Just over 2 years ago I’ve done one of my first ever vintage lens video comparisons. I simply picked out 4 very cheap 200mm primes, curios to see how these unknown lenses would stack up against each other and to see if they were usable at all. One lens stood out to me as the best performer out of 4 tested and it ended up being the prize of my first ever vintage lens giveaway.
The lens in question is Chinon 200mm F3.5 and the winner of this lens was Bradley Stearn, a talented young filmmaker who kept in touch ever since and whom I finally met in real life just a few weeks ago.
Bradley has recently got his hands on a BMPCC and shot a beautiful little video (above) using the very same Chinon 200mm F3.5 lens he won 2 years ago, which is what inspired this post.
Below are Bradley’s notes from his BMPCC test and my own take on his video and why we need to stop worrying about having the best equipment.
Extract from Bradley Stearn’s Blog:
My favorite lens on my recent BMPCC shoot was my M42 Chinon 200mm F3.5 prime lens. It seemed to perform really well, unlike when used on my DSLR as it produces purple fringing. It definitely isn’t the sharpest lens in the world, but with the crop factor of the super 16 sensor on the BMPCC, I could get fairly close to my subjects without intruding too much. According to Alan Besedin of Vintage Lenses For Video, the 200mm lens on this camera is a 576mm equivalent in full frame.
Below I have embedded a test video I shot a couple years ago with the Chinon 200mm lens on my 600D DSLR. You will notice there is a fair amount of purple fringing happening in the shots which make them fairly unusable.
So both positive and negative opinions right there from Bradley which is actually very interesting and reminds me why I first started this website.
After discovering the affordable vintage lenses myself I really wanted share my opinion that we don’t have to spend $$$$ on top of the range modern Canon L/ Nikon/Cine lenses to achieve beautiful results. I have absolutely nothing against modern lenses, especially proper Cine lenses that are designed for filmmaking. The only problem that I have with these lenses is their price. Many are not very affordable and some costs more than a new pro camera.
A lot of people simply can’t afford such lenses, especially when they first staring out and building up their kit from the scratch. If you are shooting on Canon EF camera and you can afford the Canon 70-200mm F2.8 L, that’s great; it’s an amazing lens, but many people simply can’t buy a pro lens like that when they only have budget for a do-it-all starter zoom. Does it mean you can’t get your 200mm shots? No, for as little as £20/$30 you can buy one of many 200mm M42 mount primes and get that shot. Obviously the cheaper lenses often have flaws, some that actually add character and pleasant look, others are not pleasant at all, like the purple fringing in Bradley’s 600D test video above.
Most lens tests that I do are there to show what kind of images a particular lens is capable of achieving. I will mention the strong points and downsides in a post like this, but at the end of the day the same lens can perform very differently in different circumstances as proven by 2 videos above.
The point that I really want to make here is that even a dirt cheap lens is capable of producing beautiful images, because lens is just one of many elements which creates that image, the choice of camera is also important, although in right hands most modern interchangeable lens cameras are capable of producing really beautiful results.
In my opinion what truly makes Bradley’s BMPCC test video beautiful is the LIGHT! My own favourite lens test was also shot during what’s known as a “golden hour” although it doesn’t strictly mean you get beautiful light for just 1 hour.
I truly believe that the light is what creates that magic. It contributes towards the mood and deeper emotions of the images just as much, if not more that camera or lens choice. I’m not just talking about the golden hour here. Of course there is no better light source than the Sun, but beautifully crafted artificial light is just a capable in creating mood and emotions.
People (including myself) are often too obsessed about the technical side of filmmaking, lusting after the latest cameras, lenses, sliders, etc.
We don’t have to buy the latest, expensive cameras and lenses to make beautiful videos. We can do so much more with what we have already. There is so much beauty around us. Simple things are often the most beautiful but we forget that because we are so used to everything.
Let’s take a step back from technical side of filmmaking, take a fresh look at the world around us and shoot something inspirational & beautiful for our own pleasure!
What personal video have you recently shot? What equipment did you use to film it? Feel free to share your videos in the comments section below.
P.S. Thanks to Bradley for his contribution and inspiration for this post! Make sure to check out his Youtube, Vimeo & Twitter for his other videos and more useful content.
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