Why We Love Rehoused Vintage Lenses

We shoot a lot of different content using our complete Arri Alexa camera suite, with the ability to shoot in both anamorphic and spherical styles. On the whole, they work wonders and are extremely dynamic, especially our Arri Alexa Mini digital cine camera.

However, there are times when projects and concepts call for something a little more unique. That’s where our vintage rehoused lenses come into play.

Rehoused Vintage Lenses vs Modern Lenses

Over the past decade, vintage lenses have made quite the comeback in the world of motion-picture photography and cinematography. As the industry has switched from film to digital, image sizes have increased and therefore a demand for higher resolution is needed.

And when it comes to shooting a short film, advertisement, or even a YouTube video, the role of lighting, production, color and atmosphere do play a part. However today’s hyper-sharp, grainless 4k digital cameras demand a lot more perfection on set – or in post-production if preferred. 

With digital lenses, the blemishes and nuances of individual lenses are becoming less common. For many cinematographers – ourselves included – this can be equally good and bad depending on the project.

The geometric distortion that vintage, film-camera lenses can bring can add a new dimension to the shot. Vintage cinematography lenses can improve centering, popping of characters or simply add a classic vignette to the edges of the frame. These all help direct the viewer’s eye, but also create imperfections that increase the sense of realism in the finished product. 

But, to be sure to get the best out of the vintage lens, they should be rehoused to essentially transform them from something not easily used to a lens ready to withstand the push and pull of modern-day film production.

Our Favorite: Richard Gale Optics UK Clavius

At the heart of this rehoused lens is a legendary Russian vintage, complete with blemishes and vignette. The now legendary 58mm f2 Helios offers beautiful bokeh (the much loved in-and-out of focus aesthetic quality) and striking lens flares that brought it fame in the era of portrait photography.  

Rehoused by Richard Gale Optics, they used a 58mm as the base, with a set of other sizes (28mm, 38mm and 88mm) that each use the 58mm at their core. With the rehousing comes an excellent battery life, butterfly smooth focus throw, true internal focus, 95mm fronts and compatibility with all standard matte boxes and PL mounts. 

In addition, they also have ​​interchangeable aperture inserts to give footage even more anamorphic-like bokeh while maintaining the ease of shooting spherical.

Needless to say, this rehoused Russian legend has brought a new dimension to the cinematography we’re able to create today.

Shot on a rehoused vintage Russian 58mm f2 Helios

To give this shoot a more cinematic feel, our DOP and producers decided on using the rehoused vintage Russian 58mm f2 Helios over a digital anamorphic lens. The result was spectacular, and although less ‘produced’ than other ads due to the live interactive nature of the event recorded, we created a stylized shot all thanks to the unique qualities of the vintage lens.

A Screw The Box Approach to Advertising

Another example of how we decided to ‘screw the box’ when it came to advertising production is the KFC Shanghai Chicken social media campaign we developed for KFC Myanmar. In addition to the art direction and campaign planning, we broke the mold of ‘crisp’ and ‘clean’ shots in favor of something more atmospheric, textured and genuine. The results speak for themselves.