camerapedia.org/wiki/Kowa_lenses_for_other_cameras.  Leica’s deliver everything that the price tag dictates.  Using the medium format lenses.  I remember when I was working side by side with Herb Ritts, he loved the way Mamiya lenses delivered contrast and a creamy quality which was one of the unique qualities of Herb’s photographs.

1980 Lomo Round Front Lenses
1980 Lomo Anamorphic Round Front Lenses
Mid 70's-80's Lomo Square Front Anamorphic Lenses
Mid 70’s-80’s Lomo Square Front Anamorphic Lenses

Lenses are a very personal choice for both a photographer and cinematographer.  They can create a mood and give a certain style to a film that another lens would not.  So I ask all of you to experiment with your creativity, to fly and use what makes you shine.

This path requires some altering to your lens of choice which will assist you in delivering images that will work visually and also technically.  Duclos Lenses in Canoga Park, CA is doing just that. http://www.ducloslenses.com They have a very intimate, customer service oriented lens altering, cleaning and calibrating. You name it they will do it to your lens company.  Most importantly, from a  DSLR shooter’s perspective they do three very essential things.  They de-click all of your f-stop rings, which is absolutely essential with the HD platform.  Most of the still lenses that are set on 1/2 stop click increments.  By de-clicking the lenses, you can be more exact with your exposures.  A 1/3 of a stop increment could be the difference of whether you can hold that beautiful big puffy cloud in the sky and their backlit faces in the frame.

Duclos Lenses Cine-Mod//applies 32 pitch Delrin gear rings
Duclos Lenses Cine-Mod//applies 32 pitch Delrin gear rings
Duclos Lenses Cine-Mod//applies 32 pitch Delrin gear rings
Duclos Lenses Cine-Mod de-clicks your aperture ring
Delrin black 32 pitch gear rings
Delrin black 32 pitch gear rings

The other essential thing that they do is put black Delrin, perfectly machined standard 32 pitch gauge gear rings on your lenses that are stable and secure, yet you will have the ability to remove if needed.  Almost any lens can be outfitted with gears for the zoom, focus or iris.  Duclos rings increase the diameter of the lens to give you more of a cinematic throw of focus.

Panavision Primo Cinema Style Lens w/ footage markings on the side of the barrel
Panavision Primo Cinema Style Lens w/ footage markings on the side of the barrel, notice that the markings go around the whole barrel, this is what gives you that cinema style focus throw, not just 2 -3 inches like most still lenses

Cinema lenses have markings that are inscribed on the lens barrel from minimum focus to infinity and they are spaced out in a way that a focus puller can see them and when you rack focus from 5 feet to infinity it is not an 1/8 of an inch away on your focus wheel or remote follow focus handset.

This is great for a still photographer because the auto focus does not have to travel a long distance which makes it fast to grab focus on what you are lensing.  But when making movies you need more distance between footage marks.  This is so important when it comes to understanding motion.  Your focus is an extension of your creative vision.  It can misdirect the audience and assist in showing the viewer where the director wants them to look or  bring attention to an emotion, etc. So when you mount a larger diameter ring on a still lens you expand the distance between 5 feet and infinity, which then gives the lens more of a cinematic feel. When you rack focus from someone in the background to a object or person in the foreground it has a smooth focus throw, done with the speed that you prefer.  If it is a horror film and you want to build suspense maybe the rack to the F.G. is slow and builds tension, or if you want to use it for a scare tactic the rack can be incredibly fast to reveal.

Duclos 80mm Rings that they affix to the front of your lens which will except 77mm screw-in filters
Duclos 80mm Rings that they affix to the front of your lens which will except 77mm screw-in filters

The third thing that Duclos does is to install a 80mm front ring, which will accept an inside 77mm thread.  Now all lenses have the same front size ring. This is a must for speed when you are shooting.  With still lenses, you have all diameters and sizes, this keeps it all one size.  Which means you only have to buy one ND filtration size.  This saves money, and time. Paul at Duclos has put these 3 essential modifications to your lens in a pkg., called the Cine Mod for a discounted price.

Dream, create and think out of the box.  Take lenses that no one would think of using and experiment.  What about plastic lenses? I want to see that!

  • Canon
  • Cinematography
  • Lenses
  • still photography
  • Zeiss

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