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How do you change lenses?


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#1 Matthew Rogers

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 05:03 PM

So I was working on a shoot recently as the 2d AC because I had nothing better to do. The AC, when changing lenses, wanted me to uncap the front and back of the lens I was getting before I brought it to the camera. After owning a RED for three years and AC'ing a decent budget indie, I've come to believe that it's a very bad idea to uncap lenses before they are at the camera or on the camera (minus the back cap!)

My method is that the incoming lens have both caps left on when brought to camera and also grab the front cap for the lens outgoing lens. Then, when the new lens get to the camera, the person that brought the lens hands the front cap of the lens coming off to the other person, who puts the cap on, takes the lens off, is handed the back cap from the new lens, and the other person puts the new lens on. From there the new lens is front uncapped, and the old lens along with the extra cap is handed over to be taken back to the lens case. The only time I might do it any different is when I am using small lenses like the ziess super or standard speeds, and then I may hand swap lenses with the 2d AC who brought the lens.

Am I crazy by doing it this way? This seems far safer for the lenses as they aren't being walked around set with no caps, and there is far less handling of the lenses, not to mention no juggling two lens in one set of hands. Is there a union way for changing lenses? I understand that some AC's may want lenses on the camera a certain way, but I have never had any issues with telling someone where to put the witness marks if a lens needs to go on a certain way.

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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 05:38 PM

Dunno if there is an "official way," but that's how I've changed lenses on all my cameras, film, video, or still.
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#3 Evan Luzi

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 06:43 PM

There's definitely not an "official way," but there are best practices such as saying "got it" when handing off a lens.

I usually remove the caps of a lens (at least the rear cap) at the lens case before bringing it over to the 1st AC. Having all the caps on and removing/exchanging them with the lenses seems like it could get confusing and jumbled up, especially cause the 1st AC's I've worked for usually have the lens almost instantly removed when I get there.

As a first AC, I request that my 2nd AC's leave the front cap on because I simply put it in my pocket to have handy once the lens is mounted.

It's all a matter of preference, but if the lens case is nearby the camera (as it should be) then the issue of it getting damaged in transport without caps on is minimal.
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#4 Matthew Rogers

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 07:16 PM

There's definitely not an "official way," but there are best practices such as saying "got it" when handing off a lens.

I usually remove the caps of a lens (at least the rear cap) at the lens case before bringing it over to the 1st AC. Having all the caps on and removing/exchanging them with the lenses seems like it could get confusing and jumbled up, especially cause the 1st AC's I've worked for usually have the lens almost instantly removed when I get there.

As a first AC, I request that my 2nd AC's leave the front cap on because I simply put it in my pocket to have handy once the lens is mounted.

It's all a matter of preference, but if the lens case is nearby the camera (as it should be) then the issue of it getting damaged in transport without caps on is minimal.


Saying "got it" most certainly. The caps, the way I do it aren't confusing at all. You have the AC the cap for the lens to be taken off, he puts it on and takes off the lens. You then take the back cap off the new lens and hand it to the AC who puts it on the old lens. From there you can either switch lenses, which I don't like because you really only have one hand to switch with, or you can have the 2d AC just put the lens on, which seems safer to me. With this method, I can switch lenses (once the new lens is at the camera) in about 5-6 seconds.

I do this method only because I feel like it's by far the best way to protect the lenses due to minimizing the time the back and front elements aren't being protected.
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#5 Chris Keth

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 01:48 AM

Here's my method/opinion: If you're a second, you should bring the lens without caps. You should also bring all accessories that need to go with the lens such as different length rods, donut, lens support, etc. Hold the lens by the barrel so you can hand it to the first front element down in his hand already oriented as it will go onto the camera. If you do this, you will make your first very happy.

If you're changing to a zoom, this all still goes but generally just bring the case for the zoom. Many, if not most, zooms we use aren't really safely one-handeable, and it gives you somewhere to set stuff since going to a zoom usually involves changing more stuff over than swapping primes.
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#6 Chris Fernando

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 10:46 AM

Caps off, wide open with focus set (approximately), as well.
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#7 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 12:15 PM

This seems far safer for the lenses as they aren't being walked around set with no caps


Honestly, the lenses shouldn't be being walked around set. The lens case should be right by camera during a lens change, and the furthest the lens should ever travel is from the case to the 1st AC's hands.

I once saw an AC pick up a Zeiss superspeed by the lens cap. The cap stayed on the lens just long enough for him to get the lens over a concrete floor...
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#8 Chris Keth

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 12:53 PM

Caps off, wide open with focus set (approximately), as well.


And cased back up clean, in the proper hole, with both caps, wide open, focused to infinity.
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#9 Kar Wai Ng

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 03:31 PM

This is how I have my 2nd's hand me lenses: both caps off, wide open, infinity, and face down into my palm. Generally I hand off the previous lens first, and then accept the new lens. I say "mine" as opposed to "got it", because with the latter, a change in inflection can make it sound like "got it?", which totally changes the meaning and could lead to a problem. "Mine" is unambiguous.

For zooms, fisheyes, or any lens where the front element is very large, I keep the front cap on until the lens is mounted on the camera, then hand the front cap off.

Also, because I have small hands, there are some lenses which I cannot hold face-down in my palm; Master Primes for example, or the wider lengths of the Red Pro Primes; these are unwieldy lenses. Generally it makes more sense for me to first accept the new lens from the 2nd, and then the 2nd is free to remove the previous lens from the camera, then I put the new lens on. This way two hands are on both lenses all the time.
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#10 Matthew Rogers

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 04:11 PM

This is how I have my 2nd's hand me lenses: both caps off, wide open, infinity, and face down into my palm. Generally I hand off the previous lens first, and then accept the new lens. I say "mine" as opposed to "got it", because with the latter, a change in inflection can make it sound like "got it?", which totally changes the meaning and could lead to a problem. "Mine" is unambiguous.

For zooms, fisheyes, or any lens where the front element is very large, I keep the front cap on until the lens is mounted on the camera, then hand the front cap off.

Also, because I have small hands, there are some lenses which I cannot hold face-down in my palm; Master Primes for example, or the wider lengths of the Red Pro Primes; these are unwieldy lenses. Generally it makes more sense for me to first accept the new lens from the 2nd, and then the 2nd is free to remove the previous lens from the camera, then I put the new lens on. This way two hands are on both lenses all the time.


I should have probably mentioned that the lenses we were using on that set, and the set I own, are the RED Primes. So they are much much larger and heavier than the super or standard speeds. It makes far more sense to me to have two hands on a lens at all times if at all possible.

Someone else mentioned having the lens case next to the camera. This shoot, and many of my shoots, tend to be in tight quarters. This shoot was also while we were doing controlled burns inside a house that was being torn down. Having the lens case next to the camera is not always possible, though I would love to always have it no more than 10' away. When you are moving into the bigger lenses like the RRP's, you also have to deal with a MUCH larger case. My RRP case is over 50 lbs and is almost the size of a mini fridge!
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#11 Tom Jensen

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 09:28 PM

You don't bring the caps. That's just another thing to carry and less is better because you will always need your hands for something else. If you can't bring a lens to the camera without getting it broken or dirty, you shouldn't be working. If you are working in the elements it might be a good idea to use the caps but normally you won't need them.
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#12 John Sprung

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 12:07 AM

As a first AC, I request that my 2nd AC's leave the front cap on because I simply put it in my pocket .....


How clean is your pocket? Static electricity and a plastic lens cap -- you could pick up some lint or fibers.

Even with big lenses, one person can do it. The case should be within a step or two of the camera. The old lens comes off and goes in the box, with caps on. The new lens comes out of the box, the caps stay in the box, and it goes on the camera. Then do the iris and focus.




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#13 Matthew Rogers

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 09:59 PM

You don't bring the caps. That's just another thing to carry and less is better because you will always need your hands for something else. If you can't bring a lens to the camera without getting it broken or dirty, you shouldn't be working. If you are working in the elements it might be a good idea to use the caps but normally you won't need them.


I've never had a situation where a lens could have gotten damaged if I hadn't had a cap on, but I've decided to not take chances. None of the sets I've worked on are void of cables/stands/idiot extras, so crap happens. I've seen stuff get broken, not really because of carelessness, but because it's a working set. To me it's the same reason we keep lenses and other gear in cases, to protect them. I don't plan on dropping a lens or having a grip who's flying in a stand sideswipe me while carrying a lens, but crap happens.

I am just coming from the view of protecting the lenses the best I can. Maybe that is because I normally shooting with my lenses and don't want anything to happen to them.
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#14 Tom Jensen

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 12:38 AM

I've never had a situation where a lens could have gotten damaged if I hadn't had a cap on, but I've decided to not take chances. None of the sets I've worked on are void of cables/stands/idiot extras, so crap happens. I've seen stuff get broken, not really because of carelessness, but because it's a working set. To me it's the same reason we keep lenses and other gear in cases, to protect them. I don't plan on dropping a lens or having a grip who's flying in a stand sideswipe me while carrying a lens, but crap happens.

I am just coming from the view of protecting the lenses the best I can. Maybe that is because I normally shooting with my lenses and don't want anything to happen to them.


I see your point but when you are pressed for time and you have 3 to sometimes 5 cameras rolling, the sun's going down and you are undermanned, something as simple as carrying a lens is a time waster. I always protected the lens with my hands and elbows. You have to be careful no doubt. I've seen lenses get smashed and I've seen a few that have been smashed. When I was working at Otto Nemenz we had an 18 mil that was compressed by the front bumper of a car that was jumping over the camera and fell short. The lens wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and the bumper of the car had a perfect circle in it. We also had a lens telephoto lens come back from a music video that had a rocket shot through the front element. It was on a kart full of empty cases, except for one that was being use to block the wind. The rocket went straight for the kart and through the case and into the lens. I was changing a lens when a grip. whi was talking with the DP and the Director, rested his hand on the pan handle just as I was putting the lens into the mount and "whack" the rear element just disintegrated. I've seen a few other but I just can't recall. I will say this though, if a second brings me a lens with caps, I will instruct him not to bring the cap with the lens. I don't want the caps and I don't want him making another unnecessary trip back to the case. You just have to be careful. The real problem is keeping finger prints off the lens without caps. That you have to be real careful about.
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#15 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 30 May 2011 - 09:38 PM

Standard procedure that I usually follow:

2nd AC removes lens from case, takes off front & rear caps. Carries the lens with both hands to camera.
While the 2nd AC is enroute, the 1st AC loosens the mount.
2nd AC arrives, extends his right hand with the lens, gripping it by the barrel while holding out his left hand in the cupping position.
AC's place the lenses in eachother's cupped hands, say thank you/got it/etc., end of transaction.

Of course, conditions change the method, places with a lot of moisture, wind, debris, etc.
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#16 Rob Webster

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 11:20 AM

I don't want the caps and I don't want him making another unnecessary trip back to the case. You just have to be careful.


This is a good point, you don't want your 2nd AC running back the lens box with the caps just after you have changed a lens. It's a waste of energy and time to go from the camera to the box, then to the camera and back to the box to return the caps. In a situation where the lens case in not necessarily right next to the camera, it means your second is going to be AWOL for twice as long every time you swing a lens. Keeping the caps on the lens generally irritates me and just complicated what should be a simple exchange. If you can't trust yourself to hold a lens without smashing the front or back element because there are no caps on it, whether its a master prime or a nikon still prime, you probably should move to the production department where you can drop all the stationary and bits of paper you like.
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#17 Chris Keth

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 04:39 PM

If you can't trust yourself to hold a lens without smashing the front or back element because there are no caps on it, whether its a master prime or a nikon still prime, you probably should move to the production department where you can drop all the stationary and bits of paper you like.


Exactly. You can also proactively do things to prevent accidents. For example, I carry lenses with two hands: a hand cupped over each end. That way if I get bumped the worst that happens is I get sore fingers and a smudged front or back element.
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#18 John Sprung

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 07:03 PM

Another variation:

2nd brings the new lens from the box without caps. 1st pulls the old lens and holds it. 2nd puts the new one on the camera. 1st hands the old one to 2nd, who puts it back in the box with caps on. Perhaps a little safer than handing off two lenses at once, particularly if they're large.



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#19 darrin p nim

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 07:27 AM

Standard procedure that I usually follow:

2nd AC removes lens from case, takes off front & rear caps. Carries the lens with both hands to camera.
While the 2nd AC is enroute, the 1st AC loosens the mount.
2nd AC arrives, extends his right hand with the lens, gripping it by the barrel while holding out his left hand in the cupping position.
AC's place the lenses in eachother's cupped hands, say thank you/got it/etc., end of transaction.

Of course, conditions change the method, places with a lot of moisture, wind, debris, etc.


This.

Most people will receive the lens in the left hand but it really is the discretion of the 1st as he/she may want to put the lens on with either hand. Thought, it's common for the left hand as most matte boxes swing to the dummy side and access is easiest from the smart/operator side. For me, mount with the left hand, lock with the right hand.
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#20 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 01:20 AM

Also, if the DP, Director and AD are standing around tapping their feet, you don't want to hand back and forth anything but the necessary...so best to just keep caps out of the equation and leave them at the lens case :)
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