My take on grandpa lens…

Have you seen this video made with a 100+ years old lens on a 5DMrkII.

Actually, judging by the number of emails I received from people telling me to watch it, I am sure most of you did. The reason I did not comment on it when it came out is simple: it is a gimmick. Just like Holga lens on a 5DMrkII, its only reason to live is to use the 5D sensor to get higher resolution images from a crappy lens.

I am not saying Timur should not have done it. It was the perfect thing to do for his assignment. And that is it. Outside of this scope, it should not be seen as a tool but as a toy. Photography and videography are all about control and getting the best possible image quality out of the box. Using old lens put randomness into the mix. It can be fun and it can produce cool effects but it could also mess up your shot in spectacular ways, hence the toy nomination.

If you love the old camera look, there are countless AE and FCP plugins to recreate these effects. Get the best possible image quality at the time of acquisition then mess with it in post.

About Tommy

Photography allows me to be what I want to be, to be where I want to be, and to do what I want to do ... I'm not professional photographer and I don't need a title, I love to take photographs and that is what I do, I love to learn and I always try to do it better ...

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  • sam

    i think you have the wrong idea about using lo-fi lenses. is all bout experimenting. No plug in can recreate that original vintage/retro feel properly. you can make it look similar but is not as good as the real deal.

    • admin

      Dont get me wrong, I am all for having fun with low tech lenses. Hell, I used to own a Mamiya R67! It is just that I dont agree with the ‘impossible to reproduce look’ associated with vintage lenses. Of course it is impossible to reproduce a specific lens look, but you have to understand that no two lenses from the same batch would behave the same way. Hence my reasoning that while you cant reproduce the look of a specific lens, you can reproduce the overall style and no one could tell that you arent using an old lens.

      I find it both interesting and annoying that as we are doing everything we can to get the best possible image quality out of our shoots, we want (at the same time) to use these lenses.
      That being said, I am sure someone will prove me wrong and shoot something insanely cool using a ghetto lens very soon…

  • I didn’t even see it as “gimmick” i just saw it as a really terrible video. Poorly edited, to a song. I thought by now we’d have had so much time with DSLR Video that there would have been something fantastic to come of using such an old lens… something to connect the age of the lens and the video, but no.

    So as to comment on the video: blah
    On the lens: pretty cool technical feat goes to the guy who managed to MOUNT it, that’s impressive…


  • I couldn’t disagree with you more. But that is why the internet is the best place on earth. People can come together and share their opinions. I just think you are being a little narrow minded on the entire subject. I have a post about older lenses but being used for entirely different reasons. Contact me when you start basting fish-eye lenses and lens baby’s.

  • quin

    I totally disagree. Though the video wasn’t all that spectacular, I thought the general idea of experimentation was awesome. You giving us the lame “just do it in post” comment is very unfortunate. I agree 100% with sam. I am all about AE tweaks and getting crazy in post, but there are some effects that you just cant make authentic. Unfortunately, too many have this “fix it in post” mentality and we get lots of cheesy bad film burns, lens flares, vignetting, bad tv, star transition etc etc. Not saying all are bad, but too high of a percentage are terrible. My 2 cents.

    • admin

      First off, thanks guy for keeping the discussion respectful. I know my opinion on this is a bit controversial.

      Now that I have thought about it a bit more, I think the reason why I am not so much into this old lens is that, like Martin said, no one used an old lens to make something that make uses of its ‘qualities’ to support a story. All the videos and stills I have seen from ghetto lenses are more in the lines of ‘test shots’ or are all about the visuals. Anyone can point me toward a video/film that isnt?

      Phil: Fisheye and lens baby are in another category. They actually change the focus plane/field of view in ways that are impossible to do in post. Just like tilt-shift lenses (which I love!). BTW, do you know any non canon fish eye other than the old Zenitar?

  • I have friends with Nikkor fish eyes. I personally use the Canon 15mm but that is because I use Canons.

  • quin

    Agreed on that! These shots should be used to actually create a look and feel for a reason. There is a time and place for both. I wouldn’t shoot a sleek Porsche commercial with that old lens, but I would shoot a time piece or flashback piece with it.

  • diffid

    Old lenses, crappy, toy’s. RUBBISH!

    If nothing else happy accidents can happen. :-)

    btw your site is appalling to read, light grey text on black is bad, looking at your site on a 40″ LCD and can’t read a single comment without zooming right in. :-)

    • admin

      Diffid: As I said, I am all for playing/experimenting with old lenses. But I would never use them for a paying gig. Too much risks.

      Regarding the fonts, I am aware of it. I never liked the way comments were displayed. I will try to fix this, then again, I have been looking for a new theme so I may go that route instead. Thx for reading.

  • bart

    You talk about “the best image” possible.

    Isn’t that the most subjective thing in the photography/film world? What is “best” for you could be totally “*%^$” for me. I use 60 year old Zeiss’s on my 5D and I love them. They don’t look so boring, flat and video-ish like the Canon’s. They have “character”. That is an undefinable and personal preference.

    Put any lens you can find out there on your camera and shoot with it. Think outside the box, forget rules and shoot with your heart.

    • admin

      Best image = sharp, clean and easy to post process. At least for me, for the type of work I do. If you dont grade your clips after shooting, it is cool to use lenses with big color shift, vignette, etc.. But if you are in a pro environment, you want repeatable results that you (or the colorist) can control once you are done shooting. When you are shooting with a lens that is already applying a ‘style’ to the clip, you are giving away freedom in post in exchange for randomness/coolness.

      This is great when shooting stuff for yourself but any pro client will tell you they dont want to have to commit to a style until the very end of the process.

      In the end, this debate is similar to the “using a picture style” or “shoot flat” one. It depends of what you are going to do with the clips.