An Unfortunate Setback at Duclos Lenses

An Unfortunate Setback at Duclos Lenses

When life gives you lemons,  …Make your lemonade stand bigger and better.

Duclos Lenses recently suffered a fairly substantial set-back. Our shop was broken into in the middle of the night and a decent amount of stock was stolen. Most devastating was the thirty, nearly finished 11-16mm conversion lenses (do the math, $3,500 a piece) just about ready to ship to customers who had already been waiting months for their lens. As most of you know, these lenses are hand built here in our shop and the demand has increased over the past six months. We had been working our hardest to keep up with demand but now we have to scratch 30+ lenses and start that batch all over again delaying the current orders and pushing back other projects, like our 70-200mm that we have yet to begin production on. In addition, several other items that were for sale and some personal material were lifted in the heist. Luckily our security measures ensured that the losses were certainly not as bad as they could have been. Duclos Lenses is no slouch when it comes to security. There are several redundant systems in place and even a remote video surveillance with off-site backup that we are working with the authorities to utilize. Customers’ lenses that are here for service are placed in a very secure vault to rule out client losses. The primary upset, for us, is time. The 11-16mm lenses take time to locate from Tokina, and even more time to disassemble, machine, re-assemble and adjust. There is no twenty person assembly line, no export to China, just three guys turning wrenches six days a week right here in our shop in Canoga Park, California. That’s a lot of time and labor down the drain.

This leads me to the bright side of this post. In lieu of our recent misfortune, as well as the need to expand and improve, we’ve decided it was time to upgrade the Lens Lab to something a little more respectable. We’ve already found a new location and will begin the transition in the very near future. I put up a post a few weeks ago about how jealous I am of Leo Laporte and Greg Hren because they are moving to bigger, better locations, and now get to join their ranks. It’s a great feeling and as some customers who have visited the current Lens Lab will tell you, much needed. There will be more posts in the near future showing the new digs and the progress we are making.

Back to business. I’ll be providing a downloadable PDF of every single stolen lens make, model, and serial number. We will be asking EVERYONE to spread the word and pass on the list. We’re asking anyone who sees one of these serial numbers or even a lens with the serial number removed or scratched out, to contact us as soon as possible so we can get these guys. This is very personal to us and really impacted the entire family operation. We greatly appreciate any help and cooperation in this matter. Thank you, everyone.

Here is a link to the list of items: Click Here

Cine Gear 2010 via Matthew’s camera

I attended the Saturday exhibition of Cine Gear Expo once again. This year it was at Paramount studios as it was last year. A welcome change from the previous hot, dusty venues… I wasn’t expecting anything revolutionary from the show this year. My expectations were met. While the show was great and i did enjoy running into colleagues, there just wasn’t anything that really caught my eye. However, showcasing the lenses and gear that I always find interesting never hurts, right? So here you go… Enjoy!

Cine Gear 2010 photo gallery

Focal Length Comparo a la Zeiss ZF.2

I’ve seen a ton of photos around the web that were taken with a wide angle lens and then imported into photoshop to undergo what appeared to be a guessing game of indication. People would draw rectangles to represent the field of view for different lenses. Obviously decreasing in size as the focal length grew longer and longer. I always thought this was an odd way of representing focal length in a given scene. I decided to try it myself but instead of drawing the lines in photoshop I wanted to use the actual photo taken with each respective focal length to represent it on the chart, or in my case, a slide show. While in the process, I did discover that some of the similar charts I found around the web were pretty accurate but lacked small details such as distortion and depth of field characteristics. Then again, neither of these are particularly important. Depth of field is not important in such a chart since it is a mathematically determined value, and the distortion is an optical characteristic determined by a specific lens design. Despite my aversions to the illustrated focal length chart, I made one myself…

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What Is De-Clicking and Why Do I Need It?

Yet another result of the VDSLR revolution is the influx of manual still lenses being used for motion picture projects. While the existing manual lenses being used are excellent examples of optical design, they are far from suitable when it comes to mechanics. I won’t get into all the flaws when it comes to motion picture via a plastic auto focus lens… But I will discuss one of the quickest and easiest ways to make your still lenses perform more like a cine lens. There are a few good candidates for shooting motion on a DSLR. Firstly, the Zeiss ZF lenses. While they do have their drawbacks (varying speed, reversed focus direction, odd sizes) they are the most suitable, modern still lenses for motion work. A few other candidates would be older Nikon Ais lenses, Leica R lenses, and the older, rarer Zeiss/Contax primes. All intended for still photography yet easily adaptable for motion picture.
Zeiss ZF 50mm f/2 Macro

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Mount Adaptor Reviews (updated)

Canon is clearly the most popular current choice when it comes to shooting video on a DSLR. Deservedly so, Canon claims the podium when it comes to DSLR video and has worked hard and accomplished a lot with their video division. It was only natural for them to excel at including video in their DSLRs. However, they are still not the creme of the crop when it comes to glass. While not bad, it’s just now as good as some of it’s German competitors such as Leica and Zeiss. The prospect of using the good camera with the good glass was limited only by the lens and camera mount. Now with so many mount adaptors on the market, there is quite a bit of crap to sift through.
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NAB 2010 via Matthew

So NAB is here once again. That means a nice drive to Vegas from LA and a lot of shoulder rubbing. Everyone always asks if Duclos Lenses will have a booth and its been the same answer for quite a while… We don’t really have enough stuff to warrant a space at NAB. That said, it’s an excellent opportunity to meet new people and see what’s new in the industry. My interests are pretty narrow. I am mainly interested in lenses (for obvious reasons). But i always do my best to checkout new gear and see how the industry is changing.
Over the course of the exhibit, I’ll be taking photos and uploading directly to an album.
Feel free to share the link and provide any feedback and or requests.

Click below for the full post!

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Zeiss CP.2 Lenses Make DSLR Video Proficient

Zeiss got lucky with their ZF lenses several years back. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time when new VDSLR users were looking for a completely manual lens that wasn’t from the 1970’s. I do give Zeiss credit for jumping head first into the oncoming revolution and capitalizing on the versatility of the ZF lenses and releasing them in several mounts and even further the Compact Primes in PL mount. Now Zeiss is jumping in again and re-relieasing their Compact Primes with an interchangeable mount system that allows PL, Canon Eos, or Nikon F mount. This means you can have your cake and eat it too! It used to be that if a majority of your lenses were Nikon or Canon, you would pass up the nicer, more cinema oriented Compact Primes due to their beefy PL mount. But that’s no longer the case. Further more, I have seen tons of people requesting and attempting to put a PL mount on a Canon 5DII, 7D or a D300s or any other VDSLR for that matter. Now you really don’t need to. You have the gorgeous optics of the Zeiss ZF series in a housing with proper focus rotation, uniform dimensions, focus and iris gears, color matched glass and manual aperture. What more could you ask for? Oh, I suppose you could ask for faster lenses in the set. Zeiss is working on that too! Eventually nothing above f/2.8 in the set. Excellent.

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Nikkor 80-200mm PL mounted

This little bad boy used to be a staple in any good nature phtogs bag. Now it’s become an oldie but a goodie. It was replaced by the 70-200 and again by the 70-200 VRII. However, it still holds its own considering it’s age and price point. With the 70-200 VRII brandishing a price tag of $2,400 the 80-200 almost seams cheap at a mere $1,140. We had a ton of requests coming in for a lightweight tele-zoom that could be used for handheld or run-n-gun nature stuff at a price that wouldn’t eat their entire budget. Alas, Nikon’s 80-200 seemed to fit the requirements just fine. Now there are a few catches to using a still lens for motion picture, most of which can be corrected. In this case, we opted to keep the price as low as possible and simply address the absolute necessities. This meant adding a PL mount for use on the versatile RED camera. Granted, RED does offer a Nikon mount that works great. But the most common customer complaint was that they already had a few PL lenses and couldn’t afford to risk switching the mount in the field. So we opted for just the simple mount conversion. Of course you still have some minor image shift and the focus direction is reversed. But for the price, it’s what you would expect. This lens is not our pride and joy, it was a conversion to make the lens more versatile and keep the entry point low. I estimate a complete rehouse similar to our 11-16mm would cost upwards of $7-10k. Who knows, maybe it’s in the future.

Nikkor 14-24mm VS. Tokina 11-16mm

I’ve never really done a side by side comparo with lenses on a camera. For this little test I used a Nikon D300s and set up camp at the top of Mulholland. the setup was exactly the same except for one minor difference that I’ll get to in a minute. I set the Nikon at the widest setting (14mm) and for the Tokina, I set it on the 14mm mark on the zoom ring. Both were taken at f/8 BUT I forgot that the camera was on aperture priority mode and the camera switched from 1/1000 to 1/800 for the 14-24. I matched the exposure in Lightroom so that there wasn’t any exposure disagreement. That being said, this was more or less a sharpness test than a exposure accuracy test. Next time it will be set on manual. 😉

I feel like Ken Rockwell.

Click for full size image.

Tokina 11-16mm
Nikkor 14-24mm

Band Pro’s “Mystery Primes”

I went to Band Pro’s open house event on Thursday expecting to mingle and see a few people I know, of which I did. Additionally I was expecting a product unveiling but didn’t expect ANOTHER set of primes. Aren’t there enough new primes hitting the market? Who wants another set of rapid fire industry demanded lenses.
But these aren’t another set of rushed primes taylored to cover a 4K digital sensor. These are solid, professional prime lenses. With an average weight of a mere 3 lbs achieved by titanium barrels and PL mounts, these lenses are both compact and bullet proof. The initial set slated for a summer 2010 release will include a 16mm, 18mm, 21mm, 25mm, 35mm, 40mm, 50mm, 65mm, 75mm, and 100mm. Soon to follow will be the 12mm up to 150mm for a total of 15 lenses in the series.
“A unique use of aspheric technology and cutting-edge mechanical cine lens design provides the “Mystery Primes” with unmatched evenness of illumination across the entire 35mm frame and into the corners with no discernable breathing” said Michael Bravin, Chief Technology Officer of Band Pro. “Supression of color fringing into the farthest corners of the frame is superior to any lenses I have ever seen”.
The entire set of T1.4 lenses share a unified distance scale, common size and location of focus and iris rings.

Nikon D300s does video… sorta.

I’ve been using a D300 since it first came out. I made the decision to stick with DX format lenses and workflow a long time ago and the D300 was the best DX Nikon body at the time. Similar to Apple with the iPhone 3G, Nikon added an “s” to the end of their product name and I didn’t think twice.
Obviously the biggest upgrade in the new D300s is the capability to shoot 720p video at 24p. A lot of people are making a big deal about the added feature, but I’m really not drinking the cool aid. The video feature is a novelty. In fact I’m considering returning the darn camera. Not strictly because of the finicky video, but also because Aperture doesn’t support RAW processing for the D300s which I find very odd considering the processor is almost identical to that of the D300 which is supported. I can easily over come the latter issue by simply using Lightroom instead. So now I have the choice of keeping my D300s and selling my old D300 or dumping both and getting a D700 😉

Mullholland Weekend

Click here to watch

I have to start off by saying that I am in no way a cinematographer by and profession. I am quite versed in the fundamentals of photography and lighting, but that’s about it. However, I do know a thing or two about lenses. I shot and edited this little video while I was out testing a few prime lenses from UniqOptics on a RED One. I got to play with the 25mm and 100mm. Both lenses were definitely professional quality and an breeze to work with. I figured I would share the little clip with everyone. Most of this is shot wide open on an obviously sunny day.

Zeiss announces ZF.2 line of primes

Zeiss is keeping their eye on the industry and realized that their ZF line of lenses is very versatile. They started as a throwback to the old manual lenses that made still photograph history. Then they were given a bump with the release of the RED camera and it’s Nikon mount. This made for excellent manual control similar to a traditional cine prime lens. Then Zeiss took another step forward and released the re-housed, updated Compact Primes that used the same optical design as the ZF line of lenses, but with a robust aluminum housing, PL mount, and circular aperture. The next iteration of the ZF series takes a cinematic step backward from the Compact Primes, but forward from the basic ZF lenses.

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A 50 is a 50 is a 50!

When I was younger, I remember hearing the phrase “a 50 is a 50 is a 50”. A phrase coined by Denny Clairmont and carried on by my father. This was in regards to people using 35mm format lenses on a 16mm format camera. Denny or my father would scold people for saying that a particular focal length is multiplied when used on a smaller format. This is simply inaccurate. Unfortunately this mistake has become even more common today with popular formats such as Super 35 or APS-C. These are considered “crop sensors” when compared to 35mm Full Frame and only utilize a portion of the intended image circle created by a Full Frame lens. The only thing that changes when using a 35mm FF lens on a Super35/APS-C sensor is the field of view (FOV) or the angle of view. So unless you’ve spent the past 30 years memorizing the field of view associated with a specific focal length, strictly on 35mm Full Frame, don’t bother trying to compensate for crop factor.

Manual 11-16mm with Nikon F mount.

With the success of the PL mount manual 11-16mm, I decided to explore other options. It seems that there aren’t many good candidates for cine conversion out there. We made a hand full of PL mount Nikon 80-200mm lenses with the usual bells and whistles. But nothing that could keep up with our Tokina conversion.
Along the way I learned that many people had switched from PL to the Nikon mount on their RED camera to save money on glass. This is great because we also customize the Zeiss ZF lenses that are Nikon mount, but it left our available lens lineup a bit confused in regards to mounting options.

Many of our potential 11-16mm customers had already switched to Nikon mount, making our PL lens useless. I thought it would be great if I could offer a Nikon F mount version to those who still loved their Nikon glass and didn’t want to switch mounts frequently. The 11-16mm Tokina comes from the factory in a Nikon mount, but there is still no aperture control. With the complete cine-conversion, the aperture is activated and all the controls are manual, but now with a Nikon F mount. Perfect!