The World’s Largest Lens

While this post diverges from cinema just a tad, it’s particularly interesting to us. Duclos Lenses has been working with Formlabs for several years now, dating back to their original Form1 machine. To see such an inspiring use of modern technology compelled me to repost this quick article and share with the rest of you. Take a look and enjoy! Continue reading The World’s Largest Lens

ZERØ OPTIK Brings Vintage Baltars Back to Life

ZERØ OPTIK began as the passion project of cinematographer/engineer Alex Nelson who wanted to build the world’s most well engineered 35mm Pinhole lens. He succeeded. But that wasn’t enough for Alex. The next project he’d tackle was going to be far more complex and far more rewarding. And that’s where we begin this post… The original Bausch & Lomb Baltars. We sat down with Alex to get an inside look at where ZERØ OPTIK comes from and where it’s going.

Continue reading ZERØ OPTIK Brings Vintage Baltars Back to Life

The Ultimate Anamorphic Lens Test

Yep. We did it again. Last year the folks at ShareGrid, Old Fast Glass, a brilliant, talented crew, and myself came together to test a wide variety of vintage lenses to give the cinematography world a sort of sampling, flight, if you will, of the various vintage lenses and what sort of characteristics you can expect with when using them. It’s been shared thousands of times and utilized in who knows how many pre-production meetings to determine the visual aesthetics as it pertains to lenses for a specific project.

So what’s next… ANAMORPHIC! The subject that baffles so many with a shroud of mystery. Optics designed to provide a wider field of view when bound by a specific format, fashioned by unsung geniuses from around the world – some a shining beacon of optical engineering superiority, and others a trophy of intentional flaw for the sake of introducing artifacts and characteristics that, to the average viewer, carries a subconscious nostalgia, lending honesty and legitimacy. But most importantly… They’re beautiful! Continue reading The Ultimate Anamorphic Lens Test

LENS GUTS – A New Video Series from Duclos Lenses

Duclos Lenses released the first video in a new series they’re calling LENS GUTS. The name says it all. Lens geek, Matthew Duclos, sits down with a new lens each episode and tears into it, showing us the materials, build quality, and techniques used while he discusses the history or lesser known facts about each “patient”.  Continue reading LENS GUTS – A New Video Series from Duclos Lenses

Ever Wonder How Cooke Lenses Are Made?

When Cooke advertises their lenses as “hand built in the UK”, they’re not joking. As someone who’s been lucky enough to experience the Cooke factory first-hand, I can confirm that every single lens is hand built by skilled technicians. This video shot by Florin Gabor back in 2013 takes us on a nice tour through the factory and shows a glimpse of each step of the lens manufacturing process. Continue reading Ever Wonder How Cooke Lenses Are Made?

Arri Shows You How To Install Their Flare Set For Master Anamorphics

ma_flare_sets_det_1Arri published a new video to their YouTube channel in which Zeiss Service Trainer & Technician goes through the step-by-step process of removing the factory front and rear element and replacing them with the new uncoated flare set. The purpose of the flare set is just that, to increase the flares and imperfections, or “character” of the Arri Master Anamorphics. Continue reading Arri Shows You How To Install Their Flare Set For Master Anamorphics

$100k Gets You a Few Leica Primes

leica-set

Everyone should be familiar with the price of equipment sporting a small red dot. In this particular case, the red dot is pretty large. A venerable cream of the telephoto crop, this set consists of a Leica APO-Summicron-R 180mm f/2.0, a Leica APO Telyt-R 280mm f/2.8 and finally a massive Leica APO-Telyt-R 400mm f/2.8. The set is currently owned by Samy’s Camera – but not for long as it’s being sold for $100,000.00. This is no ordinary set of rare Leica telephoto primes. Custom modified with PL mounts and integrated focus and iris gears by Duclos Lenses, this is a one-of-a-kind set making the rare even rarer.

Leica 280
A view of the Leica 280mm f/2.0 PL mount and iris ring.

About two years ago I was paid a visit by some fellow named Samy who claimed he was from Samy’s Camera. It took me a few seconds to realize he wasn’t just some guy from Samy’s… He was Samy’s. Samy proceeded to explain what he wanted done to these lenses, at which point I gave some examples of what something like this costs and the down-time associated with custom modifications. You see, performing this type of work isn’t something that we here at Duclos Lenses do for just any lens. There are several prerequisites for this type of work that we stick to pretty closely which usually discourage customers from advancing with bespoke engineering. The most important condition is quality. We don’t design or engineer anything that we aren’t confident putting our name on, abel to admire once completed and say “damn… that’s marvelous”. The second most important factor is the cost. I understand that there are some individuals out there that simply don’t care about the cost, and want, need, must have something despite the fee. This entire process requires a balance of these two primary factors (quality/cost) which I felt Samy understood and shared in our enthusiasm. As a result of our unrelenting crusade for precision and quality, custom conversions go through many stages within Duclos Lenses beginning with conception and going on to design, engineering, prototyping, manufacturing, and finishing.

Leica Cases
You can’t have such nice lenses and not provide appropriate protection. The set comes with custom foamed travel cases.

Over the next few months we penned, plotted, rendered, caffeinated, and repeated many times over. The final result was a set of three Leica telephoto primes with stainless steel PL mounts, integrated focus and iris gears, and industry standard supports, ready to deliver to Samy. As far as I know, at the time, Samy had no plans to offer these lenses to anyone because of their rarity but I’m glad to see that they are for sale and possibly going on to shoot stunning images. I hope that whoever ends up purchasing these lenses lets me know so that I can keep an eye on them over time. It’s this desire to follow bespoke projects throughout their life, that I feel makes the work that I’m involved with special. If you’re interested in purchasing this set, check with your accountant/wife and then head on over to the eBay listing.

The Dos and Don’ts of Submerging Lenses

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It happens more often than you’d think. A call comes in from a customer informing me that a lens was dropped in water. My immediate response consists of two questions. One, fresh or salt water? And two, dunked or submerged? The answers to these two question drastically effect the prospect of repair. A lens submerged in salt water is almost certain death for a lens (if not properly cared for) whereas fresh water usually has a good chance of being repaired to perfect working order. I’m pretty sure the worst water damage I’ve seen was a Zeiss lens that went for a dive in the Salton Sea. The customer was just as smart as they were quick and took our advice, rinsing repeatedly with fresh water and delivering in a sealed Tupperware of fresh water. The lens was fully repaired and restored to perfect working condition shortly thereafter. The folks over at ZGC put up a great blog post that shows the horrifying results of a lens submerged in salt water if not treated with appropriate measures and punctuality. They also go into more detail on what to do if you find yourself with a salted lens. Give the post a read and take notes!

It happens in real time; so quickly you can only watch as that lens, which costs many thousands of dollars, plummets to the floor. An expletive escapes as you attempt to stop the lens mid-fall but, alas, you just aren’t fast enough to overcome Newton’s Law. There’s that horrible feeling in your gut as you watch the lens hit, and maybe bounce a time or two, because you know you are the responsible party: How are you going to explain what happened?
OK, look on the bright side. Maybe it’ll only be a few parts that need to be replaced. It’ll put the lens out of service for a while, but the lens will most likely go on to live another day.
Now let’s take a look at the “Dark Side”. Instead of the lens landing on the floor it lands in the drink. No, not that drink. (You know, the one you’ll probably have to calm yourself after “The Drop”). The drink I’m referring to is that body of water that covers the majority of the planet: sea water. Unlike a fresh water pond or river, sea water has an element that just doesn’t mix well with lenses. Sodium Chloride (NaCl), otherwise known in its common term as SALT. NaCl, aluminum and brass don’t go well together.

To read the full article, head over to ZGC’s blog here.

Still Lens Mount Swapping

The DSLR Revolution is in full swing at the moment and everyone is scrambling to get the glass they love on the camera they are stuck with. It doesn’t sound too difficult to simply change a piece of metal, but there are a lot of things to consider when attempting to change a mount. After-all, lenses are a precision tool, naturally. Lens and camera manufacturers all have their own mount system which specifies a flange depth, the distance from the mount flange to the film/sensor plane. When this number is accurate, the image that the lens produces falls on the sensor in perfect focus. Move it forward or backward by the smallest amount (.0005″) and your collimation will be completely off, throwing out your focus marks and destroying the accuracy of a lens, especially a zoom lens. All of the different SLR camera manufacturers had a similar theory and design, but just slightly different numbers for the flange depth. Wouldn’t it be great if they all agreed on a standardized mount that would allow any lens to be used on any camera? Yeah, it would be great. But that’s not how it works.

Another angle of the Leica-R 35mm f/1.4 Summilux with Leitax Eos mount installed.

Continue reading Still Lens Mount Swapping

Lens Guts: RED 18-85mm

Just finishing up an overhaul on a RED 18-85mm RED zoom. The zoom focus and iris all needed some new grease after some heavy shooting. This lens is built quite well using nothing but aluminum alloys and high quality hardware. A cam driven zoom converter and a helix based focus assembly join to make quite a nice optical-mechanical tool. 

Vintage Lens Restoration

Restored to like new condition, ready to make beautiful images.

Given my profession of servicing lenses and the nature of such a precise vocation, I’ve become somewhat compulsive over the past decade. Some might even argue that I’m just downright anal about details. I wouldn’t disagree with that at all. I can’t stand imperfections or flaws. I feel compelled to perfect every minor detail that is within my capacity and even sometimes beyond my capacity, either succeeding or failing, but always learning. This became something of a curse when I started collecting cameras and lenses a while back. I would buy cheap “junk” off of eBay that looked pretty good in the auction photos, but upon arrival, the items were almost always worse than they appeared in the photos, which I came to expect. I couldn’t spend a ton of money on mint condition collectors items as my fiancé would be rather upset if $1000 was used to purchase a 25 year old film camera or lens. So I did my best to find good deals and restore them. It has become quite a painstaking hobby. I consider these dirty, beat-up old cameras and lenses a challenge. I wish I had taken more photos of the equipment I’ve restored prior to their make-over but I really didn’t think much of it at the time. I just wanted my collection to be clean and tidy. The tools and techniques I use on a daily basis have proven to be most valuable to such restorations, allowing me to cleanse, machine, anodize, and essentially re-engineer parts that were otherwise ugly and useless. Continue reading Vintage Lens Restoration

Leica-R Cine-Mod

A few quick picks from my bench of a Leica 60mm Macro lens being Cine-Modded. I’m sure you’ve all read countless posts about the Duclos Lenses Cine-Mod, but I use find the applications so interesting. People are finding the coolest old glass to use for cinema work and it just intrigues me so much. Have I mentioned that I love my job?  –  This specific lens received the works: An 80mm front ring, 32-pitch focus gear, damped/de-clicked aperture ring, and a fixed Eos mount. This little beauty will work great on just about an Eos mount camera including a RED Epic. Would love to see those results. Here are a few more pics.

Leica-R 60mm f/2.8 Elmarit Macro with focus gear and 80mm front ring.
A little look inside the rear focus assembly. A good amount of threads for extended macro travel.