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Ed lachman on using 35mm lenses on 16mm


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#1 Albion Hockney

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 01:29 PM

In an interview for the film "Carol" in the discussion of using 2 perf 35 vs 16mm he says:

 

"The advantage of shooting 2 or 3-perf is that the lenses in 35mm have more of a spherical feeling, roundness and shape than what you get from 16. I use 35mm lenses when I shoot Super 16 to maintain that."

 

as far as I know 16mm lenses just have smaller image circles so I wonder if there is much validity to what he is saying other then the fact that 35mm lenses are far more plenty full so you have many more options and can find lenses with better characteristics.


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#2 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 02:44 PM

Hmm, yea I have my doubts as well.
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#3 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 04:24 PM

Using 35mm lenses on a 16mm camera Is no different to using 16mm lenses other than possibly introducing less resolution, since 16mm lenses had higher fine detail requirements. Though these days modern 35mm lenses are probably as sharp as most older 16mm ones.
Otherwise, as you say, the image circle is simply being cropped down.
Sometimes an artist's response to their tools can be more personally psychological than technically correct. It doesn't necessarily diminish the results.
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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 05:46 PM

I wonder if he is referring to less vignetting of the bokeh (i.e. less 'cat's eye' bokeh). When you are using the full image circle of a lens, sometimes bokeh on the outer edges of the frame can vignette or get cropped off by the length of the lens barrel due to the off-axis angle the light has to travel to reach the corner of the film plane. Using larger barreled lenses with larger front elements can eliminate some of that.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 05:49 PM

The funny thing is that I tend to associate the feeling of "roundness" with the fall-off in sharpness and focus near the corners of the lens, so I would think you'd get less of that with a 35mm lens on a Super-16 camera.  On the other hand, he may just be referring to the limited choices in lenses made for Super-16 that have the optical characteristics that he likes, so he gets that feeling he likes from using his favorite 35mm lenses on a Super-16 camera.


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#6 Giray Izcan

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 06:06 PM

I read the article in AC. The article mentions that he preferred 35mm format lenses because he believes that you use the best part of the lenses on s16 which is the center of the lenses. It may be true, but from my personal experience, one has to be really careful with flares due to an excessive amount of light in the gate area will cause a loss of contrast and as a result a  less perceived sharpness overall.


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#7 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 01 December 2015 - 07:29 PM

The funny thing is that I tend to associate the feeling of "roundness" with the fall-off in sharpness and focus near the corners of the lens...


Yes, I personally like a bit of coma in an MCU where the background bokeh seems to warp in a circular pattern around the subject. It's sort of like putting a frame around a painting, it gives it context. I guess it's a very subjective thing and also depends on the background being used. You wouldn't want that with a lot of straight architectural lines, but with organic shapes like tree branches it can be magical.
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#8 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 03 December 2015 - 06:23 PM

I read the article in AC. The article mentions that he preferred 35mm format lenses because he believes that you use the best part of the lenses on s16 which is the center of the lenses.


I think this might be a common assumption, and obviously it depends on the lenses in question, but with modern lenses I don't think it means a better image. Comparing apples with apples, Ultra 16 lenses for example will give better micro contrast and fine detail to a S16 image than Ultra Primes will. Same goes with Zeiss 16mm Super Speeds compared with the 35mm versions, although the triangular iris in the MkII and III 16mm series isn't everyone's cup of tea. But I'd venture to say that any of the good modern lenses designed for S16 - Optars, Elites, Ultra 16s, Cooke SK4s - will be at least as good as a centre-cropped 35mm lens, if you can even find a matching focal length. Most of the overlap between formats is in the 16 to 50mm range, beyond that 35mm lenses are used anyway. Wider than 16 and you're generally looking at expensive specialty lenses for 35mm coverage.

The same focal length lens made for a larger format requires a design that has a wider field of view. So it's bending more light and needs more correction, more compromises. Across the field, aberrations are balanced out or pitted against each other to achieve an optimal image, and that often means that the graph of an aberration will worsen as you move out from the centre before being reigned in at the edges. So while the centre is always optimal, a point 2/3s out may be worse in some respects than the edge. Crop the image there, and you're not getting the best optimisation. The wider the field of view, the more design compromises need to be made, which can affect the entire field, not just the edges. Things like veiling glare, spherical aberration, axial CA and coma are more dependent on the aperture than the distance from the centre of the image. A lens designed for a particular format can be optimised for that field of view.

If using the "sweet spot" of a lens was always the best option you would expect large format lenses to be amazing on a miniature format like 35mm, but the fact is they usually look quite soft when used like this.

All of which is not to say that using 35mm lenses for S16 is a bad thing - Cooke only designed three wide angle SK4s up to 12mm with the rest of a S16 set made up of masked down S4s, and that works great - but there actually is a reason manufacturers have made full sets of dedicated 16mm lenses, and it's not just about less glass and reduced cost.

I imagine the DP interviewed has a particular psychological appreciation for whatever lenses he uses, maybe it's as subtle as avoiding the cat's eye bokeh that Satsuki mentioned, or just a fondness for a certain 35mm brand as David suggested, whatever the reason I'm sure it's valid, but I thought I should challenge the "sweet spot" argument.
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#9 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 December 2015 - 06:54 PM

Just watched this long discussion with Ed Lachman about Carol: http://nofilmschool....l-dp-ed-lachman

It appears he was referring to edge falloff when he spoke about liking the 'roundness' of 35mm lenses. Anyway, an interesting discussion.
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