Leica focal lengths vs. cine lenses

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by david_clark|4, Aug 27, 2008.

  1. I was recently watching a John Ford western, and as the movie jumped from closeup to long shot I wondered what
    the equivalent focal lengths would be for my Leica 35, 50, 90. As far as I know, those movies were made with 35mm
    film, is there someone with movie experience who knows what lenses/focal lengths they would have used for their
    work. Also, is day-for-night photography possible with regular black and white film? Thanks.
  2. One would need to know the movie film size.
  3. 35mm cine frames are 18x24mm, the film travel is vertical thru the gate. There is no real correlation between the two formats, way too many variations in lens types, etc. 70mm is a popular cine film as well, for a good read, google "super panavision" and follow the links.
  4. Most cinematography consists of spherical 35mm lenses, for those movies field of view is basically the same as
    a standard 35mm still camera your leica included. The aspect ratio which is basically piece of the film we finally see can
    range from the whole negative which is would be a square like a T.V. to 1:1.85 which is the rectangle we view most
    movies at, to 1:2.35 which is the narrow rectangle many bigger movies are shown in. There is also anamorphic 35mm
    which is basically a squeezed picture that is unsqueezed while being projecting resulting in the 2.35 aspect ratio. These
    lenses divide by half, a 100mm has the field of view of a 50. Your john ford western could have been filmed in this
    format but is hard to tell with out knowing the title. As to bob and ronalds point about the different film size 70mm while
    used is hardly popular and is usually reserved for special projects and imax these days. 16mm is probably more popular
    these days and those lens's are times 2, a 25 has the field of view of a 50. Sorry for the longwinded and potential
    confusing response. It seems like your question was mostly about field of view, so i hope i clarified more than confused.
    BTW I've been a professional camera assistant in movies and television for over ten years just to let you know I'm not
    talking out of my a**.

    Cheers Brian
  5. Yes, I can see my question would have been better stated as field of view. Take for example the film "My Darling Clementine. It says on the DVD cover the aspect ratio is 1.33:1. I wonder what lenses Ford had to base his compositions. I wonder if he was thinking in terms that would be similar to the basic 35, 50, 90 field of view? Or would they have used a zoom lens? I've never seen how movies are made, and I can not get a sense of how close the camera to subject is in some of the episodes. Especially his long shots. Thank you for your responses.
  6. He was definately thinking in similar terms. They were shooting in spherical 35mm with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. They
    probably had a full set of lenses but I'm not sure what the standard was. I've never seen a zoom that old but they may have
    had them. Sorry I'm not much help with the specifics but I can say the lenses they were using had the same field of view to
    the 35 lenses your used to using. If it looks like they are using a 150 the camera to subject distance would be the same for
    your camera if replication is what your after. As to knowing exactly what lenses there using for certain shots, I would say
    your best guess based on your experience is a good place to start.

  7. Brian pretty much nailed it. But what you might find interesting is that a standard 35mm movie frame is a bout the same size as a DX size CCD, so the lenses on these new SLR's have the same FOV as a standard movie frame. .

    But there are may variations and formats that exist in motion picture. 65mm Horizontal (imax), 65mm vertical, Anamorphic, standard 35mm, Super 35mm, 16mm, super 16mm, and a few more

    A typical film in the 60's
    would have been shot spherical standard 35 with a 1:85 aspect ratio.
  8. There is more to this question ... actually, the first lens used on the first Leica prototype was a Zeiss cinematographic lens with 50mm f.l. Still cameras of that era (shortly before WW I) and the few rollfilm cameras used lenses in the 100 to 150mm f.l. range, and a 50mm lens would have been a very wide angle lens at that era and probably hard to design to cover plate/rollfilm format, I don't know whether 50mm lenses existed back then for these cameras. So the only things available around 50mm (this f.l. was carefully selected by Barnack) were cine lenses.

    Since the coverage of this cine lens was poor, Leitz decided to design their own 50mm lens for 24x36mm which led to the Elmar design.
  9. Lots of more modern lenses for the half frame (!8 x 24) format were made for Olympus Pen F series and are probably still available on EBay. For a list of Pen F and other lenses see http://corsopolaris.net/supercameras/half/halformat4s.html
  10. While on the topic of John Ford and photography I think it relevant to note his brilliant version of The Grapes of Wrath. Shot by Citizen Kane cinematographer Gregg Toland, the b&w photography is simply stunning. Documentary like and very stark. Check it out if you haven't seen it.
  11. The standard set of lenses for cinematography are the 18mm, 24mm, 35mm 50mm, 85mm and 100mm. The lense focal
    lengths vary a bit by manufacturer and design 32/35 75/85 etc. They are designed for exposing Academy Aperture, a 4
    perf 35mm frame with vertical pulldown. When I was an assistant cameraman at Universal in the late 70's there were
    cameramen who asked for focal lengths in the way referred to by their generation by requesting a 1 inch (25mm), 2 inch
    (50m) 3 inch (75mm) or 4inch (100m). I consider a lens in the 25mm to 32mm lens as closing approximating "normal"
    human visual perception when shooting wide scenes but that's a matter of taste. I would venture a guess that some of
    the close-ups in John Fords films were captured with a 50mm or 2 inch, a lens that has a slightly formal, portrait feel
    when exposing Academy Aperture 4 perf.

    I was the additional scenes director/cinematographer on Episode IV Star Wars : A New Hope. In that film scenes which
    were photographed with the intention of comping in other effects plates with the Vistavision format, 8 perfs, horizontal
    pulldown, just like a still camera and the same aesthetic decisions were made as one would when exposing still film; 24
    mm was a wide angle lens. The advantages of 8 perf are less loss of resolution and less grain accumalated during the
    comping process. With the incredible advancements made by Kodak with their Vision film stocks and the effects
    industry going completely digital over the past 10 years there is no advantage to exposing 8 perf anymore.

    As far as Day or Night goes, in John Ford's time this was very often executed with normal black and white films stocks
    (non IR or non panchromatic) through the combination of filters such as 25A or 28A, grads and sun position. The
    success of the illusion dependent on, of course, the skill of the cinematographer and the audience being much more
    willing than they are today to suspend their disbelief. Once more digital post production techniques have it much easier
    to achieve a very believable illusion of night time but it's my experience that it is still best to shoot any wide shots,
    especially those including sky at the crepuscular or magic hour. The art is in balancing any practical lights in the scene
    (flashlights, house lights, headlamps, fires, etc.) to the proper amount of sky fill necessary to expose the shadows in the
    manner that one previsualizes. As you can well imagine, it makes for a very "interesting" 10-15 minutes of film making.

    A fantastic source of information for anyone interested in the technical and artictic aspects of cinematography is the
    American Cinematographers website http://www.theasc.com/index.php. If in Los Angeles try a visit to the ASC
    clubhouse though currently it is under renovation. Every time I have visited I have been amazed at the greats who are in
    and about and their complete generosity in answering any and all questions and sharing their wealth of knowledge. Also
    try the website of our guild The International Cinematographers Guild IA600, http://www.cameraguild.com.

    My apologies for the long post.


    Joe Murray DGA Director/IA600 Director of Photography
  12. Sorry Brian, you've made a slight error, unless I misunderstand your post. You said: "Most cinematography consists of spherical 35mm lenses, for those movies field of view is basically the same as a standard 35mm still camera your leica included" Not so. While a 35mm movie camera uses, of course, 35mm film, the size of the full frame is about 1/2 the size of a 35mm still camera frame. But it gets more complicated. A full silent movie frame is pretty much cutting the still camera frame in half. When sound was introduced, a strip on the side of the frame was eliminated to make space for the sound track and the picture area got a little smaller. The "Grapes of Wrath" would have been shot with this size frame. Roughly a 35mm cine lens on this format will be sort of close to a 50mm on a still 35mm camera. When wide screen cinemascope became popular in the 50's (an anamorphic format that is about 2.4:1 aspect ratio), non-anamorphic films (spherical lenses like we use on still cameras) became widescreen also - by chopping off the top and bottom of the full frame and using just the middle. This had the advantage of photographing a tv sized 4:3 image (for tv) at the same time as a widescreen 1.85:1 image, but ultimately the frame for theatrical projection got smaller. And so the angle view of the same lens was reduced, at least vertically. Then it gets more complicated. Many wide screen movies today are shot with spherical lenses (I mean the 2.4:1 cinemascope aspect ratio film). This is done by again photographing the full width of the film as in the silent days, but using about 1/2 the vertical height of the frame by cropping the top and bottom of the image severely. i.e. using only 2 perfs per image instead of the silent frame 4 perfs. So now the angle of view as gotten a little bit wider again, though even less vertically. A quick google search found this site with some illustrations: http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/widescreen/apertures.htm So, anyways, if John Ford used a 35mm lens, a close approximation on your leica would be a 50mm...Unless you have an M8 Since I wrote this, I found a full frame scan from a spherical lens movie that I've used to illustrate. This frame is from a film shot in the 2.4:1 aspect ratio and I've drawn the formats over the frame. It should be pretty clear how much smaller a movie negative is from a still camera negative.
  13. Thank you folks, thanks for all the information. I was watching these black and white John Ford movies, and I just could not get over the composition. And I said to my trusty Leica, "Are we doing something wrong here?" The long shots, that is the landscapes, they were especially interesting. I haven't had the opportunity to go out and experiment, but I just can't see what angle of view lens he is using. And I can not help but wonder how I could squeeze something similar out of my camera. Or the inside shots that take in half the cast, the floor, and the ceiling. It must call for a lens wider than I have. Thanks for all your responses.
  14. "I was watching these black and white John Ford movies, and I just could not get over the composition"

    In a lot of his Westerns , Ford very deliberately based many of his compositions, lighting and styling on the paintings and drawings of the American artist Fredrick Remington.
  15. At least one lens, the Zeiss Jena 5cm F1.5 Sonnar in Arriflex Mount was the same optical formula as the Contax mount lens with a "truncated" rear module. The Arriflex mount front element and front triplet are identical to their full-frame Contax counterparts. The rear optical fixture was redesigned and the rear group "cut down" to fit into the mount. Coverage of the lens is inadequate for full-frame 35mm, but the front elements fit and can be used in the full-frame lens.
  16. Here I have a Leitz C-Mount to LTM adapter that was bought in the 1960's; and a Nikon F to Cmount adapter; and a Exakta/Topcon to C mount adapter; used to mount 35mm still camera lenses on 16mm C mount cameras like the Bolex. Since one is using less angular coverage on can use a lens hood for a 105mm Nikkor; when one has a 50mm Nikkor on a 16mm camera.
  17. Pretty good explanations, with the added bonus of being mostly factual!
    Note: There was one John Ford film shot in VistaVision(8-perf 35mm, same as 35mm still, but usually cropped to 1:1.85), The
    Searchers, 1956. At least one out of the standard lens set for VistaVision of that era was in fact a Leica lens, a 35mm/3.5, which was
    their 'wide-angle'.

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