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AaronChicago

"Untraditional" focal lengths with intention

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I say untraditional in the sense that primes sets are usually like 16, 24, 35, 50, 85, 100, 135.

I'm very guilty of using those set focal lengths and also using the opposite ends of zooms, 17-55, 12-35.

I've been reading some interviews with cinematographers that really like using odd focal lengths such as Deakins with 21mm, and Speilberg, Scorsese, Malick with 28mm.

http://noamkroll.com/28mm-lenses-the-secret-ingredient-for-achieving-a-film-look/

I'm going to start experimenting with using some of these untraditional focal lengths myself with intention. Not sure if it will make a noticeable difference but I'm very curious.

Does anyone else have a certain focal length that they love for a specific reason?

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Well just to be clear Deakins 21mm is actually closer to 30mm in 35 ff equivalent right? Also he is on the record for saying 32mm would be his choice if he had to pick one. That would be closer to 48mm ff. So those are interesting focal lengths. 

What I've noticed is that traditional cinematographers like medium wide to normal. This why I love the sigma 18-35. On any crop sensor it gives me that and everything in between. 

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These set of primes are traditional in photography. The others are used in film and are different because its either s35 or other formats, not photographic 35mm.

If you have a fullframe camera you could try pentax67 lenses, they have odd focal lenths and are rather slow, but at f4 (wide open) they aren't as sharp as your typical photolens. Bronica lenses are also good options. (because they are so cheap)

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I say untraditional in the sense that primes sets are usually like 16, 24, 35, 50, 85, 100, 135.

I'm very guilty of using those set focal lengths and also using the opposite ends of zooms, 17-55, 12-35.

I've been reading some interviews with cinematographers that really like using odd focal lengths such as Deakins with 21mm, and Speilberg, Scorsese, Malick with 28mm.

http://noamkroll.com/28mm-lenses-the-secret-ingredient-for-achieving-a-film-look/

I'm going to start experimenting with using some of these untraditional focal lengths myself with intention. Not sure if it will make a noticeable difference but I'm very curious.

Does anyone else have a certain focal length that they love for a specific reason?

I agree. 

24-28mm is a lovely look, especially if you get close to the subject.

Also another spellbinding look is using the SLR Magic 12mm at f2 on GH4 and using it to frame a close-up. Looks pretty insane! (as the lens has a macro like function). I haven't come across a lens for S35 that can match that look. 

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Well just to be clear Deakins 21mm is actually closer to 30mm in 35 ff equivalent right? Also he is on the record for saying 32mm would be his choice if he had to pick one. That would be closer to 48mm ff. So those are interesting focal lengths. 

What I've noticed is that traditional cinematographers like medium wide to normal. This why I love the sigma 18-35. On any crop sensor it gives me that and everything in between. 

true but arent most of his features shot on S35? I guess I shouldn't prefaced by saying S35 cameras.

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Our eyes/brain don't calculate the focal lenght of the lens, so that you use a classic 24mm or a more esoteric 25mm, the viewer couldn't care less...

35-50mm is around what the human eye sees in real life. I think that is why exotic lens choices like 28, 16, 60, etc. seem surreal and thus more cinematic. At least that's what I gathered from the article by Noam Kroll.

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http://www.rogerdeakins.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1580
http://www.rogerdeakins.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2505
http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=21447

http://reduser.net/forum/archive/index.php/t-2061.html

My personal favorites are:

35-40mm equiv--wide shots and steadicam
70-75mm equiv--medium close-ups and general use
135-150mm equiv--intense close-ups, shallow focus/macro, and compressed perspective shots

I find the really wide angles hard to use effectively, distractingly dramatic with their perspective, and unpleasant on people shots. Generally, I use my 75mm (25mm SLR Magic on the BMPCC) the most, because my movies are heavy on acting and dialogue. 

But that's just me. If that last thread taught me anything, it's that there's many different ways to shoot, and all can produce cinematic results. Malick loves his wides. Deakins stays between 28 and 50 for everything. Ridley Scott shoots everything crazy long. Park Chan-Wook shot everything with normal lenses on Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance but used nothing but wides and teles for Oldboy.

As long as you choose your focal lengths with tact and intention, there's no wrong answers--only different preferences. 

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true but arent most of his features shot on S35? I guess I shouldn't prefaced by saying S35 cameras.

Exactly, so on S35 a 21mm is pretty close to 30mm on photographic 35mm or FF. 32mm is equivalent to mid to high 40's. The 28mm you are referring to is like 42mmish. These are not ultra wides and still pretty normal, therefore not too exotic. 

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35mm would be different on s35 or FF. Are you saying you like 35mm through 50mm? Because that is about what 35mm is on each one respectively. 

Hitchcocked liked the 50mm equally on VistaVision and S35, so it can happen. 

I've never been big on 50mm equivalent. It's like a 35/40, but boring. 

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35mm would be different on s35 or FF. Are you saying you like 35mm through 50mm? Because that is about what 35mm is on each one respectively. 

My favorite focal length on both FF and s35 is 35mm.

But my favorite look in general is a 25ish on s16. Gives nice bokeh, perspective and a tight personal view but still usable for scenery. 

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Hitchcocked liked the 50mm equally on VistaVision and S35, so it can happen. 
I've never been big on 50mm equivalent. It's like a 35/40, but boring. 

Yes, you can use that lens on either, but it will yield a different FOV with each film/sensor size. On Vista the 50mm will yield a FOV of 50mm (and 50mm FF equivalent). On S35 that 50mm will be closer to 75mm. 

Also, just to be clear the 32mm that Deakins references in the article you posted is roughly a 48mm equivalent, very close to 50mm equivalent... so to each his own. Personally I love Deakin's photography. 

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Yes, you can use that lens on either, but it will yield a different FOV with each film/sensor size. On Vista the 50mm will yield a FOV of 50mm (and 50mm FF equivalent). On S35 that 50mm will be closer to 75mm. 

Also, just to be clear the 32mm that Deakins references in the article you posted is roughly a 48mm equivalent, very close to 50mm equivalent... so to each his own. Personally I love Deakin's photography. 

I'm...aware...

My point was that it's possible to like the same focal length on two different formats. I like 50mm lenses on everything but FF. Can't say why.

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I'm...aware...
My point was that it's possible to like the same focal length on two different formats. I like 50mm lenses on everything but FF. Can't say why.

Ok. I understand what you are saying now.

My theory, and obviously this is purely my opinion, is that there is a bit of instant gratification with anything roughly 75mm equiv and up. Roughly 35/40 and lower is also 'easy' to yield interesting results (or just the necessity of a wide FOV to capture the limitations of space). But 40-60 is called normal for a reason. We're used to it. No instant gratification. Again, my theory is that this is why a lot of the traditional cinematographers like this range (28-40 on s35). Anyone can slap on a wide or tele and get interesting results. But with the normals you are forced to use everything - good set, lighting, movement, blocking, etc. The camera and lens get out of the way and the story MUST take over. I feel like this is the heart of cinema. 

Not everyone will agree of course. There's more that one way to make films. Just my $.02. 

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It would be great if everybody used degrees for FOV instead of focal lengths. 

50mm on FF ~ 40 degrees horizontally. 

Then as the cheapest possible director's viewfinder, I have measured the angles between my fingers and I place my eye on the imaginary crossing line of the two fingers that are closer to the FOV that I want to achieve. 

 

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