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Shoot Like Kubrick with These Rare Zeiss f/0.7 Lenses

Modified BNCR-Mount PS-Cam X35 Handles the Classic Glass

If you know much about Stanley Kubrick's methodology, you've probably heard about the special, super-fast lenses that he used to shoot candlelit scenes in Barry Lyndon (1975) — they were Zeiss f/0.7 lenses originally developed for a NASA project to take still photographs of the dark side of the moon.  Only 10 were made. Kubrick got hold of three of them and had Ed DiGiulio of Cinema Products Corp., a former Mitchell camera executive, figure out how to fit two of the awkward lenses to his go-to camera, a Mitchell BNC. (In this old story from American Cinematographer, DiGiulio describes the project in detail.)

One obstacle to the use of these lenses by other filmmakers has been the fact that they could only be mounted to a specially modified camera. But now, P+S Technik says that a PS-Cam X35 HD camera has been fitted with a BNC-R lens mount that can handle them. It is offering a rental package that includes the BNC-R PS-Cam as well as the two modified Zeiss lenses, at focal lengths of 35mm and 50mm. Also in the package is a range of six re-housed vintage Cooke Speed Panchro lenses.

Because of the extremely shallow depth of field offered by the lenses, Kubrick's actors had to stay close to their marks to remain in focus and it took five full rotations to rack over from the viewing position to the filming position with a film camera. (Kubrick reportedly considered using the same lenses for scenes in Eyes Wide Shut, but decided they would be too restrictive for the amount of movement he wanted in the frame.) Checking focus on a high-resolution LCD should make life a little easier for the focus pullers.

With today's faster film stocks, the lenses' low-light capabilties aren't quite as indispensable as they were in the 1970s, but their depth-of-field characteristics and soft bokeh remain unique. A short video clip showing digitally captured sample footage is available for viewing online

P+S Technik's rental partners for the Kubrick Collection include Otto Nemenz in Los Angeles, Joe Dunton Camera in Wilmington, NC, Take 2 Film Services in London, and FGV Schmidle in Munich.

Visit P+S Technik on the web and download a PDF to see exactly what's included in the rental package. Even more information is at www.kubrickcollection.com.

4 Comments

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rowby Rowby Goren

    What a Jewel! Great that this lens is available today…. Rowby

  • Wineskins

    It is said that Kubrick shot the first “fake” moon landing footage. Was that the NASA project? Hmmm, I wonder…

  • Merrill-not-Lynch

    I am strictly an amateur although I did voluntary camera work for many years, some of it fairly serious. Thank you for sharing this info and the sample footage. Fantastic!

  • Marco

    Back when Kubrick shot this film the ASA (ISO) of film stock was 25. That is why he needed these ultra fast lenses. Now with cameras with useable ISO’s at 20,000, you could probable shoot the same scene at F 5.6 with just about any lens and the actors could actually move maybe an inch or two or maybe a foot, depending on the focal. Kubrick was the greatest, and he probably made every one of his films without any digital technology…