I’m so excited to finally tell you the details about our first set of Super 16mm Digital Bolex lenses! I know this idea is a little unconventional to say the least, but I think we’ve come up with something that will impress you!
You may have heard we are making fixed focus / fixed aperture lenses, this is true, but it’s not the complete truth, because we’re working on a system that will allow these lenses to be focused. This method is completely unique and creates super sharp images with very simple lens structures lowering the cost of the lenses and the overall cost of the system.
This is how it works.
Lenses have many optical elements. Normally, a lens focuses by moving some of its interior optical elements independently, and sometimes the front element too. In the case of the Kish lenses designed for the D16 all of the optical elements will move in unison when focusing.
This means we can build the focusing mechanism into the lens mount, instead of into the lens itself. And the focusing mechanism can be controlled by the crank electronically, making it a built in follow focus. This requires the purchase of an electronic lens mount, but it means you only have to purchase a focusing mechanism once, greatly reducing the price of each lens and the overall lens package. You can even use it with some vintage C-mount lenses, turning vintage glass that would be very hard to connect to a conventional follow focus into useable glass for cinema!
The exact price of each lens has not been set yet, but we think we can offer these lenses for between $200 and $300 each. And the Universal Follow Focus C-Mount should retail for between $500 and $600.
This is the line up:
First lets address crop factor. The crop factor for S35mm lenses to S16 is around 2.1. This means that when using these lenses you are using less than half of the useable lens surface, and the part of the lens you crop out is often the one that they spend all the money making right. Obviously this is not the best use of your money. So why use S35mm when you can get lenses made to fit the camera precisely?
Focal length equivalents: You generally get the same field of view with a set of S35mm primes and a set of S16 primes, but the name of the lens is different. For instance, a 25mm in S16 has a very similar field of view as a 50mm in S35. Even though they have a similar field of view they do have a different look.
The look difference between S35mm and S16mm: S16 gives you roughly twice the depth of field for any particular field of view and has none of the critical focus issues. (Which is why I think it will not be difficult for people to focus this camera on the built in monitor. I have focused many 16mm cameras with a lesser viewing option.)
Along with this greater depth of field you also get greater spatial distortion, meaning things in the background look further away from the things in the foreground. So basically, when you are shooting S16 compared to shooting S35 you are trading the illusion of depth created by an in focus / out of focus relationship, for the illusion of depth created by the size and shape difference of foreground and background. Now this sounds like an extreme thing, but actually in practice it’s pretty subtle, the background is still out of focus, and you still “feel” the distance of objects from the camera. To me this makes shooting much easier. I have always felt more confident and happy shooting S16, and I really like the look.
Here are some field of view equivalences for the lenses we have made:
10mm: S35mm = 21mm, FF = 30mm
18mm: 35mm = 36mm, FF = 50mm
38mm: 35mm = 80mm, FF = 100mm
These lenses are being manufactured to have element placements within a tolerance of .02mm for the entire lens, which is the kind of precision you get when you pay $3000 or $4000 for a lens, like a Zeiss Compact Prime. The resolving power of our lenses is amazing too. The Kodak designed CCD in the D16 has the capability of resolving roughly 45 lines per millimeter resolution. As a reference, the resolution of most DSLR lenses is around 30 lines per millimeter, which is plenty for the way they capture video and for still images in relation to print resolutions. My challenge to Kish was to design lenses with higher resolution, lower distortion, more color clarity, for one quarter the cost. This is what we came up with. These lenses are rated to 45 lines per millimeter resolution, have extremely low distortion, with very high color clarity.
Using the lenses without the Universal Follow Focus: The lenses while made more flexible with our built in follow focus system are still designed to be very useful without it. This first set of lenses is intended to be used indoors and each lens has a fixed iris set to f4, and the optics are designed around this stop. For comparison, most lenses with variable irises tend to have their sharpest settings somewhere between f5.6 and f11 depending on the lens, which is pretty dark. Our lenses are intended to make it easy to create a typical wide, medium, and close shot in a shot sequence and have typical distances you would use these from.
Here is a list of lenses and their focus settings:
10mm: focus range: 3.3′ (1 meter) to infinity
18mm: focus range: 3.7′ (1.12 meters) to 6.5′ (1.98 meters)
38mm: 5.6′ (1.7 meters) to 6.5′ (1.98 meters)
One of the great ways to use these lenses will be on our turret. This will allow you to quickly change between the lenses and have super fast setup times! Here’s a 3d printed demo of the turret we’re designing to go with these guys:
There are other benefits to having lenses with no moving parts.
- The internal elements can be set in place in a more secure way than with focusing lenses, which means that over time they won’t need to be re-calibrated.
- The internal elements can be set in a more precise way than with moving parts.
- The body of the lens can be made out of a single piece of metal greatly strengthening it’s endurance to bumps and knocks.
These lenses will be some of the highest quality S16 lenses you can buy at a fraction of the cost of other cinema lenses, but wait there’s more…
These are only the first set. We have many more planned. We already have three f8 lenses designed waiting to go to the manufacturer for prototyping when they are done building the f4s!
The first Digital Bolex lens set:
So let’s talk about availability. We are through the first prototyping stage with this set. We need to do some rigorous testing over the next couple of weeks, but if all goes well we will be able to offer these lenses for sale in the next few months. Like the cameras they will be in very limited quantities, and camera owners will get priority placement for pre-order.
When we did our Kickstarter survey we asked our backers what accessories they would like us to work on for the D16. The overwhelming response was lenses. So we did a lot of research, not only on what was available today, but also what some of the solutions of the past were. We had to come up with something unique that would in the words of my favorite book, offer true “value innovation“. So we asked ourselves the four value innovation questions…
- What factors can be eliminated that the industry has taken for granted?
- What factors can be reduced well below the industry’s standard?
- What factors can be raised well above the industry’s standard?
- What factors can be created that the industry has never offered?
True value innovation is not a single product, but a series of products, and this set of lenses is the beginning of that path for us in lenses.
We hope you like what we have come up with, and please let us know what you think. And as always thank you for your support,
Joe, Elle, Kish, and the entire Digital Bolex team.