Shooting Portraits with a Giant IMAX Lens on a Canon EOS R

In an endeavor that seems to be driven only by curiosity, Photographer Jay P. Morgan modded an old IMAX lens to allow it to work with his Canon EOS R. But just getting the lens to work wasn’t enough, as Morgan decided to take the lens way out of its element: street portraiture.

The giant lens was made by Iwerks Entertainment, a company founded in 1985. While it is now known as SimEx-Iwerks, the company still produces high-tech entertainment systems, films, film software, and other entertainment devices. After keeping the lens in storage in his basement for years, Morgan finally decided he wanted to try and bring the old cinema lens back into the light of day.

Before he could do that though, Morgan needed to build a rig to hold the lens in place and allow his digital camera to manual focus correctly through it. While Morgan doesn’t mention it, he appears to use a Canon RF to EF adapter to protrude the camera into the back of the IMAX lens to allow him to properly mitigate light leaks and give him the ability to manually focus by racking the camera back and forth.

Once in place, the lens gives a very wide angle of view.

“This lens is so interesting because it has a 180-degree angle of view,” Morgan says. “So I can get right here close and to the side and I’m in the shot. And I am in the shot when I move all the way around to the other side. This lens has a really strange quality because my face is in focus, but the area around it is out of focus. It almost has a tilt-shift kind of quality like it’s you’re focusing on one point.”

Morgan says that he thinks that because of the way he mounted the lens, he doesn’t get a flat plane of focus. As a result, he might get a face in focus but hands or bodies quickly fade out of focus. While not intentional, the look is still rather pleasing.

Morgan’s rig is absolutely not the best choice for street portraiture given its cumbersome size and finicky design, but that wasn’t the point! The point was to make something fun and interesting with an old lens, and the results he gets with the rig are surprisingly good. His experiences here have led him to think about other old lenses he could adapt to modern digital cameras to see how they work for different photo applications.

For more from Jay P. Morgan, subscribe to his YouTube Channel or check out his blog.

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