Duclos Lenses Forges One-of-a-Kind 11-16mm

IMG_0270-0We’ve had a good deal of success with our 11-16mm conversion. So much that there have been at least half a dozen copy-cats, including Tokina themselves. Let me be clear about this – I’m well aware that Tokina was the first and only organization to make the glass itself and there wouldn’t be any conversion without them – to which I’m very grateful and respectful. What you see here is in fact a 24 Karat Gold Duclos 11-16mm. You’re probably shaking your head thinking, why… why would you do that? Well…

A bit of history on our 11-16mm conversion: It started as a proof of concept for a particular customer that really just snowballed from there. At the time, our primary business was motion picture lens service and repair. The 5D MkII was gaining momentum as a viable cinematography camera and our Cine-Mod process was following suit as a result. The Red One had been released and PL mount lenses were in short supply. We didn’t just pick any old lens to convert. We chose the Tokina 11-16mm because nobody else was making a good wide angle lens with a PL mount for under $20k. Arri had their 14mm Ultra Prime or even the 8R, but these were substantial investments for someone who just bought a entry-level camera. Other than that, you had some crummy vintage options or the classic Zeiss 12mm T2.1 which was really just a 16mm with a wide angle adapter slapped on the front. Not a great lens in terms of optical performance.

When we set out to design and manufacture our conversion we knew what was important to us and what was important to shooters. We needed a lens that was readily available and had decent consistency from the factory. The Tokina had a bit of variation, but offered a good degree of optical adjustment for us to really tune each lens individually to provide the best performance. There were some features that we simply left out to keep the cost down such as a redesigned focus scale. We stuck with the OEM focus scale which is a small window in the middle of the lens. Yes, it somewhat limits the operating angle, but at 11mm, if you can’t hit your focus mark, you either need to have your lens tuned up or you need to find a new career. At 11mm the depth of field is so accommodating and forgiving, there’s no need for expanded focus. In fact, we found that expanding the focus scale makes racking focus more of an endeavor than a task. Keep it simple. Keep it effective.

There were a few very minor revisions we made along the way but nothing substantial. Mostly just manufacturing adjustments that made assembly a bit easier. If you’re a RedUser or you’ve been following our 11-16mm, you may recall an issue we encountered when Red first released their Epic Camera. The small locating pin in the PL mount of the camera was made to exactly the spec called out by Arri. …So was the slot in the PL mount of our 11-16mm lens. But these two specs were so exact, they simply didn’t play nice together. We discovered this a few weeks prior to NAB a few years back and performed a field modification for any customer who brought their lens to the show. It was a great way for us to meet our customers in person and to provide a fix for them at the same time. Needless to say, we revised the design from there on out. Other than that, there really haven’t been any major revisions to the design. Tokina released their Version II lens which we quickly incorporated into our conversion. Every lens that was sold by Duclos after the Version II was released is indeed based on the most current model offered by Tokina.

There quite a few alternatives to the Duclos 11-16mm including Tokina themselves. Tokina have declared they will only be making the lens in a Canon EF or Nikon F mount for cinema use, but I get a phone call from a concerned customer every week or so saying “Hey, I heard they’re making it in PL mount too. What are you going to do about that? That must suck for you guys…” I don’t know what Tokina is going to do. If they’re anything like other Japanese lens makers, even they don’t know what they’re going to do. Other options include Chinese or Russian materials and manufacturing. Need I say more?

Back to the golden lens… You may recall seeing an 11-16mm that was anodized red at one time. It was a one-off lens that I hand picked for my own personal use. I spent a few extra days really tuning the optics to squeeze out every last drop of quality I could. I had a set of mounts calibrated specifically for that lens including Arri PL, Nikon F, and Canon EF that I could switch back and fourth for whatever camera I was currently using. It was a great attention getter and an even better conversation piece for customers visiting the shop. Unfortunately it was stolen along with a bunch of other equipment a while back. I spent months contemplating wether or not I should make another red anodized lens but ultimately decided against it since that would mean that somewhere out there, some low-life criminal would have a lens just like my would be sorta-one-of-a-kind lens.

So I did some research and decided, what the heck… I’ll go with 24 karat gold. And thus…

4 thoughts on “Duclos Lenses Forges One-of-a-Kind 11-16mm

  1. Beautiful and an excellent article thanks Matthew. I’m waiting for availability on standard black one. Have you considered making a Duclos PL version of a classic like the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II, with a manual aperture. Nothing of similar quality in the cine market without paying $20k+

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