Digital sensors continue to improve in quality of image capture, allowing filmmakers to push their creativity and experiment with a variety of specific looks. Yet, as lens manufacturers continue to reach new heights in lens quality, cinematographers are often found degrading new lenses, applying techniques and know-how to "take the edge off" of contrast, sharpness and overall image quality.
Cinematographers are often tasked with searching the archives for older lenses that possess a natural aesthetic built in, but finding these older lenses can sometimes be difficult, plus certain engineering flaws can also make using them a challenge on set. In tandem with cinematographers seeking older lenses, a trend has emerged where projects have returned to the classic anamorphic look of old.
Watching films from the 1970s reveals that their organic quality wasn’t just a product of film stocks, but also the engineering and quality of the lens elements of the day, where the limitations of glass quality and technology created a "look" that cinematographers find very appealing. Unfortunately, such aesthetics were abandoned over time, as continually sharper and less "flawed" glass made its way to market and into the cinematographer’s hands.
Vantage took note of these trends and created the Hawk V-Lite Vintage ’74 anamorphic lenses, designed to deliver what cinematographers often have fretted over for quite some time—acquiring lower-contrast images with chromatic and flare characteristics reminiscent of the older, 1970s-era lenses.
The Vintage ’74s also offer the ease and convenience of precise, modern mechanics, plus the dependability, sharpness and consistency that has become the hallmark of all Hawk lenses. Vantage, the lens design team and rental house behind the Hawk lens systems, notes, "After listening to our customers, we noticed a very strong interest in older lenses due to their unique defects. We understood that these so-called defects were actually tools used by cinematographers to subtly communicate certain feelings or moods to the audience."
The lenses are designed using new glass elements and mechanical engineering, and are thoroughly compatible with motor-driven follow-focus devices, clip-on matte boxes and other modern lens tools. They feature robust, clear markings far more durable and resilient than lenses of old, capable of handling the physical punishment often inflicted by filmmakers on set. The lenses are also fully supported by Vantage in case of service needs.
Filmmakers will be pleased to learn that the Vintage ’74 lenses offer a true anamorphic 2x squeeze in PL mount. The lenses will operate with "open-gate" 4:3-format and 16:9-format sensors, as well as 35mm film. There’s a full range of eight primes, from 28mm to 140mm, as well as two front anamorphic zoom lenses, the V-Plus 45-90mm and 80-180mm. Historically, anamorphic lenses tend to run deeper stops, and these Hawk lenses are no exception. Their wide-open settings range from F2.3 on the wider end to F3.7 on the longer primes. To boot, while the wider 2.40 format tends not to be a close-up genre, the Vintage ’74 lenses average an impressive 3-foot distance for close-focus work.
The buzz about these "old-style lenses" is also gaining momentum in the film community, as more cinematographers seek to discover fresh new ways of expanding their creativity in the digital world. A handful of Hawk V-Lite Vintage ’74 anamorphics are currently being used by Janusz Kaminski on Bridge of Spies with director Steven Spielberg. DP Markus Forderer is also using the new lenses on Stonewall with director Roland Emmerich.
With the return to anamorphic as a viable cinematic medium and storytelling format, there no doubt will be continued interest in the Vintage ’74 lenses. The goal of any passionate cinematographer is to experiment, revel in uninhibited stories and pull out of the digital format as much emotion as possible. And thanks to Vantage and their recognition of that goal, cinematographers now can use modern optics with the contrast, flares, color aberrations and recognizable flaws that are seen in timeless films such as Chinatown. As Bill Bennett, ASC, recently noted, "I tested the Hawk Vintage ’74 anamorphic lenses, and they’re positively beautiful to use on women."
To learn more about the Hawk V-Lite Vintage ’74 Anamorphic lens system, visit Vantage at www.vantagefilm.com.