I always marveled at how Stanley Kubrick chose his lenses to create some of the most visually stunning images ever exposed to film. After visiting his exhibit at the LACMA, multiple times, a few years ago I saw this very odd looking lens in the display case. The lens in question was the Kinoptik 9.8 F2.3.
Kubrick filmed much of A Clockwork Orange using this lens and the maze scene in The Shinning. So after doing some research, I discovered that the Kinoptik 9.8 F2.3 had a Super 16mm little brother, the beautifully odd Kinoptik 5.7mm F1.8. I went on a hunt for one and found a stunning lens in almost mint shape. Now the fun can begin.
The Kinoptik 5.7mm F1.8 is a crazy little lens. You would think this lens would fisheye but it doesn’t. The wide angle perspective it produces can not be ignored. Getting that wide of an angle without a fisheye is just plain nuts. In a world where lens makers are looking for the perfect image, the Kinoptik 5.7mm is a breath of fresh air. It creates one of a kind, imperfect image bursting with character.
It’s perfect for the Digital Bolex or the BlackMagic Pocket Camera (my weapon of choice with this lens) as well as a number of digital Super 16mm cameras coming out. Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of this baby.
Shooting the Kinoptik 5.7mm wide open is not advisable unless you want a really “Dreamy” look. My lens says F1.8 but it stops a F2 and doesn’t let me go any wider. Once I stopped down to a f2.8-4 the image sharpen up nicely. If you are shooting outside in sunlight you’ll get a pin sharp image at F11-16. Excellent for capturing extreme sports, surfing dreamlike images. CHARACTER
This lens has character dripping from the aperture ring. There’s no other lens around that can give you such a unique image. For the correct project, it’s remarkable. Editing the Kinoptik with other lenses could be a challenge but if you have questions on how that’s done just watch how Kubrick did it in The Shining and A Clockwork Orange.
The Kinoptik 5.7mm F1.8 originally came out in the C and Arri-S mounts but there are a few PL versions flying around. I purchased an Arri-S to Micro 4/3 mount adapter and it works great. The adapter was pricey ($80) but it’s well built and works great.
The lens doesn’t have a filter thread but some models come with a “filter tray” installed in the lens. It has a little trap door to pop it open and close. My advice, keep it closed at ALL times so no dust or other dirt gets into the lens. One big piece of advice when shooting with this lens, keep the lens clean! A little dirt or dust on the front element becomes a monster on your footage.
The lens doesn’t come with a focus ring. Depending on the combo of lens and camera finding critical focus could be a challenge. In my case, I found I could focus 3 inches from my subject making for an amazing image. I’ve read others find critical focus at 5 feet. You should test the lens and adapter to see where your back focus is. I would check and adjust the lens for the adapter/camera combo you’d be shooting with.
- By far the widest non-fisheye lens Super 16mm lens out there
- Oozing character
- Can make any shot stand out
- Cost effective for a Kinoptik Cinema Lens
- Can't shoot it wide open
- No focus ring
- A challenge to cut together with other lenses
- No filter thread
I love this lens. It's not perfect but I wasn't looking for a perfect lens. I wanted character and definitely got it with this baby. It's not for everyone or every project but if used correctly, like Master Kubrick did, it can make your project stand out from the crowd.
Alex Ferrari is the Founder of the popular filmmaking site IndieFilmHustle.com, Numb Robot Studios and the host of the #1 Filmmaking Podcast on iTunes The Indie Film Hustle Podcast. He's also a self-diagnosed lens addict and experimental cinematographer.