FAQ like Info about 35mm lenses


Director of Photography
OK, THis board is becoming filled with the following question, and comments.

Q1: When is the G35 coming out?

Q2: Which 35mm Adapter is best?

Q3: What lenses should i get?

The answers to 1 and 2 i dont think anyone can answer.....

But Question 3 is infact answerable, to some degree. As most of you know, the whole idea of this 35mm adpater thing, is to be able to use the 35mm Film camera lenses, and get their DOF charachteristics on DV tape. It lets you pull out specific lenses, to geth their effect for specific shots.

But many people are torn between Lens manufacturers, Focal lengths, and what the Fstop really means in the end.

I know a thing or two about lenses, as my dad was a shutter bug, and i took more than a few photography courses in my 14 years at various art schools. As you all know my word is not law, Thats John Hudsons job. Now each 35mm adapter has its own charachteristics, Some soften the image more than others, some lose more light than others.

After you descide which 35mm adapter you want to buy; whether its, an SGPRO, Brevis35, Go35, Letus35, M2, Cinemek (G35), Homedepot35, Mini35, micro35.... (The list goes on), the time comes to start assembling a collection of lenses. Many people who have not had the oppertunity to shoot with a manual 35mm camera, may not have the slightest clue where to begin or what to expect form these lenses.

Lets start at what you may want to use it for. The most common answer is Shallow Depth of field. Now you hear Shallow Depth of Field (ShDOF), and you get excited!!! ( i know i do) But what alotof people dont understand is the limitations and drawbacks of ShDOF.

If you have Razor thing DOF, moving the camera, then the talent becomes increasingly difficult. ITs really only possible i you have a dedicated Focus puller.
But lets not get ahead of ourselves. lets start at the lenses.

This is what everyone should have in the bag, a bare bones list.

50mm lens

The basic lens, is the 50mm lens. it is the lens that matches best the way you see with your eye. It is pretty much neutral, not telephoto, not a wide angle.

This is the lens thats gonna give you the bulk of your shots. Its easily available, in any brand, and geting one with a fast apeture is very easy. The most common being F1.2, F1.4, F1.8. Now the fast lens is a double edged sword. It lets you shoot with natural light, ( again depending on how much light the adapter itself loses) becaus it lets in so mcuh, but, the by product of shooting at F1.2/F1.4 is a DOF of only a few inches. meaning if your subject is sitting still, and your filling the frame, top of the head to the armpits, you will be able to choose literally to the inch, whether the ears or nose are in focus. Now hey that sounds great! BUT! if the actor while delivering a line happens to lean in, a few inches, he goes blurry. ESPECIALLY IN HD. SD cameras can hide this somewhat, but this is why Movie studios hire a guy whose whole job is to focus teh camera while the actors move.

This brings me to another point, that will answer in the next segment. DOF controll. *

28mm Lens

THis is your basic wide. its a nice focal length because it is wide enough to use in tight spaces, without too much distortion. Now at about this focal length is where optics start to get expensive to manufactire with any degree of quality. So what winds up happening, is the Maximum size of the apeture starts to get smaller. Down to F2.0 F2.8 F2.5 etc. Here is some where where its honestly worth it to spend some money on Good quality brandname lenses, ( CANON FD, NIKON F ). You can find no name brands, that offer F1.8 but at F1.8 theres significant barrel distortion, or LOADS of resolution loss ot the edges. Money is what counteracts these effects. Dont get cheap on a wide lens, seriously. You can save a couple bucks on the 50mm, but dont scrimp here, because you will use this one alot.


This is your typical 30mm-100mm Zoom lens.

All sorts of comapnies make them, Good ones, bad ones, even ones with spots...

But a Zoom lenses for still photogrpahy are not ment to be used for Video/film or moving image applications. Because of this there are not "BackFocus" provisions made. IE like on a DVX, when you zoom in, Focus, then zoom out, the image is now perfectly focused. This is not the case in Photo lenses. the cost of engineering a backfocusing, zoom lens, for the 35mm frame size is quite high. many companies jsut make the lenses and forgo that feature infavor of a over all faster lense, or better optics. So what winds up happening is, you buy your nifty new zoom lens, focus, zoom in and suddenly its a blurry mess. Which means you either have to focus as you zoom in, which is VERY difficult, because the focal plane/ to focus position is not linear like video servo assisted lenses, the more you zoom in you have to logarythmically turn the focus knob faster to keep the subject in focus ( in other words its really fricken hard).

These lenses tend to come with very limited apetures, F2.8 is a Bright one, F3.5 is more normal. Now another problem, is that when you zoom in, the Apeture rating is lower, like in the DVX, at wide its F1.6, but at Zoom its at F2.8. This means your apeture can drop as low as F5.6 at full telephoto. Now thats not very bright, so if youre using it around dusk, or indoors it can be VERY challenging to get a good picture out of it.

These lenses are still valuable though, sometimes a 28 is too wide, and sometimes a 50 mm is too short. these lenses can be great for filling in the gaps in focal length.

The long telephotot

Pickone, you dont really need both. ITs plenty long, and most of them tend to come in the Fstop range of about F3.5 and up. THis again is a place where a more expensive lens will offer you better performance. They tend to be brighter, sharper and of higher quality, with no vignetting. But you dont need to spend a fortune on this lens because, if you need to get range this long, use the DVX's(xl2 pd170, ....) stock lens and go long. You will get the sharpest picture this way anyway. plus you can get plenty shallow DOF from a DV camera on the long end of the lens.


Trick lenses. Now this is where it gets interesting, and in my opinion what a 35mm adapter is all about. you can use some very interesting trick lenseswith these adapters, like focalplane shifting lenses, or super wide fish eyes.

These would be great for music videos, and special effects.

Controlling DOF:

As i stated above, you may be tempted to just get the fastest lens possible, and just run from there. But when you run in to the problem of "everytime my actor breathes he goes out of focus" you will realise, hmmm maybe is should close my apeture down a little to deepen the DOF. However, now you have another problem. The camera cant see anything. One of the hidden curses(blessings?) of 35mm adapters is that you have to learn to light properly. Suddenly you need 2K watts of light to make a useable image indoors. So, you need F3.5 to keep the actor and his nose in focus, but now my adapter which loses 2 stops, incombination with the lens which is losing 3 stops, and my DVX which is losing another stop, means i need sunlight in a can to pull the shot off.

So learn to light. IT will be invaluable. (it will be invaluable anyway).

Where to get lenses? What to look for?

Go to pawn shops, Old vintage camera dealers, flea markets, garagesales, and even regualr camera repair shops. I wouldnt trust Ebay to much, cause one mans "great condition" is another mans unacceptable. You need to inspect the lens. And teh way to do this is to look through the back side of the lens..... this will reveal all its faults. look for Dirt suspended between the glass elements, air bubbles in the glass ( these cause little colored spots to appear in one place all the time on the film or GG), Scratches, and mold.

Now dirt or VERY small scratches on the outer surface of the front glass actually isnt too big of a deal unless you get a Lens flare from direct light. they wontshow up on the finihsed product. The light dispersion negates their effect quite a bit. However if you see any scrates on the back lens element, or even worse inside the lens thats bad.

Tiny tiny imperfections wont be too big of an issue, but just be aware of chips, cracks, and huge deep scratches.

Care and Cleaning:

Most of these lenses especially the brand name ones have special anti glare, anti color seperation coatings on them. Canon FD have them, i am not sure about Nikons. ( canon always boasts about its lens coatings). You CANNOT wipe these lenses with normal tissue paper. You need either special lens cleaning solution, ( read: Alchohol and water, mostly water) and a micro fiber cloth. the kind the Eye doctor gives you for you new anti glare Eye glasses. Be SUPER gentle. Avoid Finger prints on teh lenses, because the acids in your skin oil will eat at these coatings. I ahve a permaninet Finger print on my 50mm 1.4, because some one touched the lens, and i didin clean it for a couple weeks. It doesnt affect image quality too much, but its just annoying to have a tiny finger print you can never ge rid of.

Canon or Nikon?:

Ok both lens manufacturers are AWESOME. but canons have a switch that must be activated for the iris to be adjusted, other wise they jsut sit at open. Some FD lenses have a Apeture lock setting on the lens itself so you can set it where ever you like. You have to check that.

I dont know Too much about Nikons. but i know they were the professional standard for liek 30 years... so they are probably amazing.


OK you guys, heres an update. After having used a Letus 35 on a shoot, with Nikon lenses. I have to say, i would now change my reccomendation of lese manufacturer, to nikon. The ability to stop down quickly and easily with the 35mm lens is VERY usefull, and too much of a pain with the CAnon lenses. Stick with Nikon Lenses.

ok im tired now. i will update this with Grabs from my soon to be SGpro, illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of the various lenses i have.

28mm F2.8 (no name)
50mmF1.4 CAnon FD
125mmF2.0 Canon FD
200mmF3.5 Zenith
30-100Zoom F4.0-6.8 Konica

*************NEW SECTION************

The Lens, The Adapter and the DVX:

As stated before i was fortunate enough to sample two different 35mm adapters this past week. As far as settings go, Heres what i found make the most natural image.

Deatail: +3 (+7 if you want it nice and crisp)
Vdeatail: +5 (+7 " " " " " " " )
Chromalevel: -5 ( this makes it more old film Put the chroma in + numbers for MTV like saturation)
CineGamma D

The Cinegamma D is very important because of the Bokeh. ( the out of focus area) WHat happens is if in the background something is over exposed, and youre running Cinegamma, the tones go suddenly form bright to PURE white, and in a blurry part of the picture that looks awful having a sharp edge. The CineGamma D gives you some KNee protection and smooths out the trandsition in the Out Of Focus areas, making it look more natural.


OK everyone, heres a big suggestion. IF your 35 adapter can handle it, try to Shoot with all your lenes at about the same Fstop. for exapmle, if the brightest 24mm lens you can find is F2.8, Match all your lenses by turning the apetures down to about F2.8 when youre shooting. Now i know youre thingking, but wait i will lose light? WEll yes you will but if youre apetures ( well what you really need is matching Tstops) are similar, when you light your scene, your different lenses will produce a similar "brightness" across the different shots. trust me is a pain when youre wide angle shots are 3 stops darker than your MEd cu and CU. Even though it seems counter intuative, over light and make sure the exposures are matched up. it will look better and more "polished"

Im out.


Monitoring. There are many issues that people need to overcome when using 35 adapters, additional lighting, focus pulling and framing upside down. ( on certain adapters).

However, regardless of your adapter choice, lens choice, or camera, you need to monitor your footage. I recently came in to the blessed world of MArshall HD monitoring. I got one of thoes Marshall HDA analog 7" 480P monitors. IT is a true godsend. despite being kinda bulky and heavy, the ability to pull exact focus, frame, and move the camera without having to learn to think backawards and upside down is truly relieving and makes shooting a pleasure. Anyone teetering on the edge, and wondering if they "need" a monitor, the answer is a RESOUNDING YES!!!!!

I cant believe i worked without one before. i must have been insane. This however, leads me to my next point. the 35 adapter system is a seductive one. Promises of attractive footage, and instant "MOJO" lure you in to buying one. Spending upwards of a 1,000$ on the adapter alone! Then comes the cost of lenses, support system if neccesary, Follow Focus, and then finally the monitor. All in all, a proper 35adapter setup can cost you almost $4,500. Thats nearly as much as an HVX200!

I think people need to be aware of the "hidden" costs associated with the 35 system. Suddenly, film starts seeming cheaper and cheaper........ :D

All my best hope this was helpfull!

Timur, this was really quite enlightening! Thanks for posting all this stuff ... I love it when I actually learn something. :thumbsup:

Once you get up some grabs (or even before), this may be worth having one of the mods turning this into a sticky?
Excellent post. I just started looking for lenses, you're going to save people a lot of time by pointing them in the right direction.
Just wanted to add:

P+S Technik Mini 35 and the LETUS35XL are the only two 35mm Adaptors that connect directly into the CANON XL series camera bodies.

Great post Timur!
Last edited:
This is great stuff. Perhaps a sticky is in order? Something the gurus could add to:) Thanks for putting it up!
Hi TimurCivan,
I agree on most of the stuff you said, but I definitely think that the best adapter is the one that fits your needs.

"If you have Razor thing DOF, moving the camera, then the talent becomes increasingly difficult. It's really only possible if you have a dedicated Focus puller."

This can be a problem, but there are ways to get around it.

"Where to get lenses? What to look for?

Go to pawn shops, old vintage camera dealers, flea markets, garage sales, and even regular camera repair shops. I wouldn't trust Ebay too much, cause one mans "great condition" is another mans "unacceptable". You need to inspect the lens. The way to do this is to look through the back side of the lens..... this will reveal all its faults. Look for dirt suspended between the glass elements, and air bubbles in the glass, GG, scratches, and mold. These cause little colored spots to appear in one place all the time on the film.

The ebay thing is very true!! I just had a guy send me a lens that didn't look anything like the picture and the focusing gear was really poor. So now I'm having to deal with paypal to resolve the issue. What a headache. Ebay beware!!!

By the way my friend said the Currents album will be released in a couple of months.
oh cool, i will definitly buy it when it becomes available. i listen to their songs alot. i really like them.

twocik23 said:
Hi TimurCivan,
I agree on most of the stuff you said, but I definitely think that the best adapter is the one that fits your needs.

I didint say any one was better than any other though........ My preference is irrelevant. It's up to YOU to choose youre favorite adapter.
Last edited:


I have this really old PENTAX photography lens from my dad when he had his own camera. The lens is a prime lens (non-zoom), and I'm assuming the focal length of it is 50mm. Now, I've noticed that the lens hood says 49mm; and the UV filter it has on also says 49mm -- this leads me to think that maybe the 50mm on the lens actually refers to the diameter of the lens, not the focal length (since 49mm fits 50mm). How the hell do I tell what the focal length of the lens is? Also; any way to check to see the value of the lens (so I could tell how the quality is)? And, how would someone come about cleaning the lens? Should I use microfiber cloths, with regular glasses-cleaner liquid, or just an air-blower? It's a really old lens (10-30 years ago); but the lens part itself seems to be in good shape, although I see a lot of dust. I'm thinking that because the lens is so old, that it wouldn't be as crisp or sharp as the newer lenses. Should I just upgrade to new ones?
the focal length should be written on the inner lip of the lense in the front. Next to its Fstop rating. it should say something like "PENTAX--Opticamax---50mm F1.8 ----" etc. ( i made up the opticamax part just to give an example o whats probably on it.)

the 49mm is the filter thread size. the focal length is different.

Pentax lenses, (my dad had, and still swears by Pentax) are really good. if its a brand name one, like the pentax company made it, its probably very good. But like i said look through it backwarsds to see if the dust and crap is inside the lens or outside the lens. Or take a picture with it, if your dad still has the body and then examine the prints, see if the sharpness is acceptable. Or go buy a body, and use it for stills too. ( nothing makes your composition better than taking lots of pictures)

You see once you build up a collection of lenses, and you buy a decent camera body to go with it, suddenly youre a very well equipt Photographer.

Last edited:
my guess is that your pentax is a bayonet mount not their screw mount. If that is the case I recommend picking up a K1000 body to test the lenses out. It is cheap, has one of the best light meters ever in a camera, (I know professionals who still have a couple k1000s as backup cameras because of this), and that camera is a tank (meaning you can throw it up against a brick wall, put the lens back on and take a picture with it). Why I say this is because it is the perfect first camera because of its simplicity. It will allow you to learn the basics of exposure and dof that alot of newer cameras automatically do for ya. This will also help you out when you transition that lens into video.

As for cleaning the the lens, use a microfiber cloth and a lens cleaning solution after you have removed as much dust as possible with blowers and compressed air. If you don't you can still make scratches with the microfiber. Also if they are fairly nice lenses you can take them to a camera shop and have them calibrated and polished, this can drastically improve the quality because old lenses that have been sitting unused can grow a haze from dust an oils and many other things. They can also check for any fungus and sometimes can treat it so it is less likely to spread. The camera shop in my area does all this for $15 a lens.
Good post Timur. I just came back from lens shopping today, and I've been taking stock of my old gear, so I'll throw in a few notes. I used to do a lot of still photography, primarily with Nikon gear, so I feel like I have a pretty good handle on this.

Desireable optical characteristic

Definitely, not all lenses are created equally. In general, you are looking for the same characteristics in all lenses: SHARPNESS, SPEED, and image QUALITY. I've been a bit of a Leica snob from time to time, but the good news that for using these lenses with a video adapter, you don't really need to worry about SHARPNESS. Most lenses out there, even cheap Tamrons and Tokinas, will probably still resolve more sharply than your camera is capable of recognizing.

SPEED, on the other hand, becomes critical. How much light does the lens need? For this sort of application, you want the fastest lenses you can get. Realistically, this is an f/1.4, but for most lenses it'll be more like a f/2.8. In my opinion, anything slower than an f/4 or so risks being useless in anything but an outdoor setting with these cameras. Cheap zoom lenses will have variable speed... for instance quite a few will be f/3.5 at the wide end and more like f/4.5 at the telephoto end. This is something I like to avoid... I work strictly with constant-speed lenses. But on the other hand, variable speed lenses will often be MUCH cheaper.

QUALITY is a pretty broad term to describe all the other little things that go into the image. Chromatic Aberation is the big one: does the lens produce artificial color fringing when looking into highlights or under other circumstances? Some lenses (including the stock lenses on both the HVX and the HD100) will do this at the edges of the frame, but not the center, and it will also occur more often at the telephoto end. Generally, this is considered a bad thing, but it's also an aesthetic. Maybe you like it. There are cheap sorts of very long telephoto lenses known as Mirror Reflex, which operate differently from normal lenses. They are generally not of great quality, slow, and produce very curious focus bokeh. But I personally have used them on several projects, precisely because I thought that weird "bad" bokeh was good for it. This stuff is all subjective, really.

There's a few other serious considerations that have to be added in when adapting still lenses to motion pictures, which you would never have to worry about on your regular 35mm body. The first is breathing, which is the tendency for objects to shift size as they move in and out of focus. Lenses with bad breathing problems can look like you're doing a small zoom even when all you're doing is a focus rack. Everyone can pretty much agree this is a bad thing. So make sure you test out a lens you're thinking of buying and watch what happens to a subject carefully as you rack through the focus range. Some lenses breath a lot, some hardly at all.

Secondly, is the travel of the focus ring. Most modern lenses worth their salt will have internal focusing, meaning the lens doesn't change shape or size physically as you change zoom or focus. But others may actually significantly change length as you focus. That's bad because if you are trying to use your lens with a follow-focus, you can't! The focus ring moves not only rotationally, but also up and down along the length of the lens barrel... bad news. Today I was playing with two fairly identical Nikon 180mm lenses. Same lens, just a few years apart, but one had travel to the focus ring and the other did not. So even though the one with consistent focus ring position was in slightly worse condition, I had to buy it instead.

I guess the last thing to consider would be size and weight. If you have an adapter that's not rail-mounted, you'll probably be limited in how big and heavy the lenses you're getting can be, because you'll be putting a lot of strain on your camera's filter threads. I'd recommend you find a rail system.

That was a lot more than I intended to write, really. I'll talk about some of my own lenses in a second.
Here's my own collection of lenses at the moment, and some general comments:

Nikon 17-35mm AF-S f/2.8 - This is a top-notch lens. Way overkill for this sort of thing. Probably the sharpest lens I own for my Nikon, fast autofocus, and plenty of other features that are irrelevant to 35mm adapters. It cost over $1300. If you happen to also shoot stills, though, get one. It's great. The range is awesome and it doesn't have many of the weaknesses of zooms. It is a bit big and heavy (about 5x bigger than my 50mm, most non-photographers automatically assume it's the longer of the two!)

Nikon 50mm AF f/1.4 - This is the bread-and-butter standard lens. Fast, small, light, well-built, and with no distortion. It cost about $200 new. Everyone should have one. Mine is a few years old, and I'm told the new ones aren't as good. You might want to compare it with the current f/1.8 version, which is also cheaper. You could also save some money by going for an older manual focus version.

Nikon 55mm AI Micro f/2.8 - Awesome manual focus macro lens. I got this dirt cheap years ago. It's taken some serious abuse. I'm not sure it has much use on a 35mm adapter, but who knows?

Nikon 180mm AI f/2.8 - Very sharp manual focus telephoto. Much less breathing than the used 200mm lenses I compared it against. I got this one for about $300. Fixed-length, but other than that it's great. Fast and good feel to the focus.

Other lenses I have owned in the past or often borrow/rent:

Nikon 80-200mm AF f/2.8 - An absolutely great lens that I wouldn't hesistate to recommend to any photographer. The 70-200mm AF-S is essentially the same, but even nicer. Any of these lenses will run you well over $1000, though, even used, so if you're doing adapter work, I recommend an old manual focus or fixed-length lens.

Nikon 85mm AF f/2.0 - Really great lens for portraits. Tack-sharp, nice bokeh, nice feel to it. Not too cheap, though, and it's easy to find other lenses that will take you through similar focal lengths, so I might call it a bit of a luxury item. Check it out, though.

Nikon 20mm AF f/2.8 - A good sharp and fast wide-angle. It definitely causes some noticeable wide-angle distortion, but maybe you're into that. Once I got my 17-35mm, which seems to be superior in pretty much every regard, there was no reason for me to use this anymore.

Nikon 500mm f/8 Mirror Reflex - This is the most compact, lightweight 500mm lens you are likely to find. It is incredibly limited by the fact that it operates at a fixed slow speed of f/8... pretty much useless once it starts getting dark. It also has that quirky "halo" bokeh of reflex lenses which stands out. All that aside, it's the cheapest way to get this close to your subject, and it produces some interesting effects. I picked up a similar f/5.6 lens in Russia for about $200, which was unfortunately stolen. Note to amateur lens thieves: bigger doesn't necessarily mean better.

Tamron 28-200mm AF f/3.5-f/4.8 - This was the first SLR lens I ever owned. It's a piece of crap, as is any lens that goes from 28-200mm, but it was dirt cheap and great for travel when I didn't know any better. Aside from the huge focal range, there is nothing about this lens that would be called "good". The good news is, a lens this soft sucks for stills, but probably holds up just fine for video. Not that I'm recommending it, of course.

Pretty much everything else I've shot has been with Leica gear. Absolutely top-rate and absolutely overkill for this application, so I won't go into it here.