VISUAL BUDDHA: Digitaloptik Converter

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Important Disclosure:  I am one of the partners  at VISUAL BUDDHA a site where we discover the best products out there and highlight them, and if they don’t exist:  we create them.   The Digitaloptik Converter is the second product I’ve mentioned on this blog following the Area 48 light which has been extremely well received by DPs, gaffers, photographers and rental houses around he world. (More on the bottom of this post in case you missed it.)

OK so this is a specialty item that likely applies to only a smaller section of this blog, but keep reading as you should be interested in what it does and why in my opinion…

The Digitaloptik converter solves one of the most relevant issues that a lot of DPs are working to solve on today’s sets when it comes to shooting digitally. 

In short:   modern lenses coupled with modern sensors look… well:  Digital.    You can clearly see that the images coming off of these 4K-6K sensors are incredible sharp, almost clinical, they simply don’t feel like film.    So what can you do to mitigate that?

It’s actually pretty simple when you think about it:  go back and use lenses that were made a few decades ago.   There is something very beautiful about those lenses, something very  "filmic"  something that’s hard to articulate – but most can sense it.    The focus falls off more organically, the skin tones are warmer, the lenses are sharp, but not razor sharp.

When you think about it, the logic follows that the reasons those films "feel" a certain way is of course due to the lenses that they were shot on – not the emulsion of film that was chosen that day.  Many of us have become used to that "look" without even knowing it in fact.   The same can be said for anamorphic lenses for example.

The problem is that most of those older "Academy standard’ lenses do not cover the size (notably the width) of modern sensors, and most have been collecting dust in rental houses or in private collections around the world…  which should signal the second important point:  there are a lot of incredible bargains out there on these incredible lenses for the aformentioned reasons, both in terms of buying or renting those lenses (you can get incredible deals on them relative to the modern lenses.)

The Digitaloptik converter acts like a teleconverter and allows those Academy lenses to cover very large sensors, including the upcoming RED Dragon sensor.   But don’t be fooled: there are some pretty amazing optics within this package and it was created by one of the top lens specialists in LA who has worked with many of the top lens manufacturers for decades.   In technical terms, the MTF readings on this converter are off the charts.   In laymen’s terms:  it’s incredibly sharp, and will give you a pretty darn beautiful image as a result, even at 6K.   And you only lose 1/2 a stop which is not an issue as modern sensors are becoming incredibly sensitive to low light. 

So if I were looking to purchase a zoom lens (which most TV shows and feature films are being shot with today due to the speed they allow you to work at) I’d think about this potential combination and save a bundle.   Something that schools should really think about as well as DPs – not to mention indie productions looking to save money on rentals.   Truth be told:  you’ll see high end productions going to a solution like this just as quickly: as it helps you stand out visually from all of the modern optics being shot with today.   For more look at the video below  which does a very nice job of illustrating that "look"

For this an more info in general on VISUAL BUDDHA you can go HERE.


Digitaloptik Converter from Visual Buddha on Vimeo.

Here is a more detailed explanation of what this converter does:  With the explosion of Super 35 digital sensors over the past few years, and 4K+ digital cinematography cameras, thousands of academy lenses, including some DP favorites, have been relegated to the back shelves. The 28mm image circle coverage provided by these lenses was not sufficient to cover the Super 35 digital sensors.



Realizing that these cinema Academy lenses had wonderful optics and film-like visual characteristics, lens designer Ken Robings took breathing new life into these lenses by developing a PL-to-PL converter that would expand the image circle of these Academy 35 lenses from 28mm to one in excess of 35mm. In doing so, he delivered a must-have accessory that allows these zooms, which were designed for the older Academy format, to go to work again on today’s Super 35 digital cinema cameras.

“I had been talking to so many DPs who really like the older glass- they have a much more "cinematic" feel to them,” Robings said. “The older Cooke and Angenieux Academy 35 lenses that provided such a distinctive look to film production, were just gathering dust. So we set out to come up with an adaptor that would allow that great glass to be put back to work."

“The slim line Converter we came up with adds no artifacts to the lenses mounted on it, and faithfully transmits their optical characteristics to the larger sensor. The cost in terms of F/stop is a mere half stop, which is miniscule. In the days of film that half stop might have been a problem, but with the sensitivity of today’s digital cameras it won’t even be noticed.”

The older Cooke and Angenieux zooms digitaloptik’s Converter is designed to mount were different from today’s super crisp digital optics, and that’s part of their appeal. And back then some of them displayed barrel type distortion; especially when shooting architectural stuff. Because we don’t correct for those lens characteristics, a DP can get that classic look from these great lenses.”

The first batch of the lens Converters is schedule for Q4 Oct-Nov, 2013. Importantly, a filmmaker can typically purchase both the adapter and a pre-owned Academy zoom for under $10,000, compared to $40,000+ for new zoom lens.

A partial list of academy-format zooms are mountable on the digitaloptik Optic Converter:

•                Angenieux 25-250 HR

•                Angenieux 24-290 T2.8

•                Angenieux 17-102 T2.9

•                Cooke 20-60 T3

•                Cooke 20-100 T3.1

•                Cooke 25-250 Mk III T3.

Benefit 2:  Academy 35 format lenses now work with the new 6K RED Dragon digital sensors

In fact, by providing coverage in excess of a 35mm image circle, these lenses are ready and waiting to be deployed on RED’s new 6K Epic Dragon camera, with an image circle diameter of 33.9mm, which is larger than today’s popular Super 35 image circle.    The fact that the Epic has a larger sensor is something that most people who are about to upgrade have forgotten about: many lenses that you might own/rent/use regularly may not be able to cover the new larger sensor.    That’s in fact why Ken first decided to create this converter…

Lastly as I end this post, I’m going to throw up a video about a light (The Area 48 by BBS Lighting)  that is getting a LOT of attention.  I’ll let the video do the talking on what is a very special light that is effectively the next generation of LED lighting:  more power combined with better quality of light.   This light packs quite a punch and two of these put together can start to fight daylight while being powered by Aton Bauer or V-Lock Batteries which is a big step forward in portable lighting.

BBS Lighting AREA 48 LED from Visual Buddha on Vimeo.