Julia Kjaergaard (SVT)

At SVT, Sweden’s public service television broadcaster, 50-year-old camera lenses have been modified to fit modern Sony FX cameras, a move that benefits both viewers and SVT with high-quality cost-efficient film productions. Creativity,
dedicated craftsmanship, and an interest in vintage equipment sparked this surprising development.

It all began with a setback, when a lens mount adapter for SVT’s Sony cameras didn’t work. But instead of simply exchanging it for one with the correct size, Billy Björk, a member of the SVT technical department, explored a different route. As an experienced photographer and cinematographer who is into vintage gear, Billy was sure there were a lot of creative solutions out there. He found what he was looking for in SVT’s collection of retro technology: a complete set of camera lenses. The discovery led to the solution of modifying adapters to mount the vintage lenses on the modern cameras.

Billy contacted Magnus Carlsson, who works in SVT’s mechanical workshop. Together, they tried various approaches and created an adapter that made it possible to recycle lenses – the oldest being from the 1970s – so they would be fully functional on modern Sony FX cameras.

The “vintage kit”, as it’s known at SVT, delivers images that are described as vibrant and organic, soft yet sharp in focus. The craftsmanship of these vintage lenses is generally high, they rarely contain plastic, and they give the footage an elegant cinematic look. Plus, all this finesse doesn’t come with a hefty price tag. And the vintage kit has become incredibly popular with the camera crews at SVT.

Three advantages

Recycling 50-year-old lenses provides three important advantages: stable and robust quality that rarely requires repairs; financial benefits, keeping costs down by recycling old inventory; and an end product appreciated by photographers and audiences alike. SVT gets more for its money while being environmentally responsible – a win–win situation!

A little over a year has passed since the in-house vintage kit was launched. The project has been highly successful, and the vintage kits are always in demand for various television productions.

Now, more vintage kits are planned. But the number of retro lenses at SVT has begun to dwindle, so Billy Björk and his associates are looking into the second-hand market.

“There are so many top-quality retro lenses out there, both online and in bricks-and-mortar niche shops,” Billy says. “These lenses have certain properties to begin with, and even if a ‘cinematic expression’ is something of a fad, the gear itself will be durable and SVT will be able to use it for a long time.”

This article first appeared in issue 58 of EBU tech-i magazine.


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