Jump to content


Photo

Lenses with character


  • Please log in to reply
40 replies to this topic

#1 Tiago Pimentel

Tiago Pimentel
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Director
  • Lisbon

Posted 25 February 2018 - 09:10 AM

Hi guys,

I'm looking for a set of lenses (not really sure I want primes or zooms) for my narrative projects. I'm looking for lenses that have character, a distinctive look to them. I have a Ursa Mini 4.6k camera (EF mount) and vintage lenses often work great with these newer sensors.

I've been thinking if I should buy a few lenses or just use the money to rent some classics like the cooke mini s4 ef mount. I've never used them and I'm one of those that's unsure a prime lens is worth 10.000eur each... (is it worth it?)

if I decide to buy, I've read great things about the Mamiyas 645 Sekor C and the Zeiss Contax. I have a Tokina 28-70 2.6 which has the angenieux formula. That's the kind of lens I like. Something with a distinctive look. I'm not looking for lenses that cost 3000eur each. I think for that money, I prefer to rent. Any suggestions?

Thanks

Edited by Tiago Pimentel, 25 February 2018 - 09:11 AM.

  • 0

#2 Stuart Brereton

Stuart Brereton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3319 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 25 February 2018 - 11:22 AM

The idea of lenses having a distinctive 'look' is often exaggerated. Generally speaking, older lenses are softer and less well corrected than modern glass, but often the differences are so subtle that you'd have to A/B the lenses to see it. Most 'character' will be visible when the lens is wide open, and therefore performing at its worst. As soon as you start to stop down, the aberrations that give a lens its look become less obvious, and by the time you get to f5.6, most lenses look pretty similar.

 

The Mamiya 645 Sekor lenses were designed for medium format, so they won't be quite as sharp as FF lenses, and they're slow (at least by 35mm standards). I don't think they made anything wider than a 35mm.

 

Zeiss Contax are supposedly a very similar design to Zeiss Superspeeds/Standard speeds. It could cost you a couple of thousand dollars to put a set together.

 

If you just want individual lenses with some quirks, try some of the old Russian lenses like Helios and Mir. There is a company called IronGlass who sell sets of 6 'anamorphic look' Russian lenses for about $1100 on eBay.

 

Meyer-Gorlitz (Pentacon) lenses can be interesting too. The 50mm f1.8 has some unusual soap bubble bokeh when wide open.

 

Old Asahi Takumar (Pentax) lenses can be found pretty cheap online or in pawn shops. They date back to the 1960s and have a nice look to them. Built like tanks, too. The 50mm f1.4, 35mm f2 and 85mm f1.9 are all really good.


  • 1

#3 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 12131 posts
  • Other

Posted 25 February 2018 - 01:54 PM

There is a fine line between "characterful" and "bad," often separated only by shades of opinion.


  • 0

#4 Tiago Pimentel

Tiago Pimentel
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Director
  • Lisbon

Posted 25 February 2018 - 02:26 PM

Thanks guys. I probably need to elaborate a bit more when I say distinctive look. For example, I remember a test Shane Hurlbutt did between the Cookes mini S4 and the Leica Summicron and it was quite clear that the Leicas were much more flat than the cookes. The Cookes had this 3 dimension quality, a depth to the image that the Leicas simply didn't have. As if the subject was more separated from the background. And they are priced similarly. My goal here is to find a set of lenses that have this 3 dimension, that you can almost feel the textures and volumes. Of course the camera has something to do with, but that test was shot using the same camera for both lenses.
  • 0

#5 Stuart Brereton

Stuart Brereton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3319 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 25 February 2018 - 02:30 PM

a test Shane Hurlbutt did between the Cookes mini S4 and the Leica Summicron and it was quite clear that the Leicas were much more flat than the cookes. The Cookes had this 3 dimension quality, a depth to the image that the Leicas simply didn't have. As if the subject was more separated from the background. 

I remember that test. I also remember not being able to see much of a difference. Your mileage may vary.

 

As Phil says, much of this discussion is just shades of opinion, and what you find characterful may be dealbreaker for someone else.


  • 0

#6 Tiago Pimentel

Tiago Pimentel
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Director
  • Lisbon

Posted 25 February 2018 - 02:58 PM

Thanks Stuart. I know this discussion is always very subjective. I can speak from experience that my Tokina 28-70 renders a very different image from my Sigma 18-35 which is much more analytical (flat looking).
  • 0

#7 Stuart Brereton

Stuart Brereton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3319 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 25 February 2018 - 03:24 PM

I think the problem you'll come up against is that older lenses, which tend to be less well corrected, and therefore have 'character', probably don't match very well as a set. There are always individual lenses that people rave about, such as the Asahi Takumar 50mm f1.4, but whatever magic that lens has does not necessarily  travel to the other Asahi Takumars. More modern lenses will be more likely to match, but less likely to have a distinctive look.

 

If it was me, I'd look into assembling a set of Zeiss Contax C/Y lenses. They're high quality, color matched, and have that older Zeiss look, which I happen to like. The AE series may have more of a look than the newer MM.


  • 0

#8 Tiago Pimentel

Tiago Pimentel
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Director
  • Lisbon

Posted 25 February 2018 - 03:29 PM

Great advice Stuart, thanks! Yes, matching different lenses is a must of course. What about the Rokinons? How do they stand (image wise) against the Zeiss?
  • 0

#9 Stuart Brereton

Stuart Brereton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3319 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 25 February 2018 - 03:46 PM

I've never compared Rokinons with Zeiss, although I've shot movies with both brands. I've found Rokinons to be perfectly adequate, but fairly anonymous.


  • 0

#10 Tiago Pimentel

Tiago Pimentel
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Director
  • Lisbon

Posted 25 February 2018 - 03:55 PM

Stuart, I've never understood the contax designation. I own a Zeiss 50mm Planar f1.4 AIs. Is this matched to the 28mm distagon?
  • 0

#11 Stuart Brereton

Stuart Brereton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3319 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 25 February 2018 - 04:05 PM

Planar and Distagon are terms for different lens designs. Distagon tends to be used for wide angle lenses. Matched lenses would be made from the same type of glass, and with the same coatings, but not necessarily the same design.

 

http://ilovehatephot...s-nomenclature/


  • 0

#12 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5181 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 25 February 2018 - 04:34 PM

Stuart, I've never understood the contax designation. I own a Zeiss 50mm Planar f1.4 AIs. Is this matched to the 28mm distagon?

 

They were designed for the Yashica  built Contax SLR cameras. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contax

 

I used some on my Aaton. they matched the 16mm Zeiss Super Speed Distagons pretty well, if perhaps not quite as sharp when wide open. 


  • 0

#13 Tiago Pimentel

Tiago Pimentel
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Director
  • Lisbon

Posted 27 February 2018 - 04:45 AM

Stuart, I saw a few stills from the Takumar 50mm and it's magic! That's the kind of lens I'm looking for. I think it's the closest to the Cooke look I ever found. I also read it's a very specific lens and one can easily buy the "wrong" 50mm takumar. Is this true? Btw, will this lens cover the whole 4.6k sensor on my Ursa Mini?

Thanks
Tiago Pimentel

Edited by Tiago Pimentel, 27 February 2018 - 04:45 AM.

  • 0

#14 Mark Dunn

Mark Dunn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2639 posts
  • Other
  • London

Posted 27 February 2018 - 04:50 AM

Takumars are 35mm. stills lenses, so there's no problem with coverage.

The wiki page has something about a later 80s budget line with different coatings. The giveaway will be the mount- the pre-75 Takumars are M42.


Edited by Mark Dunn, 27 February 2018 - 04:50 AM.

  • 0

#15 Tiago Pimentel

Tiago Pimentel
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Director
  • Lisbon

Posted 27 February 2018 - 04:55 AM

Thanks Mark! And the M42 mount is the one I should be looking for, right?
  • 0

#16 Mark Dunn

Mark Dunn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2639 posts
  • Other
  • London

Posted 27 February 2018 - 06:06 AM

I assume so.

https://www.pentaxfo...-Lenses-i3.html


  • 0

#17 Tiago Pimentel

Tiago Pimentel
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Director
  • Lisbon

Posted 27 February 2018 - 06:33 AM

Btw, those "anamorphics" from Ironglass, are they worth it? I love the anamorphic spatial look. The oval bokehs and the flares are fine as well, but I love that wide space of the image. People tend to say that using a normal spherical lens and cropping to 2.39 is the same but it is not! I know the Ursa Mini has a 3k anamorphic (done by using the 2x desqueeze). Not sure if it's of any use with those russian lenses though.
  • 0

#18 Stuart Brereton

Stuart Brereton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3319 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 27 February 2018 - 06:36 AM

It's the Asahi Takumars in M42 mount that have the best reputation. The original Super-Takumars date back to the early/mid 1960s, and are single coated. They look great, but they flare fairly easily. The later Super-Multi-Coated Takumars are from the late 1960s and early 1970s. They are well, Multi-coated, but otherwise very similar optically. Don't confuse Super-Multi-Coated with S-M-C Pentax lenses, which are a later line.

 

They have interesting bokeh, at times showing the kind of soap-bubble bokeh in out of focus highlight when wide open. Some of them (the 50mm f1.4 particularly) are prone to yellowing, due to thorium elements in the glass. It can be removed with a UV treatment.

 

I'm away from home at the moment, but when I get back, I can post some comparison frames from Takumars and some more modern glass.

 

The Pentax Forums are a great source of info on these lenses.


  • 0

#19 Stuart Brereton

Stuart Brereton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3319 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 27 February 2018 - 06:40 AM

Btw, those "anamorphics" from Ironglass, are they worth it? I love the anamorphic spatial look. The oval bokehs and the flares are fine as well, but I love that wide space of the image. People tend to say that using a normal spherical lens and cropping to 2.39 is the same but it is not! I know the Ursa Mini has a 3k anamorphic (done by using the 2x desqueeze). Not sure if it's of any use with those russian lenses though.

Those IronGlass lenses are not anamorphic. They are spherical lenses that have been given an oval aperture to create oval bokeh, and painted blue inside. Other than that, they are just old Russian stills lenses, and therefore can be of varying quality.


  • 1

#20 Tiago Pimentel

Tiago Pimentel
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Director
  • Lisbon

Posted 27 February 2018 - 07:40 AM

Stuart, do they emulate anamorphic flares as well?


  • 0


Broadcast Solutions Inc

Aerial Filmworks

Abel Cine

Visual Products

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

The Slider

Glidecam

Tai Audio

Ritter Battery

Wooden Camera

CineTape

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Rig Wheels Passport

FJS International, LLC

Technodolly

Paralinx LLC

Metropolis Post

CineLab

rebotnix Technologies

Willys Widgets

Wooden Camera

rebotnix Technologies

Tai Audio

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Rig Wheels Passport

Glidecam

Visual Products

Metropolis Post

Technodolly

Aerial Filmworks

FJS International, LLC

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Willys Widgets

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineLab

Paralinx LLC

The Slider

Ritter Battery

CineTape

Abel Cine