How to give vintage lens a new life with the world’s blackest black
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the world’s “blackest black” by now. It started with Vantablack, and some darker substances have been invented since. Mathieu Stern has already experimented with one, using it as a backdrop. But this new project is even better, as Mathieu improved an old vintage cinema projector lens with the blackest material. It made the image quality so much better, and Mathieu shares the process in his latest video.
For this experiment, Mathieu chose a rare 70 mm f/1.6 cinema projector lens. Originally designed for 16 mm film projectors, the lens is truly exceptional on digital cameras. It creates dreamlike images with gorgeous bokeh. However, it has issues with internal reflections due to its shiny metal interiors. The images and videos look washed out, with poor contrast, when the lens is used on a digital camera. After all, photography or videography isn’t what it’s designed for.
Adapting and flocking the lens
First, Mathieu had to make sure he could use the lens on his Sony camera. The lens lacked a diaphragm and focusing system. Mathieu overcame this by fitting the lens into a helicoid adapter. He 3D-printed a ring to fit the lens inside the adapter ring, enabling it to focus from infinity to macro.
Now, it was time for flocking the lens. This technique involves lining the inside of the lens barrel with the ultra-dark material. This process minimizes stray light reflections and enhances image quality. After all, if it’s good enough for telescopes, it should be perfect for photography.
Mathieu used an experimental material called Musou Black, which was made in Japan. It’s known as the blackest material on Earth, absorbing 99.9% of visible light. He bought a version of this material called Fineshut Kiwami, perfect for lining the inside of the lens barrel.
The flocking process required a little patience, but it was worth it. Mathieu removed the rear and front lenses of the barrel using a lens wrench and lens sucker. After taking measurements and creating models of the surfaces he needed to cover, he precisely cut and applied the material inside the lens barrel.
Reassembly and testing
Finally, Mathieu reassembled the lens and attached it to his Sony camera. All that was left to do was take some shots. Honestly, the difference is staggering! The internal reflections were gone, resulting in better contrast, less glare, and more saturated colors. You’ll see the examples in Mathieu’s video, but here are two screenshots just to compare the before and after:
Mathieu’s experiment is a perfect example of giving a vintage lens a new (and improved) life. Transformed from a washed-out relic to a high-contrast beast, this modified lens proves that sometimes, the best upgrades come from unexpected places.
Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.