This 70 year old projector lens creates “insane swirly bokeh” that rivals a $7K Leica

May 30, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This 70 year old projector lens creates “insane swirly bokeh” that rivals a $7K Leica

May 30, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Weird and crazy lenses is what Mathieu Stern has become known for. He seems to find some of the most unusual lenses that ever existed, and then makes them fit onto his Sony mirrorless camera. Fortunately for us, he posts images and video captured by those lenses he finds to YouTube.

And this particular lens is a beauty. A Carl Zeiss Kipronar 120mm f/1.9 projector lens which cost him only $70. It’s fixed wide open at f/1.9 and was never meant to be used for shooting photos. But Mathieu was able to adapt it. He says the closest he could find to a modern equivalent of this lens is the $7,000 Leica APO-Macro_Summarit-S F2.5/120mm.

YouTube video

It’s a cheap lens, but it’s very rare, and you have to be a boss at manual focusing. About the lens, Mathieu notes…

  • It’s heavy as hell
  • There is no aperture, so you shoot at f/1.9 all the time
  • The focus helicoid is at the base of the lens, not the tip
  • At f/1.8 it’s extremely hard to nail focus on video

Mathieu describes it as being very sharp in the centre which gets swirly as you head out toward the edges. But you need to be a master at manual focusing.

It’s a very cool look, although Mathieu says don’t ask him for an Amazon link to buy it. They’re not made any more and it’s rare.

So, if you want one, get hunting.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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2 responses to “This 70 year old projector lens creates “insane swirly bokeh” that rivals a $7K Leica”

  1. Huge Dom Avatar
    Huge Dom

    I know will get flamed but is almost too much swirl, to a point it looks like a bad PS job. But finding ways to reuse old lens is neat as hell and people say no lens selection for mirrorless…

    1. Jimmy Harris Avatar
      Jimmy Harris

      I agree with you on that one. It’s almost nauseating to look at. But it’s an easy fix. You can control the amount of “swirl” and give it a larger depth of field (making it easier to focus) by decreasing the size of the aperture. Since this lens doesn’t have a variable aperture, the cheapest and easiest way to do it would be to cut out some “waterhouse stops” out of black construction paper, and then tape that to the back of the lens.