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Vintage Lens Tests

Modern digital camera sensors have come a long way very quickly. SD, HD, 4K, 5K, and now 6K and beyond. Along with this upwards trend in resolution, the newest lenses available have kept pace, with ever-increasing optical sharpness and lack of artifacts. This super-sharp, ultra-HD aesthetic opens up a new and exciting realm of possibilities for the Cinematographer.

This increase in resolution is simply a tool in the Cinematographer's toolbox, however—which is to say it isn't always the right tool for the job. Sometimes a little imperfection is needed to soften, degrade, or otherwise give the image some character. A method that I'm particularly fond of is to use older, repurposed, or otherwise altered lenses. The flaring characteristics of a lens is a particularly useful measurement of the imperfections of a lens and its effect on an image.

 

Lens: Cineovision Anamorphic (50mm) / Stop: T4

Thanks to CAMTec Cameras and their extensive collection of vintage, rehoused, and otherwise one-of-a-kind lenses, we were able to test the flaring characteristics of wide range of lenses and their effect on the high-resolution image of a RED Epic.

Gear and Settings

  • Camera: RED Epic w/ Mysterium X
  • Resolution: 5K WS (spherical lenses), 5K ANA (anamorphic lenses)
  • Compression: 5:1
  • ISO: 320
  • White Balance: 3700K
  • Frame Rate: 23.976fps
  • Shutter Angle: 180°
  • Filtration: none
  • Color / Gamma: REDcolor3, REDgamma3

  • All images have been exported as JPEG files at a width of 720, and at 50% quality.
  • Click on any thumbnail for a larger view.
  • If interested in viewing the original camera data or higher resolution stills, feel free to contact me.

    Testing Methods

    Two lights were set-up pointed towards the camera: an open-face 1k Nook (camera bottom-right) and a 1k Arri Fresnel (camera top-left). Camera settings were kept consistent between lens changes, with the exception of resolution settings between spherical and anamorphic lenses. Each lens was shot at T4, as a normal exposure, and T8, as an underexposure to more accurately capture the lens' flaring characteristics. I also captured alternative angles where the lens flared in interesting or expressive ways.

    As a control lens, I started with a Zeiss Super Speed, to compare the other lenses with one most Cinematographers are probably very familiar with.

    Results

    Zeiss Super Speed (35mm)

    Lens: Zeiss Super Speed (35mm) / Stop: T4 Lens: Zeiss Super Speed (35mm) / Stop: T4 (ALT)
    Lens: Zeiss Super Speed (35mm) / Stop: T8 Lens: Zeiss Super Speed (35mm) / Stop: T8 (ALT)

    Cooke 18-100mm Uncoated (25mm)

    Lens: Cooke 18-100mm Uncoated (25mm) / Stop: T4 Lens: Cooke 18-100mm Uncoated (25mm) / Stop: T4 (ALT)
    Lens: Cooke 18-100mm Uncoated (25mm) / Stop: T8 Lens: Cooke 18-100mm Uncoated (25mm) / Stop: T8 (ALT)

    Kowa Cine Prominar Spherical (20mm)

    Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Spherical (20mm) / Stop: T4 Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Spherical (20mm) / Stop: T4 (ALT)
    Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Spherical (20mm) / Stop: T8 Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Spherical (20mm) / Stop: T8 (ALT)

    Kowa Cine Prominar Spherical (40mm)

    Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Spherical (40mm) / Stop: T4 Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Spherical (40mm) / Stop: T4 (ALT)
    Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Spherical (40mm) / Stop: T8 Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Spherical (40mm) / Stop: T8 (ALT)

    Kowa Cine Prominar Anamorphic (40mm)

    Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Anamorphic (40mm) / Stop: T4 Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Anamorphic (40mm) / Stop: T4 (ALT)
    Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Anamorphic (40mm) / Stop: T8 Lens: Kowa Cine Prominar Anamorphic (40mm) / Stop: T8 (ALT)

    Todd AO Anamorphic (35mm)

    Lens: Todd AO Anamorphic (35mm) / Stop: T4 Lens: Todd AO Anamorphic (35mm) / Stop: T4 (ALT)
    Lens: Todd AO Anamorphic (35mm) / Stop: T8 Lens: Todd AO Anamorphic (35mm) / Stop: T8 (ALT)

    Hawke C-Series Anamorphic (35mm)

    Lens: Hawke C-Series Anamorphic (35mm) / Stop: T4 Lens: Hawke C-Series Anamorphic (35mm) / Stop: T4 (ALT)
    Lens: Hawke C-Series Anamorphic (35mm) / Stop: T8 Lens: Hawke C-Series Anamorphic (35mm) / Stop: T8 (ALT)

    Cineovision Anamorphic (50mm)

    Lens: Cineovision Anamorphic (50mm) / Stop: T4 Lens: Cineovision Anamorphic (50mm) / Stop: T4 (ALT)
    Lens: Cineovision Anamorphic (50mm) / Stop: T8 Lens: Cineovision Anamorphic (50mm) / Stop: T8 (ALT)

     

    Many thanks to Peter Dukes at CAMTec Cameras and Richie Yau.

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