Tutorial Turns Photo Lenses into Cinema Glass

Image credit: DSLR Video Shooter

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Shooting with a DSLR buys you the ability to use a vast array of great photo lenses from the “old days.” There’s a Nikkor 105mm from the 60s that’s considered one of the best lenses ever made (I have one and it’s incredible). And Sigma is making some incredible budget lenses these days for the low budget runner and gunner. If it only weren’t for the fact that they’re so damn noisy. Well, there’s now a DIY tutorial that shows you how to modify those photo lenses, cinema-style, so you can pull focus and change your aperture and keep them silent.

There is a big disconnect between the photography world and the cinema world when it comes to lenses. – Caleb Pike, DSLR Video Shooter

Caleb Pike believes that there’s a gap between photo lenses and cinema lenses. And he would be right. But he also believes that you can save a ton of money by converting one to the other. And so he created a guide in how to convert them. They key is using a lens that has a manual aperture ring and not an electronic autofocus style ring. And that points to older, manual focus rings. And that’s a good thing.

The lenses I’m using in this video are great cheap lenses, but they’re hardly the best choice for cinema use. Mainly because the two zooms move in and out and their front filter ring moves. But you can’t beat the price.

In Pike’s conversion guide, he outlines how he converted three Olympus OM lenses, a 35-70 F4, 75-150 F4 and 50mm F1.8, and it only cost him $231 for parts, plus the cost of the lenses themselves.

“So for $431 I have three killer little lenses for video.”

Here’s how it’s broken down:

  • Three lenses, $200
  • 3x $15 OM to Canon adapters
  • 3x $40 Cinevate lens gears
  • 3x $16 80mm Adapters
  • 3x $1 80mm Caps
  • 3x step up rings (around $5)

Nikkors are some of the best glass on the planet. The vintage Nikkors come in 3 flavors: NON-AI, AI and AIS lenses.

Pike shows how a user can silence the lens by “declicking” the aperture ring, then talks about converting the lens mounts, and adding a .8 focus pitch focus gear and front ring to adapt matte boxes and other accessories. But Pike also points out that prime lenses would be far better choices, like Nikkor’s vintage lenses from the 60s-80s, Pentax’s M42 screw mount lenses, and Olympus’ lenses which tend to be a bit more expensive used than Nikkor. Just about any prime will do since you’re going to be changing the lens mount anyway.

However, the mod can really improve the performance of zooms, especially those of Nikkor brand. “As for zooms, the Nikon AF-S lenses like the 17-35 F2.8, the 28-70mm F2.8 and the 80-200mm F2.8 are all great for this mod,” said Pike.  He also reminds that the still photo lenses tend to have irregular filter sizes and as such, can be a challenge to adapt matte boxes to. But his solution is a simple clamp on adapter that will allow just about any lens to slide into the matte box. You can also add a magnetic filter adapter as well.

Man, there’s no denying that they really look good and professional.  What a great weekend project for a runner and gunner looking to add some functionality to his lenses and to cure some nagging problems using them. I’m going to have to hit the thrift store and see if I can find a few guinea pigs that I can give it a whirl on.

Hat Tip – NFS

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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