Cinematographer/director Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT Pro dropped by yesterday and very kindly gave us two vintage M42-mount manual-focus prime lenses, a Panagor MC 28mm f/2.8 and a Pentacon 50mm f/1.8.
Both lenses are in excellent condition and are a reminder of how useful such lenses are for shooting video with recent and current generations of hybrid cameras equipped with focus peaking.
This morning I googled adapters for these lenses and an Australian camera accessories company came up in the search results – Gobe Corp Pty Ltd, headquartered in Byron Bay.
I don’t know anything about Gobe’s products other than what is published in their website so cannot make any recommendations right now, but am pleased to note that they state that they plant five trees for every purchase made of their their products.
I will now be looking for hands-on reviews of Gobe products, especially of their fixed and variable neutral density filters, UV filters and lens adapters.
Camera-wiki.org – Panagor– “[Jaca Corporation] are most famous for their Elicar and Panagor brand lenses, made by a variety of Japanese lens manufacturers which included Komine and Kino Precision.”
Leeming LUT Pro – “Leeming LUT Pro™ is the world’s first unified, corrective Look Up Table ( LUT ) system for supported cameras, designed to maximise dynamic range, fix skin tones, remove unwanted colour casts and provide an accurate Rec709 starting point for further creative colour grading. Multi-camera shoots are now much easier, because you are starting with a common, colour-matched baseline, meaning much less time trying to match cameras in post before starting your creative grading.“
Wikipedia – Pentacon – “The name Pentacon is derived from the brand Contax of Zeiss Ikon Kamerawerke in Dresden and Pentagon, as a Pentaprism for Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras was for the first time developed in Dresden. The cross section of this prism has a pentagonal shape. Pentacon is best known for producing the SLR cameras of the Praktica-series as well as the medium formatcamera Pentacon Six, the Pentacon Super and various cameras of the Exa series.”
“Polar Pro is slowly becoming one of my favorite companies. As with Aputure and Blackmagic Design, it seems they’re doing this crazy thing where they listen to their customers and make products that actually help people. So, that being said, the new “Peter McKinnon” branded filters are, quite frankly, super dope….
The filter is a fused, quartz glass, variable ND filter with apparently the lowest refractive index currently available….
The stop indicators are pretty rad, and they can really help you get the shot you want — perfectly exposed and consistent (as all things should be)….”
Available in 2-5 and 6-9 stop variations.
Preset stop range eliminates any chance of cross polarization.
Zero vignetting down to 16mm focal length lenses.
Pure Fused Quartz ensures superior optical clarity over any glass on the market.
Includes a DefenderSlim cover for fingerprint-free installation.
PolarPro Variable ND Filter, Peter McKinnon Edition
PolarPro Variable Neutral Density Filter, Peter McKinnon Edition, on Sony Alpha camera with Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lens.
PolarPro Variable Neutral Density Filter, Peter McKinnon Edition, on Sony Alpha camera with Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lens.
PolarPro Variable Neutral Density Filter, Peter McKinnon Edition, with quartz glass element.
PolarPro Variable Neutral Density Filter, Peter McKinnon Edition, 2 to 5 stops.
PolarPro Variable Neutral Density Filter, Peter McKinnon Edition, 6 to 9 stops.
PolarPro Variable Neutral Density Filter, Peter McKinnon Edition., Como Set comprising 2 to 5 stops and 6 to 9 stops filters.
Variable neutral density filters aka VNDs are a mainstay of independent documentary movie production and the best are anything but cheap.
Given that one or two VNDs can replace five or more fixed density value neutral density filters, prices of the best VNDs compare well with those of sets of fixed NDs, so sticker price shock should not be a consideration if one is going for the best and most versatile production kit, one that will last for years through thick and thin.
PolarPro’s QuartzLine range of UV filters, fixed density ND filters and Circular Polarizers has been quietly satisfying the needs of drone operators, photographers and videographers with its brass traction-framed filters, and the company recently came to my attention with advance mention of a new concept in VND filters.
That new type of VND was shown off at NAB 2019, was covered by The Beat, and has been selling like crazy direct from the PolarPro online store.
I have never had the pleasure of using or seeing any PolarPro products in real life, but from what I have read they are outstanding.
I have been researching possible replacements for my ageing VND, a Genustech 77mm Eclipse ND Fader that was the most-recommended when I got back into moviemaking, and have decided to standardize on 82mm filters with step-up rings to help minimize vignetting when using them on wide lenses.
I began replacing my aluminium step-up rings with the excellent knurled brass traction frame step-up rings made by Breakthrough Photography a while ago, and have some Breakthrough Photography fixed ND, UV and CPL filters with which I am well pleased.
I discovered that brass filter frames are far less prone to binding than aluminium ones, and that knurled frames are better than non-knurled, the more knurling the better.
It was a little disappointing to learn that PolarPro’s Peter McKinnon Variable ND Filter comes with aluminium frames rather than brass ones but I am hoping for the best with their performance in the field and am waiting for reviews by well-qualified professional users to appear.
I am impressed that PolarPro has chosen to issue its VND in two densities, 2-5 and 6-9 stops, a wise move given the high base ISOs of many contemporary hybrid cameras.
“… Neutral Density Filters are a necessary tool for exposure control, but does their price tag really affect their quality? Today Griffin sits down with 23 ND filters that range in different price tiers from $5 all the way to $580 to see! Today we hard tested 23 ND filters for their color and image quality, flare resistance, and their usefulness in timelapse situations. We test a range of ND’s [sic] from a set of general purpose ND3 filters, to Variable Density Filters, to heavily graded ND10 filters for their use in time-lapse photography. While every type of ND filter has it’s own use, we mainly set out to see if the price tag really affected image quality, and whether variable ND’s were much worse than single glass ND’s. …”
Independent moviemaker and Panasonic Lumix brand ambassador Griffin Hammond’s documentary production insights and training have proven invaluable over the years since I invested in Lumix Micro Four Thirds cameras primarily for video.
The previous incarnation of the recently rejuvenated Indy Mogul YouTube channel not so much but that looks set to change now that it has been taken over by Ted Sim of the Aputure moviemaking equipment company and Griffin Hammond himself.
I don’t know anything about Mr Sim, Aputure and its products at the moment but Mr Hammond is a different story, having finally met him at the last SMPTE Sydney trade show after following his video work online for some time.
Clearly it is past time to look into Aputure’s products if I can find a local stockist for them.
Meanwhile, back to neutral density filters, both fixed and variable.
Variations in sharpness, colour casts and the dreaded X were considerations when I was searching for the best and most economical neutral density filters to buy when I got back into digital video and photography a few years ago.
I had used sets of square and rectangular high-end cinema filters for attachment to movie cameras via matte boxes years before, but no longer have the sorts of budget to afford such things nor the desire to cart them all about any more.
When I started looking into screw-on fixed and variable neutral density filters the most recommended brand at the time was Singh-Ray but the company’s VND cost a fortune and was out of reach.
Instead I settled on Genustech’s Eclipse Fader VND after reading a number of recommendations by independent documentary and music video cinematographers and opted for the 77mm version along with a set of aluminium step-up rings to common sizes.
The Genustech Fader acquitted itself well through a number of small projects but recently I began looking for replacements, whether fixed or variable NDs or both, that had the least possible colour cast and the maximum sharpness.
I am also considering making 82mm filters my standard for maximum versatility given some current and future lenses I may add to my kit have wider front elements than did my limited selection of starter lenses some years ago.
Australian cinematographer/director Paul Leeming recently showed me the stripped-down travel version of his Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K kit and how he attaches his 82mm Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra fixed ND filters via the Manfrotto Xume magnetic filter adapter system for fast easy and secure filter swapping.
Vignetting at the widest focal length is a consideration with the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art zoom lens with Metabones Speed Booster attached though Mr Leeming assured me that, for the feature film he recently shot on the larger version of his BMPCC 4K rig, the vignetting was acceptable.
I continue to research the options but have now settled on the 82mm filter diameter and step-up rings made of brass rather than aluminium, which has a tendency to bind when screwing them on and off in the field.
I may well choose another brand of variable neutral density filter, bearing in mind factors like colour cast, sharpness, the x-effect at maximum density, the absence or presence of a self-locking device, and, now that cameras are appearing with higher base ISOs when shooting HLG footage in particular, a maximum density in the 10 or 11 stop range.
I may also add a set of 82mm fixed value neutral density filters for the other cameras I use and will most likely stick with Breakthrough Photography brand fixed NDs for that as I am rather fond of the company’s beautifully designed and made knurled brass-framed UV, CPL and ND filters.
Other screw-on circular fixed and variable neutral density filters and step-up rings
Genustech Eclipse Fader Variable Neutral Density (ND) Filter, once the most recommended variable ND and still one I keep in my documentary moviemaking kit. This VND gives you 2 to 8 stops of neutral density.
Aurora Aperture PowerXND II VND: “The PowerXND-II 128 is a 1-7 stop variable ND filter while the PowerXND-II 2000 is a 5-11 stop variable ND filter. With both filters users can control light reduction from 1 to 11 stops, making them highly versatile tools for general photography and videography applications.”
SLR Magic self-locking 82mm Variable Neutral Density VND Filter.
SLR Magic 86mm Solid Neutral Density 1.2 Enhancer Filter, 4-stop, to go with SLR Magic 82mm Variable Neutral Density Filter. The VND gives you 1.3 to 6 stops of density and adding the Enhancer to the front of it adds an extra 4 stops of density, totalling 10 stops. The Enhancer also adds extra ultraviolet and infra-red filtration.
SLR Magic 82mm Fixed Neutral Density Filter, 3.0, 10-stop. SLR Magic recently released fixed ND filters to complement the company’s highly-regarded VNDs.
Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Fixed Neutral Density (ND) Filter, available in a range of filter diameters from 39mm to 127mm and a range of densities from 1 stop to 16 stops.
Breakthrough Photography Magnetic Wheel and Magnetic Filter. The company had a Kickstarter campaign for this new filter attachment system but it does appear to have reached the Breakthrough Photography online store yet.
Sensei Pro brass knurled step-up ring. I prefer these to the company’s aluminium knurled and unsnarled step-up rings but knurled aluminium is better than unknurled in my experience.
The XUME magnetic filter attachment system was invented by an independent moviemaker then sold to Manfrotto. It appears that XUME products are not available in every territory where Manfrotto is distributed, including Australia. I would love to see and try them out myself before investing in equipping every lens with XUME adapters.
Xume filter adapter attached to step-up ring attached to lens.
ND filter attached to filter adapter via filter holder.
Lens cap attached to adapter, step-up ring and lens.
Paul Leeming’s Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 in 8Sinn cage with Scorpio handle and XUME magnetic filter holder system.
SIMMOD Variable Neutral Density 0.4-1.8 Filter. I recently came across this brand while researching the utility value of locking rings on VND filters.
SIMMOD Variable Neutral Density 0.4-1.8 Filter with a range of 1.3 to 6 stops.
SIMMOD Variable Neutral Density 0.4-1.8 Filter with a range of 1.3 to 6 stops. Note the locking ring.
“Which lens is better for b roll? Which is better for the buck? Today we’ll look at 2 highly acclaimed lenses from the M43 system in this Panasonic shootout for B ROLL!…”
Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric prime lens.
Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm f1/7 Aspheric Power OIS prime lens.
One of the many joys of Micro Four Thirds hybrid mirrorless cameras is their range of price points from affordable through to high-end and the same is true of lenses, making the M43 sensor format attractive to those of us just breaking into stills and video as well as more experienced practitioners.
While I often write about flagship M43 cameras and lenses here, I also use and value lower priced M43 gear for its affordability, smaller size and weight and its usefulness for discrete photography and b-roll video especially in multi-camera set-ups.
New vlogger Kim Cruz has recently produced some short, sharp videos about some of these affordable choices.
Lest one succumb to the commonly held belief that M43 sensor photographs cannot look as good as those from larger sensor cameras, I recommend trying out DxO PhotoLab and its companion applications for processing your M43 raw files.
I received a Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric prime lens with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 camera as part of a promotion at the time and often use it for available darkness stills and video as well as in conjunction with the GX8’s wonderful tilting electronic viewfinder aka EVF when emulating the look of my former Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex cameras.
Other small Micro Four Thirds prime lenses for stills and video
Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II Aspheric pancake prime lens.
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 Aspheric prime lens.
Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Power OIS prime lens. Considered a benchmark lens in its focal length but it is priced accordingly.
DxO – DxO PhotoLab – Its industry-leading Prime noise reduction algorithm helps M43 raw files look as good as or almost as good as those from larger sensor cameras. I also recommend companion DxO applications such as DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint as well as Nik Collection, currently a set of plug-ins for Photoshop and Lightroom that I hope will also become a plug-in for DxO PhotoLab in due course.
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Aurora-Aperture 37mm PowerXND 2000 Variable Neutral Density 1.2 to 3.3 Filter (4 to 11 Stops) – B&H – Top quality variable neutral density aka VND filters are a great choice for fast-moving documentary cinematography as opposed to a set of fixed density neutral density filters. Small, narrow filter diameter lenses like the ones discussed by Kim Cruz in these videos can benefit from having their own native-sized VND filters attached when shooting video due to the size and weight of stacking up step-up rings to attach 77mm or 82mm ND or VND filters.
Aurora-Aperture 46mm PowerXND 2000 Variable Neutral Density 1.2 to 3.3 Filter (4 to 11 Stops) – B&H
Chiaro brass UV protection filters – B&H – I recommend brass filters for lens protection as they are not susceptible to binding like many aluminium-framed filters. Chiaro makes an excellent collection of brass-framed UV filters in filter diameter sizes from 37mm through to 122mm.
Heliopan 37-46mm Step-Up Ring (#745) – B&H – I use a variety of brass step-up rings made by Breakthrough Photography, Heliopan and Sensei Pro. Brass step-up rings are best to avoid binding but they cost and weigh a little more than aluminium step-up rings. I like Breakthrough Photography’s step-rings the best due to their unique heavily-knurled traction frame but the company does not make all the sizes you may need such as 37mm, 40.5mm and 43mm.
Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH. Lens (Black) – B&H – Equivalent in 35mm sensor terms to the 40mm “perfect normal” focal length, this pancake lens is better suited to stills photography than video but is a much-loved focal length for many movie directors and stills photographers. Filter diameter = 46mm.