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What lens mounts adapt to Arri PL?

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Ryan Mast
What lens mounts adapt to Arri PL?
on Dec 18, 2009 at 12:09:51 am

What lens mounts adapt to the Arri PL mount? I'm getting a JVC CA13U PL-mount adapter in a few months, so I've been haunting eBay for try to pick up some decent glass ahead of time. If it's possible to adapt other mounts to PL, that'd widen my selection...

I'd like to pick up an Angenieux zoom and a wide prime lens first, then pick up more primes as I have the budget. The CA13U is designed to adapt for Super16, but I'd prefer to invest in 35mm lenses and account for crop factor, so I can use them with a camera with a 35mm sensor later. Or I could just pick up some decent Super16mm lenses now before Scarlet ships and drives up the cost of 16mm lenses. What would you recommend?


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Todd Terry
Re: What lens mounts adapt to Arri PL?
on Dec 18, 2009 at 5:24:17 am

[Ryan Mast] "What lens mounts adapt to the Arri PL mount?"

Short answer, not many.

Longer answer... the PL mount is fairly proprietary, and camera bodies (or other devices such as the JVC CA13U) that have native PL mounts have a bit of a tough time adapting to other mounts, and definitely are happier with lenses that are PL mounted.

There are a couple of adapters... there is an adapter that will allow an Arri Bayonet mount lens to fit a PL mount, and I think there's an adapter that will allow BNCR-mount lenses to work on PL mount... and it's possible to attach some Panavision lenses to PL mounts. There's also an OCT19 adapter that will allow the great Russian LOMO cine lenses to be PL mounted.

BUT... I'm guessing you're trying to find a solution to attach relatively inexpensive glass (SLR lenses, maybe?) to your PL mount... and those mounts I mentioned are all on high-end real cine lenses that are going to cost as much (or more) as lenses that are already PL mounted.

There are Nikon-to-PL mount adapters... which will allow a Nikkor lens to fit a PL mount camera... but they only work well for certain specialized uses.

The problem is a mechanical depth measurement on a lens known as the "flange distance." That measurement is 52mm for a PL mount, but on a Nikon lens that distance is quite a bit less.

Ergo, although the lens will fit, it loses part of its focus range... and the lens will no longer focus to infintiy (and the distance scale will also be incorrect). These adapters are used by people who want to use Nikon lenses for close-up macro work, since the lenses still focus adequately within the close range.

I think there is a similar adapter for Canon lenses... with the same focusing restrictions... but I've never seen one.

I think your two best bets are either to just buy PL mount lenses.... or have each of your non-PL mount primes professionally remounted. You can buy the PL mount (usually about $120 for the part), but it's not a do-it-yourself job. It needs to be done by a professional and qualified lens tech who can remount, get the flange distance precise, and collimate (and projection test) the lens. You're probably looking at a couple hundred bucks for labor for each lens.

The good news is that you only need primes that will cover 16mm, and they are a lot more plentiful (and much much cheaper) than PL mount primes that cover 35mm. Well, they're still quite expensive, but nowhere near 35mm. The lens market has really dried up... not too long ago you could get a decent set of matched 35mm cine primes in the $10-12,000 neighborhood. Prices have at least doubled now(when you can find them), and even more if you want superspeeds. But, as I said, 16mm lenses will be a lot less... probaby about half the price of 35mm.

I'm really not sure why JVC designed the CA13U with a PL mount only. It seems very limiting and counterintuitive... they're making an inexpensive adapter so lots of people can afford it, but then forcing the use of lenses than many budgets can't afford (plus it only gives 16mm depth-of-field, not the much shallower 35mm DoF that people seem to want). My lens converter has a PL mount and I use PL mount primes... but I also have a Nikon mount for it, and several other mounts are also available from P+S Technik for it (both SLR lens mounts and cine lens mounts). JVC, on the other hand, seems pretty intent on forcing the use of PL mount lenses only. On the upside, you're going to find the best lenses in PL mounts... but on the downside the price of them puts them out of reach of a lot of people who would need them for the CA13U adapter.

My other question would be, are you married to the CA13U? You might be better off going with a 35mm converter instead. You'd get the 35mm depth of field, and have an infinitely more plentiful selection of lenses that will work.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Ryan Mast
Re: What lens mounts adapt to Arri PL?
on Dec 18, 2009 at 6:05:39 am

Wow, thanks Todd. Great info.

[Todd Terry] "My other question would be, are you married to the CA13U? You might be better off going with a 35mm converter instead."

Not married to the CA13U, but I don't want to use a ground glass adapter again if there's a reasonable alternative. I'd just like some more lens options in my kit that are sharp and designed for a production environment.

Personally, I think that the deep depth of field look is quickly becoming overused and cliché amongst indie filmmakers, now that so many more people have access to gear that replicates the look. I've used a Letus Extreme a few times, but I've never been happy with its sharpness in HD resolution -- and even the demo vids on their website are a bit soft even at 720p. P+S Technik seems a bit sharper, and I haven't written it off entirely. I'm not really after the deep depth of field look, although it'd be nice to be able to control it more than I can with the stock Fujinon lens.

Several people on the COW have mentioned that SLR lenses are designed to require less turning to adjust the focus, whereas film lenses have to be turned further, making it easier to precisely follow focus. Is that correct? And and lenses designed for video/film production usually have gear teeth on the side to use with a follow focus unit, right? What is the difference in the quality of the glass or the body of a PL-mount lens and a lens designed for an SLR camera?

[Todd Terry] "The good news is that you only need primes that will cover 16mm, and they are a lot more plentiful (and much much cheaper) than PL mount primes that cover 35mm."

I'm finding a lot of 16mm lenses with C-mounts -- at least twice as many as with PL mounts. Can these be adapted? Or does the C mount indicate that it's old enough that it's not worth using in HD?

Who would you recommend that I go to for re-mounting lenses if I go with that option?


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Todd Terry
Re: What lens mounts adapt to Arri PL?
on Dec 18, 2009 at 6:58:41 am

Hey Ryan...

[Ryan Mast] "I've never been happy with its sharpness in HD resolution"

Well, like most anything else, you get what you pay for. I think if you tried a really high-end converter you might be pleasantly surprised. I use the 400 series P+S Technik Mini35... and it is absolutely razor-sharp. I've shot with it married with the Canon XLH1 every day for two years, and have yet to have the first problem, tweak, or adjustment required (I like this combination because the converter fits right on the camera body... doesn't use the camera's stock lens like most others). I know that with a lot of the less expensive converters people spend so much time tweaking them to death or wrestling with them to get a good image... spending ten times as much time fiddling with the gear than they do shooting. I never have to think about it. Of course, on the downside, this converter is expensive. Some would say wildly so... much costly than the camera itself... so I don't recommend it to everyone... not for weekend warriors or folks trying to produce an indie on the cheap. But for cinematographers out in the trenches shooting real projects with decent budgets every day I think it's the way to go.

[Ryan Mast] "it'd be nice to be able to control it more than I can with the stock Fujinon lens."

That's right, exactly. The real use of a DoF converter is not to give you a shallow DoF, but to give you a controllable one. 35mm naturally has a lot more of that range for you to control than 16mm does, since the frame area is five times bigger.

[Ryan Mast] "SLR lenses are designed to require less turning to adjust the focus, whereas film lenses have to be turned further, making it easier to precisely follow focus. Is that correct?"

Right. A typical SLR lens requires about one-fifth of a barrel turn to go from nearest to infinity. With a real cine lens you have to make almost a complete barrel turn. When dealing with a shallow depth of field and a moving subject and using an SLR lens, you'd only have to make extremely precise and very very tiny turns to the focus ring to keep the subject sharp. Those moves can still be pretty darn hard even if you have cine lenses, a good follow focus unit, and a skilled AC as focus puller turning the knob. Using SLR lenses really magnifies that difficulty level. Can it be done? Sure. It's just a fair bit harder.

[Ryan Mast] "And and lenses designed for video/film production usually have gear teeth on the side to use with a follow focus unit, right?"

Generally speaking, yes, and most of the rings have the same gear pitch, which is slightly different than for the gears you sometimes see on video lenses. But not all cine lenses have gear rings... I have a couple that are gearless.

[Ryan Mast] "What is the difference in the quality of the glass or the body of a PL-mount lens and a lens designed for an SLR camera?"

The quality of the glass itself can be just as good. My primes, for example, started life as Leica still camera lenses before they were rehoused and remounted by Panavision. The glass in them was great to start with... as it is in a lot of SLR lenses. The difference lies in the rest of the lens. SLR lenses are made by the thousands. Cine lenses are made individually by hand. If you had a Cooke lens in your hands from 1993, you could literally call Cooke and very likely be able to get the guy on the phone who put it together. The tolerances are very tight, everything is very precise. Plus, almost all SLR lenses "breathe"... that is, the image size changes slightly when the focus changes. This makes no difference of course when shooting stills, which the lenses were designed for, but can be very noticable and annoying with motion footage. Cine lenses typically do not breathe.

There are a couple of places that offer SLR lenses that have been converted for motion picture (or DoF converter work). Some of these just change the mount, and maybe screw or glue on gear rings. The better ones actually re-house or re-barrel the lenses, so they operate and focus like a real cine lens.

[Ryan Mast] "I'm finding a lot of 16mm lenses with C-mounts ...Can these be adapted?"

Good question. I'm not sure. A C-mount is tiny in comparison to a PL mount, so it theorectically seems like it might be possible... but I've never heard of anyone doing that.

[Ryan Mast] "does the C mount indicate that it's old enough that it's not worth using in HD?"

Not necessarily. A lens' vintage doesn't necessarily indicate its quality. There are some very good older lenses. My personal primes are quite a few years old. And it's darn near impossible to find the Cooke SpeedPanchro lenses from the 1960s (and some even earlier) because they have all been snapped up by bigshot ASC cinematographers who wouldn't part with them for their lives, because they are so beautiful. There are big-time Hollywood movies shot every day with lenses that are probably older than you are. So, old doesn't necessarily mean bad.

[Ryan Mast] "Who would you recommend that I go to for re-mounting lenses if I go with that option?"

Paul Duclos of Duclos Lenses in Los Angeles. A genius, great guy, super helpful, pretty fast, and works relatively cheaply. Saved my bacon once when some idiot (ok, it was me) dropped my favorite 50mm onto a concrete stage floor. Yikes. I thought it was a goner, but he fixed it better than new for like $500 or so... about a tenth of replacing it.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Ryan Mast
Re: What lens mounts adapt to Arri PL?
on Dec 18, 2009 at 9:56:45 pm

[Todd Terry] "I think if you tried a really high-end converter you might be pleasantly surprised. I use the 400 series P+S Technik Mini35... and it is absolutely razor-sharp."

Good to know. Is that your e35mm setup that you have posted on your website?

[Todd Terry] "There are big-time Hollywood movies shot every day with lenses that are probably older than you are. So, old doesn't necessarily mean bad."

I didn't mean my question as a slight against age -- I do prefer to use battle-tested gear if it works well. =)

Just talked with Paul at Duclos Lenses. He says they can remount Zeiss B-mount to PL, but they don't remount C mount lenses to PL -- not that it can't be done.

Todd, thank you so much the information. You've been immensely helpful! Where could I go to learn more about lenses? Any good books you'd recommend?


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Todd Terry
Re: What lens mounts adapt to Arri PL?
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:43:26 pm

[Ryan Mast] "Is that your e35mm setup"

Yes. Shhhh. The combination of DoF conversion and cine lenses and 24fps shooting was just so hard to explain to our clients not in this industry that we just slapped the "e35mm" label on the rig and its workflow. It's just marketing mumbo jumbo.

[Ryan Mast] "Paul...says they can remount Zeiss B-mount to PL, but they don't remount C mount lenses to PL"

I'm not really surprised by that. You might have even been the first person to ask him if he can. It seems theoretically possible since a C-mount is so much smaller than a PL-mount (if it were the other way around it would be impossible), but I wouldn't know where to turn if Paul can't do it.

[Ryan Mast] "Where could I go to learn more about lenses?"

You'll find lots of lens info (t-stop and focal length tables, etc.) in the ASC Handbook, but no real discussion of certain specific cine lenses. You'll find some technical info, but not much aesthetic info. For example, "Why I'd prefer late model Zeiss lenses for an action movie but older Cookes for a romantic comedy"... that kinda stuff ain't in there. There are a lot of nuances when you get to talking about very specific lenses, all based on their brand/type/vintage etc... and they all have different characteristics... even within the same brand. Just for one example, current Cookes S4/i primes are very cold/sharp/contrasty, whereas Cooke Panchro primes are a bit warmer and softer. But then again, we're talking about lenses there worth many thousands of dollars, mostly available to bigshot Hollywood DPs who can pick and choose the exact glass they need for a project. I don't know if there are any entire books dedicated to cine lenses... if so, I've never seen any. The best info is going to come from other veteran cinematographers who have used all different kinds of lenses for all different kinds of things on lots of projects. This forum on the COW is a great source, same for the forums over at cinematography.com (those are mostly going to be film shooters there, not video). There's also the discussion forum at the Russian motion picture camera users group konvas.org. The Russian LOMO cine lenses are great and there are a lot of lens-knowledgeable people there, I've even seen Tak Fujimoto post occasionally (the ASC cinematographer of "Silence of the Lambs," "The Sixth Sense," and a bazillion other movies).


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Ryan Mast
Re: What lens mounts adapt to Arri PL?
on Dec 25, 2009 at 8:52:13 pm

Again Todd, thank you so much. Spent a lot of time in the past couple days reading through the cinematography.com forums -- it's fantastic.

One more question for you -- is a Arri Standard mount to PL mount adapter like this legit?
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290384483474#ht_500wt_97...
Have you used it? Would you trust it?


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Todd Terry
Re: What lens mounts adapt to Arri PL?
on Dec 25, 2009 at 9:08:02 pm

Looks legit enough.

Obviously that's the right adapter only if you have Arri standard mount lenses and only if you are needing to mount them to a PL mount camera or other device.

I'm a little puzzled by the description "stays on the camera and has quick release buttons on both sides so you can mount different lenses without changing the adaptor." It looks to me that you'd have to remove the lens with the adapter attached, and then take the adapter off. I'm not sure it would work exactly per the description, but it's not a big deal.

And no, can't say that I have ever used one of those.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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