Have you ever found yourself wanting to impress a client on set? As creatives, we often feel that dreaded feeling… you know… impostor syndrome. And when we do we often want to overcompensate with expensive and top-of-the-line gear. But what if I told you that you can impress your clients on a budget? You can have that all with lens rehousing; appearance, functionality, build quality, a unique look to your footage, and more!
What are rehoused lenses?
A rehoused lens is a lens made by adapting old lens optics into a modern cine lens body that has been custom built to house the old optics. Rehouses lenses are made to fit modern cinematography standards and be compatible with cinema lens accessories. Both lenses from vintage still film cameras and vintage cinema lenses can be adapted into rehoused lenses.
How long does the lens rehousing process take?
Depending on the rehousing lens shop you work with, time varies. Typically the process would require you to send the lens you want the shop to rehouse and that process can take 3-10 months. Luckily many shops will sell rehoused lenses with their own stock of donor lenses, so you might be lucky they have stock of the rehoused lens you want.
What are the best rehousing lens shops?
While this will be subjective, IronGlass, TrueLens, and CinemaGlass are great starting points for researching rehousing lens shops to work with. The shop you end up working with will ultimately depend on what vintage lens you want to rehouse. Most shops only offer a pre-set selection of lenses they work with. For example, Iron Glass works with old soviet lenses, so you can expect to get rehoused vintage lenses like a Helios 44-2 rehoused and other great classics.
If you’re looking to buy a vintage lens to rehouse, I’ve written a post about the best places to find vintage lenses for sale.
So why get a rehoused vintage lens?
Now knowing that vintage lens rehousing is a lengthy process, why might you even get one to begin with? What are the advantages of doing so? Frankly, I believe there are many. Let’s get into it and decide for yourself if it would be worth purchasing a rehoused vintage lens.
1. Unique image and character
Like any vintage lens, owning a rehoused will come with all of the great advantages in enhancing your video work with a unique look, feel and character to your work. If you’re looking for ideas on what lens to rehouse, check out my post on the best vintage lenses to try on your DSLR or mirrorless camera.
2. A renewed lease on life
If you’re here reading this article it is likely you already own a few vintage lenses, and you love them… a lot. Well, you’re in luck because another key advantage to rehousing your vintage lens will extend the life of your favourite lenses with a new body and mechanics. No more stubborn focus and aperture rings, or greasy or lack thereof aperture blades. Not only that but say hello to some freshly cleaned optics with you suffer from a little lens fog or mold.
3. Cine Lens Features
If you’ve used vintage lenses for video work, you know they’re quite difficult to work with. Whether it’s short focus throws, stubborn focus and aperture rings, clicked apertures, poor ergonomics or needing a bagful of adapters for lens mounts, lens filters, and more, it makes vintage lenses cumbersome to use. However, that stops being an issue with a rehoused lens. Rehoused lenses gain all the advantages of a modern cine lens, minus the potential autofocus, which most modern cine lenses don’t actually have anyways!
As mentioned earlier in this article, we creatives often suffer from impostor syndrome, especially early on in our careers. We want to seem professional and well equipt to our clients, and using rehoused vintage lenses is the best way to make your gear look top-of-the-line all the while being price conscious. Of course, it’s not about the gear and more about how you use it, but clients will always judge appearances. So not only will your client be impressed with yourself up, a vintage lens will help you bring a quality product to the table and keep your clients happy. All while saving money for your business.
5. After-sales support
With a regular vintage lens, you definitely won’t have Canon servicing your old vintage Canon lenses 50 years later after their initial purchase, but working with the right lens rehousing shop might just give you that piece of mind for customer support and warranty. It is quite typical for these shops to offer at least a 1-year warranty on all parts and labor associated with fixing any issues related to the housing and mechanics of the lens. Just don’t drop your lens because physical damage whether intentional or accidental it’s on you.
What does it cost to rehouse your lenses?
By now you’re sold on the idea or rehousing your vintage lenses if you’ve made it this far. Let’s talk about lens rehousing costs since I mentioned it’s affordable. Affordability should be taken in the context of relative affordability. Depending on the lens and the shop you work with, rehoused lenses will typically cost around $2,000 on average, with costs ranging anywhere between $500 up to about $4,000. Relative to the costs of real cinema lenses the prices for rehoused vintage lenses are an absolute bargain. A real cinema lens could run a minimum of $8,500 all the way up to almost $50,000.