Archive for the ‘Zeiss 50mm f/0.7 lens’ Tag

More Ammo In My Favor For The Stupid Heads; An Italian Article Translation “Homage to an immortal KUBRICK AND THE LEGENDARY PLANAR 50mm f / 0.7”   Leave a comment

Hey Everybody, stanley-kubrick-1

I’ve got a bit of an addendum  to the last article about the lens used in Stanley Kubrick’s stunning period piece Barry Lyndon. Especially for all my camera department super tech geeks out there, Here’s a translation of an Italian article floating around the net about the history of the Planar F/0.7 50mm lens used in the 1975 film.

Very tech, very cool.


Homage to an immortal KUBRICK AND THE LEGENDARY PLANAR 50mm f / 0.7

animazione_barry_lyndontwo frames of Barry Lyndon shot with the Zeiss Planar 50mm f / 0,7 former NASA full aperture f / 0.7.

Note the wonderful bo-keh, the detachment plastic and the extreme focus of this perspective, born to shooting
35mm film infinity of space and used here about 6-7 feet from the subject, out of any scheme
logic of the project.


UPGRADING 21/11/2007


The mystique of the Planar 0,7 / 50, for the NASA militance shining and the masterpiece of Stanley Kubrick,
is much more intriguing considering the ancetres of the optical lens: when it was calculated, in the early ’60s, it was not
drawed from the white paper but dusting off the wartime projects of superfast IR-Objektive used in cathode
nacht-wandler for the Nazi’s weapons, in the Following upgrading you’ll find the drawing of the unprecedented
precursor of this lens and of other similar wartime Zeiss lenses, unknown untill now, and for the first time an high
resolution drawing of the Planar 50mm f / 0,7 with the Kollmorgen converter used in Barry Lyndon, with all quotes;
last but not least, I added a series of snaps form Barry Lyndon’s scenes where this lens was on strike.

The Zeiss Planar 50mm f / 0.7 lens is a very fabled, which had arisen as a dowry by an active life worthy of
a novel, passing from the hands of NASA (he was born for unspecified shooting in critical light conditions
in spaceflight preparation all’allunaggio human) to those of the master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, who adapted
laboriously this very special lens of a camera taken one of the higher flights of his career, signing
scenes by candlelight in the interiors of “Barry Lyndon”.

If all this were not enough to feed the aura of legend around this objective, equally exceptional and disturbing
is the origin of its optical design techniques, in fact, when the project of Planar 50mm f / 0.7 was started at the beginning of the 60s,
designers did not start from a blank sheet, but were inspired directly to documents relating to objectives superbright
intended for night vision with CRT, made ​​in the time of war for various weapon systems of the Nazi army, information
Technical saved from the chaos and Soviet hands thanks to the men of Operation Paperclip, which recovered the precious
patterns and put them at the disposal of the newly formed Western Zeiss, who by then was re-founding (first in Coburg and then
to Oberkochen), the novel contribution that follows compares the pattern of the Planar 50mm f / 0.7 (deliberate production
in 1966) with that of a UR-Objektive 70mm f / 1,0 realized in 1941 by Zeiss Jena for a vision device
infrared night

02the famous Planar 50mm f / 0,7 used by NASA and by Stanley Kubrick actually comes from
projects objectives superbright RH (Ultrarotstrahlung = infrared) made in the time of war
and constituted the primary objective of systems for infrared night vision (wandler)
applied in various weapon systems Nazis; diagram on the left refers to a 70mm f / 1,0 1941
and you can see how the Planar 50mm f / 0,7 is based on similar concepts: a group Gauss front
with two doublets glued and a rear group with the function of the field lens similar to
Smyth linse made famous in 1874 by the optician-Piazzi Smyth for the Petzval-type lens, in
both objectives the rear lens is almost in contact with the sensitive element (in Planar,
in particular, the space back focal was reduced to about 4mm), and the particular shape of the last
element of the 50mm leaves the door open to the hypothesis that this was originally intended
for use on cathode ray tubes in cascade, maybe used as amplifiers of the existing light, without
projectors IR (unusable space to similar distances)

03among the 42 well-Zeiss UR wartime intended for viewers who are IR
managed to take a census (including variants), these three models are the most similar
Optically the future Planar 50mm f / 0.7 designed over 20 years later: a DNA
really unexpected and disturbing …

as already seen in Leitz, Zeiss also home to the superbright viewers military
Infrared wartime derive from objectives achieved in mid-30s
and intended for use in radiology, at the instigation of the national documentation
on thoracic pathologies of the German population defined Programm offenbar;
this scheme is referred to a roentgenobjektiv of brightness with Zeiss f / 0.85, which
in turn already contains in germ all the features of Planar 50mm f / 0.7 final
a minimum of space back focal range (in this case, this objective working
directly in contact with the film and the last lens with a flat surface allowed
perfect register of the focal plane and scraping the emulsion)


The Planar 50mm f / 0,7 was calculated by Erhard Glatzel and his project went through
four prototypes intermediate before reaching the final configuration; Glatzel left
by a Gauss 50mm f / 1,0 (for 30 ° on the film format) manually calculated,
a double Gauss lens 10 to better distribute the forces on different elements and a lens
field almost at the focal plane, and this initial model was the subject of complex calculations,
operated both manually and automatically using an IBM 7090 computer, a tool
that in 1960 it cost 2.9 million U.S. dollars, here is the optical schemes of all versions,
from preliminary prototype final objective.

30The particular, the second lens manually split into a doublet collato passing
from the first to the second prototype, constituted the negative contribution to the sum of Seidel I,
but subsequent steps in computerized automatic distributed this contribution
uniformly dispersed in the two surfaces at the sides of the diaphragm, thus making
almost unnecessary complication in the front, the three front lenses present
in the third prototype were therefore simplified manually in a single lens, passing
then for a finishing touch to your computer to permanently optimize the scheme, the same
Glatzel pointed out the similarities with the aforementioned Roentgenobjektiv Carl Zeiss Jena f / 0,85,
arguing, however, that the transition to f / 0.7 represents a significant step forward.

 31The unpublished works of the MTF Zeiss Planar 50mm f / 0.7, measured at f / 0.7 on spatial frequencies
from 0 to 20 cycles / mm on a 10 ° on semidiagonale (half of the field, with guidance
sagittal and tangential) and at 14 ° on semidiagonale (edges of the format, always with
sagittal and tangential orientation), and of course these values ​​are modest but
perfectly justified by the opening extreme and seniority of the project.

32Erhard Glatzel, the father of Planar 50mm f / 0.7

(Picture: courtesy Larry Gubas)

An impressive overview of the IBM 7090, introduced in late
50s by Glatzel and used in optical computing this objective: as mentioned,
this monster cost then 2.9 million dollars or, if you prefer, 63,500 Dollars
monthly rental …


The copy of Planar 50mm f / 0,7 corresponding to the specifications of origin (no device
focus, Electronic Shutter Compur # 3) from the collection of the deceased and
the late Charles Barringer, a leading expert and collector former President of the Zeiss Zeiss

(Picture: Westlicht Photographica Auction – Vienna)

A copy of Planar 50mm f / 0,7 photographed at Oberkochen the dimensioned drawings in the original;
This specimen has a flange bayonet and a helical focusing
calibrated in feet.


The detail shows the scale of focus finely graduated (optics goes focheggiata to estimate
on metric scale) and the adjustable aperture from f / 0.7 to f / 8.


UPGRADING END 20/04/2011


The optical principle on which is based the calculation of Planar 50mm f / 0,7 and exceptional
brightness did not write anything new but was based on the preliminary draft made
in 1928 by Benjamin and Ellan Luboshez in 1937 by Maximilian Herzberger for Kodak;
the original design of Luboshez could be defined roughly a sort of “teleconverter
countdown “: in fact, it is a rear light unit (added in the calculation phase
the primary objective or objectives already set as accessory products) that intercepts
the beam back and it does converge on an image size less than the previous year by
Because the entrance pupil is not altered, the beam is as “concentrated”
(Imagine the classic trick of magnifying glass that focuses the sun’s rays
a bright point), and maintaining pupil aperture angle and field of view
unchanged on a smaller size we have a reduction of the focal length and a change
also for the gradient that defines the maximum brightness, which instead increases behold the
schemes elaborated in the draft Luboshez.

I highlighted in cyan and red primary objective the rear converging group:
maintaining the same entrance pupil (and therefore the same luminous flux and an equal angle of field)
rear projection is “focused” on a size smaller than the original, thus obtaining
a reduction in the effective focal length (same angle of view of the lower diagonal) and a
increase of the maximum brightness, since the luminous flux is “concentrated” on a
bottom surface; Luboshez in the draft was expected to be a simplified system and economic
consists of a single converging meniscus, is a most desirable option to four lenses, and finally a
“Universal” version designed for coupling with various targets already in production, and the destination
original of this project was the reproduction by fluoroscopy X-ray film, a field where
the weak fluorescence of the screen requires high brightness, while the chromatic aberration is not
been considered, since the fluorescence excited by X-rays is substantially monochromatic

A further evolutionary step in this area we owe it to calculations made in 1937 by Maximilian Herzberger
to the Eastman Kodak Company; Herzberger shooting the project and I Luboshez chamfer limits, evolving
the converging rear group in a model made even with the adoption of fluor krown acid glass to
low dispersion, the “defects” of the project consisted in the absence of Luboshez acromatizzazione in
presence of a strong curvature of field (Petzval sum due to the high intrinsic) and in an angle of
useful field rather narrow, the project evolved Herzberger was born with the aim of reducing the amount
Petzval and to obtain a sufficiently wide angle of field with a reduction of astigmatism without
to take over the coma, in turn reducing the coma and spherical aberration without penalizing the curvature of
field, the adoption of two glasses contained in dispersal also allowed a color correction exploitable
with the entire visible spectrum, and this project can be considered the forerunner of the concept at the basis of many
super-bright time of war and of the same Planar 50mm f70, 7; starting with a primary objective to
100mm f / 2,0 (conventional measures of reference), adding the converging group the focal effettica
was reduced to 40.65 mm, with a proportional increase in the maximum brightness of f / 2,0 to f/0.813, of course
on a smaller format.

The draft Herzberger of 1937 combined with the pattern of Planar 50mm f / 0.7
reveals many similarities, including the need for a space back focal really small;
as said, the last lens of the Planar is forged in the manner of the field lens of Piazzi-Smyth,
extensively used on superbright Germans of the last years of the war that
were calculated for coupling a cathode ray tube (for night vision goggles to
infrared), a lens which modified the field curvature of the conjugated back
and adapted to the curvature of the tube: the very limited space back focal
and the presence of this lens I suggests that even the Planar 50mm f / 0.7 may
be designed for NASA in view of a similar use, exploiting a
group in cascade with cathode-ray tube for shooting infrared or system
image intensifier, but this would not explain the presence of the burly
central shutter only necessary for photographic needs …

This diagram shows the operation of a classic rear teleconverter (multipliers
Focal commonly used by photographers) and group converged Luboshez and Herzberger,
then exploited also in Planar 50mm f / 0.7: while the multiplier diverges the beam projection,
distributing the brightness over a larger area than the original (but surpluses are not
exploited) and reducing the relative brightness of the system, the converging group acts in an opposite manner,
centralizing the luminous flux guaranteed by the entrance pupil of an area that is smaller than,
thus concentrating the beam and increasing the relative brightness; since the same angle of
field is guaranteed on a smaller paper size, also the focal length will be reduced by the same step;
of course to keep the original format will be necessary to prepare a primary objective with diameters
and redundant coverage

as regards the logic of the original NASA contract, it must be considered that it was not
a leap of faith: April 1, 1960 was already gone into orbit satellite Tiros I with a camera system
television cameras and infrared for meteorological use, and the need for very bright optics had
manifested when President John F. Kennedy proclaimed the need to accelerate the development of
space missions and a willingness to put a man on the moon before the decade of the 60s, with the budget tripled,
NASA He increased efforts related to the lunar missions and was planned to launch five shuttles Ranger
be put into lunar orbit to perform a photographic mapping range, including the
famous “dark side” always hidden and dimly lit, the first module Ranger was launched January 23, 1961
but only the Ranger IV (launched April 23, 1962) reached the lunar orbit without drawbacks, and these
modules boasted one of the onboard equipment SuperBright a goal to use photography, a
Gauss f / 1,0 designed in March 1953 by Pierre Angenieux in person, probably intended to conditions
critical lighting or the dark side of the satellite …. The Ranger IV impacted on the “dark side” and Angenieux
f / 1,0 rests in those silences still unexplored.

a summary of the original design conceived by Pierre Angenieux in person: it is
a lens f / 1,0 based on a classic Gauss, which also does not use any
floating most advanced available at the time

After this experience in mapping the dark areas of the Moon performed with
the Angenieux f / 1.0, it is possible that NASA engineers have found this
brightness still insufficient, and in anticipation of the famous Apollo project (formerly
presented in July 1960) have commissioned Zeiss optics yet
brighter, that is, the Planar 50mm f / 0,7.

UPGRADING END 28/12/2007


E ‘known to very few insiders that the Zeiss, after the realization of Planar
50mm f / 0.7, put his hand to his project, evolving into a versuch (prototype) that
9 used lenses instead of 8, a 50mm whose brightness was pushed even to
threshold f / 0.63, as confirmed by the late Walter pesonalmente Woeltche, the
substitute for Erhard Glatzel, this amazing versuch Planar 50mm f / 0,63 was not
ever produced and to this day he was completely ignorant of the optical structure, the pattern
that follows illustrates the section of the Planar 50mm f / 0.7 and – for the first time – even that
of its potential successor, the Planar 50mm f / 0,63.

The optical scheme of the prototype Planar 50mm f / 0,63 differs from that
the Planar 50mm f / 0,7 used by NASA and by Kubrick for adding
a meniscus earlier collective and the air spacing of the first doublet
glued, changes that do not have distorted the overall shape of the lens.

UPGRADING END 19/03/2010

a rare official image of the Planar 50mm f / 0,7 in the original configuration, scheduled for
NASA, the goal had a big central shutter Compur Electronic # 3 with times
1 “- 1/200” which was also the diaphragm and weighed 1.85 kg, and for the adaptation of the camera
Kubrick (an old Mitchell reflex, as required by the last lens almost leaning against the
film) the shutter was eliminated because of its bulk and replaced by a spacer of equal
draw, the goal appears to have been produced in 10 copies, of which 6 are provided to NASA, 1
remained at Zeiss and 3 then purchased by Kubrick (one of which is used as 50mm, another modified
with the adoption of an additional 36,5 mm and another – never used in the film – shortened to 24mm with
add a different bill), but in the catalog of manufacture of the Zeiss Oberkochen
is the production of a single copy, in 1966

the optical design of the base of the Planar 50mm f / 0,7 prefixed with the Kollmorgen used on unit
to change the focal length of the lens and convert to 36.5 mm f / 0.7 (as required by the master, who was
the focal length of 50mm a bit ‘tight 18x24mm for certain views on the format of the whole), whereas at the time
, there was no anti-glare multiple believe that the actual T of the complex by 36.5 mm was lower than the F / 0.7
said. The Extra Dimension 150 that reduced the focal length up to 24mm f / 0.7 was not used by Kubrick
due to an excessive distortion detected in the preliminary tests

together with an outline of the general data and the optical group overall was definitely
cumbersome, with a length of almost 40cm and a diameter of the front lens of more than 16cm
back focal free space is exactly 5.27 mm

After these documents unpublished let’s see what he was able to produce the great Kubrick
using this objective, so perilously adapted, during the famous shooting to light of
candle of the movie “Barry Lyndon” and for this purpose I made the snapshots taken from
the highlights of the film in which the Planar 50mm f / 0.7 was used (with inverted push in ISO 100 +1
ISO 200), either alone or with additional Kollmorgen and resulting focal 36.5 mm.


note chromatic aberration on candles

highlight the unique detachment plastic

PLANAR 50mm f / 0.7 + ADDITIONAL KOLLMORGEN (36.5 mm f / 0.7)

Note the increased softness in the rendering at full aperture with the additional
not foreseen by the original project Zeiss

Note the cometary shape assumed by the flames of the candles out of focus behind O’Neal
compared to those in focus on the table

A truly fascinating and incredible history, an intrigue, a tumult of current and emotions
that the Nazi secret weapons goes to the space and a masterpiece of cinema: everything
This is embodied by Planar f / 0.7, which call myth is frankly an understatement.



Till Next Time. Stay Tuned


images-1 tumblr_m8vbj64DKp1rs1ef6o1_500


Barry Lyndon’s Two Super Lenses Explained And The Familiar Ballad Of “I’m Right, Your Wrong Stupid Head “   1 comment

Hey Everybody,

Stanley Kubrick Barry Lyndon

Being someone who has been ultra fascinated with the process of film making since early childhood and involved with the entertainment industry for work for 19 years now in many different positions, there has always been one figure in particular that has had me coming back for more again and again re watching his films; Stanley Kubrick really is a master onto his own. Technically he did things no other film maker could pull off today, even with newer technology and changes to the process; He achieved shots which are literally impossible to recreate with today’s cameras and lenses . Of course for the people in the know, I am referring in particular to Barry Lyndon and the unbelievable candle lit shots he created using his unique brand of cinematic alchemy.tumblr_m7dz5kQSq21ry14qgo1_500

Often during set work there is a lot of discussion and genuine love amongst crew members for certain films and there creators that bring us together and divides us. Every once in a while the conversation move into the territory of disagreements much like two young boys talking about which action figure is better. The major difference being the technical numbers, understanding of the equipment and the latitude of the lenses and lighting to give the film maker the achieved look they desire. Since the switch over to digital from actual film the major thing I’ve noticed is the lack of that knowledge more that not in the younger generation. Very few younger directors even understand that technical side anymore and more disturbing it seems like a lot of them don’t even care to. I’ve even met a few young directors of photography ( DP’s) seemingly that have stopped learning about the extremes of what can be achieved through lighting and lens in camera as apposed to just getting an image and playing with it more in post production on the computer. To me it all comes down to understanding film history, whether a director, DP, actor or just a lover of film, understanding history equals understanding the process to the fullest possible extremes and possibilities of achieving the most special cinematic magic.  barry-lyndon-1975-tou-01-g_528x297

I recently got into a discussion with a uncharacteristically cool creative ad agency guy from New York about Kubrick and all his films. We spent a long time in pre production and in between shots on set discussing the Shining and 2001, but eventually we got to Barry Lyndon stuff which I still think is Kubrick’s most amazing film technically and it tends to get better for me the more I learn about the latitude of lenses and old film cameras. After a few shoot days I eventually realized I was having a third party discussion with the DP though one of the ad guys colleagues that was often listening in and offering some comments here and there. Apparently I didn’t know what I was talking about according to this DP, who wouldn’t actually come over and have the discussion himself with me, which I found a bit odd. The thing is, if this guy had done 2 minutes of internet research he would realize that I was absolutely right on. I’m obsessive about learning how shots in my favorite film are done, especially Kubrick stuff. Anyone on set in Vancouver that has started film discussions with me can attest to that; Out of pure obsessive interest I’ve done years of research on Kubrick alone. vlcsnap-2010-12-11-14h07m17s94

A lot of the Barry Lyndon conversation had to do with the speed of the lens, where he acquired it and the tech specs on the ever so special converted Mitchell BNC rear process camera that Kubrick used for the candle lit scenes. Really the basics you need to know is the 50 mm F/0.7 lens (a 100% faster than any other film lens)  which reportedly cost a million dollars, was one of ten from NASA built by Zeiss for ultra low level light satellite photography . This lens has never been available to the film industry for use, which I know first hand because I went and talked for awhile to the head rental guy for the last 15+ years at Clairmont Camera in North Vancouver. (Thanks to Andrew for putting up with my constant questions over the years ). One must ask yourself, how did Kubrick even know the lens ever existed if it’s not on any rental manifest available in the world, The fastest lens available today is an F/1.3 .

large_barry_lyndon_blu-ray_8Obviously with the constant improvement of digital imaging chips, cameras and computers more and more is being done in post production faster and cheaper. A sort of “new speak” is being developed constantly that is taking the process away from classic technique, but I still find myself not enjoying the look of digitally shot movies as much as the classic film stuff.  Especially someones films like Kubrick with brilliant technique and execution are a treat for me to re watch on Blu-Ray at home.


A bit of schooling on the Barry Lyndon lens and camera subject below for those that are interested.


Two Special Lenses for “Barry Lyndon” by Ed DiGiulio (President, Cinema Products Corp.)

From: American Cinematographer

How the stringent demands of a purist-perfectionist film-maker led to the development of two valuable new cinematographic tools.

My first contact with Stanley Kubrick was when he was referred to me by our mutual friend, Haskell Wexier, ASC, during Kubrick’s preparation for “A CLOCKWORK ORANGE”. Haskell indicated to him that I and my company were very responsive to the demanding needs of professional filmmakers, especially when it came to coming up with unique solutions to difficult probems.

For “CLOCKWORK” we purchased a standard Mitchell BNC for Kubrick and overhauled it, but did not reflex it or modify it in any special way. Kubrick’s attitude has always been that he would rather work with a non-reflexed BNC and thereby gain tremendous flexibility and latitude in adaptation of special lenses to the camera – as was subsequently the case on “BARRY LYNDON”. For “CLOCKWORK” w e also supplied the major accessory items for which we are well known, such as the “Joy Stick” zoom control, the BNC crystal motor and the Arri crystal motor.

50mm 0.7 Zeis lens  1 2 3(Top) the Zeiss 50mm, f/0.7 lens, shown in special focusing-mount (and with adjustable shutter blade removed). (Center) in front, the specially modified Zeiss 50mm, f/0.7 lens. Behind it, the lens before modification. (Bottom) Zeiss 50mm f/0.7 lens with Kollmorgen adaptor, creating an effective focal length of 36.5mm.

2 5 6(Top) Zeiss f/0.7 lens in special focusing mount. (Center) Lens with Kollmorgen adaptor – 36.5mm focal length. (Bottom) The Cine-Pro T/9 24-480mm zoom lens, shown with J-4 zoom control.

At the very early stages of his preparation for “BARRY LYNDON”, Kubrick scoured the world looking for exotic, ultra-fast lenses, because he knew he would be shooting extremely low light level scenes. It was his objective, incredible as it seemed at the time, to photograph candle-lit scenes in old English castles by only the light of the candles themselves! A former still photographer for Look magazine, Kubrick has become extremely knowledgeable with regard to lenses and, in fact, has taught himself every phase of the technical application of his filming equipment. He called one day to ask me if I thought I could fit a Zeiss lens he had procured, which had a focal length of 50mm and a maximum aperture of f/O.7. He sent me the dimensional specifications, and I reported that it was impossible to fit the lens to his BNC because of its large diameter and also because the rear element came within 4mm of the film plane. Stanley, being the meticulous craftsman that he is, would not take ‘No” for an answer and persisted until I reluctantly agreed to take a hard look at the problem.

When the lens arrived, we could see it was designed as a still camera lens, with a Compur shutter built into the lens. The diameter of the lens was so large that it would just barely fit into the BNC lens port, leaving no room for an additional focusing shell. As a consequence, we had to design a focusing arrangement so that the entire lens barrel rotates freely in the lens port. To avoid possible binds that might result from this unconventional mode of operation, we added a second locating pin to the standard BNC lens flange, so that the two pins securely held the lens barrel concentric with the lens port during operation.

The problem of the close proximity of the rear element to the film plane was a much more difficult matter to resolve. To begin with, we removed the adjustable shutter blade, leaving the camera with only a fixed maximum opening. We then had to machine the body housing and the aperture plate a considerable distance inward so that the fixed shutter blade could be pulled back as far as possible toward the film plane.

Naturally, the Compur shutter had to be dismantled and the iris leaves altered so that they could be manually operated in the normal manner. Calibrating the focus scale on the lens presented quite a problem, too. A lens as fast as this has an extremely shallow depth of field when shooting wide open, so Kubrick understandably wanted to have as broad a band spread on the scale as possible. To do this we used an extremely fine thread for the focusing barrel and this resulted in a scale which required two complete revolutions to go from infinity down to approximately 5 feet. We had to stop at 5 feet or it would have taken several more revolutions to bring it to the near focus point. Kubrick agreed that this was as close a focus as he would require, and that stopping at two revolutions would make the scale less ambiguous.

Remembering that this lens was to be used on a non-reflexed BNC and, further, that the rear element of the lens came within 4mm of the film plane, an additional problem was that the camera could not be racked over to the viewing position if the lens were in its normal filming position. Accordingly, we designed a safety interlock switch so that the lens had to be rotated a full nine revolutions out before the micro switch would trip, permitting the camera to be racked over. In this manner we protected the rear element of the lens from being inadvertently smashed if the operator attempted to rack over before the lens was moved forward sufficiently.

7Ed DiGiulio, President of Cinema Products Corporation, shown holding the new Cine-Pro 20-to-1 (24mm-480mm) lens, which was originally designed at the request of Stanley Kubrick specially for filming “Barry Lyndon”. The Zeiss 50mm, f/0.7 lens, with the Kollmorgen adaptor, is mounted on the non-reflexed Mitchell BNC camera utilized to shoot the film’s candlelight sequence.

8To protect the rear element of the Zeiss 50mm, f/0.7 lens (which was within 4mm of the film plane), a special safety interlock switch was designed so that the lens had to be rotated a full nine revolutions out before the micro-switch would trip, permitting the camera to be racked over.

At this point Kubrick complained that the single 50mm focal length was too limiting and that what he required was a wider-angle lens of the same speed. He began thinking in terms of various anamorphosing schemes or other optical tricks to widen the angle of the lens we had. I told him that before doing anything as mind-boggling as this I would check with some of the optical experts I knew to see if there were a simpler way. As luck would have it, Dr. Richard Vetter of Todd-A-O, a man whose optical expertise I’ve always held in high esteem, suggested to me that the result I was trying to achieve could probably be accomplished by using a projection lens adapter, designed by the Kollmorgen Corporation, which was originally intended to modify the focal length of 70mm projection lenses in theatres so that the image format could exactly match the size of the screen.

We purchased one of these adapters, mounted it to the front of the lens, and after some optical and mechanical manipulation we were pleased to see that the effective focal length of our composite lens system was 36.5mm. The aperture of the new 36.5mm lens remained at f/0.7 and its effective aperture was reduced only slightly by the minor light absorption in the two front elements. We sent this lens on to Kubrick and, again, he was ecstatic with the results. However, being the demanding technical genius that he is, Stanley Kubrick urged us to go further and see if we could come up with a still wider angle lens. Again I turned to Dr. Vetter, and this time he provided me with a “Dimension 150” lens adapter which, when mounted to the front of still another Zeiss 50mm prime lens, gave us an effective focal length of 24mm. However, at this point our improvisational engineering techniques began to catch up with us and Kubrick determined that the lens gave a bit too much distortion, so that he would not wish to intercut photography from this lens with photography from the other two.

9The Zeiss 50mm and 36.5mm, f/0.7 lenses used to film candlelight sequences for “Barry Lyndon” without the addition of artificial light were originally still-camera lenses developed for use by NASA in the Apollo Moon-landing program, and modified by Cinema Products Corp. The 50mm lens, shown here in focusing mount, had to have the adjustable shutter blade, necessary for still photography, removed for filming.

As a technician and not a creative artist, I asked Kubrick the obvious question: Why were we going to all this trouble when the scene could be easily photographed with the high-quality super-speed lenses available today (such as those manufactured by Canon and Zeiss) with the addition of some fill light. He replied that he was not doing this just as a gimmick, but because he wanted to preserve the natural patina and feeling of these old castles at night as they actually were. The addition of any fill light would have added an artificiality to the scene that he did not want. To achieve the amount of light he actually needed in the candlelight scenes, and in order to make the whole movie balance out properly, Kubrick went ahead and push-developed the entire film one stop – outdoor and indoor scenes alike. I am sure that everyone who has seen the results on the screen must agree that Kubrick has succeeded in achieving some of the most unique and beautiful imagery in the cinematic art.


(Left) Specially machined aperture plate to accommodate the Zeiss 50mm, f/0.7 lens. (Right) The specially machined aperture plate in position in the specially machined camera body housing, both designed to accommodate the modified super-fast lens. Kubrick refused to settle for a standard high-speed lens and the addition of artificial light because he wanted to re-create the natural patina and mood of stately houses illuminated solely by candlelight, as they were during the period of the film’s story.

On “A CLOCKWORK ORANGE”, Kubrick had made effective use of a 20-to-1 zoom lens that he had rented from Samuelson Film Service in London. The closing scene of the movie, with a long slow pull-back from the hero of the story as he walks along the river, is a prime example of its application.

Kubrick likes to own all of his own equipment even to the extent of building his own very modest location vehicle. This may be partly an ego trip, but I think it is mainly due to the fact that he is meticulous about the care and maintenance of his equipment and is, therefore, very uncomfortable with equipment that someone else has used. In any event, for whatever reason, Kubrick insisted that I build him a 20-to-1 zoom lens for “BARRY LYNDON”. What followed was a series of phone calls, telexes, and letters between Kubrick and myself and between me and the Angenieux Corporation, who were, in fact, the suppliers of the basic zoom components for all of these 20-to-1 zoom lenses. Through it all, Kubrick displayed the kind of technical knowledge and skill, rare in modern filmmakers, that enabled him to define the problem precisely and specify what had to be done to achieve the lens he wanted.

We went ahead with his program and were just able to put together a working prototype, still not properly finished or calibrated, so, that Kubrick would have it in time for the filming. Again he was delighted with the results, as seen in a number of exterior sequences in the film. We subsequently completed the design of this lens – the Cine-Pro T9 24-480mm zoom lens – and have built and sold several of these lenses. (And now that Kubrick has finished shooting the picture, we have finally completed the construction of his prototype lens.)

My relationship with Stanley Kubrick has been one of the most unusual, yet intellectually stimulating, that I have ever known. We have spent countless hours in telephone conversations, and written literally hundreds of letters and telexes back and forth. Yet I have never met the man! I felt sure I would while in London attending the Film ’73 exhibition with my wife, Lou. We were escorted to his combination home-and-office by his executive producer, Jan Harlan. But when we arrived, Kubrick was out scouting locations for “BARRY LYNDON” and expressed his regrets at not having been there to meet us. We were, however, very graciously entertained by his lovely wife Christiane, who is an accomplished and recognized artist in her own right.

This minor frustration aside, it has been an exciting and stimulating experience working with a man of Kubrick’s consummate skills and talents on his recent film projects. He currently has me investigating another camera/optical scheme he has in mind which I think I should keep confidential until he has had a chance to use it. Undoubtedly, it will be used on his next film project (a project which I look forward to with a mixture of trepidation and excitement).

Our company motto is: “Technology in the Service of Creativity.” I cannot think of a more fitting example of our motto at work than the modest role my company and I played in the making of “BARRY LYNDON”.


Till Next Time. Stay Tuned.