Leica announced the original +1 Macro-Lux Diopter last year and it has quickly become the go-to clamp-on diopter for a wide range of productions. If you didn’t catch the announcement at NAB 2016, I’ll recap for you really quickly… The Macro-Lux +1 is essentially a super high quality clamp-on diopter. If you’re not familiar with diopters, think of them as a very quick way to achieve closer focus than what’s normally possible. A +1 is a pretty standard magnification which is why Leica released this one first. Now you can achieve even greater artistic goals with the +0.5 and +2 Macro-Lux. Continue reading Leica Macro-Lux Line Expands with +0.5 and +2 Diopters
Leica is known world-wide for their classic line of M lenses that have been a favorite of photographers for decades. With the worlds of still photography and motion picture becoming less and less defined as time goes on, it’s not uncommon to see a still photo lens being used for motion picture work. Leica took note of this with their extensive catalog of high quality M mount primes and decided to do a bit of blending themselves. Continue reading Leica Refocuses With M 0.8 Primes
Duclos Lenses has released a new Macro Extension Tube for PL mount lenses. If you’ve never used an extension tube before, head on over to Cambridge in Colour and soak up some knowledge. Continue reading PL Macro Extension Tube from Duclos Lenses
Zeiss showed a very basic prototype of their upcoming Servo Unit back in April at NAB (read more on that here). They’ve just released some additional details and specs to accompany their updated prototypes to be shown at IBC in a few weeks. Check out the details and decide for yourself if a servo unit mounted to a compact, lightweight, full-frame, 4k zoom lens is going to benefit you and your workflow. Continue reading Zeiss Releases More Details About Their CZ.2 Servo Unit
Arri has provided a really simple, comprehensive diagram of the three different iris rod standards. It seems like there has been a lot of confusion about the proper distance from the axis of the lens to the center of the rods. A few basic details to go through here: The height of the rods (the distance from the lens axis to the center of the rods) is critical as a standard when designing accessories such as matte boxes, follow focuses, low bridges, or just about any lens related accessory. In this post, I’ll discuss the relationship between the different iris rods (15mm LWS, 15mm, and 19mm) and their associated low bridges.
The smallest and newest system to be utilized for motion picture work and as of recent, possibly the most common. The 15mm Lightweight system (LWS) is a variation of the 15mm Studio setup with roots began in ENG and DV setups. With the introduction of the DSLR revolution and tiny camera rigs such as the Blackmagic Pocket Camera and in some cases even a simple GoPro, the 15mm Lightweight system has carved it’s own place into the motion picture world commonly found on medium sized rigs such as RED and Sony cameras. The 15mm LWS is aligned to the center of the lens mount, with a relatively narrow spacing (60mm) and a fairly shallow axis to rod height (85mm).
If there was an “old school” rod setup, 15mm Studio would be it. 15mm Studio rods are the same rods as 15mm LWS but spaced farther apart (100mm), farther from the lens axis (118mm), and slightly offset from the optical center (17.25mm). Don’t get me wrong, 15mm Studio is probably the most common among high-end cinema sets based on the West Coast despite it’s age. The 15mm Studio system has become somewhat overlooked in terms of standardization with all the newcomers to the motion picture camera accessory manufacturing game assuming that the rods were aligned to the optical center. As far as I know, the reason for the offset of 15mm Studio rods was originally to compensate for weight and accessory distribution. The camera had additional weight on the “smart” side due to the viewfinder and controls so accessories such as the follow focus or motors were attached to the “dumb” side to balance out the setup. I’ll admit, the 15mm Studio standard is far older than me or anyone reading this and I’m no motion picture historian… If your 15mm Studio rods aren’t offset, then they’re not 15mm Studio.
If you’re anywhere other than Hollywood, you’ll likely find 19mm rods used as the standard. 19mm Studio is the updated version of 15mm Studio. As lenses and lens accessories became heavier and heavier, the need for stronger rods came about paving the way for a slightly heavier duty system. The 19mm Studio setup is spaced even farther apart than 15mm Studio (104mm), and slightly more distant from the optical axis (120mm) but is centered on the lens. The purpose of the 19mm system was to increase the load capacity when used with heavy lenses and reduce flexing.
Traditionally, stainless steel is king. These days you’ll find dozens of different companies producing “rods” from aluminum and carbon fiber which is fine for more 15mm LWS rigs where weight is critical and the stress put on the rods is minimal. Aluminum and carbon fiber may even be suitable for some 15mm Studio setups if they’re not demanding, but if you’re rig requires the wider offset of 15mm Studio rods, then you’re probably not worrying about the overall weight of your camera rig and should opt for a stainless steel variant. The same can be said for 19mm Studio – if you’re going to go with the beefier 19mm setup, don’t cheap out and use flimsy aluminum or carbon fiber. If you’re on the fence between 15mm Studio and 19mm Studio, there’s always 15mm HD rods. No, not High Definition… Heavy Duty. This would be a 15mm rod with a wall thickness double that of the normal 15mm rods. This provides a much more solid support with little to no flex even with a hefty Angenieux or Fujinon zoom. Iris rods will come in all sorts of lengths these days depending on their application. A heavyweight cinema zoom will call for 24″ rods whereas a DSLR rig may only require a few inches simply to attach a follow focus to the front of the rig or a battery to the back.
A simple pair of carbon fiber rods. Carbon fiber rods are usually hollow with end caps to keep dirt and dust out, but can also be found in a sturdier solid carbon fiber material.
The confusion comes in mostly when companies design and sell products that don’t conform to an industry standard. For example, a simple google search for a 15mm matte box will yield results from around the world with little to no mention of what system a given matte box is actually designed for. I’ve seen matte boxes advertised with 15mm rod holes but 19mm Studio spacing or 15mm LWS spacing but with 15mm Studio height. Some with fully adjustable offset and height, others with absolutely no height adjustment. I guess you just have to hope your camera plate has a height adjustment… Matte boxes are the primary source of confusion with the other most common accessory, the follow focus and/or motors not being much of a concern. This is because most follow focus systems will have a slide or pivot adjustment to accommodate different size lenses minimizing the standardization to simply rod size and spacing, disregarding offset and height.
Arri MB-20 II Matte box sample: Note the top pair of 15mm holes (15mm LWS) is centered on the optical center whereas the lower pair (15mm Studio) is clearly offset from the center. Also note the height difference.
Additionally, the height has been a topic of confusion in the recent past. Lets use the Red 300mm prime for example. Originally it came with a built in support, a bright red ring towards the front of the lens with a simple 1/4-20 (I think) threaded hole. If I remember correctly, there wasn’t any standardized height. You either had to use an arbitrarily adjustable, standard-less low bridge or stack bunch of washers just to attach the lens securely. It wasn’t designed for 15mm LWS or 15mm Studio. It was just a big red block with a hole in the bottom. It’s possible that Red intended the 300mm to be used with the 15mm LWS standard, but since when is a 300mm, one foot long, 6 lb. prime lens considered lightweight?!?!
While we’re on the topic of height; the other critical spec, the same chaos experienced with matte boxes can also be found in low bridges. The low bridge is the key to lens support. A lens can have a support post with standardized height and a nice 3/8-16 thread but it’s useless without a proper low bridge. A proper low bridge will be somewhat forgiving in terms of standardization with minor adjustments for height and offset, but not so much that the industry standards can be completely overlooked. With the 15mm Studio and 19mm Studio standard, a proper low bridge is easy to come by. Because of all the confusion with proper heights and standards when 15mm LWS was adopted for motion picture rigs, you’ll find that there are many 15mm LWS low bridges with a fully adjustable height. This makes them pretty useful but sometimes sloppy depending on the brand.
A proper 15mm Studio low bridge with adjustable height and offset.
I hope this clears up some of the confusion surrounding iris rods and lens accessories. Anytime someone asks me what brands I recommend for a matte box, follow focus, or low bridge, I generally stick to a single rule which is stick with the established brands. A company that has been manufacturing motion picture accessories for a good decade or so will know what they’re doing and will obey the standards making life easier for all of us. Of course, there’s an exception to every rule and in this case, it’s usually budget. If you can’t afford a high quality accessory, make due with what you can, but you’ll probably end up getting the higher quality product in the end so you might as well start with proper gear.
Everyone is talking about the Rokinon line of lenses. Also known as Bower or Samyang depending on what country you reside in. They’re all the same lenses just different badges. Rokinon lenses are an excellent alternative to pricey cinema lenses mostly due to their cheaper, featureless construction. These lenses don’t come with any zippy auto focus motors nor do they offer camera controlled aperture functions. They still (as in non-motion) photography lenses with completely manual controls. Maybe a pain for those used to automatic lenses from Nikon or Canon, but great for those looking for an entry level cinema option. The lenses are commonly available in Nikon F or Canon EF mount. Continue reading Rokinon’s Intro to Cinema Lenses
Leica makes some great lenses. They always have. Even their defunct Leica R series lenses are still working hard all around the world. It would almost seem that Leica is incapable of making low quality products. I just finished our Cine-Mod on a Leica APO-Macro-Elmarit-R 1:2.8/100, or as I like to call it, a Leica 100mm Macro. This lens performs like a dream for motion picture applications. It’s close focus is 2.5′ from the film plane which puts objects about 1.8′ from the front of the lens. Keep in mind, this is 100mm. It’s not THAT close considering the Zeiss ZF.2 100mm f/2.0 cranks all the way down to 18″ from the film plane which is about 8″ in front of the lens. The only draw back, which both the Leica and the Zeiss exhibit, is the massive amount of telescoping from infinity to close focus. Both lenses go from a modest 5″ length to a maximum of about 7″ at close focus. Still, Leica made some amazing glass that still does it’s job quite well.
If you frequent my website, you are surely familiar with the Zeiss ZF.2 line of lenses. They are considered the high end of DSLR lenses in terms of quality and price, unrivaled german engineering. But recently, a new crop of cheap-o lenses have made their way across the ocean and are really giving Zeiss a run for it’s money. Continue reading Showdown: Rokinon Vs. Zeiss
This project started at the Red User Party in 2010 when Mark Pederson from Off Hollywood and Ketch Rossi in all of his eccentric, awesome style. Ketch approached me about adding marks to his Red Pro Primes noting that there were a few key marks that were left out. I’m not sure why certain marks were included or excluded, but the focus scale is a non linear helix design. This means that the spacing of the focus distance marks is restricted to the mechanical travel of the helix threads. Duclos Lenses had modified focus scale in the past. Even going to the extent of fabricating and engraving an entirely new scale from scratch in some cases. But the RPP really only required a few added marks. I thought it would be nice to go over the process of adding marks so that you can see what exactly is being done
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.
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?