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50 mm in academy ratio - Hitchcock / Ozu with a GH2
  • You know that lots of masterpieces had been shooted only with a "normal" lens: just think of Hitchcock's Psycho or Ozu's film. I am "studying" Ozu's films realized using only a 50mm; many people believe it's necessary to get a 25 mm on GH2 (due to crop factor) in order to emulate Ozu's look , however I've found this discussion on the net:

    50 in academy ratio is actually what a 50 on a GH2 would give... Or almost. A GH2 is the same size as academy matted to 1.78:1 (so horizontally and DoF characteristics are the same, but different vertically). Speaking of which... Hitchcock used a 50 almost exclusively in the 50s and 60s, so a 50 on a GH2 is more or less identical to what you'd get in Psycho.

    I feel a bit confused...should I get a 50mm or a 25 mm?

  • 27 Replies sorted by
  • You can never go wrong with a 50mm ;D

  • Mmmh...now I've found this on reduser: In FF35 photography, that has traditionally been a 50mm lens. In 35mm cine, it would be a 35mm lens though in the past, most Hollywood directors thought that it was still the 50mm lens (Hitchcock insisted that most of "Vertigo" and "Psycho" be shot on a 50mm lens, but only "Vertigo" was shot in FF35, i.e. VistaVision, where the 50mm would be "normal" in perspective.) To some extent, part of the problem was also that most directors started out in the silent era back then where the 4-perf 35mm Full Aperture was 1.33 and had a longer diagonal than later when cropping to 1.85 became common and the focal length had to shorten a bit to compensate if you wanted the same diagonal view.

    So Psycho seems to be shooted with 35mm lens!

    Other note:

    As for why old-time Hollywood cinematographers called a 50mm lens "normal" for both FF35 and 35mm cine photography, I think that was just a bit of mental laziness on their part, just applying ideas from still photography directly into movie photography. It's also probably because the 50mm lens was the most commonly built & available lens for early cinematography, maybe because it was made by the same companies making still lenses. Though keep in mind that old movies were 4x3 until the mid 1950's so the diagonal was a bit longer than later when movies were cropped to 1.85, so a 50mm lens in the old Academy days felt slightly wider-angle than it did in the later masked widescreen period.

  • IMHO, a 35mm lens is an interesting compromise, specially for interior shots. Anyway, you can't go wrong with any of these 3 focal lengths for single prime shooting. The rest is up to you ;)

  • My preferred focal lengths are 12mm, 17mm, 25mm, 35mm, and 60mm on M43 system. I think the 25mm is the most versatile focal length for GH2.

  • @AlbertZ

    A 50mm on a GH2 does not give you the field of view of a 50mm on 4:3 35mm motion picture frame; a 50mm on a Gh2 is more of a telephoto, with telephoto characteristics. With a 50mm on a GH2, you'd need to set the camera up 3 houses away to get an Ozu wide shot of a family around a table,

    To the best of my knowledge, the "normal" lens for 1.85 35mm motion picture film is around 32-35mm. The crop factor with a GH2 is I believe about 1.2 (though you seem different figures), which means "normal" for the GH2 should be around 25-28mm.

    But certainly test, before you spend money.

  • I was the one who posted the quote. What causes the issue is the difference between field of view of the negative vs. the sensor. A film shot flat using an academy gate (not Super35 that is) will be matted vertically to widescreen ratios, while the GH2 already produces a widescreen picture that would need to be cropped horizontally to match the field of view of a full gate academy film. As such, a 50mm on a GH2 in 16x9 would match an Ozu film horizontally, but not vertically, but if one was to crop an Ozu film (why one would want to do that...) the frame would match rather well. Pyscho, being in 1.85:1 would however match a GH2 with a 50mm very closely. The reason for the confusion was that Hitchcock up until that had mostly worked in VistaVision where a 50mm is a normal and he disliked the distortion caused by wider lenses, which meant that the view of the 50mm on Psycho is much less normal and more tele than on his other films.

  • Thank you @Gabel!! Finally I've understood: the issue is the difference between the old ratio 1.33 and the native GH2 16:9 sensor. You can't emulate (ideally) a 1,33 frame with the same perspective and field on a GH2 because its native sensor has a different ratio. In these sense, Psycho seems to be a different matter since Hitchcock used a 50mm on a 1,66 ratio frame, shot seems more "close" and "tight" indeed! I was curios about Robert Bresson's film "Mouchette": he says he used a 50 mm lens throughout the film to get very flat images, however the ratio is 1,66. If you watch it,you have a tight "75mm look", just like in Psycho...

  • @AlbertZ: Exactly. This also brings up another "problem": Most films shot flat in widescreen use what's called a soft matte, they are shot with a full 1.33:1 gate and then masked in the projector to the desired ratio, but at that time in Europe it was masked to 1.66:1 while it was 1.85:1 in the US, but the intended ratio for Pyscho is 1.85:1.

  • It gets even more confusing, because Psycho was framed for 1.37 TV ratio, but cropped for theatrical exhibition (and there's a debate over what Hitchcock really intended).

    As Gabel notes, what's "normal" to the eye in a 1.37 ratio versus 1.85, is going to be different, because of that vertical. You'll need a wider lens on 1.85 to get an equivalent sense of space, even as that broadens the horizontal.

    And some claim that that 50mm was never regarded as "normal" on 35mm motion picture film because it most closely approximates human vision. It was "normal", they argue, simply because it was the inherited standard.

    So the other question is, do you want a shot which looks "normal" in the sense of approximating human vision, or one which replicates the classic 1.37 50mm look?

  • My personal favourite is a 35mm with a 1.5x anamorphic horizontally matted to 2.39....just to add extra confusion. Without anamorphic, I'm more of a 25mm vertically matted to 2.39 kinda guy :-)

  • @jrd: I know people have discussed what aspect ratio Psycho was intended to be in, I would guess 1.85:1 would be the intended one (as it was the standard for projecting "flat" in the US) and Hitchcock's earlier films of that decade had all been done in that ratio. And yes, the reason 50 was called a normal was definitely an artefact of old thinking, compared to what it actually gave you. To add to the confusion, Hitchcock did like 50s as they were close to our vision, or was on the VistaVision cameras he had shot most of the films in that decade.

    Formats always makes lens choices more complicated. On Super 35 a 32 to 35 would correspond with the field of view of a "normal" lens in 16:9 or 1.85:1, while a 28 would give you that with an academy gate matted to that kind of widescreen. But in 2.39:1 it's more complicated. When shooting flat one might use a wider lens, say 24-28 to get a more normal field of view (on Super 35 size) to correspond to the "lost" vertical space, while on an anamorphic a 50 is the general normal size and anything below that becomes wide-angle and rather distorted, due to the 2x squeeze horizontally effectively giving the field of view of a 25mm horizontally but with the Depth of Field characteristics and vertical field of view of a 50mm on a gate slightly smaller than 1.33:1 Academy gate. Head hurting yet?

    @itimjim: Favorite for what? For a "normal" field of view?

  • @Gabel

    I just tested the 50mm -- I know what you're saying make sense, but the idea that you could get close to the same horizontal coverage as (say) that found in an Ozu or Bresson film, with a 50mm mounted on a GH2, just doesn't go down well, somehow.

    At a shooting distance of 15 feet, the horizontal coverage is under 7'. I don't see how either filmmaker could have shot in close quarters, and gotten the shots they did, if they were using a 50mm on a GH2.

  • @gabel Favourite for all round narrative usage. Gives me about 60-70mm vertical and 45-50mm horizontal.

  • If you want to emulate an old age 50mm with 1,33 ratio a nice compromise would be to use a native 4:3 sensor like GF series (Gf1/2 have a standard m4/3 sensor)..a 38 mm lens would be the same "50mm lens" by Ozu!

  • Don't let someone like Steven Soderberg or Gus Van Sant get wind of this conversation, they'll take up the challenge and do a shot for shot remake of "End Of Summer" on GH2, and we don't want that! Also, AlbertZ, I'm sure you realize this, but to get the look of Ozu, a lens is going to get you about a thousandth of the way there, and he's pretty, y'know, inimitable, if quietly so. These ratios hurt my head. People must love math.

  • @AlbertZ

    I too have been playing around with recreating the famous Ozu 50mm look, at least superficially. Here is an experiment I tried with the Voigtlander 25mm F0.95 matted to a 4:3 aspect ratio. I think it gives an approximation to the Academy ratio 50mm perspective.

  • Well, live and learn. I just had a look at a few minutes of Ozu's "Late Spring". There's no way anyone could reasonably describe that 50mm as a "normal" lens, if "normal" means "like human vision" -- it has all the obvious characteristics of a mild telephoto, with all the foreshortening you'd expect of a telephoto. The one wide master shot of characters kneeling around a table is shot down a long hallway -- looks like the camera is 20 or 25 feet away, for by now obvious reasons.

    A rough calculation suggests you'd get about the same horizontal coverage from a 42mm on GH2. How well this level of telephoto compression would work in a 16x9 ratio as the standard lens, even if you found some compromise with the vertical dimension, is another question, though Bresson used it in the 1.66 ratio.

  • @jrd: Exactly! The use of "normal" name is very much an artefact and not at all true. We often forget the ability of directors to get their shots because they can often get the distance to complete those shots!

  • @Gabel Actually, when we we try to replicate a typical indoor shot, we forget that usually directors shoot at a very long distance in a set, not in their bedroom ;)

  • 25mm on MFT is very versatile. I keep the Voigtländer 25mm on my GH2 a solid 90% of the time, and use creative framing to make it work for most everything. I rarely feel a need to go wider, though I may pick up a Voigtländer 17.5mm or Zuiko 12mm f/2 in the coming months (more likely the latter). I do sometimes like a longer perspective, though. 50-55mm on MFT is great for headshots, or for a slightly telephoto perspective. On creative projects, I'm tending to go telephoto more and more often. It's a very effective, 60s-era cinema aesthetic. Good 85mm lenses look beautiful on the GH2 as well, though they're rather specialized.

  • @kount_michula Nice!

    I'd say the GH2 is a bit too clean for the style you were going for, but still, really nice photography and grading.

  • @Kount_Michula Good work indeed ;) It would benice to add some "film grain" digitally ;)

    @Sanjie "On creative projects, I'm tending to go telephoto more and more often. It's a very effective, 60s-era cinema aesthetic. Good 85mm lenses look beautiful on the GH2 as well, though they're rather specialized." I love 60s films. Can you suggest us some film of the 60s shooted mainly (or enterely) using medium telephoto, say a 100mm ? I've just seen Robbe Grillet's TransEuropExpress, it seems shooted enterely with a 75mm lens!

  • This is getting confusing.... It's impossible to believe most of Psycho was shot with a 50mm -- most of the shots look much wider. In the opening hotel room scene, one or two shots look like 50mm. But there isn't much more of it.

    As far as I can tell, the 50mm claim comes down to one source, a book on Psycho. I wonder if it's a myth?

  • @AlbertZ: That is another difference I am very aware of ;) @jrd: Could be possible. I know Hitchcock almost never went below 50mm on VistaVision, but that is possible.

  • I've seen Vivre Sa Vie by Jean Luc Godard...it has a 4:3 ratio and seems to be shooted mostly with a 50 mm! (I mean 50 mm + GH2 format)..very tight shots by cinematographer Raul Coutard in this film...