Photographer 3D Prints His Own Lens And It’s Stunningly Sharp

Image: Mathieu Stern

by James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

We talk about lenses and 3D printing all the time here on the site, but rarely do those two worlds collide. But that hasn’t stopped a French photographer from creating his own prime lens and printing out the housing with a 3D printer. The results are very impressive. Imagine if you could 3D print an widescreen lens for your short film — wouldn’t that be something? Could making your own lenses be the future of independent filmmakers?

“I always dreamed to make my own lenses.” Photographer Mathieu Stern

3D Printed Lens (Image: Mathieu Stern)

The story comes from the self professed “master of weird lenses” Mathieu Stern, a french photographer who is always on the lookout for unique and rare lenses to shoot with. His collection ranges from plastic toy camera lenses to vintage Soviet-era primes, to lenses that are over 100 years old. But Stern is turning his attention to the modern era, and he may have shown us the future.

“I  started by making a cardboard first prototype with a found lens from 1890 I had in a box. It was ugly and not easy to use but I was able to focus and take the measurements I needed to create a 2D design.” – Mathieu Stern

Image taken with the 3D printed lens (Image: Mathieu Stern)

The 150mm f1.8 lens is a monocle design with a Plaquette diaphragm, complete with a slot inserting bokeh elements. Using a series of old lens elements that he had on hand from broken and outdated lenses, Stern created his own lens design out of cardboard. From there, he partnered up with French printing service Fabulous, and had the design finalized and translated it into a 3D modeling program. Fabulous then exported it into a 3D model then had it 3D printed.

“Once I received the 3D printed parts,” Stern wrote on his blog, “I saw my crazy lens coming to “life” and… it worked!!”

Image: Mathieu Stern

Stern designed it to work on his full frame Sony α7s and its FE lens mount, and when Stern said his custom lens worked, that is an understatement. For such a simple monocle design, the center portion of the lens is remarkable sharp, while the deformation along the outside rim provides a kind of tilt shift kind of fashion.

Along with it, the f1.8 natural aperture of the lens provides a really buttery bokeh that Stern can customize with a slot in the back half of the lens. He’s created inserts with which to create a wide variety of out-of-focus bokeh elements from squares to stars to circles. He even created a cool bird bokeh background. The sky is the limit here, to be sure.

Image taken with the 3D printed lens (Image: Mathieu Stern)

And when you look at he images he has taken with it, well, it’s down right inspiring. It leads me to the notion that maybe designing and 3D printing your own prime lenses could be the future. Especially if you want to shoot anamorphic like Quentin Tarantino did on The Hateful Eight, where he used a rare set of Panavision Ultra 70 lenses from the 1960s to get that Cinemascope vibe.

Now granted, the key here are the lens elements themselves, and it would take some slick engineering to not only create a widescreen version, but also maybe toss in a 3D printed aperture. But that’s certainly within the realm of possibility if you can find the right elements to be housed in them.

I’ve always said that 3D printers are a disruptive technology that will be a key part of our every day lives. I predict we soon won’t remember our personal and professional lives before them. And this is just an example of how that could be, at least for cinema.

You can learn more about Stern’s lens journey here, as well as on his YouTube channel here.

Hat Tip – No Film School


About doddle 16509 Articles
Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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