Topic: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

Something I've talked a decent amount about on the forums over the past few months is the idea of shooting with older, less conventional lens choices now that we have the ability to do so on DSLRs and mirrorless non-fixed-lens digital cameras.

Of course, the older Nikon AI, AIS, and non-AI prime lenses are popular here for their manual controls and high quality at a reasonable price. And I think these lenses do have a more old-school, natural look to them that is "vintage," compared to modern Canon primes for instance. And many of these lenses are vintage in the sense that they were made in the 1980s and earlier. However, I see the look they produce as fairly neatly resolved and conventional, which is great for many projects but does not in itself bring character to the footage.

Lately I've been interested in vintage lenses that bring a sense of style to the images they produce, such as the Helios 44-2 58mm (f/2), and the Mir 1-B 37mm (f/2.8), which are old lenses produced in the USSR and now available at decent prices on eBay; about $50 and $80 respectively and depending on the condition of the lens and the particular eBay listing.

I used them heavily for the documentary, and now I've been shooting my new film for the BiM Collection on these two lenses. It has worked pretty well, although I do have to use diopters or extension tubes in most shots in order to focus close enough. A hassle, but I'm pleased with the look I'm getting. I feel it has a distinctive texture to it (especially when depth of field is shallow) that is different from most modern lenses.

Helios 44-2:
http://i.imgur.com/G2p4t2P.png

edit: got a question about the vertical streaks in this image, those are a result of the diopter I had to use to get it in focus reflecting light.

Mir 1-B:
http://i.imgur.com/ZcdTYBj.png


These are m42 mount lenses, so you need an adapter to use them on most cameras. (Canon cameras would use a little EOS to m42 adapter ring, very cheap)

Has anybody else tried filming with some more off-beat lens choices, such as old vintage lenses? Any favorites or recommendations? I've found Vintage Lenses for Video to be a good starting point for learning about this stuff.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

Thanks to your suggestion, Smeagol, I bought a Helios 44-2 58mm lens back in September. Best purchase ever. I personally love this lens for the unique look and the awesome manual controls. It has many uses, but seems to be perfect for brickfilming. Of course, since it is a 58mm lens, you have to set your camera back a ways to get a larger subject in-frame, but that can be helpful for brickfilming so you can get between the camera and the set. If you want closeups, extension tubes (like the Fotodiox ones) are extremely useful. Here's an extreme closeup I took using extension tubes:

http://bricksafe.com/files/rioforce/Minifigures/Hael%20Storm/DSC_0716.JPG/800x533.jpg

The Helios has no lens coating on it, so lens flares are possible and extremely common, which can be bad at times, but honestly, I love the lens flare (I'm not as obsessed with them as J.J. Abrams is, though). Here's an example of a lens flare I got:

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7495/16013373441_c2a99ea659_c.jpgGlorious Lens Flares by rioforce, on Flickr

A downside would be that it has a narrow depth of field, even stepped down. It's according to how you are using the lens, but this can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. It has worked well for me, though, because it has simulated real-life depth when I am only using minifigures (for example)

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8650/16099476938_63f3d38aa6_c.jpgRioforce - Sigfig by rioforce, on Flickr

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Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

I have a Mir-1 (without the B) and will have access to some extension tubes in a few weeks when spring break comes around; I'll definitely do some tests then.

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

I'm a bit unclear on the differences between the various Mir-1 models, I think they were just made in different time windows but are fairly similar.

My shortest extension tube (a Fotodiox set) still ends up focusing much closer than a +1 or +2 diopter, so I find I have to use diopters for most shots that aren't ultra-close.

rioforce wrote:

A downside would be that it has a narrow depth of field, even stepped down. It's according to how you are using the lens, but this can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. It has worked well for me, though, because it has simulated real-life depth when I am only using minifigures (for example)

To be fair, the shallowness of the DOF should be roughly the same at a given aperture as any other lens of the same focal length. But 58mm is a bit longer than your typical 50, thus shallower DOF, and even stopped down all the way the Helios lens only goes to f/16, so you don't have the ability to get to f/22 like some Nikkor lenses. My feeling is that the look this lens produces when there is some shallowness to the depth of field is where its real value is as far as producing a distinctive look, so perhaps you could just switch to other lenses when you need deep focus.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

I'd love to give any of the other Russian lenses in this article a spin with LEGO. But they're a bit outside my (miserly) price range...

It's funny, I'm finding f/16 really limiting on closeups in that it doesn't deliver adequate depth of field. In any live action setting that'd effectively be deep focus, so this is a strange new world for me.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

These images look fantastic! I saw one of the recent THAC films shot with a Helios (I'm pretty sure it was rioforce's entry), and really wanted to get one of these lenses. This just compounds that interest (that reflection on the baseplate in the second picture tickles my eyes). How much are the extension tubes/diopters that you use?

mini/smile

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

ForlornCreature wrote:

These images look fantastic! I saw one of the recent THAC films shot with a Helios (I'm pretty sure it was rioforce's entry), and really wanted to get one of these lenses. This just compounds that interest (that reflection on the baseplate in the second picture tickles my eyes). How much are the extension tubes/diopters that you use?

The diopters are these Vivitar ones, you also need a 49-52mm step-up ring to fit them to both the Helios and the Mir, which I bought on eBay for maybe $3 USD. I got the EOS to m42 adapter for another $4 or so.

Extension tubes, I've been using Fotodiox ef extension tubes.

I did run into a slight challenge / limitation using the extension tubes and diopters, elaborated upon here.

I finished my film this past weekend, it will be on the BiM collection. In the end I found myself shooting with the Mir maybe 70% of the time because it gave me a sense of depth at this small scale that was harder to achieve with a longer lens like the Helios. There's a very similar look to both lenses.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

I'd be interested in getting the Helios lens, managing to scrounge around ebay and finding one for £29! Pretty cheap, yes?
I may come off as cheap when I say that, but thats mainly from the viewpoint that I am investing in a new DSLR (for photography, not animation) and like many of us; money is tight, and I wouldn't mind getting a good lens for (cheap) good value for money.
Would you recommend the Helios, or the Mir?

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

Slurping Animations wrote:

Would you recommend the Helios, or the Mir?

The Helios is cheaper. One of the cheapest good lenses out there. The Mir and the Helios are rather similar lenses. It depends on if you want a 58mm or a 37mm, I suppose, for starting out.

The Helios can focus somewhat closer without the help of diopters or extension tubes. It's probably the better bet if you can only buy one right now. But as I said, I found myself using the Mir 37mm more, in order to avoid the excessive "flatness" of the perspective you can get with longer lenses at LEGO scale.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

I'll take a think about it, thanks for the informative reply!

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

I have a question that fits in this topic. My mom has some old Fujica X mount lenses, and I have a Canon EOS SL1. I have tried quite a few time to find an adapter for the lenses to work on my camera, but I can only find adapters for Canon lenses to Fujica bodies. Does anyone have any idea where I could find an adapter?

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Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

Rivvm m wrote:

I have a question that fits in this topic. My mom has some old Fujica X mount lenses, and I have a Canon EOS SL1. I have tried quite a few time to find an adapter for the lenses to work on my camera, but I can only find adapters for Canon lenses to Fujica bodies. Does anyone have any idea where I could find an adapter?

This is the only one I found. It has an autofocus chip in it for some reason. mini/confused I looked around, but didn't see just a simple old metal adapter ring, not even on eBay. My guess is that the lenses are not used very often, thus, they don't make many adapters.

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Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

rioforce wrote:
Rivvm m wrote:

I have a question that fits in this topic. My mom has some old Fujica X mount lenses, and I have a Canon EOS SL1. I have tried quite a few time to find an adapter for the lenses to work on my camera, but I can only find adapters for Canon lenses to Fujica bodies. Does anyone have any idea where I could find an adapter?

This is the only one I found. It has an autofocus chip in it for some reason. mini/confused I looked around, but didn't see just a simple old metal adapter ring, not even on eBay. My guess is that the lenses are not used very often, thus, they don't make many adapters.

The problem is flange focal distance. There won't be any good adapter options for that kind of lens to the EF body because the EF mount is further away from the sensor than Fujica X lenses are designed for. (Nikon has the longest flange focal distance there is, which is why almost no non-Nikon lenses work on a Nikon camera.) If the flange distance for a lens mount is LESS than the flange distance of the mount built into the camera, it cannot be properly adapted. That's why the adapter Rio linked has glass in it, to compensate for this discrepancy. Almost without exception, these glass adapters introduce distortion and softness and reflections into the image, ruining the quality of the lens.

It looks like Fujica X has one of the shortest flange distances ever. You might be able to use Fujica X lenses with most Sony or Panasonic cameras without a problem, depending on how the rear element is constructed. But those cameras lack robust support for stop motion-style tethering to a computer.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

Thank Rio and Smeagol for the replies. It helps quite a lot. mini/smile
I think that I might just go for the Helios 44-2 (or similar) lens once I have the funds for it. The price of the Helios lens and adapter combined cost less than the adapter for the Fujica X mount... mini/confused

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Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

I have a question. I'm buying Canon EOS 600D (T3i), which is my first DSLR. What lenses would you reccommend me to buy (for of course a reasonable price)? mini/smile

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

fartifartek wrote:

I have a question. I'm buying Canon EOS 600D (T3i), which is my first DSLR. What lenses would you reccommend me to buy (for of course a reasonable price)? mini/smile

As far as this thread's topic goes, I do think the Mir 1-B and Helios are a good value. You'd need the lenses, an "eos to m42" adapter, a 49mm to 52mm step up ring so you can get filters that fit the front, and a set of 52mm diopters to get started with them. I bet you could get all of that for around $200 USD on eBay, not sure what foreign shipping to your country would be like but most of these items typically come from China, Russia, or Ukraine anyway.

When I started this thread I feel like maybe I would have been reluctant to recommend these lenses for a beginner. I feel they're not super versatile, having a baked-in "style" to them; maybe you'd be better off getting some Nikon lenses like the old, manual Nikon 50mm and 24mm lenses, which would require an EOS to Nikon adapter and some 52mm diopters. Those lenses are slightly more expensive, I recommend buying on KEH if possible. But they are likely to be slightly less old and they have a more traditional, clean look to their images compared to the Russian lenses. I would say that makes them more versatile.

However, the reason I mention "when I started this thread" is that I've realized after completing a brickfilm with my Russian lenses that the "style" they produce is not as dramatic as I expected because you really have to stop down quite a bit at LEGO scale to get anything in focus, and that reduces the strength of the stylistic look of these lenses. It is there, but it is subtle. So, it may well be that these lenses are a better value for a beginner. We should get some other opinions on that probably.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

I don't think someone's first non kit lens should be one of these Russian lenses, it should be a macro lens and I STRONGLY recommend the Nikkor 55mm Micro f/3.5 lens, that lens plus a  Nikkor to EOS adaptor with a set of extension tubes should be the fprime things someone gets for there new Canon. The great thing about vintage Nikkor is most of the non-micro lenses minimum focal length is 1 foot or (.3m) which is much closer then these Russian lenses. Lens number two should be a 35mm f/2.8.

While the old Russian lenses are cool they are not as useful overall as a practical set of Nikkor primes.

Also don't get the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 for animation,  it's mostly useless with a really long minimum focal distance.

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

I absolutely agree with Sloth. 55mm, 35mm and 28mm Nikkor prime lens are the lens I got, and they are excellent. The adaptor and extension tube are a must, too.

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

When you are buying lenses for stop motion try to find lenses you can stop down to f/22 at least, f/32 being ideal. When you do start using extension tubes you may need to stop down all the way, and lenses that can stop down more tend to be sharper then lenses that only stop down to f/16. As Nathan said your third lens should be something wider, somewhere between 18mm - 28mm. 18mm & 20mm will be rather pricey while 24mm & 28mm lenses should be more reasonable.

Re: Vintage Lenses in Brickfilming

These recommendations seem sensible. I am not sure if they're as affordable, though just getting one 55mm macro lens would be a nice start and that's not too bad.

I will say, I have really had to fuss a lot with diopters and extension tubes to get the shots I want with the Russian lenses. I'd do it again if I want that aesthetic for a particular project, sure, but it's a pain and it'd be nice to just avoid that issue entirely.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png