Since the DSLR Revolution the Leica R primes have been the pinnacle of quality hybrid photo-cine prime lenses. Duclos Lenses has applied their Cine-Mod® to thousands of Leica R primes which brought a seamless focus gear, smooth click-less aperture, common 80mm front rings and Canon EF mount. But we had never tackled the PL mount solution. There were a couple of Chinese modifications that brought PL mounts and larger, heavier housings to the R series. But it wasn’t until Cinescope teamed up with TLS in the UK to bring a proper, robust cine-style housing to the Leica R primes. Continue reading “Leica R Primes Done Right by Cinescope and TLS.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.