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DIY Tutorial: Find out How to Turn Your Photo Lenses into Cinema Lenses

04.25.14 @ 11:21PM Tags : , , , , , , ,

cinema-lensNo two lenses are the same, namely if you’re talking about stills lenses and cinema lenses. There are pretty significant benefits in the latter, features like consistent front diameters, durability, and minimal (if not zero) lens breathing, but these do come at a cost. If you, like many of us, went the economical route and snatched up a bunch of stills lenses to lower the cost of adding to your gear repertoire, but are still wanting the added benefit of shooting with cine lenses, Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter offers a DIY tutorial on how to apply an inexpensive cine mod to your stills lenses, giving your whole set several desired features of a cine lens for a fraction of what it would cost to buy a single one.

Modding your lenses includes several steps, the most important being de-clicking the aperture ring (for smooth aperture adjustments), adding 0.8 pitch focus gears (so you can use a follow focus), as well as an 80mm front ring (for the ability to use matte boxes and other accessories).

Pike explains that there are certain lenses that work better with the mod. Zooms can be used, but he says that primes, like the more expensive Zeiss and Leica R lenses, or the less expensive Nikkor, Pentax, or Olympus lenses, are the easiest to mod. (Here’s a link to Pike’s write-up of affordable primes that he says would work great for the mod.) Pike uses the Olympus OM 35-70 F4, 75-150 F4, and 50mm F1.8 lenses in the tutorial, saying that, no, they’re not the best choice for the mod, but they are “great, cheap lenses.”

Here is a list of accessories Pike lists in his post, which ended up costing him $231 (keep in mind, he modded 3 lenses):

  • 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)

Without further ado, check out Pike’s tutorial below:

Pike will be uploading a tutorial on how to de-click the lenses he used in this tutorial, but if you’re itching to find out how to do it now, there are several tutorials online that show you how to go about doing it with different lenses. Just to get a general idea of what it entails, here’s a video tutorial by Casey Chin who de-clicks a Nikon lens.

And here’s a quick video from Matthew Duclos that demonstrates the difference between the footage taken from a standard lens and a de-clicked lens when changing apertures.

If you’re not a DIY kind of person, Pike says that you can get your stills lenses professionally modded. He recommends sending them to Duclos, who charges $60 to $250 per lens.

Be sure to check out Caleb Pike’s original post, which has tons of information on which photo lenses to choose for the project, as well as links to all of the necessary gear you’re going to need.

Link: Turn Your Photo Lenses Into a Cinema Lens Set — DSLR Video Shooter

[via Filmmaker IQ]


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Description image 39 COMMENTS

  • I recommend not getting Cinevate lens gears, but getting a custom fit lens gear instead, it will fit better on the lens without any damage to the lens gear.
    Yes it’s double the price, but with cinevate if you lose one screw, you’re screwed, and if you over tighten one screw, it will ruin your lens.
    This is a good one for example, 0.8 Module Gear Rings:

  • Yuji de Torres on 04.26.14 @ 12:05AM

    Rokinon/Samyang lenses are always an option!

  • Another source for 80mm rings with 77mm threads. (Just be sure to order the 77mm size and get a step up ring to attach to your lens)

  • Awesome article guys. I think Nikkor and Contax are the best good quality lenses for starting filmmakers to invest in. Even the Leica-R’s are sought after quite a bit by DP’s, just awesome quality.

    If you guys want high quality, CUSTOMIZED still lens gears please check out helicoptersean @

    A real, no-nonsense, legit focus gear. This guy has been reviewed by Reduser and Bmcuser with lots of love from both. If he doesn’t have the custom gear in stock, you can measure the outer diameter of your lens and he’ll customer make them for you.

    • Yes that guy is awesome. he’s very helpful and the gears work great and if they don’t he works with you.

  • Great tutorials. Thanks.


    Guys, check out this website for the push on lens caps , I think these are the ones Caleb reffered to !! Just bought 6 of them :)

  • This got me motivated to de click my olympus zukio 21mm and 24mm f2 manual lenses. Found a tutorial on youtube. Simple as hell and now they’re declicked.

  • Anthony Marino on 04.26.14 @ 3:40PM

    Yes, works surprisingly good. I got the gear for the sigma 18-35, works better than the cinevate focus gears that’s for sure.

  • VinceGortho on 04.26.14 @ 3:50PM

    Is there a service for adding a manual aperture to lenses without having to go the entire cine-moding route? For instance, adding manual aperture ring to a sigma 35mm art Nikon mount?

  • This is a joke…. Seriously. If you want cinema glass buy actual cinema lenses. Calling your de-clicked whatever cinema glass only confuses producers who are use to actual quality cinema lenses like master primes, Cooke S4′s, Angenuiex zooms.

    • You goon you have no idea what you are talking about. The 35mm sections of PT Anderson’s the master were shot using zeiss jenna stills lenses. Pick up a camera and put down the keyboard :)

      • Daniel Mimura on 05.5.14 @ 11:24PM

        Ha! Yeah, Loo sounds like the kind of person to show up to see two kids kitting out their VW GTI ($25k) and telling them, you’re wasting your time, you should stop messing around with those cheap inferior vehicles…you should buy a Ferrari 458 ($255k) or a Lambo Aventador ($400k). Come on! That’s asinine. No one is going to confuse some cheap adapted still lenses for a master prime or an Angénieux. I’ve only got one PL mount cinema lens so far…more to come…when I need a faster or longer lens than my 17mm-50mm T2.9…there are always my good ol’ Nikkors.

        One thing with The Master (or the Dark Knight that used the relatively cheap $4,000 medium format lenses modded by Dan Sasaki at PV) has going for it is that medium format lenses, despite the huge increase in resolution of the format, don’t need lenses of the same optical quality, so it can appear a little deceiving to use a 65mm film as an example of a big budget movie using still lens cheap optics. A 16mm camera needs a sharper lens than super-35, which needs a sharper lens than 5-perf 65…which needs a sharper lens than 15 perf 65mm.

    • @Loo, you don’t ‘buy’ cinema glass, at least no one in his right state of mind does unless you own a rental house…

    • Calaverasgrande on 05.1.14 @ 4:30PM

      I work in broadcast sports.
      For our promo spots we use Canon DSLRs with canon lenses you can pick up at bestbuy. And we get emmys.
      We do use cine lenses for shoots where we hire a Red 2k or 4k camera. But that is because we will be cropping the hell out that footage and the minor barrel distortion of affordable lenses is more evident when you have a shot that is cropped from a hard left or right side of 4k.

      The point is we can afford to buy the cine lenses if we wanted to, but we instead put that money towards hiring a whole production crew, with lights, camera and craft service to do the heavy lifting for us.
      Much more cost effective.
      Unless you are renting out gear, the only point in buying such lenses is film nerd braggin rights.

  • This guy has never held a master prime or ultra or cooke or etc.
    He’s missing the most important characteristics of a cine lens.
    Color reproduction consistency in every lens of the serie.
    Same iris blades for bokeh consistency in every lens of the serie.
    Same coating and glass quality for same definition, resolution, contrast AND flare in every lens of the serie.
    Same vignetting or dropoff in every lens of the serie.
    And same transmision (T*)

    Go ask zeiss or nikon or etc for this in a $5/10K lens set

    • I have held plenty cine glass. They’re awesome. But I’m not here to help hollywood DPs find glass, I’m here to help beginners/intermediate shooters find affordable solutions that will work in the field. I never said these were the best lenses for cinema use.

      On a side note, if old manual lenses are good enough for Shane Hurlbut, they’re good enough for me.

      • Daniel Mimura on 05.5.14 @ 11:40PM

        Especially on the lower budget side of things…you can fix the color inconsistencies in post. It’s not ideal, but my set of Nikkors costs less than one since cinema prime… It depends on the budgets…for an article about modding (relatively) inexpensive still lenses…its just something you deal with. It’s ridiculous for several people to post that Arri Master Primes or Cooke s5′s are gonna be better matched, of course they are. More people need to understand context.

  • I love it when the dummies with the 5D’s try to tell me whats up hahahaha.

    • If you knew what was up you wouldn’t have made the original, completely ignorant statement. Keep reading spec sheets and hanging out forums mate. One day you might get an opportunity to shoot something real

  • Tell a story in an interesting way and know one except us nerds are going to be looking at the bokeh or the subtle differences in colour between lenses or any of the other technical aspects of shooting. I’m not saying these things aren’t important, you have get the details right make good work, but the most important thing is what you’re trying to say. If all you’ve got to say is…look I can make polished cinematic images on a DSLR that’s a real shame.

  • Zachariel Shanahan on 08.22.14 @ 11:03PM

    If you are using Adapters, eg Nikon to M4/3 mount. You can find cheap ones with smooth aperture control rings, no mod required. I’m not referring to the Metabones, I’m talking $20, $30. My no-brand one actually connects to my Nikon 50 1.4′s aperture wheel and works smoothly as if it were de-clicked.

  • The mistake here is the assumption that all stills lenses can be good cine lenses, and that that the only requirement is gears and stepless iris.

    However, as there are people who are non-professionals, they should not convince themselves that a modded lens is equivalent to a real cinema lens. Nor should they believe that because a still lens is modded that the lens is “better” than a different (and superior) un-modified stills lens.

    Illya Friedman
    Hot Rod Cameras (dot com)