The ideal set up and kit for 35mm adaptors

Well for my Letus Extreme and Brevis adaptors that is, and probably for the SGpro and the M2 etc…

First off, the most important thing is to get good glass. The best you can afford really.

Most of the adaptors have mounts for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Mintolta etc…I only have Nikon lenses so let’s stick with that for the sake of this blog.

Prime lenses are the way to go generally as they are always faster than Zoom lenses. Prime lenses are fixed focal length lenses, which means you can’t zoom in or out, if you need to change framing you have to get a wider or longer lens or move back and forth!

The reason you need fast lenses is because adaptors are often light hungry and you sometimes you need the lens that opens the widest. Also the vibrating adaptors, like the Brevis and Letus start to show grain if you close down the iris too much.

My basic lens advice would be a fast 28mm maybe an f2, a 50mm f1.4 and an 85mm f1.4

Start with these lenses then enlarge your collection.

Some of my favourite lenses are my Zeiss 50mm T2 Macro, which lets me focus really close, I have just bought a 100mm Zeiss t2 macro and can’t wait to try it out.

I also love my Swing Tilt lenes which I used to interesting effect on the South Bank, Dungeness and Lost Times shorts. I have 3 of those 2 Hartbleis, a 65 and 85mm and an arrax 35mm. I love these lens.You can do some incredibly things optically with them.

Often people get obsessed by shallow DOF in 35mm adaptors and think wide angles are pointless. I cannot disagree more! 35mm adaptors give more than shallow dof (they can give wide DOF too!) they give an organic film look which looks truly stunning. Taking away that harsh video look and making cheap cameras look very expensive. Have a look at my HV20/letus mini short. To me, that does NOT look like a £500 camera.

Wide angles can look amazing, I have 16mm Zenitar f2.8 which i don’t use much as it’s too fish eye for most things. I use my Sigma f1.8 20mm DG all the time. A lovely, lovely lens that I can’t recommend enough. One word of warning, avoid all sigma glass that says DC. It is for crop sensor DSLR cameras which are no good for adaptors, The image it creates is too small, meaning you have to zoom in too far on the camera.

Long lenses are a slight problem due to their weight and often need more support. I have a 180 f2.8 Nikon and a 80mm-200mm Nikon f2.8 zoom. One of only two zooms I own. If you buy a zoom make sure it’s f stop stays the same all the way through the length of the lens. This makes them very expensive. Actually this nikon zoom I own was one of three that ARRI modified to work on a 35mm movie camera for the Bourne Ultimatum as it is was so much lighter than the usual film glass.

You will also need decent rod support. The Letus rod supports are good but really the Rolls Royce of them is the Zacuto. They are pricey, but are so well made and can be customised to whatever your set up is, no matter how big or small.

A good high resolution monitor is normally needed for focus, I have a Marshall but when I shoot with the ex1 I never use it as the screen is fine for me!

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16 comments

  1. Phillip,
    Thanks for this 35mm adaptor blog. I’ve been renting a redrock and HVX set up for the past 6 months for commercials and have been pleased with the results but the whole set up is a pain in the ass and expensive so I’ve been looking around the internet for options to buy my own and having following your blog for a while, I’m leaning toward the EX-1 and Letus. Any word from Letus about the EX-1 and edge to edge focus. I read somewhere on your blog (I think) that they are working on a fix for it.
    Again, thanks for your free advice.

  2. Some nice info there, Phil!
    Do you tend to leave your lenses wide open, or do you work alot with the aperture?
    How do you set your exposure? Shutterspeed, ND-filters, gain, aperture on the EX-lens?
    Looking forward to your next short 😉

  3. phil, thanks for this. i am continuing my homework on the 35 adapter market , and i found this very informative.

    and i expect to have another short to enjoy very soon!!! ; )

  4. Phillip,
    Many thanks for a very useful blog, and lots of nice demo videos.

    Focusing question:
    Could you tell us a bit about how you are guaranteeing good focus on moving subjects when using 35mm DoF. Do you use follow focus? Have you used external monitors, 3rd party evf, laptop screen ?

    Live capture question:
    How are you capturing – do you rely on the HDV tape or do you capture live to disk via HDMI (Canon HV20). Have you ever used external live compression kit eg the AJA io-HD for HD-SDI to ProRes 422 ?

    Thanks again,

  5. Hi Nick

    Follow focus is best and avoids camera wobble, but often I don’t have one on. I used to use my Marshall monitor when i used the HVX and JVC, i tend not to on the EX1, but on some things in controlled environments still do.

    Never done live capture, always done on the camera’s media. May capture 4:2:2 out of hdsdi on the ex1 soon though to pro res

  6. Hi Phil,

    Many thanks for taking the time to get the benefit of your experience out there for the rest of us. It is all absolutely invaluable.

    I have been wanting to ask you for a while, why did you choose not to go with the sgpro 35mm adapter? I know you have shot some stuff with Wayne for your 35mm adapter shootout so must have experience of it in action.

    Keep doin the do, man.

    All the best from Dublin,

    Mark W

  7. Hi Mark

    What I loved about the Brevis was ease of set up and that’s why I stuck with it for so long and still do!

    Have only briefly used SGPRO when i did the shootout 14 months ago. So I really have not had any hands on with the SGPRO.

    When I bought EX1 I needed something to flip my Brevis as had been using the JVC which could flip. Then the Letus Extreme came out. I bought it, loved it and since then have been very happy with it!

    There is no need for me to buy another adaptor now, I have both my Letus and Brevis and that’s enough for most people. I am curious to see how much the SG has improved though.

  8. Hi Philip! I really appreciate your work, all of it looks fantastic. As I know, you use the EX1 with the letus as a very mobile unit. I would like to know how you control DOF when you are out with your smallest unit. Do you use a matte box and ND filters or do you control the amount of light with the internal NDs and the iris of the EX1’s own lens?

  9. Hi Joe

    Being the winter in the uk, there isn’t a stunning amount of light, so the internal nd filters and the camera iris tend to work. With brighter light it does work too, but if it was really dazzling I would recommend a matte box with various nd filters. You can stop down the camera and it should be fine though…that is my experience and I am sure others will differ

  10. That is really interesting, Philip. With such a setup the combo EX1/adapter would be easier to carry and to handle than I thought. How far can I stop down the iris of the EX1 until there is a grain issue?

  11. you will never have a grain issue from stopping down the ex1. only from stopping down the 35mm lens will you see grain.

    ALTHOUGH if you put shutter in the ex1 you will see grain then!

  12. So no way to shoot Saving Sergeant Ryan then… 😉 anyway not my intention… But talking about the big screen: Did you ever see a projection of the EX1/Letus? I´m not a detail-freak. I’ve seen DVDs via a good projector and the result was at least none distracting. But it would be fine if at least 720p would be justifiable resolution wise. What do you think?

  13. Philip, thanks so much for all the material you’ve been posting. It was after watching some of your EX-1/Letus Extreme shorts that I decided my production company needed to invest in a similar rig. On the subject of the Nikon prime lenses, I’m not too familiar with them. It seems as if the newest ones all have the designation of AIS. I have found a number of them on eBay, but I want to make sure I’m looking at the right thing. Any advice you can offer on your blog regarding this question would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, keep up the good work on your Web site and blog!

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