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FILM & VIDEO: Thomas English

  • 3 min read

"The glass on the Lensbaby is fantastic. What is expensive in cine lenses is building mechanically reliable housings for glass that hits precise focus marks...This glass is the same high end glass without the technical restrictions." -Thomas English

Youve shot with a Lensbaby on several music videos and fashion promos where it seems like there is more creative freedom than say a corporate commercial - Why do you enjoy pulling out a Lensbaby for these types of projects?

Often you hide stuff with a shallow depth of field. All of a sudden with a shift and tilt system you can place focal artifacts over anything you don't like in a frame. It makes the blandest image in the world look weird. To be honest the corporate guys like these lenses quite a bit. Although this is where the Composer comes into its own where you can just do a subtle smear on the edges of frame rather than a radical tweak. The creative projects are fun, I love it when the directors start shouting MORE MORE when you pull the Lensbaby out. The focal artifacts can get really crazy as well as odd Lensbaby angles.

Is there anything in particular that you like about the new Composer PL lens body and Sweet 35 optic?

The glass on the Lensbaby is fantastic. What is expensive in cine lenses is building mechanically reliable housings for glass that hits precise focus marks. Remember that a Zeiss ZF costs around a quarter of its equivalent the Compact Primes CP2's; which is identical glass but made to a mechanical spec that drama focus pullers are happy with. The Lensbabies have none of these massive costs involved. This glass is the same high end glass without the technical restrictions. It genuinely doesn't matter if the flange focal depth changes with temperature or other variables as these lenses by definition are used by eye. So don't let the Lensbabies fool you into thinking it is cheap glass. It's not! It's great glass in a very cost effective housing!

The Sweet Optic 35 really changes things. You just dont need to faff around with the iris rings. Especially when used with a Vari-ND. All of a sudden you can see exactly what Iris you need for the focus artifacts you want and then set your Vari-ND accordingly for exposure. We don't mess with shutters in film unless its as an artistic choice. I will want to use a 180 shutter or a 90 for a scene and that will be the shutter I want. The vari-ND/Sweet-Optic combination enables me to quickly develop the focal characteristics I want.

The Sweet 35 Optic is also exactly the right focal length for film. Often on-set we call the lens in that range the (32mm Cooke S4 or 35mm Zeiss Superspeed) the British Standard lens because it's a lens we use SO much. Field of view wise a 35mm lens on a Super35 cine frame is the equivalent to the much favored 50mm in full frame stills. So by bringing out a 35mm optic Lensbaby has given us the 50mm they originally made for photography.

The bokeh of a lens is normally far more attractive if the iris is a perfect circle. I really like that about the original double optics. No messing about, just a pure circle straight into the lens housing. I never really found it to be too much of a pain to use but the Sweet 35 Optic is just awesome. There are so many iris leaves in there it's incredible! It's nearly a pure circle. Stunning!

For full interview, more video clips and still images go to the Movie Studio.

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