Home thoughts from a camera

07 March 2015

Region: London

Home thoughts from a camera

A Mark Percival blog

As a recent entrant into the joys of videography, going to the BVExpo last week was like putting a schoolboy into a sweet shop.  BVExpo showcases the latest in broadcast video equipment.  Like many of us older folk, mostly my photographic life has been using film.  In my case, medium format and Nikon 35mm.  Changing to digital equipment in the last 3 years opened up a Pandora’s box of opportunities with the DSLR’s HD video functions, as well as a whole raft of add-on cost.  Fluid heads, sliders, better ways to follow-focus and so on.

I enjoy a Leica for street and travel photography.  Some of my earnings come from architectural photography.  As a semi-retired engineer perhaps I can be excused getting excited about the crisp exactness that Leica lenses bring.  That Germanic precision just panders to the pedant in me.  Perhaps I can also be forgiven making lustful glances at the Leica cinematograph lenses on show at BVExpo.

Almost as exciting were the other cinematograph lens ranges; Zeiss, Canon, Arri, Fujinon and others.  With such a feast of goodies one can become blasé.  Oh, yet another £10,000 lens.  I was somewhat taken by the services offered by TLS Optics who can re-barrel lenses for use on cine cameras including, for example, cameras from Black Magic and Red.  Still expensive but potentially a new life for old glass?

This line of thought led to a question.  Why would a filmmaker use one lens make over another?  Being fobbed off with statements like, it depends what “look” you want, is not good enough.  If it is to be believed, the Internet provides glimpses at the answer.  I found 2 short videos that compare lenses from different manufacturers but, possibly more importantly, illustrates why cinematography can involve subtleties that we predominantly still photographers may overlook.

Comparison between Leica and Cooke cinematographic lenses.  https://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2014/03/why-do-we-want-flat-glass/

Only when the differences are pointed out by seasoned cinematographers are the subtleties revealed.  Indeed, the Leica lenses are almost forensic.  Imagine also viewing the results on a 40 foot screen.  I also understand better what a “look” might be.  I admit I prefer the Cooke results when viewed both on my laptop and my Eizo colour-calibrated display.

Comparison between Canon 50 mm f1 .0 versus Panavision 50 mm f1.0.  https://vimeo.com/33414318

My view from this video illustrated the differences in the way the lenses presented out of focus elements either in the background or foreground.  There seem to be a subtle difference in the skin tones which I think may have been one lens being fractionally more yellow than the other.

For those of us starting out, the lenses we have are the ones we use.  If the web is your target, a matchbox with a hole in it, for now, maybe all you need.  However, going some way to answering the lens question has given me new respect for the cinematographer skills.  Now back to trying to hold my camera steady in HD mode – let me get the basics right first.