THE DEATH OF THE 35MM ADAPTER


  

    HD camcorders gave us the freedom to shoot without the expense of film and development cost. The drawback was the inability to achieve shallow depth of field. With a fixed lens HD camcorder, everything is in focus down to the smallest detail. In the late 90s, filmmakers using HD video, were forced to use tricks such as lighting in layers with the subject lit the brightest.

   Without these creative but limited solutions, the audience can become distracted by a pretty extra in background or billboard that is part of the set. The result: your scene loses its impact due to lack of control over the image. The advent of the DOF or 35mm adapter gave us the ability to achieve a shallow depth of field giving you more artistic control of the image. For those who don’t know, the device works like a telecine using the macro focus of the camcorder to capture the image on a ground glass screen. The glass is spun using a miniature motor.

   The shear weight of these devices and their components can be in excess of 20 pounds. This paved the way for an entire industry of camera support systems to redistribute the weight of the device, the lens, the follow focus and the HD monitor, which is critical to ensure clear, sharp focus.

   Enter the 1080P Full Frame DSLR The Canon 5D and now the 7D have only been on the scene for a short while, and now video shooters everywhere are ditching their EX1s, HVX200s and even their XHA1s for the affordable full frame DSLR. Indeed, many fortunes have been made by those manufacturers of the 35mm adapter, but I’m afraid it’s all over now. Prices are falling, and it’s no secret why.

   You can buy a Sony EX1 for $6.5k with a Letus Ultimate for $4k, totaling more than $10k without support railings, lenses or an HD monitor. Those accessories could easily jack up the price another $10k depending what you get.

   However, I can buy a 5D Mark II and a good lens with an ikan monitor for under $5k. If you’re still convinced you have to have a traditional video camera with a 35mm adapter, but your on a budget, you can buy the Panasonic DVX100 for $2.7k and get a Redrock Micro M2 Encore DOP Adapter and support system for $2k bringing you in just under $5k with no lens or monitor.

   On the other hand, you can go to B&H and get a 7D with a lens for under $2k. That leaves some extra cash to get the V5600 from ikan for $630, and then you’re ready to shoot for under $3k. Final Analysis The Canon 5D Mark II ushered in a new era of video production that has left Sony, Panasonic, JVC and even Canon’s Video division standing on the sidelines to make way for the multitudes who are literally grabbing them from stores before they can be shelved.

   In the meantime, the DOF Adapters are not moving, and the prices are dropping. Some are 50% cheaper then they were just six months ago. How low will the prices go in the coming months? Who knows. One thing is certain; the full frame DSLR revolution has rendered the 35mm adapter irrelevant and obsolete. The question isn’t, “Will they stop manufacturing,” but “When.”

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4 Comments

  1. Great post on the advent of the full-frame DSLR, but I don’t agree that DOF adapters are ready for the junkyard. DSLR still has limitations that pose obstacles to filmmakers, two of which are 1) 12 minute maximum video capture time and 2) substandard sound recording capabilities. True 12 minutes is still long enough to shoot most scenes and adapters are available to allow for XLR sound inputs, but DSLR as a moviemaking tool is still in its infancy. You mention the industry standard Redrock Micro DOF adapter, but there are cheaper DOF adapters that are even more appropriate for aspiring filmmakers and students. I have a JAG35 Pro adapter that I bought with a prime lens, folllow focus and rail system for about $750. It’s still consumer-level afforability that allows me to learn technique without laying out many thousands in cash. There are still tons of DVX100 and HVX200 cameras out there in operation, and those users aren’t going to scuttle their equipment in favor of DSLR just yet. DSLR is new, it’s exciting and sure, I want one. But it’s still got some growing to do before it pushes DOF adapters into obsolescence, IMHO.

  2. i tend to agree with you only on one strong point. #1. i was looking to buy a couple of different cameras to do my video shooting. but i am a musician recording gigs (and other things) and 12 minutes will not cut it at concert when i have the cameral on a tipod and no one able to restart it. also it is kind of hard to do it myself when i am in the middle of a song or something else. camcorders are generally limited to the size of the card and can go for hours in some cases.

    in terms of #2…there are a lot of cameras that are changing their built in mics and also adding line/mic inputs. the new rebel t2i (i think that is what it is called) has a mic input and is selling for 799 to 899. it does AMAZING video but it is limited to 12 minutes. not to mention the whole cmos thing. (cmos sucks for video) so as you say they still got some growing to do before it pushes dof adapters into obsolescence….but they are getting there. and when they do they have far superior still shot capabilities and light repsponse.

  3. Even a simple thing like the way you hold a DSLR puts me of as its akward for alot of shooting situations….

  4. Infamous erroneous prophecy. Total miss-read of the near future. I would NEVER trade my XHA1s for some DSLR whose form factor and features are just not conducive to indie film-making. They are fine for guys who love that kind of thing, but don’t let your fascination with them fool you.

    I did consider trying to invest in a camera that does shallow DOF, but a 35mm Adapter ended up being the best choice for me right now. Redrock M3 purchased.


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