15. April 2021In Fast, France, PortraitBy Espen Susort

P. Angenieux lenses have that special aura for many vintage lens users, but for most people they are unobtainable. They are in high demand for camera and lens collectors, and because they also are quite rare, the prices are often too high for most people to spend money on. The one exception is projection lenses, these Angenieux lenses are often quite cheap when compared to normal photography lenses. This is because collectors usually don’t care much for projection lenses, and for a long time especially the projection lenses for 16mm film could only be adapted for close macro work. In the last 10 years with the mirrorless cameras booming, these projection lenses have suddenly become usable and somewhat sought after again. Also many of these projection lenses were cheaply made and often light sensitive. These are also most often made with the Petzval design, with 4 optical elements in two groups. And for many vintage lens shooters this optical design swirly bokeh comes first to mind. But this 16mm projection lens is not usual. Firstly the lens is highly light sensitive with an aperture set at f/1.2. Usually you can find cheap 50mm f/1.2 projection lenses, but not 60mm. Furthermore this is not a petzval design, but it still gives a more reduced swirly bokeh.


For the lens to be at f/1.2 the back elements have to be close to the sensor. This is normal for these kinds of projection lenses. In short this means the lens will go beyond the shutter blades, which means you have to shoot in silent mode only. I had to do a small modification to this lens to make infinite focus. Firstly there is a small metal ring that does protect the back optics, this has to be unscrewed. Secondly you have to remove a tiny bit of the threading on each side for it to pass the 24x36mm opening in the camera. But to worries, the metal ring can still be screwed in place, because you only take a bit of the threading.

In regard to doing irreversible modifications on the lens I am for the most part against it. I rationalize it with if this modification is not done, the lens is again obsolete. It will be stored somewhere dark and not have new light shined through it. I’d rather do this modification than not to use it, if that makes sense? Also this lens has no real collectors value and is therefore relatively cheap.

There are three ways of focusing this lens. The cheapest way is to DIY it normally, with plastic piping, glue and tape. This works but it is not ideal.

There have been some products popping up that are basically adapters for projection lenses made from plastic.
Lastly you could buy specialized parts on eBay to have a normal focusing helicoid. This is the method I like to do. Usually these parts have a high range of usage, not only for this exact lens, but usually I can use the same parts for multiple different lenses, also this method is non-destructive, no need to glue the lens to a make-shift focusing tube.

These are the parts I used to make the adaption:

  • 52.5mm to M65 clamp adapter from RafCamera
  • Generic M65-M65 focusing helicoid (25-55mm)
  • Generic 42-65mm step-up ring (0.75mm pitch)
  • Generic slim M42 to E-mount adapter (1mm pitch)

Lens Characteristics

Firstly the lens is sharp, sharper than other f/1.2 projection lenses I’ve tried. It has a less noticeable field curvature than usual, probably because it is not a Petzval optical design. This means I can shoot more off center, which gives me a bit more playing room for placement of the subject.

The image circle is small, this is one of the big downsides with this lens, it just about covers the normal APS-C sensor size. You could probably shoot ASPH at portrait distance. But for me I prefer shooting APS-C on my Sony A7Rii with this lens simply because I get distracted if I see beyond the image circle. It gets harder to compose the shot when I have to guess where I’ll crop in post.

Bokeh often has a lot of character, this is for the most part quite pleasant. It can get a little busy when having trees in the background, basically where there are high contrast small differences in the background. But for me I don’t mind it that much. The bokeh is swirly, but lacks the normal symmetrical oval shaped bokeh that I am used to. This lens has a more semicircle look to it, the further you go to the edges.

It does not take kindly to the sun, with uncoated glass be sure to shoot in the shade or try to adapt a big lens hood. It does not like high contrast shooting either, with some flaring and a lot of chromatic aberration at these high contrast edges.


I love this lens, it’s fast and sharp. Easy to use. It is for no part perfect, if I was looking for perfection I would have invested time and money on modern gear. I like the challenge of having to work around the lenses limitations and weak points. And not to mention the Angenieux name gives the lens a bit more street cred.


  • Mostly sharp
  • Good contrast
  • Less noticeable field curvature
  • Pleasant bokeh


  • Shoot only silent mode
  • Small image circle
  • Chromatic aberration at high contrast edges
  • Uncoated optics
  • A bit hard to adapt
  • Destructive modification