Vintage Lenses on a Modern Camera
Vintage cinema lenses are renowned for producing beautiful images that can’t be simulated in post-production.
Although colour movies and television had well been well established for years, people would often shoot films in black and white to suggest a period piece. Today’s viewers are several generations past those old black and white days and are much more sophisticated. Presenting a film to them in black and white doesn’t have the same impact, as they grew up in the world of colour. So how can we create an old-timey look, aside from clicking an overused pre-set whilst editing?
Use the vintage lenses that shot the films we grew up watching.
Legendary lenses made by Cooke and Lomo from 35 or 40 ago, helps to bring back the organic look of those seventies and eighties films that we all loved.
These wonderful old cine lenses help ‘de-digitize’ the look and offset the hard edge of modern high-end cameras and are renowned for producing beautiful images that can’t be simulated in post-production, they have personality with gentle painterly softness.
Woody Alan’s ’Midnight in Paris’ has scenes in which a character travels in time to 1920s Paris. Modern Cooke lenses were used to shoot the today shots, whilst old Cooke Panchros helped render a 1920’s feel with warmer and more contrasty images.
Lens choice can be visual shorthand for various emotions.
Even with the tremendous amount of options on the market today for cinema lenses, many cinematographers still stand steadfast by these classic vintage lenses, which are once again very highly sought after.
Countless classic 70’s and 80’s movies were filmed through the Cooke 20-100mm lens pictured above. It cost around $30,000 at the time and was Stanley Kubrick’s favorite zoom lens and was used on many of his films including The Shinning and Eyes Wide Shut. More recent, Spielberg used this model on his 10-part mini-series, “Band of Brothers”.
Cooke lenses are known worldwide for their distinctive ‘Cooke Look’, which has created beautiful images for the movie industry for the past 129 years.
Part of the Cooke Look is the very subtle warmth that’s in the lens, which gives luscious, warm skin tones alongside smooth contrast with a pleasing amount of sharpness.
(My old Cooke being serviced at Visual Products in Ohio prior to shipping)
Lomo Cine Lenses are often referred to as Russia’s answer to Cooke lenses.
Lomo lenses where made in St Petersburg for Konvas 35mm movie cameras, which was cutting edge filmmaking technology in the USSR during the cold war and beyond. Lomos have a similar look to old Cooke speed panchros; warm and contrasty with a slightly softer look than modern lenses, which helps render period images. Little or uncoated optics render increase flare which adds extra character to the footage.
(Konvas 35mm movie camera)
Lomos are scattered all over the world these days and it can be pretty difficult to find good ones. These Lomos had been collecting dust on shelves in Belarus for many years before I bought them. To bring theses old lenses up to modern day standard for use on my S35 cameras, I sent them to South Wales based camera engineer specialist Les Bosher. Within a few weeks, he re-engineered them from the original Russian OCT-19 mount to Arri PL mount. He also added .8 pitch alloy focus gear rings, standardised all front diameters to 95mm, cleaned and collimated each lens. Thanks to the super35 camera revolution, these wonderful cine lenses have a new lease of life.
Below is a lens comparison between a £600 Lomo 75mm and a £6,000 Cooke 65mm Mini S4
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