I purchased a used Ikonoskop a month ago for a documentary that I am leaving for at the end of January. The choice was definitely not based on what camera would be the most suited to the conditions I will experience but rather I looked at it from another perspective; how can I adapt a device that captures imagery the way that I want to, to a situation where it hasn’t been used in yet.
This adaptive philosophy has been the foundation of my work so far where I build and utilize custom camera systems for surveillance, vehicle and POV shoots. The cameras I used in this line of work are completely different in aesthetics but I have always started by visualizing the end result and working backwards by forcing the gear to suit the vision.
When envisioning the end result of the project I knew that I wanted a modern version of a 16mm news camera. I wanted a density in the imagery that isn’t available when shooting with a 35mm CMOS DSLR, a richness that could carry the weight of what I’ll be filming. Combining these two identities has been a challenge but I think that I have created a rugged but simple setup suited for documentary film making in a variety of conditions.
The foundation of the kit is the Ikonoskop A-Cam with the Zeiss 11-110 zoom lens. This combination gives a decent amount of coverage in a lightweight package. I added an Asperon wide angle adapter that clips onto the front of the lens turning it into a 6.6mm fixed prime with no light loss. I will also be adding a Mutar 2x doubler for additional reach.
To keep the profile of the camera to a minimum I decided not to use a mattebox, it’s too intimidating to stick a big black box in people’s faces and expect them to act natural. I looked for a long time for a lightweight clip on system and found an amazing solution with the Schneider 87SSLR.
The Schneider adapter clips onto the outside barrel of the lens and allows you to use 4.5” drop in filters. The filters are then held in place by a retaining ring that screws in and allows for the use of a rotating filter adapter for polarizers and a collapsible rubber hood. Schneider doesn’t keep the 87SSLR in stock but when I contacted them they machined one for me in about 2 days. I am really impressed by their service and response in fulfilling this request on a part that I’m sure is rarely ordered.
I’m using a Schneider One Stop Tru-Pola and Tiffen .6, 1.2 IRND, and 2.1 IRND. If I’m going from bright outdoors where I would have the 2.1IRND to a dark interior it takes a second to loosen the lockring on the 87SSLR and remove it.
The Ikonoskop is a long camera but can be used bare with a small prime quite easily, the viewfinder is actually very good and in this configuration the ideal way to shoot. The Zeiss 11-110 however creates a balance point slightly ahead of the lens mount requiring a setup that can be shoulder mounted for proper stability; this negates the ability to use the built in viewfinder though.
Achieving a stable shoulder setup without useless counterbalances requires mounting a monitor or viewfinder almost near the end of the lens, I looked at a couple of options; a small monitor is too large, the camera’s video out is SDI so that limited the choice of viewfinders to either the Cineroid or the Alphatron. The Alphatron is very large and the Cineroid has waveform and the ability to use it as a micro monitor with the viewfinder loupe completely removed, which is how I like to shoot.
I have had some issues with the Cineroid though. Quality control doesn’t seem to be very stringent and the first unit I bought had a faulty battery plate though Birns and Sawyer the US distributor quickly switched it out for me and I have had no problems since with powering the unit (which uses the same Sony batteries as the camera). One issue that I’m still unhappy with is the light leak around the top edge of the Retina screen. I used to have a Dell laptop that had this issue along the bottom edge and I hated it, its only visible on the Cineroid when the top portion of the screen is filled with pure black like night sky. The feature set and versatility don’t make me regret the purchase.
The Cineroid is mounted on the end of forward facing Wooden Camera Cheese handle and NATO rail (inspired by Aaron Vogel’s rig) using their EVF mount. I love all of their stuff, it’s incredibly well made and functional. The NATO rails allow the handle and EVF to slide apart in seconds allowing the camera to be reconfigured or stowed away very quickly.
I wanted to use the Wooden Camera shoulder pad and probably would if I was going to use a V-Lock battery but the price and the size put it out of contention; I wanted everything to be able to pack flat or close to it. I looked at the contours of the camera and below the viewfinder the camera follows a curve that had a remarkable resemblance to the Movcam shoulder pad which is inexpensive and very lightweight. This mounts to rods underneath the camera via a Red Rock Micro Really Right Stuff baseplate (another credit to Aaron Vogel).
I am still waiting on a handle to complete the rig.
Next post will contain pictures of all the items mentioned.