The Ultimate Vintage Lens Test

Over the course of two days, in a studio in Burbank, California, a band of self-proclaimed “lens geeks” set out to complete the ultimate vintage cinema lens test. The project first began as a collaboration between ShareGrid’s Brent Barbano, and Duclos Lenses’ own Matthew Duclos. Initially, Barbano and Duclos had been planning to complete a rather small-scale lens test with the industry’s most popular and widely used vintage lenses. However, upon approaching director and cinematographer Mark Lafleur to ask him to participate, they discovered that he too was getting ready to carry out his own vintage lens test. The two sides decided to join forces, and before long a whole team was assembled. With Lafleur and Barbano as Directors and Executive Producers, and Duclos as Lens Consultant, Kyle Stryker was brought on as Director of Photography. The team also came to include Camera Assistants Matthew Borek and Michelle Diaz, and Nick Ferriero as Editor.

57eb5c194c12cc233cbbd861_img_0097In the end, 40 different lenses from companies including Canon, Nikon, Arri, Kowa, Leica, Lomo and Zeiss were used to complete 80 different tests. In order to complete these tests, the team used a RED Epic Dragon with the ISO set to 500, and the White Balance at 3200K. None of the camera settings, lighting, etc. were changed in between tests, only the lenses themselves.

To see the full Vintage Cinema Lens Library, with all 80 side-by-side comparisons, visit: http://blog.sharegrid.com/ultimate-vintage-cinema-lens-test.

For a close look at the different bokeh created by each lens, check out the table below:

57e986c18ac16cb87c87e8f1_bokeh20chart20image

So what exactly was the reason for testing such a wide variety of vintage cinema lenses? Brent Barbano explained that:

“We have seen a dramatic shift in the indie world of filmmaking. Since the advent of digital cinematography, there is this renaissance of vintage glass in both the professional/high budget world as well as the small indie world. It’s really exciting. A lot of digital cameras can be considered too clean or sharp and consequently, filmmakers and cinematographers are looking for ways to give their projects a ‘look’ and to add some character. So rental houses, collectors and the like are dusting off what used to be forgotten lenses, and filmmakers are renting and buying them like never before.

Because of this shift, we felt that there needed to be a strong resource for filmmakers, like us, to turn to in order to learn and compare some of today’s most popular glass.”

With a similar sentiment, Matthew Duclos reasoned this project by explaining that although “there are tons of ‘lens tests’ online,” most are conducted without proper equipment or consistency between tests. He went on to note that as a result, “you have to consider the scene being shot, camera being used, the camera settings, the post processing, the upload compression, the quality of the monitor being used to view the test…The list goes on and on….The goal of this lens test was to reduce or eliminate as many of those variables as possible.”

57eb5cd8647642d547f5ade5_img_0088Overall, the entire team was more than thrilled with the outcome of this endeavor. The most surprising result? Just how different the tests were not only from brand to brand, but within the same brand!

The success of the Vintage Cinema Lens Library has also inspired our “lens geeks” to continue this project past just vintage lenses. Barbano expressed a desire to “build on The Library with other vintage glass, anamorphics, modern lenses, zooms, and even some of the mid-market indie-friendly lenses.” Matthew Duclos, of course, has said “anytime there’s a lens test happening, count me in!”

2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Vintage Lens Test”

  1. Fantastic test!

    I fixed the bokeh chart and uploaded the image file to my dropbox account, but settings are such that I cannot post a link within this comment. My suggestion is to slide down the Nikkor lenses down one slot so they better align with the focal lengths of their peers.

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