I’m working on an Anamorfake Russian Amber Lens Set. Following the idea of the extremely modded Helios, I worked on modding the Mir 1B 37mm f/2.8 and Jupiter 9 85mm f/2. Here’s the look with very basic color grade (curves and saturation). All artifacts, flares and tint come straight from camera.
It’s time to take things to another level on these tutorials. I asked Cosimo Murgolo to detail his steps on making this FM Lens Hack, the FM2 (Focus Module MODULE) Lens. The post below is derived from his explanation. I have not done the mod myself. I’ll part with the FM when I finish all the reviews. If I were to keep it, I would surely chop it. Cosimo’s main motivation with the mod was actually to fit his baby scopes inside and take them anywhere.
Who is Cosimo Murgolo.
Cosimo is a big enthusiast and fond of good stuff like anamorphic. He’s trying to learn the most he can while journeying the long road to be a real cinematographer. His words, not mine! Oh, and as you might notice below, he likes to smash lenses. Cosimo was one of the pioneers with the FM Lens. He was constantly feeding the conversation about it with new information and his experiences. He is a great enthusiast of doing things yourself and he’s not afraid of the risks. Below is some of his work. All the images are so moody! It feels like jumping into a time machine due to their vintage feel.
DISCLAIMER! WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY BROKEN OR DAMAGED LENSES. DO THE PROCEDURE AT YOUR OWN RISK! Now that we’re past the warnings, Cosimo did it successfully, and so did Jesse Heidenfeld, following the same instructions. So, if you’re using the right tools and working with care, you should succeed.
I want to open with a quote of his experience doing the mod. You know, for inspiration:
“This can be easily done with a lathe, the cut will be very tiring to do with the hacksaw. It was fucking exhausting, but desperation brings you anywhere” – Cosimo Murgolo, 2016.
The first step is to disassemble both positive and negative glass out of the lens body. Do this by removing the retaining ring on the front of the lens. Store them away in a safe location. There’s no need to risk their integrity hacking and sawing with them attached.
Now go on and take apart the body in two main pieces, the INNER and the OUTER tubes. The screws that hold them together are by the focus scale on the OUTER tube. There are a few more inside. Nothing tricky or new. Document your process, take photos and notes so you can put it back together
Cutting and Drilling
More of a reminder than an actual step. Make sure you have clean cuts and holes. The threads should align even after being drilled through and cut short.
Looking at the INNER tube, cut it close to the end of the threads. Cosimo really stresses out you should play safe here. Save yourself another 10mm past the end of the threads. This is where you are going to be making holes for clamping the tube to your anamorphic. Cosimo’s recommendation is to use 5mm nylon screws. After you drill their threaded holes you can shave any excess at the end of the INNER tube.
Cosimo chose not to leave any room at all for compactness’ sake and drilled right onto the end of the threads. One big advantage of cutting a little further from the end of the threads is you can always shave off that extra space afterwards if you want to. You’re unable to extend what’s already been cut, though. So if you’re not 100% confident on your machining skills, or how the process is going, play safe. Don’t risk the entire lens on drilling the perfect holes.
Size and compromise
The mod’s goal is to make the FM shorter. It’s up to you to decide how much shorter you want it to be. The more of the OUTER tube you keep, the shorter is your minimum focus going to be. In Cosimo’s mod he knew what he wanted and 1m was enough for close focus, so he chopped off most of the OUTER tube. He cut at the end of the tapering from the wider front. You can keep a little more of the OUTER for the ability of going closer with focus.
Going back to the INNER tube, there are a few more things to consider. The most important ones are the small brass stops which calibrate minimum focus and infinity positions. For the mod’s sake, you are going to take these away. You will not be able to control where the OUTER tube stops unscrewing. As you don’t want your modded FM to unscrew right off the threads at minimum focus, we have to fix this issue.
Prevent it from falling off
Side note: My Iscorama pre 36 came with the close focus mod. That worked by removing a stopper inside the lens. It was neat, the problem was exactly the same: the front element would fall off the lens if rotated too much. You don’t want to have that happening to you on set. Or anywhere, for that matter.
Time to fix the unscrewing issue. On the unthreaded part at the front of the inner tube, just past the positive diopter, make two 3mm threaded holes on opposite sides. You are going to put little 3mm nylon screws in those. DO NOT SCREW THEM ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE TUBE as, if the screws go on the inside of the tube, they will be in the way of any scope you pair with the FM. The goal for these screws is to act as stoppers, preventing that the OUTER tube falls off the threads.
Once the minimum focus screws have been put in, it’s time to create new infinity stoppers. Same thing, drill small threaded 3mm holes at the end of the threads to act as infinity stoppers. If you skip this step, every time you focus to infinity the positive and negative glasses will kiss (touch), and that’s no good over time.
Regrease and reassemble
Since the two pieces (INNER and OUTER tubes) now have a lot less contact area, the outer tube can become wobbly. Use a thick grease to fix this problem and reassemble the FM2. On a side note, Cosimo recommends you keep the rest of the body, as you can easily make clamps and things like that by drilling new holes on it! Here’s a comparison between a DIY clamp made with the leftovers of the mod and the FM Collar 24.
Now you are ready to take on the world with your old (but new) FM2 single focus setup. This mod allows you to fit way more scopes in the FM as well as solves the problem posed in the assembly video, with the Kowa B&H. The problem is the Kowa B&H stays either too far from the focusing diopter or too far from the taking lens when fit inside the FM Lens.
I’m trying to expand the written posts with other collaborators, besides the videos themselves. If you have something that you think it’s a great idea and you want to share it with the community, don’t be shy and reach out, send me a message, leave a comment!
– all photos by Cosimo Murgolo and used with his authorization
In case you already forgot “The New Romantics“, I’m working on a similar project, with pretty much the same team. “Pickfair” is a murder-mystery comedy set in Hollywood’s early 20’s. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on something with such strong visuals. We shot it all at my place, with a tiny crew and super cool gear. I wrote a bit about the gear part for the production design and you can find that below.
“Friends gather for a murder mystery dinner party, each playing a Hollywood personality. The theme: 1920s Luxury, like the exclusive dinners at Pickfair Estate. When they discover the “bodies” are actually going cold, the group turns amateur sleuth to solve the mystery so they can leave the party…. alive! Everyone is a suspect. Everyone has a secret. With the same zany, slapstick comedy as beloved classics “Clue” and “The Pink Panther” and the twisted reveals of an Agatha Christie novel, ‘Pickfair’ will keep you guessing — and laughing — until the very end.”
Vintage setting, vintage optics
Modern lenses are all about embedded circuits, visual perfection, and lightning-fast auto focus. Efficient and easy, sure – but for “Pickfair” we decided to go in the opposite direction and use 40 year old all-manual lenses. These came all the way from the Soviet Union era. Under my hands they were cleaned and modified in order to boost certain artifacts. These artifacts or “imperfections” are key to setting the mood for the story.
We used three different lenses filming the teaser for “Pickfair”, one from 1971, another from 1985 and the newest one is from 1987. They’re a famous Russian trio of primes – Mir 1B, Helios 44-2 and Jupiter 9. I call them “ambers” because of the tinted glass and pieces inside the lenses that create warmth in the image. Like an endless golden hour!
Anamorphic: not a choice, a requirement
In early Hollywood movies needed distinction from TV. Anamorphic lenses created the legendary Cinemascope aspect ratio and remain in use to modern day. In combination with our vintage amber lenses we are using an anamorphic adapter to build even more character into the raw footage. We like to cook our look in-camera, not in post. Flares? Check. Lovely bokeh? Check. A more intense arms workout? Check!
Low lighting, practical lighting
To balance out all these old-timey optics, modern electronics come into play. we use the best camera technology available for shooting without massive light setups. Scratch that. For shooting exclusively with practical lighting; from meters and meters of twinkly lights, candles, small LEDs, flashlights and regular household bulbs combined with low-powered dimmers. I’ll use the lights that anyone can get their hands on. Practical lighting also strengthens the bond with the Art Department towards visual unity – not to mention the time saved when changing setups without the need to hide tripods and wires!
Flowing movement, character intimacy
The opening shot of the teaser is exactly the feel we want to imbue in our audience, making you feel like you are a guest in the party, one who has maybe seen a little too much. To assist us on the technical side of that kind of movement we will be using a light gimbal. Using a gimbal frees the crew from big, heavy, gear (like steadicams), and needing special training. The gimbal is straightforward and allows movement over any type of terrain, in any way (on foot, bikes, cars or even airplanes!) – all while keeping the movement butter-smooth.
The gimbal is key to long, super-dynamic tracking shots that draw the audience in, melting the disconnect between the screen and viewer, keeping you in the action as if you were in the room – something you’ll be sure to see in the “Pickfair” short!
Lastly, here’s that opening shot, without any cuts, just for the sake of dynamic tracking shots fetish. We have mobile light sources, dimmer-controlled lights, wi-fi controlled LEDs and 30 meters (100ft) of twinkly lights. Oh, and candles.
A detailed tutorial on how to fit the Kowa B&H – one of the best anamorphics available – inside the FM lens for single focus. All changes are reversible. Not the best solution, but something doable for those who don’t feel like cutting their FM in half!
If the Bell & Howell Anamorphic seemed an interesting option a few weeks ago here’s the mod to make it great. Single focus, 2x stretch, awesome flares. All of that with 58mm front threads, non-rotating front, focus gears, lens support and 360 degrees of focus throw!