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07-28-2008, 06:46 PM   #1
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Frazier lens - available?

Anyone have experience using the Frazier lens? This lens was patented in the late '90s and has been used for cinemaphotography with great success, especially in Hollywood. I've never heard of it being available for still photography, but would be interested to know if its available.

FYI: This lens keeps everything in focus between the lens surface and infinity. "they" said it couldn't be done, but the Australian Film Industry and Hollywood swear by it.

07-28-2008, 09:40 PM   #2
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I just looked the lens up and Wikipedia has the patent as denied later on technical grounds, but the lens is in use. The pages I found said that the lens was developed with the prototype on a 35 mm camera, which is directly interesting to us. This page is one that clarified the concept for me. It was written in 1999, the year after the patent application was approved initially.

Seeing is Believing - page 2
07-29-2008, 09:46 AM   #3
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I don't really know the specifics of this lens, but any very wide angle lens that is well stopped down will have a very small hyperfocal distance, and therefore a very large depth of field. Doesn't seem too hard to have a lens long enough that the DOF would be from the glass to infinity.

But I guess maybe this lens is special because it doesn't "seem" like a very wide lens despite its actual focal length?
07-29-2008, 10:44 AM   #4
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This thread and topic and the whole concept of a frazier lens is useless without photos!

so where are some examples of the shots that would be optically impossible otherwise?

I tried to follow the article linked as "seeing is believing". I guess I dont believe...

07-29-2008, 03:48 PM   #5
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Interesting quotes from the lawsuite against the Frazier lens patent:
Panavision and Frazier [...] slapped a patent infringement suit against P&S Technick GmbH Feinmechanik, a German corporation that made a similar lens system. When the trial began, Fabricant said Panavision enlisted a handful of high-profile cinematographers -- including John Schwartzman, known for "Pearl Harbor" and "Armageddon," and Steven Poster, former president of the American Society of Cinematographers -- to testify about "what a fabulous and great accomplishment this lens was."
and from judge Gary Allen Feess ruling:
"Contrary to Frazier's claims ... the lens displays the same depth-of-field properties as every other conventional lens system."
[source: http://hd24.com/frazier_case.htm]

So, in summary, it was a swindle which didn't impress some Munich engineers
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07-29-2008, 06:39 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by falconeye Quote
it was a swindle which didn't impress some Munich engineers .
The lens works, Frazier's claim for patent was later rejected due to the submission of a video as part of the patent process, which demonstrated what the lens could do, but which was in fact created by special effects without the lens, apparently due to unavailability of the actual prototype before the deadline for submission. It was not a swindle - simply an attempt to cut through legal red tape. Stupid maybe, but not a swindle.

I remember this lens' first debut on Australian television, used for a number of moisturising cream commercials. It has since been used for BBC nature documentaries, notably one David Attenborough series created in Australia in the early '00s. It has also been used extensively in Hollywood (eg: Three Kings is one example given).

If it's a fraud, then a heck of a lot of people are in on it!
07-29-2008, 09:15 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by kmccanta Quote
so where are some examples of the shots that would be optically impossible otherwise?
canadian society of cinematographers - news and media releases

Something, at least.

Also, this editorial:
http://209.85.141.104/search?q=cache:HlAVo7kfWRYJ:www.comicbookmovie.com/new...lnk&cd=4&gl=au

To quote the relevant bit:

"Sigel's camera package con-sisted of two Panaflex Millenniums and a Millennium XL, as well as an Aaton 35-III that he would "stick in odd places or on rigs." In addition to the Primos, he occasionally took advantage of the Frazier lens system's unusual capabilities. In addition to its ability to slide into a position no camera body could ever squeeze into, Sigel says, the lens "tends to give you [abundant] depth of field and a little more distortion than you might have in another lens."

At one point in X2, a character trying to make a grand getaway must grab hold of a chain tethering a helicopter to the ground. Sigel used the Frazier lens to frame the chain in a way that enhanced the drama of the moment. "[The character] goes to grab the chain and the lens is just a couple of inches from it," he explains. "Freeing the helicopter is his means of escape. [Making the chain] really big in the foreground conveys its importance in relation to the character. Because of the structure of the Frazier lens, when someone reaches toward it you get a very elongated motion, which can be very dramatic if it works out right." "

Last edited by marcdsgn; 07-29-2008 at 09:27 PM.
07-30-2008, 04:40 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by marcdsgn Quote
It was not a swindle - simply an attempt to cut through legal red tape. Stupid maybe, but not a swindle.
It is fraud. Not, because the tape was faked. But because it was claimed that the lens does something no conventional lens can do. I repeat this sentence from
judge Gary Allen Feess' ruling:

"Contrary to Frazier's claims ... the lens displays the same depth-of-field properties as every other conventional lens system."

The real virtue of the frazier lens is the tilting and rotation mechanism and transmitting the image over some distance into (a potentially bulky) camera. Which makes it useful as a cine lens. The Munich engineers did something similiar, however, and weren't impressed by the patent. I.e., they ignored it.

There are almost no images for demonstrating the lens capabilities. Panavision play big the tilting and rotation mechanism and plays down the focus thing.

The first link you provided shows it all too clear: It has one image, the big gong image.

A 12mm rectilinear lens on 35mm film (like the Sigma 12-24) at f/16 keeps a region of 16cm or 6in to infinity in focus!

I could easily have taken the same gong image with my lens.

07-30-2008, 07:14 AM   #9
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If you search around, you can find a copy of the actual patent.

Based on everything I have read, it is nothing but a fancy wide angle converter. (With some advantages gained due to the long tube between objective lens and camera, namely the rotation features.)

In his examples, he obtains the DOF equivalent to 2/3 the focal length of the objective lens. BUT he also obtains the field of view of such a lens.

In one of the patent examples, a 50mm lens achieves the DOF of a 33mm lens - but it also is given the field of view of a 33mm lens. So it's not really different than mounting a 33mm lens onto the camera in the first place, except for potentially the advantage of weird rotation/angling between lens and camera (not tilt-shift though.)

The only case where a system like the Frazier lens would be really useful would be:
1) Trick shots that rely on the image rotation capabilities and such
2) Extreme wide angle on an APS-C sensor. In theory this lens system would let you get circular fisheye with an 8mm Peleng on an APS-C sensor. Potentially beneficial to Pentax users due to the lack of the Sigma 4.5mm FE for APS-C cameras in Pentax mount.

From the patent, it looks like you could potentially construct a Frazier lens yourself. It appears to consist of:
1) A standard objective lens. The patent uses a few Nikkors as examples.
2) A "field lens" - Not many details on this. Might be a basic achromatic doublet of a given focal length
3) A "relay lens" - Patent gives a few Micro-Nikkors as examples, but a Pentax user could use a Pentax 100mm macro or maybe a Tamron SP90.

All stuck in/on a tube. For the DIYer, a tube with filter threads (to go on the relay lens front) on one end and M42 threads on the other with an achromatic doublet at the correct position internally might be all you need.
07-30-2008, 10:00 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Entropy Quote
In his examples, he obtains the DOF equivalent to 2/3 the focal length of the objective lens. BUT he also obtains the field of view of such a lens.
Entropy, thanks for the good info!

A 2/3 reduction of focal length is called a "Shapley Lens". It would only be beneficial for Pentax users with lenses having a large enough image circle. An example would be the Sigma 12-24 which is FF and would become an 8mm for APS-C. Of course, there are much more elegant ways to build a Shapley lens
07-30-2008, 06:16 PM   #11
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Well I guess the answer to my question is "no". Thanks.

I'm not particularly interested in what court ruling there may be, or what the definition of "fraud" is. In any case, if you dig a bit deeper on the net, and you can find all sorts of statements on record, including the statement that Frazier never legally claimed the lens does anything new (other people claimed that); only that it's a system that unifies several things that could only be done previously with intricate set-ups. In this aspect, it was revolutionary. As much as we can say "Oh. I can build that" - Sure, we probably can. Bud did we think of building it 15 years ago? And would we have thought of building it if we hadn't heard of the Frazier lens in the first place?

The guy deserves some credit - especially since the film industries seem happy with it.
07-31-2008, 06:02 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by falconeye Quote
Entropy, thanks for the good info!

A 2/3 reduction of focal length is called a "Shapley Lens". It would only be beneficial for Pentax users with lenses having a large enough image circle. An example would be the Sigma 12-24 which is FF and would become an 8mm for APS-C. Of course, there are much more elegant ways to build a Shapley lens
I've seen the focal reducers for telescopes, I'm wondering whether a Shapley lens could actually be produced without altering the registration distance (lens mount to film) of the lens. Teleconverters can be but not sure about the Shapley. If it were possible I would have assumed they'd exist for wide angle on APS-C for getting the FOV of full frame wideangles on APS-C. (see my previous comment about how nice it would be to get the full circular fisheye effect of a Peleng. )
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