LENS SPEC I AL | GEAR
full-frame sensors. “If you look at the cost of a new full-frame lens, it’s high, especially to get something interesting,” he says. “If you’re looking at the low end, they’re all the same. Sharp, nothing too interesting. But if you buy a vintage lens and get it rehoused, you’ve got certain different qualities.” While manufacturers such as Cooke sometimes reissue past greats, Whitehurst confirms the ‘special sauce’ of old lenses is simply impossible today. “Some of the ingredients that went into the glass back then can’t be used, like lead, which they say helps flare. There are certain things that can’t go into the glass now to replicate that look. A lot of the older lenses – if they have a lot of thorium – are quite radioactive, some more than others. It’s at a fairly low level, but that’s why they stopped. A lot of the Super Baltars are somewhat radioactive. It depends on the focal length and what was used.” TLS’s rehousing portfolio includes Canon FD and K35s, Zeiss B Speeds, Bausch & Lomb Super Baltars, Kowa Cine Prominars
ABOVE Many old lenses can’t be recreated, because their glass contains lead or radioactive thorium!
and more. Perhaps the company’s most storied work involves the Cooke Speed Panchros, of which Whitehurst estimates TLS has handled over 500 sets. There is, he promises, more to come. “The Mamiya 645s are close, we’re about to start rehousing those shortly.” He adds: “We’re looking at an anamorphic ourselves. We have our own front element specifically designed for us. We’re halfway through the prototyping stage – a 1.65:1 that covers full-frame.” Whitehurst’s intention is to base TLS’s anamorphic on a vintage spherical prime, like celebrated anamorphics of yesteryear. “It doesn’t matter whose they are, especially the older stuff – it’s very rarely an entirely in-house design. When you have the Cineovision, the Nipponscopes, they all have a base
lens in the back, whether it’s a K35 like some of the Todd-AOs, a Canon FD or Nikons.” The rehousing process varies depending on the donor lens. Often, the only parts left of the original lens are the glass elements and metal tubes that hold them in their groups. Duclos confirms that “some are relatively simple – maybe a dozen pieces to the rehousing”. However, some are far more complex and require finesse to get the parts working correctly and feeling good – the number of moving parts depends on the lens. “Some use floating groups; they’ll have one, two or three parts for
WHAT’S POSSIBLE – AND WHAT ISN’T TLS’s Gavin Whitehurst confirms the original design of some stills lenses can make rehousing options impractical, often because crucial parts of the lens would simply intersect with the lens mount. He explains: “We’re looking at the Canon Rangefinders, and PL is a bit too difficult. We’re going to be doing LPL mount, because you’ve got that little extra bit of room. There’s a larger diameter, which means you can have glass that fits inside the mount.”
MAY 202 1 | DEF I N I T ION 19
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