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From the Moon, to Hollywood, to You: Kubrick's Famous Super Fast F/0.7 Lenses Now for Rent

Stanley Kubrick lens 50mmf07It’s difficult to talk about Stanley Kubrick without talking about his affinity for top-notch gear. Many admirers of the iconic director traveled to his LACMA exhibit to feast their eyes on the bountiful collection of lenses, cameras, and assorted gear, which he preferred to own than rather than rent. Now, uber-Kubrick fans, steady your hearts and ready your credit cards, because the super fast Zeiss f/0.7 lenses that Kubrick used in Barry Lyndon, capturing those famous scenes lit exclusively by candlelight, are now available to rent along with a modified digital camera fit to handle them . Click below to find out how to get your hands on them.

According to an article by Studio Daily, the lenses were originally developed for NASA’s project aimed at taking still photographs of the dark side of the Moon. Zeiss only made 10 of these extremely fast and sensitive lenses, and 3 of them made their way into Kubrick’s probably trembling fingertips.

Ed DiGiulio of Cinema Products Corp. took on the challenge of figuring out how to mount the lenses onto Kubrick’s Mitchell BNC camera. He writes in an article for American Cinematographer:


At the very early stages of his preparation for “BARRY LYNDON”, Kubrick scoured the world looking for exotic, ultra-fast lenses, because he knew he would be shooting extremely low light level scenes. It was his objective, incredible as it seemed at the time, to photograph candle-lit scenes in old English castles by only the light of the candles themselves!

This was the issue other filmmakers faced with these lenses: getting them onto their cameras. Now, P+S Technik, a manufacturer of professional-grade camera equipment out of Ottobrunn, Germany, has fitted their PS-Cam X35 HD camera with a BNC-R lens mount, and made the specially mounted camera and Kubrick’s famous lenses available to rent.

They offer two packages: Kubrick Collection Camera Package and Kubrick Collection Lens Package, including a BNC-R PS-Cam as well as the two modified Zeiss lenses, at focal lengths of 35mm and 50mm, as well as 6 re-housed vintage Cooke Speed Panchro lenses. The prices for either of these packages are only available upon request, and my quote won’t be available until later this month.

Though difficult to operate — requiring a full 5 rotations to allow the camera to rack over from the viewing position to the filming position, the shallow depth of field they produce, as well as a soft bokeh, is worth the extra work. You can view a few video demos and photos of the lenses here at the Kubrick Collection sample gallery.

Staney Kubrick lenses still

Today’s faster film stocks and technological advances has taken the art of image capture to a new level. Though we don’t necessarily need these highly specialized lenses for low-light situations, the depth of field and bokeh that Kubrick’s lenses produce are — I am so, so sorry for this — out of this world.

If you’re interested in renting the lenses, check out P+S Tecknik to see what they offer. Here is the rental package info for the Kubrick Collection.

What do you think of the f/0.7 lenses Kubrick used? Would you consider renting them for serious work, or is this more for die-hard fans? Let us know in the comments.

Links:

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  • I believe the lenses are f0.7, not f.07. :)

  • Wow these are seriously some incredible lenses, I read about these just the other week, it’d be amazing to get my hands on one. Kubrick is an incredible Director as well.

  • FWIW, P+S just came out with a 1,500 fps camera, which runs about $55K.

  • I think I’ll have to rehydrate after all the drooling.

  • how to get your 1st ac to hate you in one quick…oh wait, fast, rental!

  • The craziest thing about Kubrick using these lenses is he kept a pretty deep depth of field with them. That man knew how to block a scene! Most people would dive into the bokalicious pool, but not kubrick.

    • Right on Dan. He chose these lenses because he wanted to keep the story as real as possible within his created world. Since that world was one without electricity, he wanted fast lenses that would let him avoid electrical lights.

      I don’t think he’d agree with the statement here “the shallow depth of field they produce, as well as a soft bokeh, is worth the extra work” Actually, I think he’d find that statement kindof funny/backwards…

      Rather, it’s the ability to light his scene with period lighting, which was worth the extra work. Wish he was here to speak for himself though :)

      • Agreed. Having Kubrick’s lenses does one Kubrick make. I know people go nuts over this lens from Barry Lyndon, but what about those zoom lens pull-outs that make up most of the film? He loved deep depth of field and got it even with his telephoto zoom lens! Kubrick understood lenses strengths and weaknesses and staged his actors so those lenses kept a deep depth of field. There must have been a lot of infinity focus tests. The natural look to the romantic era lighting is right up there with Duelist I believe. I love the telephoto look Ridley Scott and Kubrick went for in framing the world like a painting, but man is it hard to achieve.

    • I was just about to comment on this subject. Whoever picks these up today would just use them for gaudy shallow depth of field. Kubrick used these to capture candlelit interiors with some great depth. I wish modern filmmakers were so passionate and excited about challenging themselves.

  • I might as well link to the most famous candle scene (there were others).
    .
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKNwyZiZ7cA
    .
    I’ll note that the Marshall camera was/could be used as a handheld, so he got upclose and personal with his shots.

    • According to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmSDnPvslnA

      It was not a standard Mitchell camera, but an extremely specialized one, with the highly calibrated registration required for shooting rear process work. It’s unlikely to have been designed for handheld operation, as this would have negated the point of engineering a camera for an extremely steady exposure on the negative.

      Plus, the depth of focus on the Zeiss lens is razor thin: operate that modified Mitchell camera handheld (which Kubrick never did), and a single deep breath from the D.O.P. would push the whole image out of focus.

  • there is no point to using this lens today, it has no use. during the shooting of barry lyndon, fastest eastman film stock was ASA200. digital sensors today do 10-50x that. also, try shooting at F/0.7. Your margin of error for focus is zero and your players will not be able to move an inch in depth. if you watch the low light candle scenes in lyndon, the player’s bodies are fixed and never move.

  • Thyl Engelhardt on 08.12.13 @ 2:40AM

    There are several F/0.95 lenses for 16 mm cameras, including those from Voigtländer that have a mft mount (They would need some modification of course, for c-mount, but would directly fit the BMC). They are cheap, too.

  • pacificbeachca on 08.12.13 @ 1:48PM

    You guys keep publishing awesome blog posts, love NFS!

  • It was first used on Barry Lyndon, so no space time for this lens (wasn’t used on 2001).

  • lightbender on 08.13.13 @ 6:39AM

    this was the prize for the(fake) moon landing?

  • Are these THE lenses Kubrick used, or clones? If they’re the actual lenses, I can see these would be worth a mint just for the provenance alone, and ripe for sticky fingers.

    Personally, if I could afford it I’d rent them just to say I got to use them.

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