Still Lens to Cine Lens

I have two older still camera lenses left over from my SLR days. I proudly used Olympus cameras and lenses back then. These days, I use a Canon DSLR principally because it has really awesome video capabilities for the money. But I only have one kit lens for the Canon 60D, an 18-135mm zoom. It’s perfect for taking pics of my son playing baseball or at a band concert but it’s not really set up for using as a film lens.

Never one to let things go to waste, I decided to convert my old Olympus primes into cinema lenses giving them new life and my Canon some great new glass. When it comes to making movies, I’m a really old school film guy. Which means I shot with 8mm, Super-8, 16mm and even 35mm film cameras back in the day. So I know a think or two about filmmaking in general and the camera department in particular.

Cinema lenses are basically the same glass as their still camera friends, they just have modifications that make them easier to use with movie cameras. There are four things that need to be changed or modified on a regular prime lens to make it useful for cinema work. Common mount, follow focus ring, declicked f-stop ring and a common filter adapter and lens cap size.

I first ordered an Olympus OM to Canon mount ring for each lens. You can just get the one adapter but then you have to have OM lens butt caps and Canon ones in your bag. If you make all your lenses have the same caps then you save some space and make things easier to find in a rush. Same thing goes for the talent facing side of the lens but we’ll get to that. So order up some Canon lens butt caps while your at it.

The next thing we need to do is de-click the iris. Most still lenses will make a clicking sound when you change the f-stop setting on them. This is not useful for film work because sometimes you need to change the iris on the fly during a shot. The sound recorder will pick up the clicking noise and it can ruin a take. So we open up the lens and remove the tiny ball, in Olympus lenses and then put it back together again. Now the f-stop ring works smoothly and won’t be heard by anyone. Here is a not so easy to see video describing how to de-click an OM lens.

Cinema camera kits all have a follow focus wheel on them to allow for steady, repeatable shifts in focus during a take. These follow focus devices have common gears on them that mesh with a gear on the lens barrel and allow for smooth focus pulling. Because my primes were so tiny, I decided to go with flexible rubber rings that are attached to the lens barrel with zip ties.

The gear fits over the normal focus knobby area of the lens and keeps the barrel nice and sleek so it can be slid back in your lens bag with ease. The one draw back with this approach is that the distance scale on the lens is covered up. I’ll be looking into ways to adjust the gear so that this scale can be still be read because that is required when you measure out the distance from your lens to the talent. If I didn’t have any prime lenses and was going to have to purchase some older glass, I might choose to go with Nikkor lenses as I think they might be easier to convert.

The next think you want to do is look at having a common screw in filter size for all your cine lenses. I went with the biggest diameter lens I had, the Canon zoom and it had a 67mm diameter filter. Later on I realized that what I really needed was perhaps an 80mm common filter adapter. The reason for that is because the matte box that I’m hoping to get has a clamp that works with 80mm instead of using rods. So both of my primes have 67mm filter adapters for my ND filters of that diameter and then another adapter to get them out to 80mm for the Genus Tech Matte Box Lite kit.

I followed Caleb Pike’s lead and went with some cheap binocular covers in the 80mm size. I have five of them, enough for all of my lenses and a spare. Because lens caps grow legs and disappear.

Parts list:

1 Cordvision 67-80mm adapter ring

1 49mm to 67mm adapter ring

1 Canon Rear Lens Cap

1 OM to Canon EOS lens adapter ring

1 Wide Open lens gear with zip ties

1 Cheap rubber slip on lens cap from binoculars.

Do it yourself de-clicking or get someone to do it for you.

In the future I will get either 80mm filters or just use the matte box filter. I have no UV lens on the 28mm lens seen in the pictures so if you don’t have one, pick one of those up because accidents happen.


My Return to Filmmaking

My story roots go back to film. I made 8 mm films as a teenager and later went on to film school at UCF. During school and for a spell afterwards I continued to make Indie movies and commercials. Writing scripts actually came before short stories, although I did a fair amount of them as a teenager too. My first finished, long form story pieces were screenplays and I wrote them long before I wrote my first novel.

Lately I’ve been returning to my filmmaking roots by teaching my kids how movies are made. We purchased a nice DSLR and various other pieces of gear to get us going. So far, they are having a blast and so am I. When I gave up filmmaking and joined the AF for a real job, I couldn’t imagine ever getting back into it. It was expensive and it required a team to do effectively. So I took up writing and continued to tell my stories as novels.

Now that my sons are old enough we actually make a pretty good little production team. Over time, we’ll get good enough to make some short films that we can post on YouTube for everyone to see. But for now, we are in learning mode and making simple, demonstration films to learn the craft. Below is a scene from our first practice film.

Technology has progressed at an unbelievable rate since I stopped making films. Now we can shoot and edit digitally and some SPFX are actually easier now than ever before. I would have thrived as a kid today. I’m hoping to spark the same creativity in my own kids. If not, then at least I’ll have the tools I need to get back into it as a hobby.

I expect there will be more posts in the future about our filmmaking adventures. Stay tuned.

The DSLR Winner is

I’ve been in the market for a DSLR camera lately. Back in college, I used to sell SLR cameras and thus carried a ton of baggage from that era. This was from a time long ago when cameras used real film and auto focus was for a trademark busting camera from Minolta. Back then, the best camera we sold was a Nikon and my personal favorite was the Olympus OM-2n. Canon was a name we pushed on consumers because it was generally cheaper and inferior to the Nikon, Olympus and Minolta brands. With all this baggage weighing me down, I tended to steer towards a Nikon DSLR, specifically the consumer model – D5300. It had to be better than a camera called Rebel, right?

Anyway, the kids are very interested in learning how to make movies, so whatever DSLR we got had to be able to handle filmmaking tasks with ease. The Nikon cameras seemed to lack in this area and the more I read up what the current DSLR filmmakers were using, the more I was steered to the Canon brand. Really? That cheaper Japanese brand we used to push on Joe and Jane Consumer? How could that brand be the best for filmmaking. More research.

Finally it became clear to me that the best filmmaking cameras were now being made by Canon. Ugh. *Smacks lips in distaste. Okay, even an old stick in the mud like me can change his opinion if the facts point in a new direction. In this case they did. So I checked out the EOS Rebel5i camera over the weekend. It was okay, about the same as the Nikon but with a smaller pixel sensor. But it still screamed amateur to my eye. Probably because of the red Rebel label. Then again, the Nikon had a red swish on it and that looked bad too. So much for color being a factor.

More research, more staring at camera porn until my eyes bled. More reading DSLR filmmaking blogs and listening to videos and podcasts and finally I began to see that the predominate camera for beginning to advanced DSLR filmmaking was the Canon 60D. The good news for us was that the 60D is now old and can be had for less than a grand with a decent zoom lens, UV filter and a data card.


So this is what I’m ordering today, unless something better drifts onto my radar. The lens in this picture is also what I’m ordering. EF-S 18-135mm, I know, it’s a kit lens, but you have to start somewhere. Next lens for my taste will be a prime with a wider aperture. Anyway, after we get this puppy and play with it for a while, I’ll post my review in case you’re interested. This camera sits at the bottom of the Pro line of Canon DSLRs. It has the same battery as the bigger boy cameras and a similar heft. A great starter camera for both photography and filmmaking.


What’s the Best DSLR?

I’m in the process of looking for my first digital camera. I need it to take sharp pictures and also function as a video camera for the family and my artistic endeavors. I thought I’d open this post up to all who happen by with an opinion. What DSLR do you have and what would your recommend I get?

The model I’m zeroing in on is the Nikon D5300 with 18-55mm lens. But I want to know what you would get, if you had around $800-$900 to play with and needed a lens included.