If you think of lens rehousing as car restoration, then what would a hotrod be?
Northwest Camera Co. and Duclos Lenses have partnered to give us the answer—the V35 Project is a new take on modern lenses, where new glass is tuned (or detuned) to evoke the image and emotion of vintage glass. The first lens set in this project? A modified Canon CN-E lens set called the Canon V35.
But why take a modern lens and fiddle with the insides? We sat down with Domenic Barbero of Northwest Camera Co. to get the answers.
Time for a history lesson.
Original Canon K35 Lens SetCredit: VMI
It All Began with the Canon K35s
The Canon K35s are a set of vintage (at least they are now) cinema lenses made in the 1970s and 1980s as a reply to the Zeiss Super Speeds. Even though they had subpar housing, the K35s were widely renowned for their striking bokeh and fall-off, as well as their unique color palette and gorgeous purple and orange flares. They had a sharp yet low contrast look with a smooth focus quality. Most notably, they were used in films such as Aliens and Barry Lyndon,to name a few.
Canon’s K35s were so popular that they won an Academy Award in 1977 for their optical design. Here's a great breakdown from the Media Division of the Canon K35s and their close cousins, the Canon FDs.
While rehoused lenses have grown in popularity in the last half-decade, they do come with their problems.
First off, they can be super expensive, and if a lens breaks, getting it repaired can be a lengthy process. Not only do filmmakers have to go back to the original shop, but replacement parts can also be hard to come by. Worse yet, imagine if you break a lens element. Now you have to source new glass, which can be a challenge if not impossible. On set, time is money, and while using vintage glass has its benefits, it also has risks.
So how can we get the vintage K35 look without taking these risks or breaking the bank? This is where Barbero got the initial idea for the V35 Project.
The V35 Project
After the initial spark back in February 2021, Barbero reached out to Duclos Lenses with an idea.
Take a modern Canon CN-E lens and make it look like a Canon K35. They call this new lens set the Canon V35s.
Credit: V35 Project
Barbero wanted to make a lens set that had the aesthetics for emotion-evoking imagery. He said that while modern lenses are optically really good, they are missing an interesting visual aesthetic. Since the CN-E base optics are a very close relative of the aspherical FD and K35 lenses of the past, it was a great starting choice for the V35 Project.
Check out this project for Vogue, shot on the Canon V35s:
But how would the West Coast gang go about doing all the vintage modifications?
Well, there’s a bit of secret sauce, but the general process is as follows—take a modern Canon CN-E and modify everything between the front and rear elements. The spacing of some internal elements would be shifted and others would be replaced outright. Then there are modifications to coatings and anti-reflecting paint to tune in the look.
This whole process focuses on modifying the contrast, sharpness, saturation, halation, and flares to create a look that mimics the original Canon K35s. The final product doesn’t create an exact copy of the K35 image, but one that is inspired by it. However, it’s so close that you can cut between the two and barely notice a difference.
Barbero said that his goal is to create a vintage image while mitigating the risk of using vintage glass. Since the Canon V35 is a modern lens at heart, anything that breaks can quickly be replaced with widely available parts.
Also, while vintage lenses do in fact produce gorgeous imagery, most only do so when wide open. When you stop them down, eventually they’ll all look the same. This is what makes the Canon V35s so unique. The vintage look they create stays consistent across the entire T-stop range.
Credit: V35 Project
The Present and the Future
The Canon V35s is the first lens set that the partnership is tackling and will be released in a limited run targeted at rental houses and owner-operators.
You can currently get a set of Canon V35s for $2,300 per lens in EF mount, or $3,950 per lens if you want it in PL mount. Filmmakers can use their own set, or purchase one from Duclos Lenses. If you think that’s expensive, try finding a set of Canon K35s, rehoused or not. They cost almost as much as a Ferrari.
The current run of Canon V35s is capped at 200 lenses, so don’t sleep on this if you’ve been searching for an affordable way to get the K35 look. Visit the V35 Project website to put in your order.
If you do miss it, don’t fret. Barbero and Duclos will be tackling other lenses in the future. Their future roadmap has plans for a Sigma V35 set with Sigma Cine Prime lenses as the base and a Fujinon V35 Zoom Lens using the Fujinon 19-90 S35.
Want to see the Canon V35 up close? Are you in LA?
Visit Northwest Camera Co. and Duclos Lenses in person at Cinegear starting this week on June 9. Or stay with No Film School for our coverage!