Tuesday, 29 March 2016

LOW BUDGET LENSES : Wide Angle Adapters


Making low budget narrative films, I'll often find myself on a location that leaves me with very little room to shoot in terms of physical space. Using a long focal length is great and adds a depth to your image, but if you are shooting in an enclosed location then suddenly that becomes an issue unless you want to shoot entirely in close ups. If you're making low budget movies, the chances are that you are not going to be able to build all your sets and so removing walls, ceilings etc to create more room is not usually an option, which usually means that you have to shoot in pre existing environments and not every film is shot in a spacious warehouse or street, more times than not I find myself having to shoot in very tight locations with very little space.
Wide Angle Adapters

This is where your wide angle lens becomes especially useful. Most people using an interchangeable lens system have a 'Kit Lens' which will come out to between 14mm-16mm (depending on brand etc) which is a fairly wide. However not always wide enough. Even at the shortest focal length I've sometimes struggled to have a wide enough angle to get my shot. 

I looked into wide angle options, but trying to find a low budget wide angle lens can be tricky and finding one at a cheap price even harder. The fact is, if you are shooting zero budget movies, which most the time I am, then you will find it tough to drop £150 - £1000 on a wide angle lens. I was in that position a few years ago and so I looked to find another solution. 


WIDE ANGLE ADAPTERS

I picked up a wide angle adapter on ebay for about £15, its a simple screw on adapter that attaches to your filter thread at the front of your lens and just expands your angle that little bit more. I was dubious when I picked it up, just because it was so cheap, but the results were great and really helped me open out the angle enough to get the kind of shots that I was after in those small spaces.

SLASHER HOUSE 2 : 14mm f/2.5 with Adapter
It comes in fairly handy too when doing tracking and steady cam shots as it just opens the image up a little more and ensures you have something wide enough for full coverage. I used the same adapter for the last 5 years on almost every project I've shot and as a result I never needed to buy a wider lens. When I finally moved to Panasonic cameras last year, the first thing I did was buy a new wide angle adapter for its kit lens. Then later adapted it to a 14mm prime that gives me a great image without having to pick up a wider lens.

When I first look into the adapters I did hear complaints about them distorting images through the glass, but I'm happy to say that I've never had a problem with this at all on shorter focal lengths. I did adapt it to fit a 50mm lens a few years ago and the due to the longer focal length the image become very soft and blurred, but thats about the only issue I've had.  


...ITS ALSO A MACRO LENS

Oh yeah, not only does this lens open out your wide shots, but it screws in half to become a macro lens. This means that you get right in close to small objects and get some incredibly close shots. I have a little signature shot I try and fit into every film. A close up of an eye opening. In the past, with conventional video cameras I would really struggle to get close enough to get the shot in the way that wanted, but with this lens it makes it a breeze. Its really good for getting in there and just getting some awesome details, especially when it comes to smaller objects. I even used it to shoot a very 'arty' title sequence for a film last year featuring some small creepy dolls, but more on that later.

SLASHER HOSUE 2 : Macro Adapter on LX100

TELEPHOTO ADAPTERS

For those who need to go the other way, there are also telephoto adapters that do the opposite and give your existing lens some extra zoom by magnifying the image without you have to use digital zoom and degrade your image. Its not something I've ever had to use, but its just another tool for around the same price that can help add a variety to your existing equipment. 

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You will certainly get better result from spending the extra cash on a decent wide angle or zoom lens, but for a low budget solution I have certainly found the results negligible. This works great for me and it is a brilliant cheap option if you can't fork out for an expensive lens. 

As always just remember that a better lens won't make you a better cinematographer in the same way that a cheap lens won't make you a worse one. 

MJ

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