Seven Manual Nikons & Kowa Anamorphic Test

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Randy Walters

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Seven Manual Nikons & Kowa Anamorphic Test

PostMon Mar 25, 2013 8:01 pm

Here’s a rather lengthy test I did using my old manual Nikon primes, and the Kowa anamorphic adapter.

Shot in RAW, corrected in Resolve, edited in FCP and saved as ProRes 422 HQ, then converted for web distribution as an h264 QuickTime file. No sharpening was used at any point. HD, 12 minutes long, and at 204MB you’re better off downloading it than trying to stream it.

This isn’t pretty or creative footage; it’s a comparative field of view test of the various lenses, with and without the Kowa. It was useful to me, and I hope that others will find it useful, as well.

Here’s the overall scheme of things:

• All seven Nikon lenses, focused on a distant scene, without the Kowa adapter.
• All seven lenses, with the Kowa adapter, scaled and cropped for 2.39:1 in Resolve.
• All seven lenses, with the Kowa adapter, scaled and cropped for 2.66:1 in Resolve.

• All seven Nikon lenses, focused on a medium-close scene, without the Kowa adapter.
• All seven lenses, with the Kowa adapter, scaled and cropped for 2.39:1 in Resolve.
• All seven lenses, with the Kowa adapter, scaled and cropped for 2.66:1 in Resolve.

The music is by Philip Glass, from his soundtrack to “Powaqqatsi.” You’ll get to know it very well, if you make it all the way through.

A few observations:

• I’ve never had any problems with infinity focus on my camera; as of now, I have no intention of sending it back for the “fix.” The Nikons all come through fine - or within the range of what I know their properties to be - as do my Zeiss lenses and my Canon zooms. Softness from adding the Kowa doesn’t count. :)

• The 20mm Nikon is out of the running in both anamorphic crop ratios, as it clearly vignettes. The 24mm Nikon is fine at the 2.39:1 ratio, and - in a surprise to me, while it (barely) vignettes at the 2.66:1 ratio when focused at infinity, it works just fine in the second test when focused at 15 to 20 feet. Nice to know!

• My 200mm Nikon is an old warhorse; it’s the oldest and most abused of my Nikons. It’s the softest of the lenses to begin with, and when paired with the Kowa and focused at infinity, straddles the borderline of usability. When paired with the Kowa and focused medium-close, it fails, producing an image I consider unusable.

• After my first anamorphic test several weeks ago, a poster named “itimjim” suggested I try the 2.66:1 CinemaScope ratio. You see the results here, and I love it! A very nice compromise between the extreme (and pretty unusable) full 2X image, and the loss of image and resolution of the 2:39:1 image. I know I’ll be shooting for 2.66:1 more in the future.

• By sheer coincidence, I happened to watch the recently-restored Blu-ray of “Bridge on the River Kwai” on my 110-inch projection screen after I had finished grading this test footage. It was, of course, shot by the great David Lean in the 2.66:1 anamorphic CinemaScope format.

I was - to put it mildly - very, very surprised at just how well the BMCC’s anamorphic footage held up in comparison. (I’m talking about image quality, not content. I didn’t have Alec Guinness to help me out. :) After A/B checking my non-anamorphic footage to what I shot with the Kowa, I was concerned that the evident softening of the image would prove too much of a sacrifice.

While watching “Kwai”, I couldn’t believe how much of the movie seemed *far* softer than the BMCC! Distant shots seemed to suffer the most, at times looking like the 200mm anamorphic footage I shot that I felt was unusable. Closer scenes fared better, but in direct comparisons, the BMCC’s anamorphic footage generally looked *at least* as detailed, and generally *significantly more* detailed. It’s an old movie, but people were raving about the restoration; I’m convinced now that even without a full 4:3 anamorphic mode, the BMCC is a viable contender for anamorphic indy production. I am so impressed with the image quality; I think David Lean would have dug it. How times have changed.

Here’s the link -

http://kubrickwannabe.com/7-Nikon-Kowa.mov

and thanks for checking it out.
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rick.lang

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Re: Seven Manual Nikons & Kowa Anamorphic Test

PostMon Mar 25, 2013 9:28 pm

Randy Walters wrote:Here’s a rather lengthy test I did using my old manual Nikon primes, and the Kowa anamorphic adapter.

Shot in RAW, corrected in Resolve, edited in FCP and saved as ProRes 422 HQ, then converted for web distribution as an h264 QuickTime file. No sharpening was used at any point. HD, 12 minutes long, and at 204MB you’re better off downloading it than trying to stream it.

This isn’t pretty or creative footage; it’s a comparative field of view test of the various lenses, with and without the Kowa. It was useful to me, and I hope that others will find it useful, as well.

After my first anamorphic test several weeks ago, a poster named “itimjim” suggested I try the 2.66:1 CinemaScope ratio. You see the results here, and I love it! A very nice compromise between the extreme (and pretty unusable) full 2X image, and the loss of image and resolution of the 2:39:1 image. I know I’ll be shooting for 2.66:1 more in the future.


Thanks, Randy. Interesting to see the same subjects with the different lenses and aspect ratios. I feel 2.66:1 is less of a general purpose aspect ratio that may be better suited to certain subjects and perhaps genres where the eye expects to follow some action through much of the view or scan a wide view for what is interesting. 2.4/2.39:1 to me is much easier on the eyes as there's not likely any doubt where the subject or viewer's focus should be even when action is involved and is therefore more comfortable to watch. It's easy though to fall in love with whatever aspect ratio you prefer since it may be a very subjective preference and pleasure.

Rick Lang
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ChrisBarcellos

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Re: Seven Manual Nikons & Kowa Anamorphic Test

PostTue Mar 26, 2013 12:46 am

I got my BMCC last week and spent some time this weekend trying my old Nikon's lenses for a project. I actually used a 70 to 200 zoom, the F3.5 135mm, and the f 2.8 24mm. After the first couple of days, I think, as your shots show, the lenses will be great.
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Reynold Dodson

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Re: Seven Manual Nikons & Kowa Anamorphic Test

PostTue Mar 26, 2013 5:58 pm

Hi Randy, thanks for doing this and posting, I find it a very interesting set of tests.

If you don't mind, a few questions:

1. How is the Kowa mounted to the BMCC
2. How are the Nikon lenses mounted to the Kowa
3. How hard is it/was it to find this Kowa adapter?
4. Did you shoot these all wide open? OR did you use a different F-Stop for each lens? Or is the F-Stop listed in the clip the actual F stop you used (I was thinking it was part of the lens part number)?

Thanks.
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PetePolyakov

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Re: Seven Manual Nikons & Kowa Anamorphic Test

PostTue Apr 02, 2013 7:52 pm

why everything so blurry (even without kowa)?

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