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Matthew Rogers

How do you change lenses?

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So I was working on a shoot recently as the 2d AC because I had nothing better to do. The AC, when changing lenses, wanted me to uncap the front and back of the lens I was getting before I brought it to the camera. After owning a RED for three years and AC'ing a decent budget indie, I've come to believe that it's a very bad idea to uncap lenses before they are at the camera or on the camera (minus the back cap!)

 

My method is that the incoming lens have both caps left on when brought to camera and also grab the front cap for the lens outgoing lens. Then, when the new lens get to the camera, the person that brought the lens hands the front cap of the lens coming off to the other person, who puts the cap on, takes the lens off, is handed the back cap from the new lens, and the other person puts the new lens on. From there the new lens is front uncapped, and the old lens along with the extra cap is handed over to be taken back to the lens case. The only time I might do it any different is when I am using small lenses like the ziess super or standard speeds, and then I may hand swap lenses with the 2d AC who brought the lens.

 

Am I crazy by doing it this way? This seems far safer for the lenses as they aren't being walked around set with no caps, and there is far less handling of the lenses, not to mention no juggling two lens in one set of hands. Is there a union way for changing lenses? I understand that some AC's may want lenses on the camera a certain way, but I have never had any issues with telling someone where to put the witness marks if a lens needs to go on a certain way.

 

Matthew

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There's definitely not an "official way," but there are best practices such as saying "got it" when handing off a lens.

 

I usually remove the caps of a lens (at least the rear cap) at the lens case before bringing it over to the 1st AC. Having all the caps on and removing/exchanging them with the lenses seems like it could get confusing and jumbled up, especially cause the 1st AC's I've worked for usually have the lens almost instantly removed when I get there.

 

As a first AC, I request that my 2nd AC's leave the front cap on because I simply put it in my pocket to have handy once the lens is mounted.

 

It's all a matter of preference, but if the lens case is nearby the camera (as it should be) then the issue of it getting damaged in transport without caps on is minimal.

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There's definitely not an "official way," but there are best practices such as saying "got it" when handing off a lens.

 

I usually remove the caps of a lens (at least the rear cap) at the lens case before bringing it over to the 1st AC. Having all the caps on and removing/exchanging them with the lenses seems like it could get confusing and jumbled up, especially cause the 1st AC's I've worked for usually have the lens almost instantly removed when I get there.

 

As a first AC, I request that my 2nd AC's leave the front cap on because I simply put it in my pocket to have handy once the lens is mounted.

 

It's all a matter of preference, but if the lens case is nearby the camera (as it should be) then the issue of it getting damaged in transport without caps on is minimal.

 

Saying "got it" most certainly. The caps, the way I do it aren't confusing at all. You have the AC the cap for the lens to be taken off, he puts it on and takes off the lens. You then take the back cap off the new lens and hand it to the AC who puts it on the old lens. From there you can either switch lenses, which I don't like because you really only have one hand to switch with, or you can have the 2d AC just put the lens on, which seems safer to me. With this method, I can switch lenses (once the new lens is at the camera) in about 5-6 seconds.

 

I do this method only because I feel like it's by far the best way to protect the lenses due to minimizing the time the back and front elements aren't being protected.

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Here's my method/opinion: If you're a second, you should bring the lens without caps. You should also bring all accessories that need to go with the lens such as different length rods, donut, lens support, etc. Hold the lens by the barrel so you can hand it to the first front element down in his hand already oriented as it will go onto the camera. If you do this, you will make your first very happy.

 

If you're changing to a zoom, this all still goes but generally just bring the case for the zoom. Many, if not most, zooms we use aren't really safely one-handeable, and it gives you somewhere to set stuff since going to a zoom usually involves changing more stuff over than swapping primes.

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This seems far safer for the lenses as they aren't being walked around set with no caps

 

Honestly, the lenses shouldn't be being walked around set. The lens case should be right by camera during a lens change, and the furthest the lens should ever travel is from the case to the 1st AC's hands.

 

I once saw an AC pick up a Zeiss superspeed by the lens cap. The cap stayed on the lens just long enough for him to get the lens over a concrete floor...

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Caps off, wide open with focus set (approximately), as well.

 

And cased back up clean, in the proper hole, with both caps, wide open, focused to infinity.

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This is how I have my 2nd's hand me lenses: both caps off, wide open, infinity, and face down into my palm. Generally I hand off the previous lens first, and then accept the new lens. I say "mine" as opposed to "got it", because with the latter, a change in inflection can make it sound like "got it?", which totally changes the meaning and could lead to a problem. "Mine" is unambiguous.

 

For zooms, fisheyes, or any lens where the front element is very large, I keep the front cap on until the lens is mounted on the camera, then hand the front cap off.

 

Also, because I have small hands, there are some lenses which I cannot hold face-down in my palm; Master Primes for example, or the wider lengths of the Red Pro Primes; these are unwieldy lenses. Generally it makes more sense for me to first accept the new lens from the 2nd, and then the 2nd is free to remove the previous lens from the camera, then I put the new lens on. This way two hands are on both lenses all the time.

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This is how I have my 2nd's hand me lenses: both caps off, wide open, infinity, and face down into my palm. Generally I hand off the previous lens first, and then accept the new lens. I say "mine" as opposed to "got it", because with the latter, a change in inflection can make it sound like "got it?", which totally changes the meaning and could lead to a problem. "Mine" is unambiguous.

 

For zooms, fisheyes, or any lens where the front element is very large, I keep the front cap on until the lens is mounted on the camera, then hand the front cap off.

 

Also, because I have small hands, there are some lenses which I cannot hold face-down in my palm; Master Primes for example, or the wider lengths of the Red Pro Primes; these are unwieldy lenses. Generally it makes more sense for me to first accept the new lens from the 2nd, and then the 2nd is free to remove the previous lens from the camera, then I put the new lens on. This way two hands are on both lenses all the time.

 

I should have probably mentioned that the lenses we were using on that set, and the set I own, are the RED Primes. So they are much much larger and heavier than the super or standard speeds. It makes far more sense to me to have two hands on a lens at all times if at all possible.

 

Someone else mentioned having the lens case next to the camera. This shoot, and many of my shoots, tend to be in tight quarters. This shoot was also while we were doing controlled burns inside a house that was being torn down. Having the lens case next to the camera is not always possible, though I would love to always have it no more than 10' away. When you are moving into the bigger lenses like the RRP's, you also have to deal with a MUCH larger case. My RRP case is over 50 lbs and is almost the size of a mini fridge!

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You don't bring the caps. That's just another thing to carry and less is better because you will always need your hands for something else. If you can't bring a lens to the camera without getting it broken or dirty, you shouldn't be working. If you are working in the elements it might be a good idea to use the caps but normally you won't need them.

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As a first AC, I request that my 2nd AC's leave the front cap on because I simply put it in my pocket .....

 

How clean is your pocket? Static electricity and a plastic lens cap -- you could pick up some lint or fibers.

 

Even with big lenses, one person can do it. The case should be within a step or two of the camera. The old lens comes off and goes in the box, with caps on. The new lens comes out of the box, the caps stay in the box, and it goes on the camera. Then do the iris and focus.

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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You don't bring the caps. That's just another thing to carry and less is better because you will always need your hands for something else. If you can't bring a lens to the camera without getting it broken or dirty, you shouldn't be working. If you are working in the elements it might be a good idea to use the caps but normally you won't need them.

 

I've never had a situation where a lens could have gotten damaged if I hadn't had a cap on, but I've decided to not take chances. None of the sets I've worked on are void of cables/stands/idiot extras, so crap happens. I've seen stuff get broken, not really because of carelessness, but because it's a working set. To me it's the same reason we keep lenses and other gear in cases, to protect them. I don't plan on dropping a lens or having a grip who's flying in a stand sideswipe me while carrying a lens, but crap happens.

 

I am just coming from the view of protecting the lenses the best I can. Maybe that is because I normally shooting with my lenses and don't want anything to happen to them.

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I've never had a situation where a lens could have gotten damaged if I hadn't had a cap on, but I've decided to not take chances. None of the sets I've worked on are void of cables/stands/idiot extras, so crap happens. I've seen stuff get broken, not really because of carelessness, but because it's a working set. To me it's the same reason we keep lenses and other gear in cases, to protect them. I don't plan on dropping a lens or having a grip who's flying in a stand sideswipe me while carrying a lens, but crap happens.

 

I am just coming from the view of protecting the lenses the best I can. Maybe that is because I normally shooting with my lenses and don't want anything to happen to them.

 

I see your point but when you are pressed for time and you have 3 to sometimes 5 cameras rolling, the sun's going down and you are undermanned, something as simple as carrying a lens is a time waster. I always protected the lens with my hands and elbows. You have to be careful no doubt. I've seen lenses get smashed and I've seen a few that have been smashed. When I was working at Otto Nemenz we had an 18 mil that was compressed by the front bumper of a car that was jumping over the camera and fell short. The lens wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and the bumper of the car had a perfect circle in it. We also had a lens telephoto lens come back from a music video that had a rocket shot through the front element. It was on a kart full of empty cases, except for one that was being use to block the wind. The rocket went straight for the kart and through the case and into the lens. I was changing a lens when a grip. whi was talking with the DP and the Director, rested his hand on the pan handle just as I was putting the lens into the mount and "whack" the rear element just disintegrated. I've seen a few other but I just can't recall. I will say this though, if a second brings me a lens with caps, I will instruct him not to bring the cap with the lens. I don't want the caps and I don't want him making another unnecessary trip back to the case. You just have to be careful. The real problem is keeping finger prints off the lens without caps. That you have to be real careful about.

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Standard procedure that I usually follow:

 

2nd AC removes lens from case, takes off front & rear caps. Carries the lens with both hands to camera.

While the 2nd AC is enroute, the 1st AC loosens the mount.

2nd AC arrives, extends his right hand with the lens, gripping it by the barrel while holding out his left hand in the cupping position.

AC's place the lenses in eachother's cupped hands, say thank you/got it/etc., end of transaction.

 

Of course, conditions change the method, places with a lot of moisture, wind, debris, etc.

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I don't want the caps and I don't want him making another unnecessary trip back to the case. You just have to be careful.

 

This is a good point, you don't want your 2nd AC running back the lens box with the caps just after you have changed a lens. It's a waste of energy and time to go from the camera to the box, then to the camera and back to the box to return the caps. In a situation where the lens case in not necessarily right next to the camera, it means your second is going to be AWOL for twice as long every time you swing a lens. Keeping the caps on the lens generally irritates me and just complicated what should be a simple exchange. If you can't trust yourself to hold a lens without smashing the front or back element because there are no caps on it, whether its a master prime or a nikon still prime, you probably should move to the production department where you can drop all the stationary and bits of paper you like.

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If you can't trust yourself to hold a lens without smashing the front or back element because there are no caps on it, whether its a master prime or a nikon still prime, you probably should move to the production department where you can drop all the stationary and bits of paper you like.

 

Exactly. You can also proactively do things to prevent accidents. For example, I carry lenses with two hands: a hand cupped over each end. That way if I get bumped the worst that happens is I get sore fingers and a smudged front or back element.

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Another variation:

 

2nd brings the new lens from the box without caps. 1st pulls the old lens and holds it. 2nd puts the new one on the camera. 1st hands the old one to 2nd, who puts it back in the box with caps on. Perhaps a little safer than handing off two lenses at once, particularly if they're large.

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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Standard procedure that I usually follow:

 

2nd AC removes lens from case, takes off front & rear caps. Carries the lens with both hands to camera.

While the 2nd AC is enroute, the 1st AC loosens the mount.

2nd AC arrives, extends his right hand with the lens, gripping it by the barrel while holding out his left hand in the cupping position.

AC's place the lenses in eachother's cupped hands, say thank you/got it/etc., end of transaction.

 

Of course, conditions change the method, places with a lot of moisture, wind, debris, etc.

 

This.

 

Most people will receive the lens in the left hand but it really is the discretion of the 1st as he/she may want to put the lens on with either hand. Thought, it's common for the left hand as most matte boxes swing to the dummy side and access is easiest from the smart/operator side. For me, mount with the left hand, lock with the right hand.

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Also, if the DP, Director and AD are standing around tapping their feet, you don't want to hand back and forth anything but the necessary...so best to just keep caps out of the equation and leave them at the lens case :)

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I think a lot of people are forgetting that speed is part of the job and really the dp and director just want to see what the lens looks like STRAIGHT AWAY. a crew only moves as fast as its camera dept. and until theres a lens on the camera, not many decisions can be made besides when you're swinging a lens and the suns going down, you don't have time to jumble with lens caps.

 

Therefore the lens case shouldn't be too far from the camera. If the room is tight then it should be outside in the hallway. Any further than that and you're wasting time for the dp, director and however many dollars are chipping away at the production.

 

Dont run but Just repeat the focal length. open the case. Both caps off. Infinity focus. Wide open aperture and briskly walk over and hand it to the ac. Element facing them or face down in their palm. They say "got it/mine/thank you" etc. they hand you the old lens. Reply with "got it/ mine / thank you / hooray!" etc take the lens back. Both caps on. (infinity, wide open, if you want, before goes in). Close case. All latches down. Yay.

 

every 1st will have their own preferences but this is a very efficient way of doing it. If your on a long form production and have to do this every day for the next how many weeks and months, people will lose patience very quickly. especially the stressed out dp.

Edited by Lucas Tomoana

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Also some assistants prefer a certain side of the lens facing up / wherever etc with focus marks and aperture so they don't have to spin it before they mount it to the camera.

 

In the end it's up to you and if you have a certain way then that is fine. I just found this to be the most efficient

Edited by Lucas Tomoana

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I see the point of using common sense and establishing a common procedure, but when a thread about lens handling reaches two pages, discussions arise as to which hand one should hand off with, that is taking it too far!

 

 

I've worked for some pr*cks that want to control you to that level. You want to prevent gravity and a sudden deceleration caused by concrete or asphault from shattering your $4,000 rental lens.

 

Common sense, establishing someone has control of a lens before letting go yourself, and preventing said lens from getting smudged are all I would do. I agree with bringing the case over to the camera, rather than taking it out elsewhere, unless there's a serious cluster going on.

 

 

 

But pre-setting a lens, or putting it in a position where it gets smudged, scratched up seems more of a hassle than just keeping caps on until the very end, maybe take off the rear cap and hold that upwards or towards you to avoid the potential for a hurried cleaning.

 

I'd take the front cap off as soon as someone else has "control" of the lens.

 

 

 

 

 

As far as RED glass, how is that relevant? I assure you, 35mm glass, a long zoom or prime can get very heavy as well. I wouldn't worry about RED glass being heavier, I'd worry about its fragility.

 

Some of the lighter lenses are far more fragile, but no lens likes bouncing off the concrete. Even a small fall can jar all of the elements and ruin shots.

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You always bring the lens without caps- extenuating circumstances being snow or rain. Keep hands cupped over both elements so you don't smudge them, but are still protecting them. Before handing it to your 1st, examine both the front and back elements, and if there are any smudges or dust, clean them off before giving it to the 1st. When it reaches them, it should be ready to go.

 

Some people do like to receive the lens with a certain hands, and pass it off with a different one. This is personal preference. The lens cases should be at a close enough distance that you can get a new lens in a few seconds.

 

If it's a big zoom lens, bring the case over to the camera and change it there, rather than carry a cumbersome, loose, zoom through a crowded set.

 

If it's a lens that requires support, the order is to give the rods first, then the support bracket, then the lens. Some 1sts like you to hand the lens to them so that they can put the lens on properly without having the flip it or reorient this. Most of the time, if a 1st is going to want you to do this, it is only with a big zoom lens that requires low support, but some are more particular and want it like that with every lens.

 

Is there is grease pencil on the lens that hasn't been cleaned from the last time, clean off the marks so they don't get confused by old marks on the lens.

 

When passing or receiving a lens, wait for an acknowledgment of receipt before you let go!

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