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Hello,

I'd love to hear people's experience with the Blackwing7 lenses. I've been reading about the tuning capabilities and having a hard time wrapping my head around it.

The 3 options are Straight, Transient and Expressive.  Any examples would be really helpful.

Does the tuning have to happen at the rental house by the technicians or can they be adjusted in the field?

Thanks

 

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I don't have any experience with Blackwing lenses, but there is some online information and a couple of tests, and I know a bit about lens de-tuning. 

The FDT article on them states that the tuning process is proprietary, in other words they keep the details a secret. Much like Panavision (who pioneered lens de-tuning) and Arri Rental.  So you definitely won't be able to adjust the tuning in the field, and even rental houses won't have that facility, unless perhaps they have a particular servicing relationship with IB/E. According to the IB/E Blackwing7  pdf you need to pre-order for a particular tuning. The tuned options also cost more - between $770 and $1700 per lens per the FDT article - so expect to pay to have any tuning altered.

https://www.fdtimes.com/2019/04/06/blackwing7-from-tribe7-for-review/

https://www.ibe-optics.com/file/edee/2019/tribe-pdf/5990.pdf

I have to say they look very much like a straight copy of Arri Rentals DNA lenses, just starting with different lenses (which the creators more or less admit in the FDT article). The lenses they are based on are not particularly special Double Gauss designs from the early 20th century, with 2 extra levels of de-tuning offered. What that likely means is certain element spacings are adjusted or elements are replaced to introduce particular aberrations. Looking at the online tests, and the IB/E pdf which includes MTF curves for the various options, the introduced aberrations appear to reduce resolution towards the edges and lower the contrast. The addition of uncoated internal elements and possibly even un-blacked inner barrel surfaces creates additional flare characteristics and veiling glare. 

I don't really see the point in buying de-tuned lenses like this (unless you're a rental house), since they tend to be suitable only for particular jobs. It makes much more sense to me to rent such lenses, where you can choose the particular de-tuning you want for for the look required. But then I work for Panavision, so I would say that.. 😀

 

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17 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

I don't have any experience with Blackwing lenses, but there is some online information and a couple of tests, and I know a bit about lens de-tuning. 

The FDT article on them states that the tuning process is proprietary, in other words they keep the details a secret. Much like Panavision (who pioneered lens de-tuning) and Arri Rental.  So you definitely won't be able to adjust the tuning in the field, and even rental houses won't have that facility, unless perhaps they have a particular servicing relationship with IB/E. According to the IB/E Blackwing7  pdf you need to pre-order for a particular tuning. The tuned options also cost more - between $770 and $1700 per lens per the FDT article - so expect to pay to have any tuning altered.

https://www.fdtimes.com/2019/04/06/blackwing7-from-tribe7-for-review/

https://www.ibe-optics.com/file/edee/2019/tribe-pdf/5990.pdf

I have to say they look very much like a straight copy of Arri Rentals DNA lenses, just starting with different lenses (which the creators more or less admit in the FDT article). The lenses they are based on are not particularly special Double Gauss designs from the early 20th century, with 2 extra levels of de-tuning offered. What that likely means is certain element spacings are adjusted or elements are replaced to introduce particular aberrations. Looking at the online tests, and the IB/E pdf which includes MTF curves for the various options, the introduced aberrations appear to reduce resolution towards the edges and lower the contrast. The addition of uncoated internal elements and possibly even un-blacked inner barrel surfaces creates additional flare characteristics and veiling glare. 

I don't really see the point in buying de-tuned lenses like this (unless you're a rental house), since they tend to be suitable only for particular jobs. It makes much more sense to me to rent such lenses, where you can choose the particular de-tuning you want for for the look required. But then I work for Panavision, so I would say that.. 😀

 

Is the 47mm Arri DNA a Kodak Ektar?

The lens diagrams on Blackwing's website don't look that different from Takumars or Nikkors to me? 

What are the DNA lenses? A lot of the f stop/focal lengths don't match up with anything vintage. Is Arri mixing vintage glass with new glass or are they all new designs?

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Apparently it stands for "do not ask," which, with my conventional level of cynicism intact, might just as easily mean that it's a 1970s kit lens from a plastic instamatic that they re-housed in a spiffy-looking case, and charge for accordingly.

I really don't get this stuff. Every argument you can possibly make for it is so clearly dripping in subjectivity and opinion as to be almost completely meaningless. I am somewhat wound up by the tendency of people to wax poetic while justifying things which would have been seen as faults by the people who designed the lenses.

The emperor has an amazing wardrobe here I fear.

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1 minute ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Apparently it stands for "do not ask"

Ha! I'm going to borrow that one Phil if you don't mind.

1 hour ago, M Joel W said:

Is the 47mm Arri DNA a Kodak Ektar?

The lens diagrams on Blackwing's website don't look that different from Takumars or Nikkors to me? 

What are the DNA lenses? A lot of the f stop/focal lengths don't match up with anything vintage. Is Arri mixing vintage glass with new glass or are they all new designs?

Hard to know exactly what lenses they used. There is a 2016 FDT article on Arri that talks about the development of the DNA range where they mention some of them being so funky that they would never normally be released by a manufacturer. Some of them were 35mm format lenses like the 85mm Zeiss Super Speed that happened to cover 65mm, but of course was never corrected for that size image circle, so the image disintegrates towards the edges. They replaced irises in some cases so apertures may not match the original lenses. They are a mixed bag for sure, different  coatings and colour casts and apertures and looks, so the idea is a DOP has to go through them and select a few favourites to create their "pallette". Then presumably post has to try and colour match them. Some of the films they've been used on look pretty good though. 

I don't think the DNA range used that 47mm Ektar. That may have been the initial inspiration that caused Director of Technology Neil Fanthom to leave Arri and co-found Tribe 7 and make the Blackwing lens range, but who knows really.

Double Gauss designs are very common in photography for fast aperture lenses, with many variations introducing slight asymmetry developed over the years, so yes some Takumars or Nikkors will have similar designs to that Ektar, but it only takes a little difference to change the performance entirely.

 

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4 minutes ago, Dom Jaeger said:

Ha! I'm going to borrow that one Phil if you don't mind.

Hard to know exactly what lenses they used. There is a 2016 FDT article on Arri that talks about the development of the DNA range where they mention some of them being so funky that they would never normally be released by a manufacturer. Some of them were 35mm format lenses like the 85mm Zeiss Super Speed that happened to cover 65mm, but of course was never corrected for that size image circle, so the image disintegrates towards the edges. They replaced irises in some cases so apertures may not match the original lenses. They are a mixed bag for sure, different  coatings and colour casts and apertures and looks, so the idea is a DOP has to go through them and select a few favourites to create their "pallette". Then presumably post has to try and colour match them. Some of the films they've been used on look pretty good though. 

I don't think the DNA range used that 47mm Ektar. That may have been the initial inspiration that caused Director of Technology Neil Fanthom to leave Arri and co-found Tribe 7 and make the Blackwing lens range, but who knows really.

Double Gauss designs are very common in photography for fast aperture lenses, with many variations introducing slight asymmetry developed over the years, so yes some Takumars or Nikkors will have similar designs to that Ektar, but it only takes a little difference to change the performance entirely.

 

Thanks! I like the look of them but there is something absurd about it too, kind of like the Veblen good Leica Thambar. 

Part of me gets it. I have some cheap old lenses that have a look I like but the mechanics are poor. And rehousing them would cost 3-4x the value of the original lenses, but without being rehoused they're not really very useful. And there aren't a lot of fast large format ranges to rehouse in the first place.

I've read that older double gauss designs used glass with higher indices of refraction (lead, lanthanum, thorium) and more steeply curved surfaces and so it would not be possible to manufacture them today. But then Cooke did just that, maybe with slight changes, but the Cooke Classics are apparently pretty close to real S2/S3s? 

I think I have noticed a trend where chromatic aberration has become more and more acceptable. S2s have every little, my old Leica lens has very little, and even my old 50mm f2 Nikkor-S has a noticeable lack of CA relative to newer designs.

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52 minutes ago, M Joel W said:

Also what's the deal with PVintage? That's another one of these.

PVintage are Ultra and Super Speed Panavision lenses rehoused, so usually based on Zeiss or Canon or Nikon with a few Panavision modifications or additions.

50 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

I really don't get this stuff. Every argument you can possibly make for it is so clearly dripping in subjectivity and opinion as to be almost completely meaningless. I am somewhat wound up by the tendency of people to wax poetic while justifying things which would have been seen as faults by the people who designed the lenses.

The emperor has an amazing wardrobe here I fear.

I agree that the language can sometimes be a bit.. waffly. The Blackwing people keep using analogies to jazz and music EQ, which I think is actually a valid analogy even if the lyrical waxing can get on your nerves.

But there's no denying that vintage lenses, with their often very imperfect imaging characteristics, are a very nice antidote to the overly clean image that digital sensors create. Sometimes the characteristics are so subtle as to be almost imperceptible, but they are there, and subconsciously we react to them. Using lens aberrations is a much more organic, unpredictable approach to sculpting images than manipulating things in post, and brings back some level of control to the cinematographer by baking the imperfections in. Personally I think it's great to have all these different lenses that render images differently. 

Panavision have been de-tuning lenses for a decade or more, usually only for certain productions since it is a massively time-consuming process, but it's become a very popular process. The Primo Artiste range are large format lenses with a permanent detuning, that look pretty ordinary when I project them on my test projector but can create some really lovely images in the hands of talented DOPs. Unlike the DNAs they are much more of a matched set.

One of my favourite lenses is this Panavision 65mm close focus soft effect lens, which has a dial that lets you adjust a floating element to soften the image (it's actually a complex mixture of aberrations but the result is a slight softening of fine detail). It's amazing to focus on a face and be able to adjust the little wrinkles right out! Without the soft effect, the lens is astonishingly sharp and entirely free of chromatic aberration right to the edges. It also focusses down to the front ring. Amazing lens!

989275022_PV65mmsofteffect.jpg.f2014d051cf51238f37cd3e5ad91f594.jpg

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19 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

But there's no denying that vintage lenses, with their often very imperfect imaging characteristics, are a very nice antidote to the overly clean image that digital sensors create

Yeah, but you could say that about anything. You could say that about a Helios. About the only thing you're getting from a commercially selected set is the guarantee that it's a set, and with DNAs you're not even getting that. Good thing they're so inexpens... oh, yeah.

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1 hour ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Yeah, but you could say that about anything. You could say that about a Helios. About the only thing you're getting from a commercially selected set is the guarantee that it's a set, and with DNAs you're not even getting that. Good thing they're so inexpens... oh, yeah.

Uh oh. I sense another anti-consumerism rant incoming shortly... 😉
 

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On 1/9/2021 at 8:41 AM, Phil Rhodes said:

Yeah, but you could say that about anything. You could say that about a Helios. About the only thing you're getting from a commercially selected set is the guarantee that it's a set, and with DNAs you're not even getting that. Good thing they're so inexpens... oh, yeah.

Well part of Arri's sales pitch is that they selected lenses with input from various respected DOPs, so there should be some interesting glass in the mix. The expense really comes from the re-housing, and the fact that they can be somewhat customised. But I'm not going to spruik them,  they're certainly not everyone's cup of tea. As I've said, I think Panavision does a much better job with lens de-tuning, and already has some fantastic vintage lenses in their inventory, actual cine lenses that have a proven history on the big screen going back to the 50s. 

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On the second of the two occasions I've ever been admitted to a Panavision facility I briefly handled a 40mm C series and remarked that it felt like it hadn't been touched since it was made. I assume they're rehousing them bit by bit?

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Not that I'm aware of, unless they need to be. Sometimes the iris gear gets upgraded to standard pitch. I'm sure there have been refurbishment programs over the years, but they don't look much different to photos I've seen from decades ago. Other series, like Super  Speeds or Ultra Panavision 70s are being re-housed. Too many old lenses to do them all, and the C series still work pretty well. We try to look after them, kind of like a precious family heirloom you have to keep lending out. 🙂

You should do an article on Panavision London for RedShark News or whoever you write for now. It's an amazing place! 

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5 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

Not that I'm aware of, unless they need to be. Sometimes the iris gear gets upgraded to standard pitch. I'm sure there have been refurbishment programs over the years, but they don't look much different to photos I've seen from decades ago. Other series, like Super  Speeds or Ultra Panavision 70s are being re-housed. Too many old lenses to do them all, and the C series still work pretty well. We try to look after them, kind of like a precious family heirloom you have to keep lending out. 

You should do an article on Panavision London for RedShark News or whoever you write for now. It's an amazing place! 

A few years ago I actually called them and asked if they'd be interested in getting involved in a piece about anamorphic, considering that when people say "anamorphic" what they tend to mean is "Panavision C series." I was told by a standard gruff, miserable British film industry person that they weren't interested on the basis it might, and I quote directly, "risk creating a demand for our lenses."

Err... okay.

My impression is that Panavision, along with several other very large companies who concentrate solely on the very high end, tend to consider themselves above bothering with things like the press. From what very little I've seen of it, Panavision gear is designed very much for use by large crews, arriving in a million pieces (effectively partially-disassembled!) in a million boxes and requiring a million people to handle it; it is not designed to be friendly to the indepdendent filmmaker because Panavision could not possibly care less about the independent filmmaker.

I suspect they're probably right, in the end; they've never shown the slightest interest in being involved in anything but massive American-funded movies by the big studios and people like Netflix, or, if they're really forced to slum it, the very, very highest end of BBC drama, and they've likely been doing very well out of that, pandemic aside. The reaction of a lot of Panavision glass to direct light is to flare and veil like crazy because it's expected that there are a thousand people in the lighting department to place and hold flags, so that becomes a reasonable tradeoff for whatever other optical characteristics people are going for. I'm open to being persuaded, I've never shot with this stuff for money, but really, Panavision does not care unless you are Roger Deakins.

Although funnily enough I had a very similar conversation with Da Vinci in about 2008 (and that's literally true).

P

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I haven't found that to be the case in the US. I've seen Primos and T Series on some pretty low budget productions. No idea how they ended up there, though, someone might have known someone.

Also, I only wish Blade Runner 2049 were shot on C Series. But apparently Roger Deakins (and the Academy) know better than I do...

Speaking of Panavision, I'm pretty sure I bought one of their old 4:3 Alexa Plus models on the used market. Branding was presumably removed specifically so I couldn't find out, but any way to figure out what blockbusters were shot on the camera I now use to make home videos based on its serial?

Secondly, I know of the 2x Panatar for 16mm, but did you ever stock a 1.3X anamorphic lens set for S16? I'm looking into "budget" alternatives for the V-Lite 16s. 

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5 minutes ago, M Joel W said:

Also, I only wish Blade Runner 2049 were shot on C Series. But apparently Roger Deakins (and the Academy) know better than I do...

Yes. I don't understand why what was done there, was done there. There are indie short films that look more like Blade Runner than that particular officially-licensed instalment of Blade Runner.

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7 minutes ago, M Joel W said:

Also, I only wish Blade Runner 2049 were shot on C Series. But apparently Roger Deakins (and the Academy) know better than I do...

He apparently prefers the look of cropped spherical, so unless a director says otherwise, I'd imagine he does what he wants.

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7 minutes ago, Stuart Brereton said:

He apparently prefers the look of cropped spherical, so unless a director says otherwise, I'd imagine he does what he wants.

Yeah, but it was wrong. Sorry, Roger, I love you, but...

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13 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

My impression is that Panavision, along with several other very large companies who concentrate solely on the very high end, tend to consider themselves above bothering with things like the press. From what very little I've seen of it, Panavision gear is designed very much for use by large crews, arriving in a million pieces (effectively partially-disassembled!) in a million boxes and requiring a million people to handle it; it is not designed to be friendly to the indepdendent filmmaker because Panavision could not possibly care less about the independent filmmaker.

Obviously bigger budget productions are valued - like any business you need to look after the customers who effectively pay your bills -  but there is a lot of effort also put into nurturing relationships with students and independent filmmakers. There has been a New Filmmaker Program going for over 25 years that loans or grants equipment to film schools and independent filmmakers for instance, and we regularly host training programs. Plenty of low budget productions go through our branch at least. I recall there were about a dozen crews testing at Panavision London when I visited there, and they certainly weren't all big American blockbusters or high end BBC shows. But sure, it's professional grade gear designed for professionals. I don't think anyone needs to apologise for that. It's like complaining that you and your mates who just learned a few Oasis songs don't get to perform at bigger venues.  "The elites are oppressing me again!"

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6 hours ago, M Joel W said:

I know of the 2x Panatar for 16mm, but did you ever stock a 1.3X anamorphic lens set for S16? I'm looking into "budget" alternatives for the V-Lite 16s. 

I don't know of any 16mm Panavision anamorphics to be honest. If they exist they'd probably be in the Elaine mount anyway. 

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15 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Yeah, but it was wrong. Sorry, Roger, I love you, but...

I don’t disagree, but given his preference for modern sharp glass and dislike of flares, even if he had used anamorphic lenses, they would likely have been Master Anamorphics, and not an older type with some texture.

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23 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

 Panavision could not possibly care less about the independent filmmaker.

Panavision, perhaps, do not court independent filmmakers purely because they don’t have to. I’m sure they have more than enough clients who are willing to pay closer to the rate card. Profit margins are pretty tight in the rental industry, and no company really wants to be doing crazy deals. Panavision are in privileged position where they don’t need to. That said, if you know the business reps, deals are possible. Like so many things in this industry, it’s all about the relationships you have with people.

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