Super Baltar Cine Lenses by Bausch and Lomb


So I have been doing a little research about these lenses and trying to understand why they are so highly regarded and I must admit to feeling a certain synergy between them and myself.

It would seem that it’s the flaws and imperfections present in the Super Baltars that make them so attractive, this is something I’ve been trying to convince women about me for years. Unlike me however it’s worked for the lenses and they are more popular than ever.

So to give a little background the Super Baltar lenses were originally made by Bausch and Lomb and were first released in 1966 (so only 2 years before I was first released myself.) They were a replacement to the original B and L Baltar lenses and were specifically optimised for colour cinematography. When first released they came purely as an optical unit with a diaphragm and had no lens mount or focus unit as these were considered to be separate items. I am pleased to say that they now come with a focus unit and a PL mount because they have been beautifully re housed by True Lens Services (I cant help wishing I could be re housed myself as I’ve nearly worn out my present housing)

As I said earlier the Super Baltar lenses are somewhat less than perfect, B&L stated (back in the 60’s) that “coma and spherical aberrations are negligible” however by today’s standards this could be considered a less than accurate statement. Modern testing reveals significant spherical aberration and this in turn can cause focus shift while stopping down, however this is now considered a strength rather than a flaw, let me try and explain why.

A modern digital camera has a protection glass, IR filter and a optical low pass filter between the lens and the sensor, this acts like an additional lens element and has a tendency to actually improve the correction of spherical aberrations, thus the same lens when used on a modern digital camera will actually give an optical performance better than if it was on a film camera.

But the main reason these lenses are so loved is the feel they give, they impart a warm image with high contrast, beautiful warm flesh tones and stunning green / blue flares, something you wont get with a modern lens. They add a touch of magic to the image that can’t be reproduced in post easily. Also the relationship between this “old glass” and the structured nature of a modern camera sensor produces a pleasing effect where modern lenses may produce an overly sharp end result. The Baltars tend to smooth this out somewhat with very nice ascetic results. This effect is known as the “analog-digital synergy” (feel free to drop that into a conversation next time you want to show off). It’s a similar effect to that which musicians encounter when using digital equipment put through old school vacuum tube amplifiers.

Many movies and cinematographers have used these lenses to great effect notably the following, Carrie, The Godfather 1 and 2 and Hitchcock’s, The Birds.

The Birds production actually pre dates the release of the Super Baltars so despite what I just said its probable it was shot with the original B&L Baltars but you get the idea.

So before I bore you with any more info (that you could look up yourself anyway) I should get to the point of this blog and that’s to let you know that we here at Pixipixel have a rather nice set of these wonderful lenses sat here waiting for you to use on your next masterpiece and if they were good enough for Hitchcock well need I say any more. We stock the 20, 25, 35, 50 and 75mm in a set and have them here ready for you. If you are a cinematographer that’s not given them a test yet then believe me you really should.

One small word of warning and that’s the fact that these lenses are ever so slightly radioactive! Yes honestly they are, the optics used in them contain thorium oxide, it was used to control the aberrations. Apparently its not worth worrying about as the level is so low but I would not keep them in a bum bag guys, unless you have enough children already that is. It could also explain why our camera arch is always slightly warmer than the bookers arch!

Like me the Baltars are about 50 years old, but they have improved with age like a fine wine, I however seem to have gone to seed unfortunately and I don’t think that’s fair but at least I’m not radioactive. Despite the warmth this radioactivity imparts I still rate these lenses as super cool and they get a 10/10 for my BCR, they are lovely and as scarce as hens teeth so come and give them a go!


Brucie Blogger

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