Those of you who have followed our progress since Kickstarter know that as soon as our campaign ended, we surveyed all of our backers to ask what accessories they were most interested in, and overwhelmingly the winner was lenses.
After 2 years in development, our Digital Bolex/Kish Optics Series 1 Primes are now available to order through our online store.
When we began the process of designing C-mount lenses last year with Academy Award-winner Kish Sadhvani, we tasked ourselves with creating a product that was more affordable than a standard cinema lens, but still created high quality, cinematic look. New C-mount cinema lenses haven’t been made in decades; while there are many inexpensive C-mount lenses on the market, many of them are made for scientific and security cameras, and often feature cheap glass or plastic components, which create soft, grainy images that don’t take advantage of the resolution afforded by our camera.
We decided to strip down a lens to its most basic components, and design around the “sweet spot” of each lens. After an iteration that was both fixed-aperture and fixed-focus, we reintroduced a focusing mechanism that still simplified the lens structure enough to allow us to reach a price point we desired without compromising the quality of the image.
Since we announced that we were going to be making new C-mount lenses, a few people have asked us why–other than the camera’s native C-mount–we decided to create lenses in this format, which so few modern cameras use. We feel there are a number of benefits to a C-mount lens, and we kept these in mind when creating the shape and look of each lens:
- Its light weight, short flange distance, and built-in follow focus gear make it easier to use for true handheld shots, steady cams, and motorized gimbal stabilizers.
- The compact size means more compact shoulder rigs, even with a follow focus.
- The smaller circumference of the lens makes building fewer thick elements easier, which means we can make lenses out of 5 or 6 thick pieces of glass instead of 20+ thin elements, which makes these lenses more durable and have a natural contrast.
- With fewer, thicker elements you can achieve nicer looking lens flares.
- C-mount is a widely-adaptable format, which would allow you to match shots if needed between a D16 and any other camera with a Super16mm to Micro Four Thirds sized sensor.
- The low price means these lenses can be used cost effectively in more dangerous situations for your equipment, like crash cams and underwater or desert shoots.
Rather than shooting a “test” of verité footage or models to demonstrate the specs of the lenses when their design was finalized, we again tasked ourselves with creating something more, envisioning a story where we could utilize these 3 lenses in a cinematic way; so we chose to shoot a narrative spot to put the lenses to the test, using them as they would be used in a professional production.
The three lenses, a 10mm, 18mm, and 38mm, have a fixed aperture of F4, so we wanted to use them in varying, difficult lighting conditions that would range from dark shadows to bright sand, and that would include fine detail to show the sharpness and resolution of each lens. The weathered Western town at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills seemed like the perfect location.
We conceived a 30 second spot for the camera in the style of a spaghetti western, with extreme closeups, wide vistas, and everything in between.
To highlight the quality of the lenses we went out of our way not to use a matte box or any filters to supplement the image other than a variable ND. There were no lights on set, only reflecting boards, bounces, and diffusion our crew used to control the natural daylight. We again used the wireless monitoring setup we created for Spike Lee’s Pepsi shoot in May, which was instrumental in keeping the camera cable free, enabling us to move quickly between shots on a busy day.
We chose an all-outdoor shoot so that it would be clear while watching the piece that you don’t need an expensive lighting setup in order to create optimal images from our lenses. The footage proves they are capable of standing on their own alongside expensive lenses from established brands (which technical testing has confirmed), and we feel confident that a filmmaker just starting to journey into 16mm and C-mount lenses with the D16 will be able to achieve a majority of needed coverage using just these three lenses.
The full 3-lens set will retail for $995. Individually, the lenses are priced at $350 (38mm), $375 (18mm), and $395 (10mm). Buying the lenses as a set saves $125. Lenses go on sale today, with shipping of the first batch in 8-12 weeks, after which they will be continuously in stock.
If you buy a D16 camera through the end of this year and choose to bundle it with an individual lens or lens set, we’re offering 10% off a single lens, or 20% off the set (offer also available to customers who have already purchased a camera previously–watch your inbox!)
For Kickstarter backers, who are already receiving one 18mm lens free as part of their pledge rewards, we will have a special coupon code to buy the additional two lenses for 20% off.
If you want to see more shots of our shoot, check out the gallery below:
Thanks to our crew, AC Valerie Much, Gaffer Brett, Key Grip Kyle Baker, makeup artist Art, and still photographer Leetal Platt, and to our wonderful cast, Dominic Bogart, Christina Leonard, and Ryan Patrick McGuffey.