Yes! It’s true people. I couldn’t believe it until I tried it out myself. We have a pretty remarkable solution for pulling focus on a good number of cine c-mount lenses and so far the results have been very solid with the new indiSYSTEM SNAP! Collar. Not for your dog, for your smaller lenses! It’s a beautiful thing.
For many c-mount lens users using the m4/3 system can be rewarding but a little challenging. The issues of the smaller image circle for m4/3 use and vignetting make it not ideal by many but there’s a lot to be said about the character of these lenses. I think they are still worthy of being used especially for still photography but also for movie making. One of the hurdles of using these lenses to make movies with a camera like the GH1 is that it is so difficult to pull focus because the lenses are small making it impossible for subtle focus changes. When you have a smaller c-mount lens on this camera any slight movement focusing your lens will show up on screen and effect your image in a very big way.
That’s why currently the main folks who use c-mount lenses with the m4/3 system are still photography folks because they can live with the focusing annoyances while still getting some pretty amazing images out of these little lenses. But most of these c-mount lenses were made to shoot moving images and I’m happy to say we may be breathing a bit of movie life into these old film lenses once again.
Tim Ovel from indiSYSTEM has come up with a pretty darn good solution for those who want to pull focus with a gear and a follow focus using cine c-mount lenses with his new SNAP! Gear Collar. The piece fits on the lens like a collar and is slipped on and secured to a 70mm SNAP! gear. It’s that simple. Once SNAP! gear snaps together, It’s not going anywhere. The magnets are super strong. I tested this several times by rotating the gear back and forth by hand pretty strongly and the gear stays on nice and strong.
Part of this solution came out of some tests that I was doing with the SNAP! gear. Over all, I’ve been pretty impressed with the SNAP! gears and I was brainstorming with Tim on how the SNAP! gear can be modified to accept smaller lenses. Ideally, it would be great to get some smaller SNAP! gear sizes from the 35mm to 50mm range but it would be fairly expensive so Tim came up with a few alternative solutions. In our first test, Tim sent me some very sturdy foam and I tried to cut out and create an insert between the 70mm gear and the lenses but it did not work. The foam did not have any center support and the lens would basically slip out from the gear whenever I pulled focus. Then Tim had a great idea of creating smaller diameter slips or collars that would essential fit snugly between a SNAP! 70mm gear and the lens being used. He created a few samples in the shop and sent a few out to me. I tried it and was really blown away. It securely slipped into the 70mm SNAP! and like a dog collar securely fit around the lens with a very snug secure fit. We had ourselves a winner!
The pictures in this post demonstrate the use of the collar with Kodak Cine Ektar lenses. Theses are older 16mm lenses that were made by Kodak and used on their Cine-Kodak Special II between 1948 and 1961. From talking to folks like Steve Serota and others who grew up with these lenses, the Cine Ektars were some of the best c-mount lenses made in the U.S. for 16mm film cameras. These lenses have more recently been growing in popularity with the m4/3 system because they are one of the best lenses to focus with for still camera use. Also, on the Ektar 25mm 1.4 and even smaller Ektar II 25mm 1.4 the focus ring is on the very front of the lens which is ideal for using the SNAP! collar.
Here’s some brief tips using the SNAP! Collar with the 70mm SNAP! Gear
1) Make sure you chose a collar that allows no more than 7mm of space between the collar and the lens you intend to use. To fill the gap between the lens and the collar Tim provides you with 5mm and 1mm “squish” which is like a spongy tape with sticky adhesive on one side. The squish fits on the inside collar to hold your lens in place. In my tests, a space between 7mm and smaller gives the best secure feel for your lens. You can place two strips of 5mm squish on top of each other but from my tests it’s much better if you don’t.
2) Place a 1mm strip of squish on the inside of the 70mm gear where the collar slips into the SNAP! gear if you find the collar more snug. When you snap the gear together the collar should feel a tiny bit larger and when you squish the gear together you’ll see the magnets engage and the squish will compress and tighten the collar and your lens.
3) This is all based on trail and error depending on your lens and the collar size. Always start placing the squish on the inside collar first and place the collar over the lens and see if it fits your lens properly then slip the collar into the 70mm gear. If it’s loose then put some 1mm squish on the inside of the 70mm gear. If it’s too tight you can trim the squish down with a fine pair of scissors.
4) When you have the SNAP! gear and collar on your c-mount lens before you place it on your camera make sure that you do the twist test. Turn the gear firmly back and forth to make sure the gear is aligned properly and is nice and snug and secure. You should do it fairly firm and fast holding the lens in your hand and rotating the gear. If it is secure then that gear will not move. It should not slip or move from your lens. If you do see a problem that then you need a little extra squish.
The ideal lenses to use are lenses that have a focus ring on the front of the lens because the SNAP! gear must clear the GH1 body but there are some lenses that will still work where the focal ring rests on the middle of the lens. So far the Kodak Cine Ektars are a great fit but some other lenses work very well too including the Computar 25mm f/1.3 and Yvar 75mm f/2.5 lens. One zoom lens that works perfectly that I was not expecting to work was the Angenieux Zoom Type L2 and Type L3 1:2.2/17-68. I wasn’t expecting this lens to work because the lens rotates far forward but the extra width of the SNAP! gear give enough room togo from MFT to infinity. Iit was made for this lens and works beautifully.
I’ll be posting footage and a demo soon. My computer was out of commission this weekend so I am a bit delayed but for now enjoy these pics. Trust me it works.
These are definitely exciting times to see these old lenses being used in this way. I think the indiSYSTEM SNAP! gear and collar can be exciting for filmmakers who want to use c-mounts and other small lenses and I think for still photographers may also think about using the SNAP! gear and collar by itself because it is far easier to focus with the larger wheel than off the lens. There’s a little more torque and you have much more control over focusing just using the gear as without a follow focus. It really works well and helps make focusing smooth and easy with these c-mount lenses for the very first time.