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The Move To HDSLR And Creation Of A 38mm-768mm Lens
Posted by ToddJones on May 27, 2011 at 10:28 PM
Teton Gravity Research has been exploring digital cinema since we first got a RED One camera 4 years ago. Until that point we had shot everything we did on film. The RED showed us that digital cinema was in fact the future of film making. For the next 3 years we shot all of our projects as a mix of film and RED. In August of 2010, we went down to New Zealand to shoot 3 broadcast commercials for The North Face for the 2011 X Games. We decided to forgo film cameras and bring our one RED and a bunch of Canon 7D’s and 5D’s. The experience was life changing. The flexibility of the HDSLR’s and their incredible cinematic picture qualities was mind blowing.
Our next project was for Ford Explorer in November of 2011. We were tasked with shooting 3 webisodes and a national broadcast spot in Steamboat Colorado. We decided we would shoot the entire project on Canon DSLR camera’s. The results were once again incredible. These cameras truly are game changers. We were sold on the HDSLR Revolution.
Next, we began planning to shoot our 2011 feature ski and snowboard film “One For The Road.” For 16 years this annual film had been shot primarily on film. We had 5 Arriflex film camera packages ready to go for the winter and a bunch of film stock in the fridge. However, we decided it was time to make the switch to digital cinema. We spent months researching the best setups for us in the winter environment. There were lots of issues to address such as lenses, frame rates, viewfinders, support and rail packages, etc. In the end we built 7 Canon 7D packages outfitted as digital cinema cameras. The next challenge was to get out there and figure out the nuances of these new cameras.
We had two unique challenges that we had to face. One was filming hand held from a helicopter in Alaska with a very light camera with a unique form factor. The other was the need to have a very wide to long lens. Typically, we had been shooting an Angeniuex 16mm 12-240 lens. This is roughly the equivalent of a 24-480 in the 35mm world. This lens has allowed us to get super long shots of athletes skiing big and dangerous slopes from a spot where the camera would be safe. The big zoom also allows the flexibility of adjusting framing from very long distances while trying to be light and move fast in the mountains.
We also need a zoom that goes from very telephoto to super wide, so we can reveal the magnitude and size of the mountains the athletes ride as they finish skiing the mountain.
The problem we faced though was that no such lens existed in the HDSLR world. We spent months trying different adapters, lenses, doublers, and support systems. We had to modify and machine different parts to create a lens that would cover the APC sensor of the 7D. In the end we succeeded and created the ultimate AK Big Gun Lens, with a custom mounting bracket.
Essentially, this is a Bayonet mount Angenieux 16mm 12-240 lens with a Bayonet Optex Doubler, a bayonet to PL converter which is connected to an EOS to PL mount connected to the Canon camera. The lens is very heavy, so we custom machined a lens support that connects to the bottom part of a Redrock microLensSupport. The lens and the bayonet mount each require some custom machining as well. On the Canon 7D, with the 1.6 crop factor this lens becomes roughly a 38mm-768mm Lens. With the doubler this lens looses two stops so it goes from a T3.5 to a T4.8. This is not a fast lens, but we are using it outdoors for action sports so shooting at T5.6 and above is not a problem for us. The lens is a little softer than a super sharp modern Canon lens, but we see this as a good thing. You should not explore this path if you are not familiar with these older Angenieux lenses, as they are not the same as a $30,000 modern version of a big zoom. It has a very filmic look and we theorize it has less aliasing and moire issues due to this subtlety. When I say it is softer, I am not talking about shots being out of focus at all. They look really good. Since we have gone through the process and have the supply chains lined up, we are willing to sell one of these for $4,500 USD. This is not a business we are trying to start, we simply feel like we want to be able to help someone who wants this lens get it if they can’t create it themselves. We have learned so much from blogs like Vincent Laforet and Phillip Bloom, that we feel the need to pass some of our knowledge along. We work in wild environments and have developed a bunch of cool stuff to make our gear work in remote locations. The process takes time so delivery on an order is around 30 days. Our process is to find and test an adequate Bayonet Angenieux 12-240, then we send the EOS to PL mount, the lens, the PL to bayonet converter and a doubler to our machinist for final fitting. We then get the lens back, test it. We test against existing mods that we have shot with for the last six months and are very happy with. We are not lens specialists, far from it, but we were able to solve a huge problem in our HDSLR workflow and we are willing to pass that success on to other people. You can mount an HR Angenieux 25-250 T 3.5 directly to a 7D with an EOS to PL mount without any of this headache, but the lens is $29,000. We think this is an effective low cost solution for HDSLR users. You could definitely create this lens yourself for cheaper if you take the initiative.
Here is some sample footage from the lens. We are currently in production on our film One for the Road, so I can’t release all the A shots we have gotten with the camera. I was able to release a few, but I also added some of the older 16mm shots we have gotten with the lens to showcase the type of footage we shot in the past and why we wanted to duplicate this lens on the HDSLR’s.
What you get for $4,500
-An Angenieux bayonet mount 12-240 16 mm lens
-A Optex Doubler
-A bayonet to PL converter
-A EOS to PL Converter
-A 15mm redrock lens support with the custom support bracket
-We will ship the lens completely assembled and tested
Email brian(at)tetongravity.com for more information