Lens Mod FAQ

I receive dozens of emails everyday and I want to respond to them all but sometimes it just isn’t possible. I’m not a trade secret kind of guy. I like to spread knowledge and educate as many people as I can. So here is a quick little FAQ in regards to lens modification and a few other common questions I am asked… Frequently.

EDIT: THIS POST IS OUTDATED AND MAY NO LONGER BE ACCURATE. PLEASE CONTACT DUCLOS LENSES FOR CURRENT INFO

1) What lenses work well for motion picture?

2) I have a bunch of still lenses. Can they be converted to work for cinema?

3) What is a Cine-Mod?

4) Can my lens be Cine-Modded?

5) What lenses are well suited for a Cine-Mod?

6) Can the mount on my lens be changed?

7) I have Nikon lenses. Can the focus be reversed?

8] The focus throw of my still lenses is short, can it be expanded?

9) Can lens breathing be corrected?

10) Can my lens be re-housed for cinema use? What is the cost?

11) Can my lens be converted to PL mount?

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Diving Into Micro Four Thirds

Olympus introduced their Four Thirds system not too long ago. Then they dropped it and ran with the Micro Four Thirds system and it looks like they are going to run pretty far with it. As far as I know there are only two companies currently using the M4/3 system; Olympus and Panasonic. Olympus is utilizing it in their smaller interchangeable lens cameras which are pretty cool if you ask me. I purchased a Olympus PEN as a M4/3 test mule recently and I love it. And then there is Panasonic with a similar line-up of small cameras. However, Panasonic took it one step further with their new AG AF-100.

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Hands On Tokina’s New 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro Zoom

I first heard about this lens several months ago from NikonRumors.com which has been fairly reliable for early news unless I hear it from a manufacturer like I usually do with Zeiss. I don’t have a very deep relationship with Tokina so I had to wait like everyone else to confirm this new zoom. The focal length intrigued me since it picked up right where the 11-16mm left off. As many of you know, I love the 11-16mm. It’s not the end-all-be-all of wide zooms, but the price for performance ratio is simply unbeatable. With the next lens in the lineup Tokina made a few improvements, but not without sacrifice. The 16-28mm is now an FX format lens which means that it covers a 35mm full frame sensor. Excellent for me and my Nikon D700, but even more important, it would work well with a Canon 5D mkII or the upcoming RED FF35 sensor.

side view of the new miniature pro zoom from Tokina. 16-28mm f/2.8 FX.

Continue reading “Hands On Tokina’s New 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro Zoom”

Sometimes I Make Myself Laugh… Out Loud.

My first full day back in the office after the PhotoCine Expo (success) and I spent my lunch break messing around making silly signs to hang up around the office. This one goes right next to my “50 is a 50 is a 50” poster that some people stole and made their own. 😉 I suggest you print this and stick it in your camera truck or link to it for all you lens junkies. I know.. I’m a nerd.

(click to download PDF)

Auto Focus Cinema

RANT WARNING!

No… Just no. Auto focus for DSLR motion picture was a topic raised at a discussion panel I took part in this weekend at the PhotoCine Expo. Auto focus works great for shooting stills with just about any modern camera but it just isn’t appropriate for cinema. To clarify, I think it’s a must for shooting quick and gritty, reference material or home movies. But with the shallow depth of field and artistic styling of images rendered by a RED camera or DSLRs, it just isn’t a good idea. Nikon’s new D7000 does 3D facial focus tracking by recognizing a face and keeping focus on it which is cool, but why would you want to focus on just a persons face. What if the shot calls for a long, slow focus pull between two subjects that are 20 feet apart? Okay fine, you could use software and tell the lens to pull focus from distance ‘X’ to distance ‘Y’ and specify a given focus pull rate. But now you just have a mechanical focus pull done by a computer that has no emotion or feeling. There is no organic allure or life to the scene.

To add to this proposed flaw I present exhibit B: Auto focus lenses are loose and sloppy and don’t work well for motion picture. Due to their inherent mechanical pitfalls such as loose tolerances, low quality internal components, and short focus throw, this makes auto focus lenses a poor choice for motion picture since it introduces image shift, unreliable and unrepeatable focus marks, and other inconveniences. A cinema lens uses manual focus for a good reason. It keeps the image stable when racking focus and allows the shooter to pull focus in a way that expresses the emotion or passion that a scene should be able to convey. Basically, there is no way to instill life or humanity if you assign focus to a computer. When the day comes that a computer can carry out such tasks, I’ll be locking up my vacuum and hiding in my safe room.

(REVISION) Oh and I almost forgot to mention that pulling focus is more than just a tradition. It’s a craft that many have spent a career refining. This is why there is a job on a professional movie set for a “focus puller”. It’s not just a crabby old guy who doesn’t want to change his ways or embrace a new piece of technology, Auto focus in cinema just isn’t… Cinematic.

Duclos 70-200mm Conversion in the Wild

I kidnapped the 70-200mm cine conversion lens from the office along with a 5DII and went about shooting random stuff throughout the evening. There isn’t really a story or subject, just arbitrary shots. The lens worked like a dream! Focus pulling was very precise and easy with the new focus barrel. The bokeh from this lens is just phenomenal. It’s a tad heavy with a baseplate, follow focus, mattebox, stainless steel rods, and a camera hanging off the back. But when I removed everything and just used the camera and lens, it was no different than a day of shooting stills with a Nikkor 70-200mm. Having the manual aperture ring wasn’t really a necessity for this type of shooting since light wasn’t changing drastically while rolling, but it made stopping down much, much easier than fiddling with more dials on the camera. I’m very happy with it so far. The only problem I’ve found is that with a tele-zoom you really have to have a stable tripod to avoid camera shake. Let me know what you think.

(p.s. I’m not a DP, I don’t claim to be… I’m a technical guy.)

Duclos 70-200mm Re-Housing.

I’ve been dropping little hints and grabbing quick iPhone pics of this bad boy. We’ve been working on it for a while now and were more than happy with it. First we were impressed by the exceptional image quality produced by this little Nikkor zoom. After the success of our 11-16mm re-house we searched for something else to tear apart. We thought about doing some mid-range zooms but that has already been done by Century and Cooke. I found a fairly large gap with the new emerging run-and-gun style shooters brought on by RED and now the DSLR revolution where there were no telephoto lenses that could be used easily with a steady-cam or any ‘lightweight’ setup. So we started looking for the best candidate. I evaluated many, many lenses including Canon, Nikon, Tamron, Sigma, and Tokina. There were a heap of really nice zooms even from the third party optics companies but none stood out as much as the Nikkor 70-200mm VRII, Nikon’s newest revision of their workhorse tele-zoom.

Continue reading “Duclos 70-200mm Re-Housing.”

Cine Desktop Background

I was recently prepping for an upcoming trade show where Duclos Lenses will be exhibiting. We thought it would be nice to have some cool signage like Zacuto’s giant ball or some insane signage that Fujinon or Sony use. But then I remembered we don’t have much of a budget. So I had a nice simple vinyl banner made up. It consisted of our Logo and a few photos. I took the photos specifically for this sign since I wanted the resolution to be nice. Cool, new we have an awesome banner and I’m left with a few photos that I’ll never use again. I kinda liked the photos so I made one of them my desktop which made me think, why not just let others steal my high res “Desktop Photos” 😉 Maybe I’m the only person who is geeky enough to use a photo of a lens as a desktop background. But just in case there are more of you out there… Continue reading “Cine Desktop Background”

Cine Zoom Comparo: France vs. England

The Cooke 20-100mm is a workhorse of a zoom lens. It’s solid build quality combined with classic “Cooke Look” glass make it a very desirable lens in the current HD market. The other option is to drop a pretty penny on a stellar new Angenieux 24-290mm. The current champion of motion picture zoom lenses. These two cinema zoom lenses are decades apart and even farther apart in cost. An average Cooke 20-100mm costs a mere $7,000 compared to the going rate for a new Angenieux 24-290mm at around $63,000. A little background on these still samples. These were shot with a 35mm full frame 5D which means the vignetting is severe and expected. The settings were the same for each lens, 100mm at T4, ISO 100, 5100K color temp etc. Here are the samples.

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New Zeiss CP.2 Macro Duo

Zeiss recently announced the addition of Nikon (official), Sony, and 4/3 mounts for their Compact Prime series. I expected this since it’s a simple mount and the interface was already interchangeable. I also expected new focal lengths which they announced just this morning. The adaptation of existing ZF/ZE 50mm f/2 macro and the 100mm f/2 macro. These are two of my favorite lenses in the series. The 50mm macro has far better image quality than the 50mm f/1,4 and focuses down to about 10 inches (1:2) but it does lose that little bit of speed over the 50mm f/1,4. Meh… And then there is the insane bokeh of the 100mm macro. With a close focus of 18 inches (1:2) the background is thrown so far out of focus, it’s gorgeous. I can’t wait to get my hands on this macro duo. Continue reading “New Zeiss CP.2 Macro Duo”

Zeiss T1,3 “Super Speed” Refurbishing

Zeiss’ T1,3 primes or “Super Speeds” as they’ve been deemed, are getting a little long in the tooth but still hold their own if well cared for. This is one example of such a lens. It is in superb condition optically but the exterior body of the lens has taken quite a beating. Particularly the painted rear housing surface. For some reason Zeiss thought it was a good idea to construct the rear housing out of brass instead of aluminum. This meant that the brass section didn’t receive the same anodizing as the rest of the lens but instead was treated to a nice coat of gloss black paint. Needless to say paint doesn’t hold up to daily use quite as well as anodized aluminum. In the much later models Zeiss switched to an aluminum rear housing with an anodized surface… Anyway. I didn’t think to take a photo of the rear helical housing prior to stripping all the paint, but you can guess the condition of the weak paint based on the anodizing blemishes and scratches. You do the math. So in this post I will show the process or refurbishing the rear housing of a Zeiss T1,3 Super Speed.

The old paint has already been removed and the surface is primed. I cleaned the engravings from any old filling to make sure there is enough depth to refill the engravings after a new layer of paint is applied.

Continue reading “Zeiss T1,3 “Super Speed” Refurbishing”

PhotoCine Expo Draws Duclos Lenses Out Of It’s Optical Bunker.

This will be the second year that the PhotoCine Expo is being held in L.A.. Duclos Lenses thought it would be a good opportunity to make it’s exhibiting debut. As the DSLR revolution has been gaining more and more steam it seems like an intelligent idea to display some of our products and services that interest said revolutionaries.

While Duclos Lenses’ primary field remains professional motion picture optics, the DSLR revolution can not be ignored. Anyone interested in going should do so. We will be raffling off goodies and showing some of our newest products including the prototype 70-200mm tele-cine lens. The expo is being held at the LA Film School in Hollywood on Sept. 25th and 26th (Saturday and Sunday) which is pretty soon…  Hmm. I should really stop messing around on the interwebs and go make a banner for the booth.  See you there!

Universal Mount – Canon Eos, But Wait…

Before you get too excited, a “universal mount” in the motion picture industry is not universal. The universal mount is what is used on lenses such as the Cooke 20-100mm or 25-250mm, and more recently on the Angenieux 24-290mm. It’s simply a sub-mount with a threaded rear that allows several different mounts to be attached, most commonly a PL or Panavision mount. These were fairly common on professional zoom lenses in the 80s, 90s, and 00s. Now, wouldn’t it be awesome if you could put a classic Cooke 25-250mm on a Canon 7D? Yes. Yes it would be awesome. Please observe the awesomeness:

Continue reading “Universal Mount – Canon Eos, But Wait…”

Fotodiox Nikon G – Canon Eos mount adaptor.

I recently gave a thumbs up to the Fotodiox Nikon – Eos adaptor as I found it to be the best combination of quality and price available. This mount allowed a lot of great Nikon glass to be used with Canon cameras with the exception of Nikons latest and greatest “G” series lenses. The G series lenses are Nikons latest effort to reduce the cost and complexity of their line up by stripping the lenses of their manual aperture control. The aperture is controlled by a small mechanical lever in the rear of the lens that interfaces with a similar small lever in a Nikon camera. Without the need for large, calibrated apart rings and fancy mechanisms for transfer a rotation, the cost to the consumer is (theoretically) lowered. Well thats great and all, but this left Nikon’s latest and greatest lenses, such as the 14-24, 24-70, and 70-200mm, at a loss since they required a Nikon camera body to operate the silly little aperture lever in the back of the lens.but now there are several work arounds for this. One of which is the new Fotodiox Nikon G – Eos mount adaptor. Basically the same construction as the current Nik-Eos adaptor, nut with a very small lever that interfaces with the lens as the camera would, but allows the operator to adjust the aperture. While this is a rather crude solution to a problem. While the lever only has travel of about 15mm, and there is no indication of F-stop, it works well enough. I found it rather difficult to obtain an accurate setting and repeat that setting. With a little bit of clever personal modification, it shouldn’t be difficult at all. So… If you have a great Nikon G lens that you love shooting with but want to use it on a 5D or 7D, then this is the mount you are looking for.

More photos after the jump > Continue reading “Fotodiox Nikon G – Canon Eos mount adaptor.”