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What camera did Kubrick use?


Nate Downes
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I remember watching a documentary on Stanley Kubrick awhile back where it mentioned that he was given a few cameras of a type I'd never heard of before... and now I've plum forgotten what they were called. I know one of them was modified for the f0.7 lens used in Barry Lyndon. Can someone tell me which cameras these were that they deserved special note in a documentary? It's been bugging me all morning that I can't recall which cameras they were.

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The camera was a standard non reflex Mitchell BNC camera that Kubrick had modified to take a specially manufactured Zeiss lens that was designed for NASA satellite(still) photography. The lens was a 50mm and had a speed of 0.7 and was 100% faster than other movie lenses.

 

There is a great article titled 'Two Special Lenses for "Barry Lyndon" 'by Ed DiGiulio (who passed away June 4th-R.I.P. ) that appeared in American Cinematographer that goes into detail about the modifications that Kubrick called for to make this lens fit the Mitchell BNC and includes photographs of the lenses.

 

You can read it online at:

 

http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/sk/ac/len/page1.htm

 

Also read Micheal Ciment's book "Kubrick-The Definitive Edition" that has an excellent interview with Kubrick about Barry Lyndon and the use of the lens.

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The 0.7 lens was one of only 10 ever made, built for the CIA by Carl Zeiss for spy satellites.

Maybe this is a silly question, but.....what good is a 50mm lens from a sattelite in space? I guess it's for wide shots? Am I missing something? I'd figure you want a much longer lens to take spy shots from a sattelite.

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The Zeiss f0.7 lens was built for NASA, not the CIA. It was adapted to Hasselblad medium format cameras to take photographs during space flights.

 

Right now, Kubrick's own two f0.7 lenses are on display at the German Film Museum (beside most of his other favourite lenses used for BARRY LYNDON, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, EYES WIDE SHUT and FULL METAL JACKET and his personal Mitchell BFC 65mm camera and custom-built front-projection rig).

 

One 50mm f0.7 lens is mounted on Kubrick's Mitchell BNC converted by Ed DiGiulio, it has a Kollmorgen adapter on it that reduces focal length to about 36mm. (There was only a 50mm 0.7 model available) The second lens is shown with another wide angle adapter built for Kubrick by the Carl Zeiss company to make a 25mm wide angle.

 

The Kubrick exhibition will go to Berlin in January 2005 and maybe to London after that).

 

Stanley Kubrick exhibition

 

All cine equipment on display has been supervised, checked and partially restored by Mr Joe Dunton. Here's an interesting interview on Dunton's work with Kubrick, and some interesting thoughts on film & digital:

 

 

Joe Dunton interview

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The following link may help to find more information about super fast lenses:

 

http://www.abex.co.uk/sales/optical/fast_lenses/fast.htm

 

Also, practical experience and photographs here with Rodenstock 50mm f/0.75:

 

http://www.naturfotograf.com/need_speed00.html

 

For practical and high quality use as of today, Leica is of course still manufacturing the infamous 50mm f/1.0 Noctilux that goes for about $3000 (instead of $4500 like I said earlier, actually). The lense is specificly designed to be high quality wide open without fear for soft images. I don't know about Leica to PL or some other mount adapter but, naturally if you know the right person such device can be constructed or the both camera and lense can be modified.

 

http://www.leica-camera.com/imperia/md/con...bjektive/14.pdf

 

Nikon also has developed Noctilux lense a while back but I don't think they are available anymore. They still do however sell the 50mm f/1.2 which is great wide open. Though, f/1.2 and f/1.0 or below is a big difference. :)

 

Canon also used to make 50mm f/0.95 in the sixties but it's not available anymore.

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The biggest Kubrick secret of all time has just been discovered: Kubrick shot all of his films on a Brownie regular 8mm camera using Plus X and Kodachrome 25. All those other cameras were just for the production stills and the whole Zeiss 0.7 thing was just a nice piece of press. He was very upset when EKC discontinued Regular 8mm and he had to shoot Eyes Wide Shut using eastern european double 8 color film. That's why it's so grainy by the way...

 

Folks, it's not the wand, it's the magician! :lol:

 

Anyway, silly comments aside, I wonder what his favorite prime lenses were. I'm curious if he used the same Cooke Speed Panchros that I have on my Arri IIc.

 

- G.

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@george

 

Indeed, it is the magician. My thought here was pure curiosity.

 

I remember a comment my teacher in high school used to say:

 

You have a studio. In that studio, a camera, a couch, and a naked woman. One director comes in, and produces a piece of art to earn an academy award. Another director comes in, you get a grade B porno. Same equipment, it is all in the eye and drive of the director.

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Anyway, silly comments aside, I wonder what his favorite prime lenses were. I'm curious if he used the same Cooke Speed Panchros that I have on my Arri IIc.

Both 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'Eyes Wide Shut' were shot on Zeiss Superspeeds.

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Canon also used to make 50mm f/0.95 in the sixties but it's not available anymore.

Are they any kind of a rare item, or worth anything ?

 

Curious, saw one on my travels not long ago.

 

-Sam

I would say so. Any super fast lense, let it be f/1.0 or faster can be considered rare. Even the Leica f/1.0, that you can buy pretty easily as it is produced as of today by Leica would still be considered to be pretty rare. They don't make many of those and it will soon become a collector item (some in the Leica world think this is enough to buy it ;)).

 

If you want that kind of lense, find one, _need one_, and the price isn't too much then go ahead and buy it.

 

I forgot to mention that Canon also produces (or produced) 50mm f/1.0. I can't find it anymore from the Canon's website but I'm sure contacting them directly, they will sell it. I'm not sure though they are manufacturing them anymore too much. In some regards the Canon 50mm f/1.0 is better than the Leica. The Leica has clear vignetting wide open, which may be a problem or not, and it has coma issues. The coma is ugly on color images, but Ok in some B&W. I've never seen what it would look like in a 35mm film footage, it might be Ok. In terms of resolution the Leica I think is a bit better (now talking about shooting wide open). The Canon shouldn't have bad coma issues as far I know from sample images.

 

The Canon 50mm f/0.95 was made in the sixties, so it's sixties glass and sixties design. That don't have to mean it's bad, it's probably pretty good. I don't have any first hand experience with that.

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If you want that kind of lense, find one, _need one_, and the price isn't too much then go ahead and buy it.

I didn't need it or I would have bought it.

 

Just wondering if I passed up something I could have traded etc for something I might need B)

 

-Sam

 

(altho if I buy a Canon DSLR... hmm....)

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Could the Leica be fitted to a PL or PV mount? Would there be enough room for the mirror?

 

I'd be shocked to find that Canon glass would surpass the quality of Leitz.

I don't know if it can be fitted. I am not aware of such adapters. Of course if you can go so far as to modify the lens and/or the camera it sure can be fitted. It might not be possible with adapter, as finding Leica to _insert something here_ adapters are also hard to find (though there are few for other range finder cameras and some SLRs).

 

I think the resolving power of the Leica is better than the Canon. The problem with that particular Leica lens I think is the vignetting and the coma. This probably can be attributed to the fact that leica had to design the lens as small as possible. It is, in fact heavier than the leica M6 camera itself and so is very special range finder camera lens (especially being just a standard lens). Canon doesn't have such issues with SLRs, and the Canon lens is over 300 grams heavier than the Leica, totalling over 1kg in weight. Not need to worry about size probably helped Canon. But I think you can expect some vignetting on Canon too at wide open. The Canon also doesn't have manual aperture ring which makes it bad for any other than Canon SLR use. Other, slower Leica 50mm are clearly better in every aspect compared to the Leica 50mm f/1.0. Though, stopping it down naturally helps a lot.

 

Popular Photography has a short artice on the Canon:

http://www.popphoto.com/assets/download/3112003113228.pdf

 

And here's some on the Leica:

http://www.imx.nl/photosite/leica/mseries/testm/M10-50.html

http://www.vothphoto.com/spotlight/reviews/noctilux.htm

 

Some other person on this thread asked how the lens design is affected by the aperture. The size of the lens is of course the direct result of a large aperture. And as far as I have understood it the diameter of the entrance pupil is derived as:

 

entrance pupil = effective focal length / aperture

 

so, for 50mm f/1.2, the entrance pupil diameter would be 41.6mm. For 50mm f/0.7 the entrance pupil diameter would be 71.4mm. That lens is going to be big. But, that's purely mathematical and theoretical. Other practical optical issues affect this as well so in practice it isn't this simple.

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Hmm, I wonder how hard it would be to make such a lens, if you had the equipment.  I don't know the math on figuring out f-stops or else I'd give it a go, on paper anyways.

:) Two books to read:

 

"Modern Optical Engineering" by Warren J. Smith and "Modern Lens Design" by same author. Both available from Amazon.

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Or the books by Rudolf Kingslake, Kodak's lens and optics guru:

 

Applied Optics and Optical Design

by A. E. Conrady, Rudolf Kingslake

 

A History of the Photographic Lens

by Rudolf Kingslake

 

Lens Design Fundamentals

by Rudolph Kingslake

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Joy, *another* project in my lap, right along with the Super8 camera I'm building.

 

*opens up the Mitchell BNC schematics to study how their pin alignment system works*

 

*edit*

You know, the Mitchell BNC seems to be a damned good camera, after seeing what people have said about it and looking over its schematics. Simple enough to make sence, strong enough to deliver results. I see why Stanley enjoyed using it.

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