If you are out for a specific look for your movies, you know that it will take some effort. Lenses like the Canon FD, Super Baltars, and Canon K-35 are not easy to come by, and they are not cheap either. A new Kickstarter from Tuner by Module wants to solve this problem by providing a back filter that gives any lens a cinematic look. We have some of the first independent footage taken with a prototype of The Tuner, so make sure to watch the video.
But first, let’s explain what the issue is:
The Tuner is solving what problem?
We sat down with Michael Thomas for a quick explanation about the pains that The Tuner is solving. Classic lenses have classic looks. Those looks are not always tack-sharp or distortion-free, but they have a lot of character. Sometimes it’s specific softness, aberrations, or off-center astigmatism.
But, while the look is amazing, there are still some things to consider when you opt for one of those classic cine lenses. And this is where The tuner comes in.
The Tuner does not take away from the aperture of the lens. It just “sits” between the lens and the camera. This means that you will be able to shoot with the same aperture as your standard Canon lens. If we look at the Blatars, for example, they are maxed out at T 2.3. But if you slap a Tuner L1 on a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L, you now suddenly have an f/1.4 Baltar.
And the same goes for focal lengths. Again, using the Baltars as an example, they came as a set of primes between 20mm-100mm. Now, you have bigger latitude with a focal length. Not to mention zoom lenses.
Full frame coverage
Some of those older lenses were built for cinema cameras that are super 35. Sadly that means that they can not be used on full-frame cameras (well, technically, you can set the camera to S35 mode, but you know what I mean). The Tuner allows you to use full-frame lenses on full-frame bodies. That takes away one of the biggest limitations of some cine looks from many full frame cameras.
Dialed-in look intensity
The original cine lenses were designed for big-screen projections. When you squeeze a pronounced look into a smaller screen (hello, youtube), it may become too intense. The dial on The Tuner provides a way to either go hard core, or pull back on the amount of effect you get on any of the looks.
I kept this one for last, as renting any of the three lenses that The Tuner mimics is an arm and a leg. You are looking at thousands of dollars per rent. Or a few tens of thousands to buy. The Tuner will cost $1,999 a look. If The Tuner indeed delivers on its promise, a Tuner/EF lens combo is a no-brainer in comparison.
The Tuner offering
Now that we cleared the problem and the proposed solution let’s look at the offering.
E-mount and R-mount cameras – The Tuner is compatible with just about any modern Sony camera you can think about. It is also compatible with the RED line.
Use EF lenses – you can use any run-of-the-mill Canon EF lens. This is wonderful, as those are being sold on the cheap with the R mount taking over. It is not clear yet if you need a high-end Canon lens to enjoy a “good look” or if any kit lens will provide good results.
Parafocal or “Para-look” – This means that changing the intensity of the look will have no effect on focus, or lens rotation. This is good news if you are using filters.
The Tuner comes in three flavors
- L1 Tuner – this look was inspired by the infamous Super Baltar. The Baltar look is soft and warm with a lower contrast to take all the hard edge the digital footage.
- L2 Tuner – inspired by our favorite Canon K-35 lens, a revolutionary lens for its time with a T/1.5 speed and aspherical elements. You’ll recognize its look in films such as Rocky and American Hustle.
- L3 Tuner – inspired by the look of anamorphic, L3 will simulate the vertical/horizontal depth of field effects seen on the vintage anamorphics, but without the flares or bokeh.
The Tuner full spec
The Tuner currently works with any EF mount lens, with or without electronics. According to Module 8, the software has been tested on Canon, Sigma, and Tamron lenses, and they have the ability to update the firmware to ensure long-term compatibility with EF lenses. From our discussion with Michael, we got that they deciphered the lens protocol, so the fact that they can update the firmware may come in handy if Sony decides to change anything. Michale also told us that while most EF lenses should work, our autofocus support is limited when it comes to the longer Zoom lenses, such as 100-400.
Price and availability
According to Michael from Module 8, they plan to ship at the end of August. Only three months after the Kickstarter ends. Each Tuner is $1,999, and it is up to you to decide if you buy into the system.