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An Introduction to 35mm Lens Adapters in Digital Video

written by: EReynolds•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/30/2011

Within the past 5 years, a growing trend of many filmmakers have began to use 35mm lens adapters with their camcorder to record footage that looks like it was shot with the depth of field of a 35mm film camera. Let's delve into what a 35mm lens adapter is and where it comes from!

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    A Solution to a Dream

    Within the ages of digital video, there has always been a remarkable difference between the average camcorder and a big-rig Hollywood film camera. It has became a growing trend within the videographer community to try and find a way to get 35mm depth of field through pro-sumer camcorders and higher end consumer camcorders. It was not until recent years that videographers have had the ability to blur the fine line between camcorder footage and film footage. With deep search for a solution by video innovators, the answer has became simple and affordable - An adapter that uses 35mm lenses as its source of exposure.

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    What Exactly is a 35mm Lens Adapter?

    A 35mm lens adapter enables filmmakers to use 35mm photography lenses (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc.) as an attachment to their camcorder. It not only gives a nice depth of field but also softens the image of your video footage. This adapter creates a whole new world of lenses to use, and when in combination with a pro-sumer camcorder like Panasonic's AG-DVX100B, or the high-definition AG-HMC150, you'll be on your way to having professional looking footage! Within the past few years, the technology for these adapters has grown tremendously and is continuing to grow with more useful features - Altogether, it gives low-budget filmmakers a real chance to create a more engaging view for their audience.

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    History of the Solution

    Although the original principle was created solely by a German cinematographer, the initial production of a noticeably mainstream 35mm lens adapter was brought to the industry by a company called P+S Technik - A company based in Munich, Germany. There are two versions of 35mm lens adapters that P+S Technik has established, one for SD camcorders (Pro-sumer DV), and one for HD camcorders. The HD version, for bigger, more expensive HD camcorders, was named "Pro35", whereas the SD version, for smaller, less expensive SD camcorders, was named "Mini35". Although the names are self explanatory, there are considerable differences between the physique of the two versions to compensate for the difference in size of the stock lens on each camcorder and the difference of depth of field found between HD and SD camcorders in general.

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    Types of Adapters

    There are two main types of modern 35mm lens adapters, static and non-static (moving or revolving). As a whole, these types are determined by the adapter's ground glass - It is either stationary(non-moving), revolving (spinning), or vibrating. All of these adapters result in a fair amount of light-loss (usually around one half to one full stop of light) as well as open the possibility of increased visual grain to the image of your footage.

    Although static adapters are not usually mass produced under professional supervision, they are an easy DIY "starter" adapter for anyone new to the realm of 35mm lens adapters. However, static adapters are far more vulnerable to grain and dust, as the ground glass never moves to get rid of any air particles that may have found there way into the adapter and have rested on the ground glass - Revolving and/or vibrating adapters were developed to "cure" this scenario and also help maintain a decent digression of visible grain.