November 2, 2015

How to Shoot Video with a 105 Year Old Lens

Mathieu Stern Vintage Lens Test Sony A7II
Paris-based photographer Mathieu Stern is turning his love of vintage lenses into a web series.

In the new series, which he's calling the Weird Lens Challenge, Stern is going to be testing out a range of crazy vintage lenses on modern mirrorless cameras. First up, a Boyer f/6.3 120mm lens, which he removed from a vintage Eastman Kodak folding camera dating back to 1910. Using a combination of lens adapters and a bellows rig for focusing, Stern mounted the lens to his Sony A7II and hit the streets to capture some footage.

Here's what he shot:

And here's what Stern had to say about how he was able to mount this lens to the A7II:

Mathieu Stern Vintage Lens Test

After mounting it with a cardboard piece to keep it tightly blocked in a M42 macro tube, and then screw it on a M42 bellows, the lens was able to focus. Then the bellow was screwed to a M42 to NEX adaptor ring then to the Sony A7II. The lens is incredibly sharp for a 105 years old lady, but it also gives some strange lens flares and light leaks that are pretty dreamy.  

If you're interested in seeing more of Mathieu's Weird Lens Challenge videos, be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel. And if you've experimented with strange old lenses, be sure to share your experiences, processes, and footage with us down in the comments!      

Your Comment

30 Comments

Very cool, My grandpa's advice to me was "Save up... good glass will last you a lifetime." love it.

November 2, 2015 at 6:42PM

0
Reply

wow!

November 2, 2015 at 6:57PM

0
Reply

Yes, wow ! Fascinating. Something emotional about it. Now if only the new footage could go back in time and be shown to the original owner of the lens ! Typically, where does someone buy a 105 year old lens and are they expensive ? Does anyone know of any information guide to such early lenses and their mounts ? Good article, thanks.

November 2, 2015 at 7:16PM, Edited November 2, 7:17PM

1
Reply
Saied M.
983

See my more general comment.

November 3, 2015 at 5:51AM, Edited November 3, 5:51AM

0
Reply
avatar
Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1058

This footage is wonderful. I'm surprised by how sharp it is. I did something similar but with newer glass that didn't require this degree of ingenuity. I mounted old 16mm c-mount lenses onto a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. www.jeremyryancarr.com/2015/02/blackmagic-pocket-cinema-camera-with.html

November 2, 2015 at 7:19PM, Edited November 2, 7:19PM

0
Reply
avatar
Jeremy Ryan Carr
Director
4

I'm a sucker for vintage glass. Not sure why anyone would buy a kit lens when for the same price they could get a solid vintage lens. They add so much more texture (as long as you don't mind doing everything manually).

November 2, 2015 at 8:12PM

2
Reply
avatar
Emerson Shaw
Student
662

Nothing says "this is gonna be ARTSY" quite like an opening shot with a girl smoking.

November 2, 2015 at 11:27PM

4
Reply
avatar
Cosmin Gurau
Director
196

Didn't you get the memo? Every "test" needs an obligatory smoking shot ;)

November 3, 2015 at 9:24AM

0
Reply

Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I love how the lens reduces the sharpness and the blacks are very nicely lifted. Not sure if that's the lens or post but either way it's gorgeous. It's particularly nice in black and white. Really, really good job my friend. Thanks. I look forward to seeing more.

November 3, 2015 at 2:45AM

0
Reply

yes you use more old lance. it's good quality....

November 3, 2015 at 4:35AM

0
Reply

It's not the brush that paints the picture.......it's the hand that holds it.

November 3, 2015 at 5:25AM

0
Reply
avatar
Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
592

Remember this? http://nofilmschool.com/boards/questions/very-old-lenses

Well I've been busy and have independently developed EXACTLY the same techniques. The trick is to get a bellows which gives you the distance and the range of movement that these old lenses need. Think crop factor. Think 6"x4" glass plate to EOS-M sensor. Many of these lenses are 6" in focal length, 10" is not uncommon.

At the end of your bellows you put a body cap, the thing you put over a camera when there is no lens on. Aliexpress sell a lot of these cheap. You will need them because each lens will require its own. This gives you a flat surface that you can make a hole in for the lens to pass through. If you have a backing nut to hold it then all well and good but my experience is that often you won't and the best way to hold it and keep it light tight is self amalgamating tape.

The best place for lenses is our old friend ebay in their vintage lenses section and using Google to find out what they are. (A vintage lens is something like a Helios-44, a better term here is antique lens) Costs vary but you can get a lens for £20 and upwards (a lot upwards). Many lenses have no identification marking but anything polished brass is normally 19thC.

105 year old lens? A baby then. I have a Thornton and Pikard "Amber" lens from 1890. My most special lens is an English Beck lens with American Lukos III shutter. The history of that actual lens is that it served in France during the First World War. With Remembrance Sunday this weekend, I plan to use it extensively for the commemorations.

I have further information on my FB page https://www.facebook.com/Cave-Art-Films-348651878657791 including some sample pictures and video. I am very proud of my pic of the Steam Punk girl taken with the Amber at Comic Con.

November 3, 2015 at 6:15AM

1
Reply
avatar
Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1058

Thanks for voting this post down. Nice one.

November 3, 2015 at 3:23PM

0
Reply
avatar
Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1058

First, your work and films doing this is simply amazing! I am thinking about shooting a project on an adapted Civil War lens. But would like to adapt it to a Mitchell 35mm motion picture camera or even an ARRI 2c 35mm. What are your thoughts?

February 20, 2016 at 7:55AM

0
Reply
THOMAS BOND II
Film production
1

Not even one negative comment. Well here it comes: I think it looks quite bad. Really cool though, but do I want softness in the corners and haze all over the place? The lens will not give me the texture from the silverplate or the filmgrain of the film it was used to project on.
For me this looks a bit like the small lens kits you can buy an put infront of your iphone camera. There is a reason for why these lenses are not manufactured anymore, just sayin'

Edit: I think the idea is cool, and the lens it self is very beautiful. No rant. Sorry if I offend anyone

November 3, 2015 at 9:17AM, Edited November 3, 9:19AM

0
Reply
Joakim
251

Oh you are so dead!

Just kidding. When I started out, I had no idea that anyone else was doing it. I thought if I got any image at all, it would be something. Then I found a guy in Germany doing stills on all sorts of old lenses and I thought that they looked rather good. It's a nice little aside but I wouldn't want to shoot a feature film with one, that's for sure.

November 3, 2015 at 12:30PM

0
Reply
avatar
Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1058

Softness in the corners? This lens is built to cover at least 4x5; I don't think corner softness would be a problem with a 135 sensor.

November 3, 2015 at 3:19PM

0
Reply

I have a Petzval lens that I need to mount up (it's bigger than an M42 lens cap) and they always say that it's good in the centre, even the modern ones the Russians are making, so I'm not sure how it will work. That's supposedly the selling point of the new lenses, but you are right, compared to a large format glass plate, the sensor is a tiny spot in the centre. That's why the Rapid Rectilinear lenses replaced the Petzval for landscapes but not for portrait pictures. Petzvals were in production into the 1920's.

November 3, 2015 at 4:00PM

0
Reply
avatar
Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1058

The issue with these old lenses is that there is so little glass in them. A Rapid Rectilinear lens has two sets of pairs of glass (one crown, one flint) glued together. It is a far more crude setup than a modern lens. I used a 1915 lens for Remembrance Sunday https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOEkd5S18Us

November 9, 2015 at 3:11PM

0
Reply
avatar
Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1058

Love it :)

November 3, 2015 at 9:27AM

0
Reply

I remember a few years ago someone set up a large format ground glass adapter with a video camera so he had the aesthetic of a 4x5 camera (cropped to a cinema ratio, so roughly 5 inches by 2 inches), and could do swings and tilts.

November 3, 2015 at 10:35AM

0
Reply

Used a bunch of lenses from the 40s, 50s and 60s. Love 'em.

November 3, 2015 at 12:30PM

0
Reply
avatar
Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
989

I have 2 Helios 44s, 3 Super Takumars, 4! Industar-69s, various OMs and other lenses. At wide angle I have the 1960s Industar 69 (28mm) , 1970s OM 28mm and current EF-M 22mm. Which is the best lens? Lab tests will show it's the EF-M of course but the flaw in that lens is that when I turn the focusing wheel, an electrical signal is sent to the cameras computers suggesting that the lens's motors should alter the focusing. The OM is a good lens and the Industar-69 (bought from a man in Lugansk) is so mental that I love it.

November 3, 2015 at 3:49PM

0
Reply
avatar
Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1058

I have a second Helios 44 coming to me in the mail, I have a helios 44-M and have a 44-2 coming to me

If you like vintage/funky lenses DEFINITELY check out the Mir 1B, super awesome (CRAZY flares, watch out, ha ha)

November 4, 2015 at 8:51AM

0
Reply
avatar
David J. Fulde
Colorist
108

I never could quite figure out the different flavours of Helios 44s. For a mirrorless camera like my EOS-Ms, M39 mounts are an option. The Industar-69s are TINY.and I think might be quite usuable lenses once I figure out what they can and cannot do. I hear lots about the MIR-1B and the VEGA lenses.

November 4, 2015 at 5:43PM

0
Reply
avatar
Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1058

Wow, very cool. Imagine if they mounted it on the vintage tech in a Canon DSLR rather than the Sony...

November 3, 2015 at 1:45PM, Edited November 3, 1:45PM

0
Reply

All insect macro here ( http://goo.gl/J8Hglj ) filmed on the old lens.
Almost exactly the same.
Sony FDR-AX100E Camera
http://goo.gl/kVYJgl
http://goo.gl/J8Hglj

November 3, 2015 at 2:15PM, Edited November 3, 3:01PM

0
Reply

There's a guy on the Large Format Photography forum who has a Petzval lens that he claims predates the US Civil War ie earlier than 1851. Astonishing since photography only got going properly in 1840. He has had SK Grimes build a Nikon F adapter for it to go on a Nikon D800E. Not the cheapest way to do it, that's for sure but my oldest lens the "Amber" is 1890 and for me to go earlier, the lens cost mounts up.

November 7, 2015 at 8:54AM

0
Reply
avatar
Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1058

Hi, can you share the link? VERY interested in this, but can't find the posting.

February 20, 2016 at 7:45AM

1
Reply
THOMAS BOND II
Film production
1

This pretty cool.
Best I've ever done was epoxy a body cap to a cruddy Sears 200mm f3.5 -the results were hit and miss.

November 13, 2015 at 5:56PM

0
Reply