Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Time to sell the house

Editor | October 20, 2021 6:55 AM

I’ve decided to put my house up for sale. Not because of the red hot housing market, but because I need a set of Leica lenses.

Just for fun, Sunday night I went on B&H photo and searched for “Leica Cinema lenses.”

And this came up: “Leitz Cine Summilux-C t1.4 12-lens kit” for the low, low price of $422,400.

To be honest, I’m pretty sure that even with the red hot housing market, I might not cover that bill.

That comes to $35,200 per lens.

They’re not even auto- focus. But cine lenses aren’t typically autofocus, anyway. What they do have in common is they have gears, and most cinema lens sets are the same size and shape, so it makes it easy to change them in and out, without having to do a bunch of camera and other rigging adjustments. The gears fit in “follow focus” units that are manually focused, oftentimes by a single person called a “focus puller” who focuses the camera while another guy runs the rest of camera.

High end lenses like these Leicas are put on high end cameras, as one might imagine.

One of the top cinema cameras is the Arri Alexa LF or Mini LF. The cameras run $35,000 used and $75,000 or so brand new. They make gorgeous films, as one might imagine.

In Leica’s defense, these lenses are not your ordinary pieces of glass. They’re handcrafted from exotic glass and used on big budget films and television shows. (Of course, you kind of have to big budget to afford them in the first place. Almost no one actually buys lenses like this anyway. They rent them.) They also have virtually zero “focus breathing” which means the image doesn’t get bigger or smaller as the lens is focused. (This happens with many photography lenses, you just don’t notice it.)

If you watched “Mare of Easttown” you watched a film shot on the Leica Summiluxes.

A typical scene takes in a high-end production takes three, four cameras. Add paying the talent and crew, and it’s pretty easy to see how a film can cost tens of millions of dollars.

It’s also easy to see how a picture that’s made for just a few million dollars is considered low budget.

But the tide is turning. Today you can get a very good camera (Netflix approved) for $3,500 and a great one for about $30,000.

The lenses, however, at least the new ones, aren’t really getting any cheaper. The Chinese make some good glass and they’re relatively inexpensive, which is to say they cost less than $2,000 apiece. A lot of Indy filmmakers also use photography lenses retrofitted with gears.

They’re making good films on shoestring budgets, which is to say they’re still probably spending $10,000 when all is said and done — or one third of a Leica cinema lens.

Another thing about the Leica lenses — they’re nonreturnable.