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Super 16 Lens Query - which way to go


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#1 Julian Fletcher

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 05:21 PM

Hi Everybody,

Please can I ask the forum for some help?

I have an almost new Bolex SBM Super 16 camera and am wanting to know what lens I should use for the sharpest and best possible results? I know that sharpness is a big topic and a lot also comes down to accurate focusing, but I have an interesting question.

Currently I am using the Bolex with 35mm SLR lenses - using Nikon / Contax to C Mount adaptors. The two best lenses I use are a) Zeiss ZF 35 f2 Nikon fit lens, B) Zeiss 50 1.7 Contax fit lens. While of course there are much greater lenses out there, these are highly rated prime lenses to be honest in the 35mm SLR world. They give good results on the Bolex.

Does anyone have any experience in using 35mm lenses on Super 16 - any lenses to be recommended here apart from the usual Nikon stuff.

Will I gain much in image quality and sharpness by purchasing a lens especially made for Super 16mm - e.g. one of the Zeiss primes PL mount, or one of the older super 16mm Angenieux zooms that are on ebay, vs the two zeiss lenses?

I primarily shoot on Vision 3 50D and have had some of my footage scanned at 2k at Process Blue.

Cheers

Julian


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#2 Will Montgomery

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 09:38 AM

Old Angenieux zooms (just like any old lens really) will be hit and miss on quality; you have to test each lens with your camera.

 

Will I gain much in image quality and sharpness by purchasing a lens especially made for Super 16mm - e.g. one of the Zeiss primes PL mount

Yes, but putting PL lenses on a c-mount camera is problematic of course. 

 

You're basically asking for the best C-mount lenses made and that goes into the CCTV world probably. There are some really high-end c-mount lenses made for HD cameras I believe, I just have never used them. B&H might be a place to start.


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#3 Simon Wyss

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 10:58 AM

Kinoptik C-Mount apochromats are the tip of the top. Still available from Paris

 

The bigger lenses for 35mm film photo cameras cannot perform like the smaller ones that fit to the 16mm movie frame geometry. The closer you can put the lens to the film the smaller you can build it, identical (diagonal) picture angle presumed. The small lens behaves better in regards of stray light and weight. The best results come from five- to eight elements designs. The Kern Pizar are five-element lenses. I have found that I can produce as crisp pictures with them as with a six-elements Switar.

 

But no Kern is a Kinoptik. These are professional lenses.


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#4 Julian Fletcher

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 01:02 PM

Hi Will

Thanks for the reply. I think that maybe I am a little concerned that we are essentially getting into a discussion about what is the best c mount. For me, that is not really the question, or was not my intention anyway.

Yes, the bolex will take C mount but with adaptors (and less presume that they will work OK for the moment), the choice is more and it will take a Bolex bayonet, Arri bayonet or PL, and also many SLR models.

My key question is (ease of focusing aside), will my image quality be much better using a lens that has been especially made for super 16mm (like those I mentioned Angieneux, Zeiss etc)? Will I gain much, as my thinking is that I am using a couple of very good 35mm SLR lenses and obviously with the crop factor I am also using the centre part of the lens glass - which is mean't to be the highest quality area anyway? What do you think?

I believe that I saw some of your great work on Vimeo etc - and you at one time did use a super 16mm camera with a Nikon 17-35 2.8 zoom? As you did more stuff, and moved to dedicated cine lenses - did the quality improve, I mean the 17-35 is still a great lens?

If there is something specific to the Bolex that I should now - please do tell, but maybe imagine this scenario for any camera - say if I used an Arri SR2 and I had the choice of a really high quality 35mm prime with an adaptor, or a used super 16mm zeiss or angenieux zoom? I see a lot of old movies done in super 16mm, even more recently Michael Palin's Around The World series which was done with an Aaton LTR super 16mm - and my results (even with very high quality 35mm lenses, 2k scanning and very careful focusing) are nothing like what was achieved with that program - and many others!!

Your experience and advice would be much appreciated. Is there an issue with this "35mm strategy"?

Cheers.


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#5 Heikki Repo

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 01:35 PM

High quality lenses made for 35mm still photography have hard time competing with dedicated high quality 16mm cine lenses in 16mm format.

 

Now then, if I was looking for the best quality glass for a project to be shot with for example Arri SR3, I'd take a look at Ultraprimes or Zeiss superspeeds. For you the real problem is however the prism in your Bolex. All lenses are negatively affected unless you use lenses specifically made for reflex Bolex -- RX lenses. If you don't want to upgrade to an Arri SR/Aaton/modded Eclair, your best bet would be to buy Switar primes or Switar zoom. Bolex cameras are somewhat a dead end lens wise...


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#6 Giray Izcan

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 03:02 PM

There are some movies that were shot on super 16 with 35mm format lenses. For example, "The Rum Diary" and "Vera Drake" were shot with Ultra Primes and Cooke s4 lenses respectively. They appear pretty sharp and pleasing to me...


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#7 Heikki Repo

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 03:26 PM

There are some movies that were shot on super 16 with 35mm format lenses. For example, "The Rum Diary" and "Vera Drake" were shot with Ultra Primes and Cooke s4 lenses respectively. They appear pretty sharp and pleasing to me...

 

But they certainly are no SLR/still photography lenses, eh? B)


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#8 Giray Izcan

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 04:25 PM

True... Valid point haha.


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#9 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 05:02 PM

Did "The Rum Diary" and "Vera Drake" ony use 35mm format primes?  No 16mm format primes? 


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#10 Giray Izcan

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 05:05 PM

"The Rum Diary" used ultra primes. "Vera Drake" used Cooke s4s. Cooke has a few wide angle lenses in their s4 series to complement for their 35mm format s4s. This way, when shooting on s16, you can have a matching Cooke s4 lenses from wide to tele. Then again, those aren't exactly SLR lenses... haha.


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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 05:06 PM

well i have seen a pentax camera, I think it was, with a PL mount... so they could be SLR lenses.... :ph34r:


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#12 Giray Izcan

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 05:11 PM

PL mount Pentax? Wow, learning something new everyday haha


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#13 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 05:12 PM

My mistake, Olympus:

 

http://thedopshop.com/pen-pl-p-69.html


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#14 Giray Izcan

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 05:19 PM

That's interesting...


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#15 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 07:26 PM

"The Rum Diary" used ultra primes. "Vera Drake" used Cooke s4s.

 

I thought the Cookes came down to 12mm and the Zeiss Ultras came down to 14mm.  So the obvious question is did they add 16mm format lenses to that?  I bumped into a similar thread on the cinematography mailing list.

http://www.cinematog...es for 16mm.htm

 

Scrolling half way down,  Ramiro Civita writes...

 

 

"...Recently while at ARRI (Munich) I've asked if an Ultra Prime lens could be used in Super 16. The answer was a typically bavarian one: it was not designed bearing Super 16 in mind (if one could fit the UP to the SR anyhow).

If I'm not wrong the circle of confusion of a 35mm cine lens averages 0.025mm and that of a 16mm lens 0.017mm (sorry can't remember the figures in inches). Simply stated the smaller the format the smaller the circle of confusion needed for that lens to render acceptable images for a given projected (or printed sice) in relation to its viewing distance....."

 

Several people writing there who are using 35mm format (cine) primes for !6mm or S16 and very happy.  I assume peoiple use S16 lenses for the wides,  but haven't heard much explicitly yet.


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#16 Giray Izcan

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 07:29 PM

I am pretty sure "Vera Drake" was shot on Aaton XTR and "The Rum Diary" was shot on 416.


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#17 Julian Fletcher

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 09:16 AM

Hi everybody - thanks for your responses and also the interesting discussions. Will mentioned that the key issue is really the Bolex camera. When I bought it I did not know much about cine (still the case really), but as I come from the 35mm SLR film world where the conventional wisdom is that its the glass that matters (I use an old Canon EOS 500 film SLR with Contax Zeiss lenses), I applied the same principle. Will's advice is that its more 70% camera, 30% glass - as his great footage on a 35mm Arri and the 16mm SR2 shows - I get nothing like that with the Bolex. I know that the Bolex has some sort of strange prism, which means I need to meter the scene differently and apply a compensation factor (which is all explained in the Bolex manual), but I did not know why this would affect the actual picture quality - i.e, sharpness primarily.

Will's advice has made me think about saving up for an SR2/3, but just for my own knowledge, can you all tell me what the difference in picture quality would be if I used say a Nikon 50mm SLR prime lens designed for my Nikon 35mm SLR camera with the appropriate adaptors on the Bolex and on an SR2, and why would I get a difference if there was one? I know that the image is steadier on the Arri, but would there be any differences in sharpness and clarity of the picture? I find my Bolex steady enough despite the fact it has no pin registration, but from what I understand from Will, the actual picture would be a lot better with the SR2. Just intrigued as to why the Bolex might degrade the results? Would be grateful if anyone could confirm why this might be.

Cheers.


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#18 Heikki Repo

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 10:30 AM

As mentioned, the problem is the prism. The camera was built so that the lenses have to have a specific element to correct for the spherical aberration which is caused by the prism. Because of this reflex Bolex requires RX lenses. When using lenses without this correction images will be less sharp. This problem is worst with shorter focal lengths. The problem is less worse when using smaller apertures.

 

Here some more information:

http://www.c-mountle...the-difference/

 

ARRI, Aaton and Eclair use mirror instead of prism to bring the image to the viewfinder.

 

To sum it: camera is only a box with a lens running film. Thus imagewise there is little difference between Aaton, Arri or Eclair using PL-lenses (except possibly in the weave). It's just that Bolex is the box that isn't compatible with lenses that aren't made specifically for it.


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#19 Julian Fletcher

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 10:47 AM

Hi Heikki

Does this theory apply to ALL bolex? I have one of the latest ones SBM model, which is based on the REX5 I believe. I expect that the answer is yes!


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#20 Heikki Repo

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 11:13 AM

Just to add to the reply above:

If you are thinking about buying a different 16mm camera you might be interested in Eclair ACL. While it certainly isn't the newest camera, you can use c-mount (NON-RX!) lenses with it and also quite easily use different lens adapters. You could also buy for it a specifically made Contax->Eclair adapter. The zeiss lenses you own are probably from the real high end of SLR lenses and unless you want to start buying PL-mount lenses (cheapest about $500 each) this route could get you quite good results.

 

But all of this is depends on the following question: What kind of results are you getting at the moment? Something like this:

or

or

or

 

All of those look quite good to me and were shot with a Bolex. Many of them also used some longer focal length SLR lenses and for the shorter focal lengths RX Switars. If that quality isn't enough, then you'll probably need high end cine lenses and they won't be cheap to own. You'll also want to have a camera which doesn't have problems with non-RX lenses.

 

You could also rent them and use your Bolex for more hobby projects -- just buy some cheap RX Switars for the shorter focal lengths.


Edited by Heikki Repo, 25 June 2013 - 11:13 AM.

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