How to make your own camera lens from sand and rocks

Andy George made his own camera lens with borax, river sand, and soda ash. From PetaPixel:

“It has been one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever done,” George says after completing his lens. “Every single step in the project has been a huge pain.”

Making clear glass took over a dozen tries, annealing the glass pucks took at least four attempts, and grinding the lenses themselves took at least 30 hours of continuous grinding.

Sure, the lens is cloudy and, er, imperfect, but HE MADE HIS OWN DAMN CAMERA LENS FROM SCRATCH!

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Trippy shots of Asian cities with a fractal lens

Steve Roe is a street photographer who specializes in stylized shots of Asian cities at night. He's been experimenting with some crowdfunded fractal lenses that add neat effects. Read the rest

Lomography launches lens set designed to fit any camera

The Neptune Convertible Art Lens System is designed to recreate a vintage look without being completely terrible wide-open like the old C-mount trash glass you keep buying on eBay.

The Neptune Convertible Art Lens System consists of a lens base that’s mounted to your camera and several convertible lens components. By interchanging the front components, you can shoot photos or videos at three different fixed focal lengths — 35mm, 50mm and 80mm. An Art Lens System unlike any other; it offers you all the freedom of a zoom lens without compromising on prime lens quality, and it’s the only convertible Art Lens out there to work with a range of modern-day analogue and digital cameras. Each component is assembled by using the finest multi-coated glass and crafted to produce exceptionally sharp focus and strong, saturated colors for stunning high-definition images — even when you’re shooting close-ups at 0.25m/9.8” with Thalassa (35mm), 0.4/15.7” with Despina (50mm) or 0.8m/31.5” with Proteus (80mm). This is an Art Lens System that lets you take beautifully intimate shots, allowing you to get near enough to capture every last detail of your subject. And because it’s so small and lightweight design, you can take it with you everywhere.

That's $600 for a 35mm f/3.5, 50mm f/2.8 and 80mm f/4 set of very compact full-frame manual primes with drop-in aperture plates, natively mounted in Canon EF or Nikon F, with a custom adapter for whatever mount you got. "Compact" and "consistent" are the watchwords: on the photography sites, the old men of the mountain are all angrily pointing out that you can get the same results by attaching some ancient thriftstore artillery piece. Read the rest

Helios 44-2 is a cheap old lens that's great for getting a retro cinematic look

Like the $30 Fujian/Fotasy 35mm, the Helios 44-2 58mm f2 is a lens famed for soft, flat, dreamlike results, appealing to modern video shooters searching for that vaunted "filmed on 16mm in 1974 by druids" look.

And, unlike the $30 Fujian/Fotasy, it isn't completely terrible. Stopped down, it's much sharper and undistorted. I found it difficult to focus, though, and it has a ~150mm equivalent field of view on my Blackmagic Cinema Camera, so it's not very versatile. The internet given wisdom is that the coatings changed frequently on this Soviet-era Zeiss clone over the years of its manufacture, meaning that flare and color characteristics vary widely.

The 44-2 was made in vast numbers, meaning you can find them on eBay for reasonable prices. You'll need an M42-mount adapter, for your modern camera, to go with it.

Still shooters have long loved the swirly bokeh, though you'll notice that the corners aren't quite so crazy with smaller sensors.

My footage was shot in RAW and ungraded, except for a few clips that were overexposed, where I applied luminance curves. Normally, one would enhance the colors in post-production.

Download a 13MB zip of some RAW frames. JPGs (photoshop, 80 quality) are below.

This fellow has a much more formal and extensive set of tests, shot with the Blackmagic Pocket (which crops the image 3x from full-frame, compared to the 2.4x of my Blackmagic Cinema Camera) and paying more attention to the details:

UPDATE: Here's some footage I shot with a less expensive camera, the tiny Panasonic GM1. Read the rest

An hour with the $30 Fujian 35mm CCTV lens

Still shooters have long raved about this weird little wonder, but how does it look on video?

What's the widest lens you can put on a Micro Four Thirds camera?

Going ultra-wide on my Blackmagic Cinema Camera is tricky, but I've found a 6mm lens that covers the sensor.

Canon offers cheap pancake lens for modern DSLRs

Finally! Smaller and cheaper ($199) than the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2, but also f2.8. [EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Pancake Lens at B&H] Read the rest