Canon EOS 5D Mark II video from a 102 year old lens – a Blast from the past!

by planetmitch21 Comments


A couple of weeks ago, we showed off some amazing photos taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (reviews) and a 102 year old 35mm Wollensak Cinema lens that were shot by Timur Civan.

Today, we’re very honored to show you the world premiere Timur’s Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Wollensak video as well as more never before seen stills!

Redrock Micro

From Timur’s blog talking about what the lens technician said to him… : “its a ~35mm Wollensak Cine-Velostigmat F5. The kind of lens used on a hand cranked cinema silent movie camera. By his best estimates he dated the lens “turn of the century”, but said maybe 1908 to be safe. He says to me…. ( in the thickest Russian accent ever) “I can make this fit EF you know….””

Of course the Canon 5D Mark II still photos of NYC really got everyone’s blood pumping – go see them again! I’m still seeing tweets weeks later where people are discovering these uniquely beautiful (if not a bit haunting – old images seem to do that to me) images. And now, Timur has shot this beautiful video (at the end of the post) shot with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and this Wollensak lens and these stills included in this post.

Image from 102 year old Wollensak 35mm F5.0 Cine-Velostigmat – copyright Timur Civan

But, before you watch the Canon EOS 5D Mark II video, we know you’re going to have some questions so we asked Timur about the lens and how it performs on a modern digital camera and we also gathered some other info from his blog and other posts as well.


What was your original reason for trying this out on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II? Have you done this with other old lenses?

(Timur added this note: more info on the lenses i list below: )

I had a request for a photography gig that needed a vintage/pinhole/slightly damaged look. It was a portrait series for a popular subculture magazine. I was inspired by Sally mann’s large format photography, and the associated aesthetic of the large format camera as a starting point. I was not necessarily trying to copy the look, of sally mann, or even that of large format, i simply wanted something that looked different. I have seen alot of digitally manipulated photos that have a “look” applied to it. Sometimes its done to great effect…. but for the most part it is often too heavy handed and looks fake. I wanted to shoot on 4X5 for a couple of reasons. You can do interesting selective focus with the bellows, and you would have over a century of lenses to choose from, from newer optically clean lenses, to older not so clean lenses.

Portrait from 102 year old Wollensak 35mm F5.0 Cine-Velostigmat – copyright Timur Civan
Special thanks Bhavani Lee for being a great model…

Turns out the learning curve of getting the desired effect on film was a bit too ambitious considering the budget and time frame of the project. I had turned to my friend “Sima” (what his wife calls him, though it could be Fema, her accent is quite powerful) at Panorama Camera Center (they don’t have a website so this is the google info), at 124 w30th street in Manhattan. He had given me some advice on 4×5 cameras and lenses before and i told him about the project i wanted to do. I started this endeavor by cleaning his shop out of all the antique glass he had, that could be adapted to EOS. I picked up a handful of lenses, including a Helios 44-2 58mm F2.0, Asahi Super Takumar 28mm F3.5 “Yellow glass radioactive lens”, a Telisar 135mm F4.5 ( which i used in the video for two shots) and a Jupiter 9 85mm F2.0. A majority of these lenses ar about 30-50 years old. I experimented with the images quite a bit. I got some promising results but ultimately was disappointed. Despite their age, they were for the most part solid performers. The Telisar however was a exception and has VERY interesting visual characteristics. I will have information about it available on my Blog.

Anyhow, eventually on morning Sima calls me, and says i have something for you. I show up… and well, the rest you know (see previous planet5D story for more info).

Image from 102 year old Wollensak 35mm F5.0 Cine-Velostigmat – copyright Timur Civan

What uses do you see for this in your future?

I have plans to shoot the original photo project with it, in addition to several others. I have had a huge request for portraits with, and i think i may make a website of still portraits and video portraits with it. I think there may also be a short film on the horizon, hopefully.

Image from 102 year old Wollensak 35mm F5.0 Cine-Velostigmat - copyright Timur Civan

Image from 102 year old Wollensak 35mm F5.0 Cine-Velostigmat – copyright Timur Civan

What’s your gut reaction to the lens? Is it really sharp? Is it easy to focus? A couple of scenes seem over exposed, was that intentional?

It is not easy to do anything with this lens. Its so physically small, old, its sticks, its grinds, and quite frankly i dont think its going to last much longer. Im trying to do everything i want with it while i can. as far as focus and exposure, i will quote you from my blog about this very subject:

“The way this lens treats light is unique. Some shots, come out with deep rich contrast, sharp and with a heavy vignette, and others over exposed, washed out and completely soft. One factor is the vignette, under perfect controlled circumstances the lens has great contrast, and clarity. Since this lens was developed for 35mm Motion picture which has a smaller film plane than full frame film/digital, the center is a “hot spot” with illumination falling off towards the corners. If you expose for that bright center, you lose all the detail in the corners, and if you expose for the outer edges you wind up with a brightly blown out center. What winds up happening is you have to expose in the middle, give a little on the top end for the middle, and accept a little under exposure for the edges of the frame. (This over exposed information is recoverable in RAW files from photoshop if you REALLY need it, but i still feel shooting this lens unmodified in post is the fun part) Remeber what i said about “perfect Controlled circumstances”… well, all of that controlled exposure, watching out for the exposure in the middle, while protecting the shadows mumbo-jumbo goes out the window when the lens flares. Then you’re on your own. The internally reflected light completely changes the way the exposure occurs. It can flare from a person who is brightly lit by the sun to your back…. Umm, yea. That can flare the lens. So can a Street Lamp, a flashlight, a headlight, or a bright bodega. BUT, sometimes, it refuses to flare. Sometimes direct sunlight has minimal effect. I think it has more to do with to do with the angle the erroneous the light enters the lens, not the intensity.

Image from 102 year old Wollensak 35mm F5.0 Cine-Velostigmat – copyright Timur Civan

To complicate the exposure calculation even more, the aperture is a HUGE factor in predicting its exposure. When open, flaring is more apparent, that’s nothing new, but it changes as you stop down. At wide open, F5, nothing is particularly sharp, and there is almost no contrast. Stop down to a F8, and suddenly its a new lens. Razor sharp, contrasty, and beautiful. Come down to an F11 or F16 and its suddenly hazy and soft again but this time with a far more pronounced vignette.”

“So Exposure aside, the lens is Very small. Focusing, is a helluva problem. I find using the old fashioned Cine-AC trick of focus distance guesstimate stopped down to a F8 usually does the trick. Hard to believe but the focus marks are actually accurate. When i cant use that trick, like for portrait work, i use the Live view and zoom into the image and do my critical focus from there. This certainly isn’t a run’n gun type of lens. you need to be a bit more methodical in using it.”

Image from 102 year old Wollensak 35mm F5.0 Cine-Velostigmat – copyright Timur Civan

Image from 102 year old Wollensak 35mm F5.0 Cine-Velostigmat – copyright Timur Civan

and now, here’s the video (note there are a couple of lingerie shots that might make this NSFW in some areas)

102 year old lens on 5D mkII – Video Footage by Timur Civan from Timur Civan on Vimeo.

This Video was Edited by the amazing Thomas Wong.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this awesome video – please let us know in the comments below what you think!

(Photo credit: a snap from Timur Civan)

Zeiss Cinema Lenses


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  13. Bob Norgard

    The lens you have(“102 yrs old”) was probably made after WWII, possibably slightly before. That would make me 120 yrs old Hmmmm.

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  19. Poppa Toppa

    Great stuff. The camera is proper Frankenstein but check out the results. Very fortunate to have a friend who dabbles in that kind of tech. Nice work!

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