Aug 032016

These days, shooting with a fast lens is not unusual at all. Considering the high ISO capabilities of modern sensors, it’s even possible to shoot with almost no light at all (see Nino’s Sony a6300 low light test, for example). But how the hell did people manage back in the 70’s? Well, if you have the time and happen to be around the San Francisco area, you have the opportunity to pay a visit to the f/0.7 lens that Stanley Kubrick used to shoot his masterpiece Barry Lyndon.

A legendary f/0.7 lens

In order to capture images of the moon during the Apollo mission, NASA commissioned Carl Zeiss to develop and build a set of extremely light-sensitive lenses. Since it was extremely difficult to meet the demands, Zeiss ended up building only 10 units of the f/0.7 lens. One remained in their own cabinet, and six were sold to NASA. Stanley Kubrick managed to somehow snatch the last three lenses in order to shoot his famous candlelight scene.

To actually work with these lenses, Kubrick had to modify the lens mounts to fit them on a Mitchell 35mm BNC camera. In the end, he was able to light a whole scene with just the help of candlelight. Well, he needed lots of candles, actually. Have a look at this mini doc, with footage from the actual candlelight scene starting at the 2:38 mark.

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