Friday, September 24, 2010

102 Year-Old Lens on Canon 5D MkII

Timur Civan is a director of photography for movies, and a photographer. He’s also a tinkerer, and he got his hands on an old Wollensak 35mm F5.0 Cine-Velostigmat, a hand cranked movie-camera lens from 1908. You see it above, wedded to his Canon 5D MkII. But where did it come from?

Civan got a call from his friend, known mysteriously only as “a Russian lens technician”:

He found in a box of random parts, hidden inside anther lens this gem. A circa 1908 (possibly earlier) 35mm lens. Still functioning, mostly brass, and not nearly as much dust or fungus as one would think after sitting in a box for over a hundred years. This lens is a piece of motion picture history, and at this point rare beyond words. So I say to him, “Wow… what do you have in mind?” he smiles, and says, (in the thickest Russian accent you can imagine) “I can make this fit EF you know…”

The results are astonishing. This century-old hunk of glass and brass makes a great picture. There’s vignetting at the edges, a softness and a lack of biting contrast. There’s also a color-shift in the non-black-and-white images. In short, the lens adds all the tweaks you might do in post-processing to Holga-fy your pictures. Civan is planning on shooting some footage with the lens, too, which is its purpose after all, and promises to share the results on the Cinema 5D forums, where he posted his photographs.

But aside from the great pictures, and the wonderful story of the mysterious Russian, we can learn something from this tale. Camera-tech comes and goes, but photography is really just about light. That’s why you should buy the best lenses you can afford. They will probably last longer than you.

102 year old lens on a 5DmkII [Cinema 5D forums]

Partly to test this new "Share to..." feature in Google Reader, partly because it's a thing I desperately want.

No comments: