Roger Deakins is one of our favorite cinematographers to study because he is always pushing the envelope. In celebration of his latest film, The Goldfinch, we’ll take a look at some “Deakinizer” lenses.
In this post, we’ll give you a brief history of why he decided to alter lenses for an intended tilt-shift look. We’ll show you tilt-shift lens examples via cinematographer Kaity Williams from ASC Magazine.
Tilt-Shift Lens Video
Deakinizers give you the tilt-shift lookWhen Roger Deakins was preparing for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford he wanted a distinct vintage tilt-shift look, so he reached out to Dan Lopez and Steve Hamerski at Otto Nemenz to see if they could customize lenses with special elements.
Roger Deakins was looking for that vintage look — something that would better resemble the photographic technology of the time period.
What they got was a dreamy and soft image with clarity in the center and edges that were blurry and smeared. The tilt-shift lens combination that resulted became known as the “Deakinizer” lenses.
How did Roger Deakins find this specific look?
The story goes that Roger Deakins went to Otto Nemenz with your run-of-the-mill 50mm lens, but he also brought something else — a single optical element. Deakins held this optical element in front of the lens to illustrate the kind of look he was hoping to achieve.
From there it was up to Dan Lopez and Steve Hamerski to find a way to alter a lens that would give Deakins the intended effect.
According to Deakins’ blog, Lopez and Hamerski took a wide-angle Kinoptik lens and very simply removed an element.
This made the lens a bit faster, and created color diffraction and vignetting around the edges. Deakins wanted more, though, and Lopez and Hamerski eventually landed on a combination of Arri Macro primes and a collection of single-element attachments to each lens.
Tilt-Swing Lens Video
Kaity Williams testing the “Deakinizers”
Cinematographer Kaity Williams actually went out and did the leg work so she could try out the “Deakinizers,” and then reported her findings in the ASC magazine. What did Kaity find out about the “Deakinizers”?
Williams went down to Otto Nemenz with Jay Holben and model Becka Adams to test out these lenses first hand. She first tested what she calls “Deakinizer #1,” which is the modified wide-angle Kinoptik. The lens had the dreamy look she was hoping for but also found that, with the removal of a single element, the focal length shifted to around 44.5 mm.
Kaity then tried some of the other Deakinizers (2, 2a, 3) which are single-element attachments. These attachments can then be combined with what is referred to as a “taking lens.”
A “taking lens” simply refers to a prime lens that is nearest the digital sensor or film stock when you have a combination of lenses. Combining multiple lenses creates a “signal chain,” so the “taking lens” is the one that is the final link in the chain before the image is captured.
Kaity took the “Deakinizer elements” and paired with “taking lenses” which consisted of an Arri 32mm AECM T/2.1, an Arri 50mm AECM T/3, and an Arri/Zeiss 60mm T/3.
The single element attachments were then placed in front of the lens. There were two ways to do this, either with a bellows adjustment or attached a swing-tilt mechanism that would facilitate all kinds of adjustments including side-to-side, forward and back, up and down.
Examples from the “Deakinizers”Here is a still image from the Deakinizer #1:
This particular image was shot at F/2.3. Notice how the subject is relatively crisp and clear, and how the image shifts around the edges.Here is a still image from the Deakinizer #2:
Notice how the bokeh at the edges is stretched.Here is a still image from the Deakinizer #3:
Special thanks to Kaity Williams and her team for venturing down to Otto Nemenz to test the “Deakinizer” lens elements. Roger Deakins isn't afraid to alter his filmmaking tools to get a specific look, and hopefully, it inspires you as a filmmaker to do the same with your own projects.
Roger Deakins Visual Style Guide
If you’re into cinematography or working as a director of photography make sure to check out Roger Deakins' Visual Style Guide. We collected all of the best tips and tricks offered by one of the greatest living cinematographers and provide examples with helpful diagrams.