Photographer Uses Vintage Lens From a 100-Year-Old World War Camera to Shoot Video on His Sony

A photographer has extracted the lens of Kodak’s Vest Pocket Camera, released in 1912, to test its capabilities shooting video on his Sony. Now over 100 years old, the VP Camera was revolutionary in its day, popular with soldiers throughout World War I.

Known for his experimental YouTube videos, photographer Mathieu Stern continues to seek out rare, or rarely discovered, camera bodies and lenses to test. This time, he’s put together a series of footage recorded using a 87mm f7 lens, which was inserted inside a C mount to M42 ring, before being placed inside a m42 helicoid, then a m42 to E mount adapter.

This lens spent 100 years in the dark, the last think it captured must have been the horrors of the World War I. I think it was time to use it for something more light and positive.

The original camera is only marginally bigger than a smartphone in size. Stern made several stops at spots around Vienna, Austria to test out the lenses capabilities.

Stern credits the camera’s bulb mode as the reason he was able to keep it open and shoot video without constantly having to reopen it every time.

He says he was “amazed” at the quality and sharpness. Check out the video to see for yourself.

What are your thoughts?

All image and footage Mathieu Stern, and used with permission.

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4 Comments

I don't know if this was the lens or the grading, but the color palette is my favorite with a nostalgic 90's palette like something I'd see from nat geo as a kid. Kudos on doing this!

Laughing Cow's picture

I am not so surprised by the quality, because the laws of physics (optics) are always the same.
However, today we have better materials, coatings, etc. and certainly better schemes for lens construction.
The difference in quality, compared to modern lenses, should still be more noticeable with high-resolution photos than with 1080p or 4K video.

Rob Davis's picture

Old lenses still work because they’re not that much different from new lenses. You have aperture and you have focus. Beyond that, the main thing that’s changed is how those are set (e.g. auto focus and auto aperture).

Keith Mullin's picture

Biggest differences I've found between modern lenses and older ones are 1. Bokeh, due to typically fewer iris blades that are generally not rounded. 2. Close focus distance, with modern lenses having much closer minimum focus and 3. Contrast and 4. Speed, particularly in zoom lenses.

As far as sharpness goes, I haven't really noticed any lack of sharpness with vintage lenses, even on my 42 megapixel R3.