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Jarin Blaschke

Optics in "M"?

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Hello:

 

Can anyone identify the lenses used, or likely used for the production of Fritz Lang's "M" (1931)? Presumably something from Zeiss? Old Tessars? Any film technology historians out there? David?

 

Thanks!

 

-Jarin

Edited by Jarin Blaschke

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Well, this frame is from a 1929 Russian movie...

vertov27.jpg

 

Cooke Panchros date back from this time too but Zeiss Tessars are a good guess. I don't know the answer.

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I just wondered if it was Zeiss, since it was a German movie. Probably around the time of Series 0 Panchros and before the (original) Baltars? M is one point of reference for a film I'm about to start. The optical effects are quite beautiful in the film, and for homework I just wonder what lenses made the images, although now it seems Sasaki may deliver something very very close for us. I'm excited.

 

What is that Russian film? It looks like another 1.2:1 aspect ratio movie (Like M) from before standardized sound. Looks like that Tessar is from a view camera. A 4.5 aperture is a pretty fast lens for a 21cm lens, but Tessars have a reputation for being great portrait lenses (In the large format world).

 

J

Edited by Jarin Blaschke

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"Man With A Movie Camera" -- yes, I guess it's probably not a lens used on the film camera itself.

 

A lot of those late 20's, early 30's movies used diffusion, either nets or Dutos (concentric ring diffusion) or mistier diffusion like Scheibe's.

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Thanks. I've come to know vintage lenses pretty well, but am not nearly as familiar in the realm of diffusion. I don't think we have much need for it in our film, save for a few special shots. Could you venture to guess what kind of diffusion is used in the opening of Institut Benjamenta, particularly the bucket pouring at 3:32 and the close up at 3:57? I'm not a diffusion guy, but that lighting and diffuse glimmer/shimmer off the water is really transportive:

 

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Hard to tell, some of the glimmer is due to the type of anti-halation that b&w film uses, but some shots look like a net on the back of the lens maybe (I dont see any net pattern in the bokeh though). It feels like a lot of the movie used something like a Soft/FX filter. Maybe the old Harrison Diffusion, which was sort of misty. Or ProMists or SupaFrosts.

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Hi Jarin,

 

I'm looking forward to seeing what you might do next, I really enjoyed "The Witch"!

 

This site has some nice shots of the filming of M, which show the camera used:

http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/fritz-langs-m-blueprint-serial-killer-movie

 

It looks like Lang used a Debrie Parvo L, which was probably the most popular studio camera in Europe then. I don't know how they recorded sound, since it looks unblimped.

 

Back in 1930 optics were at a pretty exciting point of development, with many old barriers being broken through. I think 32mm was probably still the widest focal length available for 35mm motion pictures - there were 32mm Tessars by Zeiss and Bausch & Lomb and a 32mm Cooke Opic (series 0), but 27, 25 and 24mm lenses by those same companies weren't far off.

 

Some surprisingly fast lenses had recently become available, such as the the initially f/2 Ernostar in the early 20s, (which led to the f/1.5 Zeiss Sonnar in 1932), a modified triplet. Paul Rudolph had developed the near symmetrical anastigmat Kino-Plasmat line for Hugo Meyer of Goerlitz in 1922, which got to f/1.5. And the most successful in terms of cinematography were the unsymmetric double Gauss designs such as the Cooke Opic (forerunner to Speed Panchro), Zeiss Biotar, Dallmeyer Super Six and Astro Tachar, which were f/2 or f/1.8.

 

Telephotos were also greatly improved, with the inherent pincushion distortion finally being reduced in the 20s, and fast designs made by firms like Cooke, Dallmeyer and Astro Berlin.

 

If you research Debrie Parvo L cameras, which date from the mid 20s to 30s, they do often come with Tessars, which were a highly successful 4 element Zeiss design dating back to 1902, but not particularly fast, only reaching f/2.7 by 1930. Sometimes they are Krauss Tessars, which were a French firm licenced by Zeiss. Focal lengths I've seen are usually 35, 40 or 50mm. It's likely these were "standard" lenses that were cheaper than the more exotic high speed or telephoto ones.

 

According to Raimondo-Souto's excellent "Motion Picture Photography" the best known optical firms in the field of cinematography at that time were Zeiss, Hugo Meyer, Schneider, Astro Berlin, Dallmeyer, Taylor Taylor Hobson, Ross, and Ermagis & Optis, along with Bausch & Lomb, Wollensak and Goertz in the US.

 

There is a Debrie Parvo L manual online that lists some of the high speed lens options available at the time (I would estimate it to be from about 1930):

http://www.cineressources.net/consultationPdf/web/o000/304.pdf

 

Astro Tachar f/1.8

Atear Optis f/2 and f/2.5

Bausch and Lomb f/2.7

Cooke f/2

Dallmeyer f/1.9

Ernostar f/1.2 and f/2

Kino Plasmat Hugo-Meyer f/1.5 and f/2

Krauss Zeiss f/2.7

Steinheil f/2

Voitglander f/2.5

 

..made in various focal lengths.

 

There is a picture of the camera fitted with an f/1.5 90mm Kino Plasmat, which is pretty fast even today! I can't vouch for the image quality wide open though..

 

Naturally none of the lenses had coatings at this point in time.

 

 

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"M" was largely post-synced, although the Parvo was later blimped- there are images of it in a large case, presumably later.

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Dom:

 

Thanks for all that info! I will have to ask Panavision about high speed options. From "The Witch" I know they have a later, Super Baltar 1.4 35mm lens.

 

Our film takes place in the late 19th Century, so no lenses will be a literal match. However I've seen rehoused early Baltars and Cooke series 1s that I like a lot for this film. The focus fall off is fast, the highlights glow in a lovely way and there is a petzval quality to the bokeh toward the corners, including some nice vignetting (at least to me)in 1.33 and 1.2 aspect ratios. The Panchros go at least as wide as 25mm, and the Baltars (pre-"super") go as wide as 18mm, and as long as 152mm. They are all T/2 to 2.5, at least after they've been rehoused. Apparently they are "inverted telephoto" designs up to 35mm, and double gauss for the rest. I will probably use Cooke series 3 for most 25mm shots, because the earlier lenses cross over from "personality" to real dogs. There is even noticeable quality difference between 35mm and 32mm. I've heard the Baltars are single coated, and the Cooke S1s must be as well, because they have a little more contrast than the Baltars.

 

Soon I will be looking at a triplet at Panavision. I will have to ask about Tessars, as they are very lovely portrait lenses in large format (5x7" and 8x10").

 

J

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I had brought this topic up before -- you can see the etched rings in the bokeh in these shots:

 

vertigo5.jpg

 

spellbound4.jpg

 

Schneider revived this filter at the request of Roy Wagner, ASC, they are called Soft Centrics.

 

And now I see I even discussed this back in 2004:

http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=4166

 

It's weird when I search a topic and find that I discussed it over a decade ago somewhere... Sometimes I even get the answer from my past self!

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.. I've seen rehoused early Baltars and Cooke series 1s that I like a lot for this film. The focus fall off is fast, the highlights glow in a lovely way and there is a petzval quality to the bokeh toward the corners, including some nice vignetting (at least to me)in 1.33 and 1.2 aspect ratios. The Panchros go at least as wide as 25mm, and the Baltars (pre-"super") go as wide as 18mm, and as long as 152mm. They are all T/2 to 2.5, at least after they've been rehoused. Apparently they are "inverted telephoto" designs up to 35mm, and double gauss for the rest. I will probably use Cooke series 3 for most 25mm shots, because the earlier lenses cross over from "personality" to real dogs. There is even noticeable quality difference between 35mm and 32mm. I've heard the Baltars are single coated, and the Cooke S1s must be as well, because they have a little more contrast than the Baltars.

 

Soon I will be looking at a triplet at Panavision. I will have to ask about Tessars, as they are very lovely portrait lenses in large format (5x7" and 8x10").

 

J

 

Bausch and Lomb produced Tessars licenced from Zeiss during the 20s, and had an anastigmat design that was slightly faster, probably based on the Zeiss Protar anastigmat. In 1929 they began designing their Raytar range, which were mostly f/2.3 double gauss lenses similar to the Cooke Series 0, which had really revived interest in double gauss designs. The first ads for those appear in American Cinematographer mid 1931, after M was filmed. They evolved into Baltars, which led to Super Baltars.

 

In Europe (and Hollywood) Astro Tachar lenses were very popular high speed lenses that were available by the late 20s, also double gauss for the shorter focal lengths and triplets for the longer ones. They got to f/1.8 or f/2. If I had to make an educated guess I would say those or Zeiss Biotars (another high speed double gauss design that was fairly new in 1930) might have been used on "M", as well as f/2.7 or 3.5 Tessars, which were more or less industry standards then. Goerz Hypars were another popular choice, which I believe were triplet variants.

 

Early Speed Panchros or Baltars are probably as close as you might get to those original double gauss lenses without trying to remount an Astro Tachar or Zeiss Biotar. I don't know what triplets you might find these days, they were often used for projection lenses and small gauge amateur movie cameras but once coatings removed the necessity to minimise lens elements I don't know how many professional cinematography lenses used simple triplets. Zeiss Sonnars are a triplet variant that you can still find (like in longer Super Speeds), but I don't think they'll be very similar to triplets from the 20s. Tessars could equally be described as a triplet variant, even if their design stemmed from another type of lens.

 

I had access to a set of Meyer Primoplans from a WWII Arriflex and a Ross Xpres from a Debrie that were both uncoated modified triplet designs from the 30s or earlier, and they were pretty funky.

 

The Meyer Primoplan

post-46614-0-65061300-1517191527_thumb.jpg

 

The Ross Xpres

post-46614-0-71767300-1517191569_thumb.jpg

 

 

Compared to a Super Baltar:

post-46614-0-88963900-1517191730_thumb.jpg

 

or a Speed Panchro:

post-46614-0-02310600-1517191774_thumb.jpg

 

There can be significant variation between lenses of the same design family, so possibly all this information is irrelevant!

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