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Ignacio Aguilar

Bausch & Lomb Baltars (Van Diemen Rehoused)

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At Harmonica Rental in Madrid, Spain, we have just been able to complete what I think is the first known set of rehoused Bausch & Lomb Baltar lenses. These are the original Baltars from the 1930's, not to be confused with the later and less rare Super Baltars, introduced circa 1965 by the same company. The Baltars were in BNC mount, which protudes so deep into the camera that hit the mirror of the then new reflex cameras, so the BNCR mount (R stands for Reflex) was introduced to solve this problem and many cameras were modified or already released in BNCR mount. But since they couldn't be used with reflex cameras, the old Baltars were forgotten until now, even though they shot such classics as "The Magnificent Ambersons", "Night of the Hunter", "Rear Window", "The Killing" or "Psycho", and probably the better part of American film production since the introduction of sound to the 1960's. They were also the lenses that were adapted for CinemaScope in the early 50's.

So I have a set of seven Baltar lenses (25-30-35-40-50-75-100mm) that open up to f/2.3. There was a 152mm Baltar which I don't have (you can use a 1.4x extender on the 100mm) and there never was a wider angle lens than 25mm, so many people used the Angenieux 18.5mm or the 18mm Cooke S2 with them. I decided to use the later to fill my set. I've also found that a 18mm Schneider Xenon also does a good job and matches well enough the other lenses.
When I bought the Baltars, the glass was inmaculate, but nobody was rehousing them. Van Diemen in the UK agreed on the job and they have done a wonderful conversion of the lenses. Now they not only deliver a very special look, but can be also used with remote focus/iris devices with reliable and very accurate focus markings. Those familiar with the rehousings of this company know how good this lenses are now.
Wide-Open the Baltars are very soft, but once stopped down a bit they have a very filmic (yet still soft) quality. They also have the "petzval" circular bokeh shape in the background, and since they are single-coated, they flare like beasts. But the look is very clean under all circunstances, and it only adds a very nice film touch to HD cameras. Once stopped down a couple of stops they perform more like Super Baltars of Cooke Speed Panchros, so they can be considered as a super vintage and vintage lenses at the same time, depending on the stop you work with them.

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