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Less costly alternatives for KOWA CINE PROMINAR SPHERICAL lenses?

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Alright so I'm deeply in love with the feel/look of Leos Carax's 1986 movie ”MAUVAIS SANG”. They used KOWA CINE PROMINAR SPHERICAL LENSES. So I looked them up and of course they cost a fortune. Which is for a reason and understandable if you can get such a unique look.


So my question is; Are there any lenses who share the same/similar characteristics but don't cost a fortune? 

”They are sharp on center, with medium/low contrast. So you can get sharp images, but you retain more detail on your shadows and highlights. This also makes them very flattering on your subject. Their bokeh is very special, with enough character to make the lenses stand out from modern options, but not so busy that it distracts from your subject. What really sets them apart from almost every other lens set, is their signature gold and amber lens flares, thanks to their gold single-layer coatings. They flare like nothing else. And since the lenses are slightly cool in color, when properly white balanced, their flares have a rich saturated amber tone that is beautiful, never distracting, and contrasts blue skies really well. Nothing else flares like Kowa Prominars.”  https://www.oldfastglass.com/kowa-cine-prominar

To the above I want to add; their color rendition is unique and is what I'm searching the most. The ”slightly cool” look. And the way the color rendition hits the glass is so unseen.

Mauvais Sang was shot on Fuji F-500T 8570 film 

Hopefully somebody can help me out.

Thanks for reading:)1093320248_Screenshot2021-08-01at20_57_54.png.508b3dd5fe5b1a3d141d58eb06c29fe5.png


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I think they're quite similar optically to Super Baltars but with different coatings. Not sure anything has the same coatings and the same feel optically.

To me the distinct look of Kowas is the blue/yellow axial CA (same with Super Baltars) and yellow flares and cool tint (which might be unique to Kowas). I think Super Baltars have a very similar look with bokeh. But also not cheap. I remember the 9.8mm f1.8 Tegea has a similar look to the bokeh. Some older Nikon lenses too? (The 35mm f1.4 I think.) But the coatings and tint might be different. 

Both Zeiss Super Speeds and K35s have axial color fringing too but in a different way and different flares and tint.

I find the Cooke lenses from this era relatively free from CA and they have very very different coatings. Blue rather than amber I think. I think the Lomos and Kinoptik are closer to Cooke. So that's sort of the opposite vintage look. Warmer image, cooler flare. No CA. The Zeiss Mk1 and Schneider Cine-Xenon lenses from the 50s I think have an amber coating and neutral bokeh with less CA. They're pretty affordable too.

So I would say Super Baltars have the closest look, but maybe you wouldn't get the same flare or color. So maybe that's not it. Super Speeds are a little harsher imo but maybe not a world apart.

Honestly I think the look here is much more to do with the stock it was shot on. But I dunno.

At the high end I would look into Super Baltars as an alternative and maybe grade a bit cool. Or on the lower end contemporaneous Japanese still lenses, maybe Takumars or something seem to have similar coatings. Not sure if any other cine lenses with amber coatings but I'm not the most knowledgeable about this.

Edit: from what I recall the Voitglander Zoomar has this look at least to the bokeh but it's too messy for my taste. I actually don't know too much about this but am curious what others come up with.

Edited by M Joel W
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  • 3 weeks later...

Most vintage glass is really expensive to rent these days, so I would go to Kowas directly if I wanted to imitate them.

Kowa Cine Prominars are kinda unique because most vintage lenses tend to a yellow or warm bias, but Kowas are very cool in color rendition. They also have very nice green & golden flares. As the previous poster said, their optical design is similar to Super Baltars, but the SB are very warm and have blue flares instead. Perhaps the Kowas are indeed a bit lower in contrast than Super Baltars, which already are pretty low-con. The Super Baltars have a very round iris though, similar to that of Panavision Primos, while some Kowas have an octogonal iris that resembles a lot the bokeh of Cooke S4's.

The cool bias of Kowas can be achieved easily these days in a digital grade, either using Super Baltars, Cookes, Canon K35's or even rehoused stills glass such as FDs, and 1960's or 1970's Nikons or Leica R's. Any of these sets should provide the look of the trailer, in terms of texture, contrast, etc. as I don't see any specific Kowa characteristic on it.

If you were looking for the flares, the closest thing I've seen is the Canon FL (pre FD) stills glass from the 60's, which has very similar coatings to Kowas.  But you'll have a very hard time finding a cine set of Canon FL's, if there's a complete one.

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6 hours ago, Ignacio Aguilar said:

If you were looking for the flares, the closest thing I've seen is the Canon FL (pre FD) stills glass from the 60's, which has very similar coatings to Kowas.  But you'll have a very hard time finding a cine set of Canon FL's, if there's a complete one.

I was thinking FL had similar coatings. One strange thing I notice with my 58mm is has a washed out flare that seems like haze, but there's sort of an oval cut out of it, like a reverse flare:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/w99q86zcq46epqx/P1041249-1 (0-00-02-13)_2.jpg?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6i0ksdyj0s9d02h/P1041249-1 (0-00-04-00)_2.jpg?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ruf0g1no0870smx/P1041249-1 (0-00-02-13).jpg?dl=0

Is this just haze or internal reflections?

The 58mm also seems to have an actinide element since there is an orange tint, so it is not a "cool" lens at all imo.

To me the 135mm f2.5 feels like a "cool" image but it flares much less and has a purple/blue flare.

I found these good but more suited to large format since f3.5 is not so fast?

Edited by M Joel W
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