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I've read in PetaPixel about this "Frazier lens" that can achieve a massive DOF. In this video is shown the capabilities of this lens and I must say I'm very impressed.

How can this lens achieve such a DOF? Most of the shots were made on a sunny day, so I'm guessing that it has a tiny diaphragm.

Anyone has more technical information about this lens?

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Here is the patent, for those with the abilities to read that kind of stuff: google.com/… –  Andres Apr 20 '11 at 16:40

2 Answers 2

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The lens is nothing magical and does not have "infinite depth of field" as some have claimed. However it does achieve a very deep depth of field, by a combination of short focal length, small aperture and tilted plane of focus. It was developed by wildlife photographer/filmmaker Jim Frazier who was fed up with the limitations of traditional lenses for shooting wildlife subjects close up. According to Jim the device started out as a mirror on a stick attached to a camera which allowed ground level shots without the camera or operator lying on the ground. The device needed to be refined, as he found himself panning left when the subject went right, due to the mirror!

The "Frazier lens" is a really a system of lenses, the main body of which is a wide adaptor, i.e. the opposite of a teleconverter. This unit accepts one of a series of "taking lenses" of different focal lengths. These are traditional optics that have been specially modified for the system, including sealing the units to prevent dust from entering, and locking the controls (aperture is set via controls on the main lens unit).

Traditional macro lenses use a long focal length to achieve a comfortable working distance (a long focal length allows 1:1 magnification at a greater physical distance between the subject and front of the lens). A downside of a long focal length is decreased depth of field.

The Frazier lens system allows wide angle macro shots to be made. It also includes a prism element that allows the lens body to articulate in order to get close to small subjects to make up for the lack of working distance by moving the camera body further away. Here's the lens in use showing the articulation:

The lens also tilts the plane of focus (like a tilt-shift) to maximise the depth of field with respect to the ground plane (where most subjects/items of interest are likely to be).

It's worth noting that the apparent depth of field is much larger when you look at low resolution imagery such as standard definition video, as depth of field is defined as the range in which objects are "acceptably sharp". When you downsample you lose the ability to distinguish really sharp areas and thus everything can look "acceptably sharp". You too can achieve really deep depth of field with a DSLR using an ultra wide lens if you downsample your images to 0.3 megapixels.

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wow...now any idea how many limbs one would require for this lens/system –  mjrider Apr 20 '11 at 16:59
1  
I like your point about apparent depth of field. –  labnut Apr 20 '11 at 17:59
    
@mjrider you can only rent the system from Panavison, though no doubt it would be pricey. Not sure why you'd want one to do anything but macro (most likely wildlife) video with though, for still macro photography a set of bellows and focus stacking will get you there for a fraction of the price! –  Matt Grum Apr 20 '11 at 18:14
    
is this only for a view camera then? –  mjrider Apr 20 '11 at 21:37
    
It's for super-35 format movie cameras with a PL mount. –  Matt Grum Apr 20 '11 at 22:58

The stated purpose of the lens's inventor was to create an "optical system for producing the features of a wide angle lens, a deep field lens and a close focusing lens, all in one optical system." According to he inventor in this article he spent 10 years tinkering in order to discover a series of optical elements in order to achieve his desired result. All the technical information you could ever want about this lens can be found by looking at the patent for it.

It is perhaps worth noting that the patent for the Frazier Lens has a slightly colorful history, and as a result it was ruled unenforceable in 2005. Additionally, the rights to manufacturer the lens are currently held by Panivision, and thus it is impossible to buy this lens (because Panivision doesn't sell anything- they only rent their equipment). Finally, while it is conceivable that this lens could be attached to a still camera, the lenses intended purpose is for uses with cinema film and video cameras and thus it attaching it to a still camera would not be a trivial problem to solve as Cinema PL mounts are radically different than anything that is currently used in the still camera world.

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