Timur Civan on Vintage Lenses

This blog post is here thanks to a very talented and well known cinematographer Timur Civan who also happens to have a great blog where you can find some of his absolutely amazing reviews. Timur like myself is a big fan of vintage lenses and loves them for the very same reasons I do. 

The other day I came across his long blog post entitled “The Big Changes” where he talks about loads of things happening in his professional life. Towards the end he talks about his favorite vintage lenses and this is the part that I would love to share with you guys here.

In his career Timur got to use all sorts of lenses, from cheapest vintage glass to most expensive cine lenses, so I think his take on vintage lenses is very balanced and valuable to anyone thinking of investing into vintage glass.

Over to Timur:

Since I was 14 years old, I have been amassing a collection of vintage, unique and “broken” lenses that have a particular defect, that lends a look to the image. I used them on my Canon AE1 Program, then later on my SG Pro 35mm adapter, on my 5D, F3, Scarlet and now my Epic.


In order clockwise starting from the upper right:

1: Telisar 135mm F4.5 – Has the most bizzare halo, which when flaring turns into a ghostly bright spot in the middle.

2: Helios 44-2 58mm F2.0 – My shining little star. Perfect portrait length, with a stunning vignette, softness while maintaining enough of the good resolution, and the most beautiful yet bizzarre bokeh i’ve found to date. Looks like a Dream.

3: Soligor 2x M42 Tele extender, amplifies the flaws in each of the lenses, while turning each lens into 2. The medium wides become tele, and the tele lenses become super Tele.

4: Asahi Super Takumar “Yellow Glass” 28mm F3.5. This lens is the famous radioactive Super Tak. Its elements are yellow, however it doesn’t seem to turn the image yellow. It is sharp and has a very slight barrel distortion wich makes it feel wider than it is. Very interesting looking with architecture. The best part……the flares are ACID yellow, HUGE, Pentagonal, but without a major loss in contrast. This is one of my favorite lenses ever.

5: Rikenon 55mm F2.8 – This odd little lens has a ghostly low contrast veiling flare. Wide open, It seems to diffuse the light in the lens, which makes it feel like there is a net behind the lens, or a heavy promist filter in play. Stop down to a F5.6 and it cleans up nicely.

6: Asahi Super Takumar “Yellow Glass” 55mm F2.0 – Another of my favorites. Not as Flare happy as the 28mm, but is VERY sharp, but still has a certain intangible beautiful quality to it.

7: Zenitar MIR-24M 35mm F2.0 – I don’t know much about this lens, but its an old Zenitar. It has classic 1970′s feel, the lens is very classically bad. Soft corners, veiling flare, and hazy look wide open.

8: Sankyo Koki “Tokyo Kumara” 105mm F3.5 – This lens is quite cool, scary sharp, relatively neutral, but has 16 oddly shaped iris blades, so its bokeh resembles a mix between the Cooke S4/iPanchro flower, and the Panavision Buzzsaw bokeh from 25 years ago on the old Primos. I like this lens as it behaves well in the traditional sense, but has that weird bokeh…. always a reminder….

9: Zenitar Jupiter-9 85mm F2.0 This is another rather interesting lens. Its optical qualities are just bizzare, neither sharp nor consistent, what it lacks in perfection it makes up for in character. Extremely contrasty, it stands out from the crowd because unlike most old lenses, it has a VERY deep and rich contrast and color rendition, so it appears very sharp at first glance, but it has some of the oddest donut shaped bokeh, and out of focus image rendition. Its bohek looks almost in focus…. like it was artificially done in post, with a instagram “donut” gimmick.

It’s really interesting reading about Timur’s lenses and his take on them, especially when he compares them to legendary cine glass. You can tell he knows what he’s talking about. His lens collection is a real mixed bag; some very common and cheap lenses like my favorite Helios 44-2; some very rare and expensive like Sankyo 105mm. It’s also very interesting to see dirt cheap Soligor 2x tele-converter; I must have had and probably still have a few of these but never even though of using them, so maybe I should give it a go.  Either way the list is really insightful I hope you enjoyed this little post as much as I did.  Be sure to check out Timur’s website and follow him on twitter where he often shares little snippets of his knowledge.


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