Putting a $100 Cinema Projector Lens to the Test

An experimental photographer has utilized an old ISCO MC 65mm f/2 Cinema Projector lens by adapting it to his mirrorless camera for a new series of photos and videos.

By now, you may be familiar with Mathieu Stern’s weird lens tests, either from his YouTube channel, or tests of his that we’ve previous covered, such as the $5 slide projector lens and the 3D-printed lens.

Selling for around $100, there is no way to alter the aperture from f/2. In what he calls “Frankenstein work,” Stern resourcefully created his own adapter by wrapping rubber bands around the projector lens and placing it inside a Helios 44mm empty lens body.

Stern remarks that because of the lens’ only option of f/2, colors are very defined. “The lens is extremely sharp in the center, making it a great tool for capturing details,” he says.

In the five-minute clip, Stern showcases various test shots in order to share his findings, including 180% zoom to illustrate the details of some of his landscape shots. The results are surprisingly clear, especially given the aperture.

So what’s the conclusion? “Projector lenses are a true secret treasure that get you some amazing quality for really cheap. All you need is to learn to adapt them and work on your manual focusing.”

Check out the video to see the full results, or you can see more of Stern’s experiments.

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

Log in or register to post comments

3 Comments

Rod Kestel's picture

How does f/2 (or any other aperture) affect colour?

In the case of the Canon 50 1.2 there is a noticeable difference in colour rendition at f/1.2 vs 2.0. There is less contrast and saturation wide open, in addition to well documented softness. At 2.0 - 8 my copy is razor sharp and the colour is really punchy.

Not sure what the root cause is. Perhaps a physical phenomeon similar to how diffraction affects narrow apertures or just the characteristics of an older lens design.

Noticed the same thing with a rental 85 1.2 although to a lesser extent.

I don't see this on my 2.8 zooms. Colour, contrast, etc wide open to f/8 (anecdotally) seems pretty consistent.

2c fwiw.

Rod Kestel's picture

Thanks, sounds plausible. I've never noticed this but might try some experiments with my lenses.