May 5, 2018

This Is What Happens When You Put a 140-Year-Old Lens on a 5K RED Scarlet-W

The stunning beauty of combining high-tech imaging with vintage optics...

Every time the Weird Lens Maestro, Mathieu Stern, tinkers around with weird lenses, we're always impressed by the beautiful images he manages to capture. This time, though, he has taken his experimentation and our eyebrows to another level with his latest test. In this video, Stern takes a 140-year-old lens, which is 10 years older than the Eiffel Tower, and mounts it onto a RED Scarlet-W with a DRAGON 5K brain. What resulted were some test shots that totally knocked our socks off, and we're fairly certain that, after watching it, you're going to be sockless, too. Check out the video below:

Beautiful! Stern tested a few different aspects of the lens/camera combo, including the lens' macro ability, it's stunning, soft bokeh, and its low-light capabilities, as well. Here's what Stern had to say about the test:

It's been a dream for me to adapt a century-old lens on the highest technology available and see how the image would look. I used a lens I love and that was made 140 years ago, 10 years before the Eiffel Tower started to be built, a lens that was one of the first to have an internal iris. I had to find a way to use a Cinema Camera, so I teamed up with Paul Ménagé, a French movie producer who helped me shoot the video with his $15,000 RED camera that can record 5K. After some tests, I found the best way to adapt the lens on the camera and the first image that appeared on the screen was mind-blowing. We did some test footage in the forest and in the dark with the talented Naomi and the incredible Fire Samurai Morgane.

Stern says that he'll be experimenting with more unique lenses in the future, and hopefully he incorporates a wider range of different cameras, including full-frame, so we can get our fill of drool-worthy images.     

Your Comment


Rich hipsters playing with expensive toys. Who cares?

May 6, 2018 at 12:08AM


You, apparently. More than anyone else. Noone else than you bothered to comment.

May 6, 2018 at 2:39AM, Edited May 6, 2:39AM


I’ve played with vintage lessons a few times over the years. While it is interesting and often a fun technical exercise, I just can’t get jazzed enough about the final image to want to build a work flow around it.

This footage is beautiful and I loved the slowmo low light stuff. But wouldn’t that be easier to shoot with a more modern lens? I think you would get more sharpness and better contrast that you could push/pull in post, if you wanted something softer.

What, specifically, did this 140 year old lens bring to the final product? Or is the test run for a vintage lens that has a really unique image?

May 6, 2018 at 5:39AM

Matt McKee

I don't think it's meant to be a workflow thing in this circumstance as much as it is an optical experiment to showcase some of the lens optics of yesterday and how they hold up with a high resolution image. Ultimately to gain appreciation for historical photography gear and to achieve a look what many social platforms are faking in their social streams.

I work with a vintage professional work flow personally, though not perfect for everything I do, it definitely has a place for certain clientele and facets of the industry.

May 9, 2018 at 11:50AM, Edited May 9, 11:50AM

Film/Television Editor

I love what this guy does. With modern lenses and software, you might be able to get something similar in post but, that will never replicate the real thing.

May 6, 2018 at 8:07AM

Richard Krall

I'm not a huge fan of the grade, which might be what's putting me off it, but I don't see anything particularly worthwhile about this shoot other than a fun experiment. (Other than the low-light and sharpness, it reminds me of something that would be shot on a t2i)

But also, imagine going back 140 years and telling some photographer your camera and lens kit and then saying, "but I'd rather use your lense cus it's cool". They'd probably get pissed off and prefer to trade.

May 7, 2018 at 1:34AM, Edited May 7, 1:34AM


That was a fairly poor test. What does 2 1/2 minutes of uninteresting slow motion with a flaming sword tell you about the practical character of a vintage lens?

May 7, 2018 at 1:55AM

Richard L
Camera assistant, DIT, DOP

Thank God he teamed up with a movie Producer, or he never would of gotten this test done.

May 7, 2018 at 10:26AM

frank apollonio

The old lens was fine. Perfectly fine.

I actually found the lens at the beginning of the video that was filming the old lens to have more character. It had some strangely ugly bokeh. What lens was that?

May 8, 2018 at 9:47AM

Casey Preston

Just not very professionally shot, and it ended up looking dull and not much else

May 9, 2018 at 6:28AM


Conclusion: It looks absolutely average.

May 11, 2018 at 10:09AM


Rendered almost unwatchable thanks to the wannabe Hans Zimmer music pounding away as usual. Sorry, but I'm completely sick of that. Zone-out.

May 12, 2018 at 3:05AM, Edited May 12, 3:09AM

Heath Blair
Film maker and composer