Revolutionizing Vintage Lenses With the Darkest Material on Earth

Mathieu Stern is one of the most well-known explorers of vintage and strange lenses, and his experiments yield some of the neatest images and devices out there. 

Coming to you from Mathieu Stern, this creative video showcases a unique experiment to enhance a vintage cinema projector lens using the darkest material on Earth. Stern explains that while vintage projector lenses, such as the rare 70mm f/1.6 lens he uses, can create dreamlike images with breathtaking bokeh, they have a major downside. These lenses were designed for projecting, not capturing images. The shiny metal inside the lens, meant for reflecting light in projection, adversely affects the captured image by washing it out and reducing contrast. To overcome this, Stern experiments with lens flocking, a technique used in precision optical instruments like telescopes and cameras. He uses an experimental material, which absorbs 99.9% of visible light. It promises to minimize stray light reflections inside the lens, thus significantly improving the image quality.

Stern's process involves carefully inserting the material inside the lens barrel. He demonstrates the meticulous steps, from removing the rear lens to measuring and cutting the material for a perfect fit. The difference post-application is stark – the reflections are gone, resulting in improved contrast, no glare, and more saturated colors. This ingenious approach not only preserves the unique characteristics of the vintage lens but also elevates its performance to a new level. Stern’s experiment is a testament to the endless possibilities in photography when combining old technology with new innovations. Check out the video above to see it in action.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

Log in or register to post comments