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Making full use of interchangeable lenses

Still Lenses and Cinema Lenses

Motonari Sasaki, Video Technology Analyst, Up Side  To enable a photographer to create exactly the video they have in mind, the photographer has to consider a wide variety of elements, including the camera’s performance. The imaging power of the lenses is one of the crucial elements.  The previous generation of small camera recorders suffered from small sensor sizes and noninterchangeable lenses, so images naturally had a deep depth of field. Photographers overcame this problem by attaching still lenses or PL mount lenses with DOF adapters to the small camera recorder lenses. Examples of these solutions included the Letus35 from Letus and the Mini35 PL from P+S Technik. These arrangements enabled photographers to achieve unique video results and shallow depth of field that fixed lenses could not provide.  Later, between 2005 and 2009, camera recorders such as the Canon XL H1S (1/3type) and the Sony PMW-EX3 (1/2 type) made their debut. Though the sensors were still small, these camera recorders offered interchangeable lenses, as well as adapters for easy changing of lens mounts. By choosing the right lens for each shoot, photographers were able to significantly expand the expressive range of their small camera recorders.  Today, with the rich array of digital SLRs now on offer, large image sensors are routinely installed in compact bodies, making it easy to achieve a shallow depth of field. The major lens manufacturers are busily producing lenses that support digital SLR mounts; for example, Carl Zeiss makes set lenses for the Canon EF and Nikon F mounts.  Panasonic introduced the AG-AF100 series. Launched in December 2010, the AG-AF100 series is the industry’s first camera recorder to incorporate the Micro Four Thirds system, which was designed for mirror-less digital SLRs. The sensor size is 3/4 type, and lenses for the Micro Four Thirds mount are now offered by all major companies, including Panasonic (the lineup of lenses is fuller than that for the E Mount, which is based on a similar concept). Furthermore, a key feature of the Micro Four Thirds system is the use of a short flange back, which enables a huge variety of lenses to be applied through a mount adapter (Photo 1).

Photo 1: The Panasonic AG-AF100 series allows a vast range of lenses to be used via the mount adapter.


including the PL.8 lens with Leica screw mount has a protruding rear element that interferes with the sensor. Photo 3: Triad PL: The Micro Four Thirds mount adapter is fitted with a flange-back adjustment mechanism. Leica Screw. B4. steady movement demanded in the zoom rings of video and cinema lenses. enabling them to restrict the aperture just before the light reaches the camera through the lens. virtually any lens can be mounted on the AG-AF100 series (Photo 2). including flange-back adjustable types designed for factor-free use and fixed mount adapters mounted with 15 mm diameter rods to serve double duty as lens supports (Photo 3). still zoom lenses often cause outof-focus problems in video shooting. the zoom ring on the Canon EF zoom lens is the same as that on zoom lenses for camera recorders with the B4 mount. Be aware that some lenses have long rear elements that prevent them from being used with mount adapters (Photo 4). Mount Adapters  The conversion adapters for the Micro Four Thirds mount are available. As a result. Leica Screw. if the selection of mount adapters is varied.Photo 2: A wide range of mount adapters are sold for the Micro Four Thirds mount. Photo 4: The Jupiter-12 35 mm F2. complete flange-back adjustment capability is a highly desirable feature for zoom lenses. B4. still camera lenses are not built with zooming for video effects in mind. M42. depending on the focal distance of the still zoom lens. so it cannot be mounted on the AG-AF100 series. However. When holding the camera (pointing it toward the subject). With the right combination of these adapters.  However.  For example. the zoom rings of still lenses do not deliver the smooth. Notes on Combining with Still Lenses  The AG-AF100 series can be mounted with a wide variety of still lenses. as this feature is less critical in still photography.  The PL lineup of mount adapters is particularly comprehensive. including the PL. Nikon G and Canon EF.  Moreover. In some cases. Shooters accustomed to using video lenses are bound to be confused. The range in types of adapters is stunning. ■Zoom lenses   In video photography. In contrast. 7 . giving video photographers a whole new dimension in flexibility. M42. the lenses available is far more so. this ring is turned clockwise to move to the wideangle end. but instead to focus on and capture a single image. the direction of rotation is opposite to that which video photographers expect. the zoom rings on the Lumix G Vario series and Sony E mount lens go to the telephoto end when rotated clockwise. Nikon G and Canon EF.  The lens adapters for the Canon EF series incorporate a built-in iris mechanism.

Be sure to check for this situation before doing filter work using a matte box. so small movements cause big changes in focus. sharpness and so on.  Even so. ■Other points to consider  The Lumix G Vario series lenses are equipped with optical image stabilizer (OIS). ths iris smooth adjustment is frustrating to manage.  For users of the AG-AF100 series. This focal distance (displayed on the lens in millimeters) produces a very different feel from that of cameras normally used by video shooters. so as the aperture changes. It is also worth mentioning that the iris structure on some classic lenses can be used to adjust aperture (though not in the way the manufacturers intended). Instead. still camera lenses generally use a stepped movement through a series of detent points.  As with the zoom ring. Also. ■Focusing  Still lenses generally have a smaller bore than video lenses. Photo 5: The Canon EF ZOOM TF-Version from Technical Farm is a version of the Canon EF lens that is modified to incorporate an iris ring. a modification of the Canon EF lens by Technical Farm. the focal distance would have to be double that of the AGAF100 seires (same distance in millimeters as the B4-mounted camera). and switching ON/OFF is easy to understand. Moreover. Other options may be few. or by combining with a mount adapter that features an aperture-adjustment mechanism. In the “one-cut” world of video photography. and more importantly. some still lenses do not maintain consistent aperture (brightness) across the entire zoom range. Another point to bear in mind when using still lenses is that focusing causes great changes in the angle of view.  Another issue is that. Adjustments have to be extremely subtle. need to control the iris from the AG-AF100 seires’ built-in ND filter. color temperature.  Moving on to angle of view. If we calculate instead from a 35 mm full-size camera. but they do exist. Fortunately. the LCD monitor of the AG-AF100 series shows the OIS icon when the OIS switch of the lens is switched ON. this is fine. this phenomenon causes no problems.  One solution is the Canon EF ZOOM TF-Version. the same field of view as the AGAF100 series can be obtained with only half the focal distance as the full-size camera. However. with a click-click-click effect. as with lenses that feature an iris ring. When used at the open end. the lens sometimes jumps forward. This lens is mounted with an iris ring fitted with cinema gear (Photo 5). aperture is controlled from the camera by electronic controls. with a setting menu that includes pedestal. by fitting an ND filter in front of the lens. ■Iris  Some lenses do not feature an iris ring on the lens itself. when zooming using a still camera zoom lens. such as the Lumix G Vario series with Micro Four Thirds mount. and so should be tested thoroughly for image effects before being used in video photography. so this is one advantage in combining classic lenses with the AGAF100 series. to obtain in the AG-AF100 series the same angle of view as a B4-mounted camera recorder. brightness does not adjust smoothly. aperture can be controlled from the iris dial of the AGAF100 series. However. so check before you buy. 8 . but reduce aperture a single step and you quickly see a change in brightness. which renders the OIS feature on the AG-AF100 series inoperable. video shooters need to be aware that the focus ring on still camera lenses sometimes rotates in the opposite direction of those on camera recorder lenses. If you plan on setting the iris to an aperture that works for you and leaving it there. the brightness changes instantly. some classic lenses have their focus markings inscribed in meters instead of feet. In lenses such as these. lenses that are controlled via the mount adapter force the iris to the open end. Also remember that many classic lenses require a lot of detailed adjustments. These fine adjustments are unavailable on digital SLRs. so there is no cause to despair.

 Cinema lenses offer crisp. These images shoot on purpose can be interesting for your toolkit. the iris ring rotates smoothly instead of clicking through stages. a rod-mounting support system has to be fitted on the bottom of the AG-AF100 series. PL mount zoom lenses are bulky and heavy. yet they deliver excellent imaging performance. and the center of gravity is heavily skewed to the front of the camera (Photo 6). By combining these lenses with the AG-AF100 series.   On the other hand. the system as a whole becomes heavy. even if the AG-AF100 series itself is light. still camera lenses suffer many more problems than camera recorder lenses do when used in video photography. As a result. making handheld video capture difficult. sharp images for a gentle look. so shooters have to compensate by using a slide base. You can handle them with none of the confusion that can arise when using still camera lenses. and equipment rental companies carry original products as well. Advantages of Still Camera Lenses  Still camera lenses are compact and lightweight. With so many attachments. Be sure to fit these systems correctly to prevent damage to the camera mount and avoid shifting the optical axis. such as scenes that are extremely blurred or darkened on the periphery only. and attachment of a matte box for filter work is necessary. even with the slide base to improve the balance. Consider adding a grip or other items to compensate.  Support systems for the AG-AF100 seires are available from a wide variety of manufacturers.  The weaknesses of classic lenses are exposed at the open end of the iris. offer great imaging performance. attaching a battery to the back for balance. so follow focus is more or less essential. so the movement of the zoom and focus rings won’t pose any problems. A weakness in the eyes of one photographer may be an appealing quirk to another. but image quality can be improved dramatically by adjusting the iris one step.  Naturally. you can adjust your settings menu to overcome the weaknesses of still lens and capture better quality images. Cinema Lenses and Accessories  Like video lenses.Photo 6: Combination of the AG-AF100 series with the Cooke Cine Varotal 25–250 mm T4 PL mount zoom lens. Of course. But many are inexpensive. Adding these lenses to your tool box will allow you to move around nimbly if the job requires.  The rotation of the focus on PL mount zoom lenses is over 180°. and so forth.  When a cinema lens is used. 9 . Cinema-lens users find that these lenses effectively translate their photographic intentions into the results they were looking for. the camera becomes heavier. For this reason. and are easy to use. Some effects are out of reach for video lenses and cinema lenses with a PL mount. so they are normally used with a lens support. it’s difficult to keep the camera balanced with a tripod head alone. with shallow depth of field that lends depth and richness to images. the system hardly seems stable. The weight is severely skewed forward. cinema lenses are lenses designed for video recording.