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Quick Test of the New Digital Bolex Kish Optics Fixed Aperture Lenses on the Panasonic GH3

02.26.13 @ 1:45PM Tags : , ,

The Kish Optics lenses for the Digital Bolex D16 were unveiled not too long ago, and they are designed to be as inexpensive and sharp as possible for the new camera. The way the team is accomplishing that feat is by making them fixed focal length and fixed f-stop lenses (10mm, 18mm, and 38mm f/4). So while you won’t have as much flexibility as with your DSLR lens, they should be sharper for less money. Jared Abrams at Wide Open Camera got his hands on the lenses, and was actually able to test them on a GH3 — even though the Micro 4/3 imager is a bit larger than the Super 16mm size they were designed for.


The 38mm lens wasn’t working with the GH3, but it’s pretty impressive that they cover such a large sensor, so they may be useful far beyond just the D16 camera. One of the main concerns people had with these lenses was about controlling exposure. Since they have a filter thread, they will be able to take ND filters very easily, and if you plan on using them outdoors, that is the only way they are going to be useful.

These are going to be some of the cheapest options for high-performing lenses with the D16, though obviously they will not be right for every production since they will require a bit of planning in order to use them properly. On controlled indoor shoots they should be great, but if you do anything where variables are changing often, they may not be the best choice.

Link: First Look. Digital Bolex D16 Lenses From Kish Optics — Wide Open Camera

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  • Christian Hubbard on 02.26.13 @ 1:49PM

    Doesnt say whether or not ETC mode was used on the Gh3 or whether or not he cropped in post.

    also 300$ for a fixed FOCUS lens is insane.

    hopefully he meant fixed focal length.

    even still, fixed aperture seems silly.,

    • Nope, they’re fixed aperture, as well.

    • He was testing the full M4/3 image size with the lenses.

      They are not fixed focus, just fixed focal length, and the reason for fixed aperture is that it is less moving parts inside. $300 gets you a lens that should be as sharp or sharper than ones costing thousands of dollars more.

      • They actually are techincally a fixed focus. When mounted on the d16 with the adapter they will have electronically controlled focus from the camera. This will allow you to pull focus using the crank on the side of the camera. I don’t know that these will be super useful on other cameras but on the d16 they look pretty good.

        They are also looking at making f/2.8 models and f/8 for the future.

      • I wonder if ultra sharpness is TOP feature for digital camera lenses. Digital is rough as it is. Ultra sharpness doesn’t seem like a general purpose advantage to me. Something to sweeten the digital look seems more reasonable and probably even cheaper to achieve. Or same price at faster aperture.

        The need to use ND filters to control exposure will often result in reduction of that claimed ultra sharpness. Also like others have said, this lens might lead to increased lighting costs which kinda defeats the purpose of cheap lenses. Wouldn’t it be better to just go with standard aperture system? Strange design choice. Time will tell how this will turn out in realt world shooting..

  • I love what digital Bolex are about ! Keeping costs low and going their own way – they’ve go big bollox those guys and are passionate and dedicated ! Just got a gh3 a little gutted I can’t quite stretch to Bolex yet but hey kudos deserved for sure 😉

  • I think they are fixed focus. Here’s the quote from their site:

    “You may have heard we are making fixed focus / fixed aperture lenses, this is true, but it’s not the complete truth, because we’re working on a system that will allow these lenses to be focused.”

    That system will be an electronically controlled lens mount coupled to the camera’s crank, making it a follow focus. But for using the lenses outside of the Digital Bolex, the focus seems like it will be fixed.

    • Yes they will not be fixed focus on the Digital Bolex, that’s what I was referring to. At f/4 the wider lenses will have pretty deep depth of field as it is.

  • I feel like using these lenses in controlled lighting situations will also make people more cognizant of how to light properly for cinema, where the DP has already pre-determined a specific shooting stop, and it’s up to the electric and grip folks to get their exposures to fall within the correct range. So not only are these lenses likely to provide incredible bang for your buck in terms of sharpness and color rendition, they might also make you a better technical filmmaker in that they’ll force you to think about light in a more professional way.

    I can’t imagine dealing with these in run and gun situations, however. Sounds like an absolute nightmare.

    • I see what you’re saying, but at f/4 and ISO400 (or something fairly low to minimise noise, I’m not sure how sensitive the Digital Bolex sensor is) you’re going to need a lot more than just a few redheads to light your shot. They might be thinking of ways to make their kit better and cheaper but it’s not going to lower lighting rental costs. Also, if you can afford decent lights and an electric and grip team to control the light and hit the exposure level, why not shoot on Alexa or Epic with Master Primes or S4′s?

      I don’t think this type of lens is going to catch on to be honest, but it’s an interesting idea. Anyone know if you’ll be able to use other lenses on the Digital Bolex if you want?

      • So while the lenes will be cheap, everyone will be spending time planning for “extra light” or “buying” extra light (kits or rental) to make up for it.

        I like the concept but it is one step forward one step back.

      • Digital Bolex is an interchangeable mount system, so in addition to (any brand) C lenses, you can also use EF, M4/3, PL, etc. if you have the correct mount.

      • Because for what it costs to rent an Alexa for three days, you can buy a Digital Bolex. Four days and you can get the Bolex and a set of lenses.

        • I don’t think they will sell a lot of them, there are just too many better alternatives for less cash.

  • Thanks for putting up our video! The D16 lenses are both fixed aperture and focus. The Digital Bolex has an adjustable front mount that will move the lens back and forth for minute focus adjustments. This will all be done inside the lens housing and not the lens itself. Hope that makes sense! The crank on the right side of the camera will be used to adjust the mount. Lightcraft Workshop has a 46mm fader ND that should work with an adapter. Might vignette on the 10mm. We have a longer interview with Kish from Kish Optics on how they designed the lenses to work specifically with the Digital Bolex sensor. This makes them a little more than your average fixed lens. The lenses we had we first generation prototypes. Joe over at DB was super cool to let this info out. This was first time they had ever been on a camera. They all did cover the M4/3″ sensor. That surprised me. Im going to start looking for old S16 zoom now on ebay. :) Thanks so much for posting this, you guys have a killer site!

    • Robert Hardy on 02.26.13 @ 5:36PM

      Awesome, thanks for the additional info Jared!

    • ‘The Digital Bolex has an adjustable front mount that will move the lens back and forth for minute focus adjustments.’

      What’s the CF point with this system? Also will there be an indication of what distance you’re focused at for the focus puller and also to make sure the focusing device in calibrated during camera prep?

      Cheers!

      • Just had a closer look at the picture of the lens and they show the CF to infinity on there, d’oh!

  • Cute little things. Won’t take up much room in the camera bag.

  • john jeffreys on 02.26.13 @ 4:09PM

    “fixed focus”

    im sorry, what?

  • This is beginning to remind me of the small sensor camera debate in stills (Fuji X100 etc). This is a real old fashioned way to shoot. Will appeal to a certain market. Cool I guess. Not particularly interesting for most.

  • I really don’t see the point in these lenses, wouldn’t the good thing with digital bolex be that you can get old 16mil lenses for it? Why would you buy non-variable aperture non-focusable (or focusable in a very limited range – the 18mm and the 38 mm have focus ranges of less than 1 meter !!! ) lenses for a price of 300$ each + 500$ for the ability to focus with them when you can get a used 10-100 T2 zeiss for about 500$ on ebay?

    • john jeffreys on 02.28.13 @ 12:41AM

      shhh, people dont know about cheap 16mm lenses on ebay.

    • I see a Zeiss 10-100 T2 at $4,150. But one can certainly get brand new, large aperture, 2/3″ prime lenses for $200-$300. Those will have focus and aperture control.

  • With this set of lenses, Digital Bolex is now officially HipsterCam Deluxe… ;)

  • Oh guys, film is not shot and run, has never been, U are thinking photo. I started 30 years ago with Arri. Low budged, S16 is a different beast. Light is a love affair, film too. Tons of tricks are out. It is not al lenses. A story, a script, endless hours of Fun and F*uck

  • Daniel Mimura on 03.7.13 @ 8:13PM

    Fixed focus…fixed aperture?

    Well…I guess it makes sense, coming from a company that makes director’s finders.

    This sounds like a really stupid idea thou…it’s fine on a super-8 camera or a daddycam, but not for stuff for indie filmmakers (unless you are trying to make it look like super-8 or daddycam, and intentionally over/under exposing to look amatuerish.).

    Sure you can go crazy getting your gaffer to light it to an insane degree of accuracy, but those fine little details are one of the reasons lenses have apertures.

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