The Kubrick Files Ep. 3 – Kubrick’s Cameras


In photos of Kubrick on set and in his daily
life, you’ll quite often find him holding a camera. He got is start as a photographer, but after
he transitioned into filmmaking, he would still shoot photos. Kubrick was a bit of a gear-head and had strong
feelings about what he thought was the best equipment. Matthew Modine, who played private Joker in
Full Metal Jacket, was nervous about meeting Kubrick for the first time. A friend of his gave him an old Rolleiflex
camera to help break the ice with Kubrick, seeing as Kubrick had a background in photography. Matthew Modine: “The first thing he did when he saw the camera was said, ‘What are you doing with that old piece of junk?’ Because this is an old camera. And he talked me into purchasing– he told me what lenses to buy, what camera body to buy, what camera bag to buy, what film stock to buy and I hated everything that he told me to buy, but I fell in love with this old box camera.” Kubrick’s recommendation was a Minolta and,
whereas Modine ended up sticking with the Rolleiflex, it got me thinking—what were
the cameras that Kubrick liked? When Stanley Kubrick was thirteen years old, his father Jack Kubrick gave him a special gift. Jack Kubrick, a professional physician, was
also an amateur photographer and the gift he gave his son was a Graflex camera. Stanley took to it immediately becoming a
photographer for his school’s newspaper (Kubrick Archive). A neighbor of his named Marvin Traub had a
dark room in his bedroom and the two would often go around New York City taking pictures. At the Kubrick exhibit in San Francisco, they
had a Graflex PacemakerSpeed Graphic Camera there— I’m not sure if it was Kubrick’s
personal camera, but this would be the camera that he would use quite a lot at Look Magazine. When Stanley was sixteen years old, he received
another camera as a present—a Kodak Monitor 620. This camera shoots on 620 film—a medium
format film—that is much larger than the 35mm film that most are used to. The pictures give an extremely great amount
of detail. 620 film was discontinued in 1995, but they
still make 120 film which is pretty much the same film, it just comes on a different spool,
which you can re-spool for use in a 620 camera. User sbsk uploaded a gallery identifying many
of the cameras Kubrick is seen holding in several photos throughout his life. I’ve put a link to the gallery in the description
if you’d like to take a look. Others were identified by the Stanley Kubrick
Archives book and other resources. Kubrick is around eighteen years old here
and he is holding a Rolleiflex Automat Model RF 111A. This camera was produced between 1937 and
1939. It is a medium format camera and shoots on
120 film. You can also see that it is a twin-reflex
camera, which means that there are two lenses—one you can look through and one that takes the
picture. And here he is with a Rolleiflex K2. It is likely that this photo was taken by
his father in 1946. He is holding a flashbulb attachment although,
he very rarely used a flash in his photos. This was the main camera he used before he
joined Look Magazine (Quiz Kid). He continued to use Rolleiflex cameras—here
he is with a Model K4 and here’s another photo, this time, with a 35mm Rollei. When Kubrick worked as a photographer for
Look Magazine, he used a Graflex PacemakerSpeed Graphic Camera. This was the main kind of camera used by the
American press before the mid-1960s. Kubrick was known to use a Polaroid Pathfinder
110A on his film sets for continuity, but also to test the lighting setups. The Polaroid would be set up to give an image
that looked very close to what the motion picture camera would produce. This way he could see what the setups would
look like on film before he shot the scene. This famous self-portrait of Kubrick was taken
with a Leica IIIc. The IIIc also makes an appearance in his other
self-portraits—this one, and this one. If you’ve followed my channel, you’ve
probably seen this photo of Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke working on writing 2001: A Space
Odyssey. This camera on the desk is a Pentax K. Here he is holding a Hasselblad—another
medium format camera. I’m not sure about this one, but it looks
like it could be a Nikon F. I’m also not sure about this one. It could be a Leica. Let me know in the comments if you have an
idea. This picture was taken in 1961 on the set
of Lolita. I believe that this is also a Leica around
his neck, but I’m not sure what the model is. Here, he is holding a Nikon F. And here, this tiny camera is a Subminiature
Minox. This was a spy camera and shot on 8mm film. I wasn’t able to find any pictures of him
holding it, but he also shot some stills on a 35mm Widelux. Check out the final episode of How Kubrick
Made 2001: A Space Odyssey to hear me talk about it. Considering Kubrick’s love for still cameras,
it isn’t surprising that a lot of these cameras managed to find their way into his
films. In Full Metal Jacket, Joker teams up with
a combat photographer named Rafterman while he works as a war correspondent for Stars
and Stripes. Rafterman was played by Kevyn Major Howard
who is an actual photographer. Howard mainly shoots headshots for film and
television actors. In the film, we can see two Nikon F cameras
around Rafterman’s neck. This was not unusual for combat photographers. Quite often, the photographers would have
a camera with one kind of lens and another camera with a different lens, so that they
could quickly use whatever camera works best for each situation. Often times, one camera would have a low ISO
film and another camera would have a high ISO film for different lighting conditions. Lomography.com did a profile on this camera
where they mentioned that the Nikon F was famous for its use by actual combat photographers
in the Vietnam War. In fact, a British photojournalist named Don
McCullin was saved by a Nikon F when it stopped a bullet aimed at his head (Lomography). A Nikon F also makes an appearance in Lolita being held by Peter Seller’s backstage at Lolita’s play. This camera looks very similar to the Nikon
F that Kubrick was seen with on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Could it be the same one? When it came to motion picture cameras, Kubrick
was quite fond of his Arriflex 35 2C Handheld Camera. This camera had Cooke Speed Panchro Prime
Lenses. It was pretty lightweight – you can see
that there are three lenses that are mounted on the camera at the same time in order to
change easily. This camera could hold 200 feet of film, which
equates to about two minutes of shooting. The lens sitting next to the camera is a Kinoptik
Tegea 9.8mm wide angle lens that Kubrick would use for shots with “extended depth of field”
(Kubrick Exhibit). Here is Kubrick using his Arriflex 2C on A
Clockwork Orange. Kubrick was known to shoot all of the handheld
shots in his films himself (nakedfilmmaking). Here is the same camera on Barry Lyndon. Nakedfilmmaking.com notes that, around this
time, Kubrick opted for smaller crews than the ones used on traditional studio pictures. This way, he could save money and shoot longer
(nakedfilmmaking). You can also see the 2C here with a 9mm Kinoptic
lens for that super wide shot of the reporters (nakedfilmmaking). And of course, what’s a camera without a
lens? At the Stanley Kubrick exhibit when it was
in San Francisco, they had an entire room devoted to Kubrick’s lenses. There were a bunch of lenses that Kubrick
filmed with, which were adapted from still camera lenses. This Novoflex telephoto lens—a 400mm f5.6
lens— was made for still photography and Kubrick had it adapted for use on Barry Lyndon
and other films (Kubrick Exhibit). Here are some lenses that Kubrick got for
a Mitchel BFC 65mm camera. After using front projection for the Dawn
of Man sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick wanted to use this technique again
for subsequent films. He bought the Mitchel BFC 65mm camera to shoot
what would be the backdrops for other films, but ultimately decided against it (Kubrick
Exhibit). Many of these lenses had to be converted to
fit the Mitchel camera. This large Cooke Varotal 20-100mm T3 zoom
lens was used on several of Kubrick’s films since the early 1970s. The placard at the museum said that this lens
was last used “to shoot Nicole Kidman and Sky DuMont dancing in Eyes Wide Shut” (Kubrick
Exhibit). To the right is a lens that was adapted for
35mm use from 16mm and this lens was used for the long zoom shots in Barry Lyndon and
A Clockwork Orange. Perhaps the most famous of Kubrick’s lenses
is the Zeiss Planar 50mm F0.7 lens by Carl Zeiss. This lens was used on the interior scenes
for Barry Lyndon. And, in some scenes, the interiors were lit only with candle light. This would have been impossible to capture
on motion picture film as there didn’t exist a motion picture lens to capture a proper
exposure in such low lighting conditions. Kubrick, delightfully stubborn as he was,
decided to adapt a lens that had only been used by NASA at that point. The lens has an F-Stop of 0.7 which indicates
“the relation between [the] focal length and [the] diameter of [the] maximum aperture”
(Kubrick Exhibit). This refers to how large the opening is that
the lens is seeing through. The larger the opening is, the more light
is able to reach the film. The number after “F” has to do with how
big the opening can get and the smaller the number, the bigger the opening, which is known
as how “fast” the lens is. During that time, an F0.7 lens was able to
get two stops faster than any other high-speed lens available (Kubrick Exhibit). Kubrick had the lens “redesigned by Cinema
Products” so that it would work with his “Mitchell BNC 35mm camera” (Kubrick Exhibit). Now, there isn’t a lens in the world that
can save a bad story, but Kubrick’s quest for perfection applied to every phase of making
his films and the equipment was no exception. Thanks for watching! I want to give a special thanks to my Patrons
over on Patreon. Without your support, I wouldn’t be able
to make these videos. And if you’re new here, please hit that
subscribe button now, because there are plenty more videos on the way for cinephiles like you! Thanks again for watching!

Comments 100

  • At 4:00 it looks like the Nikkormat I am holding in my right hand.

  • For the unidentified cameras shown at 3:58 – 4:05, I think the SLR is a Nikkormat, clearly not a Nikon F or my first guess of a Topcon. The following rangefinder is one of the Nikon rangefinders stylized after the Contax IIa, possible an S2, as it appears to lack the self-timer lever which appears on the S3. Better ideas? Does anyone really care?

  • Fantastic!

  • Great video but i was sad to see you never talked about the Mitchel 35mm camera that Kubrick had to get someone to rebuild it fit the great fast lens that was used to capture the candle light scenes in Barry Lyndon. But maybe a separate video for that Frankenstein camera?

  • The unknown cameras are Contax and Nikon rangefinder cameras

  • I'm pretty sure that the rangefinder he is holding between 4:04 and 4:13 is a Nikon S series. https://www.cameraquest.com/usingthe.htm

  • Some would say the Hasselblads featured quite prominently in Kubrick's work. 🙂

  • The camera at 4:04 may be a Contax clone called a Kiev or a Zeiss Icon, the camera at 4:13 may be a Zeiss Icon. The Contax and Zeiss cameras have a similar look and Nikon copied them to create the Nikon S cameras. The Nikon used the same lens mount as the Contax.

  • its not a leica but a Nikon S2

  • Leica is a IIIa not a IIIc. You can tell by the seam separating the top plate from the finder housing; starting with the IIIc the two were unified to keep out dust. It May have been a IIIb but they are rarer, being produced in fewer numbers during WWII.

  • Great video…I grew up on a visual diet of Kubrick. Never met him, but I did have long and interesting conversations with Arthur Clarke at his home in Sri Lanka in 1978…

  • Yes all the cameras that you didn't know and thought were Leica are Nikon instead as the others commented below. Really nice camera. It extremely expensive even here in Japan

  • That's a Nikon S3, I believe @ 4:08.

  • Thanks for this lovly video.. The rangfinder cameras you called might be a Leica is a Contax rangfinder..FYI

  • what that thing in his eye? 04:08

  • looked like a zeiss ikon

  • I think that model is, nikon rangefinder

  • wow cool cameras

  • wow i had the exact same cameras- the speedgraphic and the 620. incredible results.

  • Awesome Great work!

  • zenit-e

  • Apparently there was some controversy about the cameras he used on Barry Lyndon. I guess they were real Swiss masterpieces of engineering. And Kubrick bought up several of them and had them milled out to fit the still lenses. Which involved changing the film feed path and a few other things to allow for clearance behind the lens, that left them non-stock.
    Sure he savaged some nice old cameras. But come on. Barry Lyndon!

  • 4:07 is a nikon s2 or a nikon sp.
    an early nikon rangefinder for sure.

  • Thanks FUK for nerds….!! I own a Canon 50mm FD 1.2….nice lens, great " bokeh " ( YES NERDS, I WROTE BOKEH!!!! I'M A NERD…!!!! look it up ) I also own 4 mint Yellow Dot Kodak Aero Ektar lenses, used in WW2 US planes for recon missions….0.9 f stop….I think, it's late and I'm tired…Go type in Kodak Aero Ektar into Google….radioactive rear element, etc etc…My friend was arrested in Moscow airport coz he was carrying an Aero Ektar and the radio-active element, Thorium (??) set all the alarms off….The earth is a flat motionless plane, NASA have lied to you, dinosaurs never existed either, erm, start with ODD TV, or Eric Dubay….wake up kids….!!! Peace.

  • 3:14: Think that's a Zeiss Ikon, maybe D3S

  • Im glad he dint use the fucking canon 5d.

  • Definitely Nikon S2's in a couple of those photos. I have one and know it pretty well! Great video man.

  • At 3:58 I reckon it's a Nikkormat FTN https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikkormat

  • Thank you for sharing this very cool cinematic history. I can still smell the acetic acid in the darkroom!

  • do digital cameras offer that format, if you saw that as the priority. It makes a big dramatic difference very nice.

  • That was a fascinating exhibition, I also saw it in San Francisco, where I live. I spent 4 hours there and still ran out of time. Here's an impression of the camera room: https://www.instagram.com/p/BLRiNHLjpL8/?taken-by=jdavidsondesign

  • He is holding a Contax or a Nikon copy of a Contax where it is said he is holding a Leica. They are also rangefinders but very, very different from Leicas.

  • I wonder if Kubrick would have preferred digital over film

  • I think some one the rangefinders were Contax

  • Funny he had such negative comments about Rollieflexes to M. Modine – since he shot with them in his days as a Look photog. IMHO, the Rollieflex is one of the Great Cameras of all time. The other Great Camera is one that is not correctly identified in this film, the Nikon Rangefinder – preferably the S3. Also funny he recommended a Minolta! Not a bad camera, but Modine had the greatest SLR of the day around his neck – the Nikon FTN.

  • Cinema Tyler – What do you think Kubrick would of thought of DSLR cameras? And if he DID like it, which model do you think he would gone for?

  • 3:50 is a Spotmatic. The K mount hadn't been invented yet.

  • WAY COOL-! I also went to the STANLEY KUBRICK EXHIBIT in San Francisco a year ago this month … and it was, wondrous. Thanks for the oh-so-cool look at Mr. Kubrick's cameras and lenses.

    SIDE NOTE: If you happen to ever do an update on this video — Garrett Brown (Steadicam Inventor) once told me that the ultra-wide lenses used in 'THE SHINING' in the MAZES were either a 9mm or 14mm.

    Thanks again. You made my geek-tech day-!!

    D.A.

  • Very informative and well put together. Wasn't aware he tested lighting like that. Thanks so much for posting.

  • Before I even starting watching this I know he liked his Arri motion picture 35mm cameras.

  • The rangefinders around 4:14 are Contax rangefinders. The same cameras that were used by Robert Capa for the famous shots of the normandie landing on D-day.

  • That one camera you were not sure of that was a Nikon camera was a Nikkormat FTN.

  • hey good sir was just watching this some good in's on clock work orange  some other good ones pop up on  the side bar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqy9cLL6K5w

  • another one 🙂 have a good week !https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMN7S_jVlsQ

  • He was basically a camera nerd!

  • Rollyflex lol

  • The Arri 2C can hold 400 ft loads provided one use the 400t magazine. The magazine mounted on the camera is indeed a 200ft magazine, but Kubrick had and used 400ft mags too. In fact at 6:38 in your video we see the Arri 2C with a 400ft magazine attached.

  • Nice, I think you forgot to mention what a challenge it was in Barry Lyndon to deal with the ultra narrow depth of field. The fastest lens I had a chance to use was a f1.2 and it was very difficult to get it right, I cant imagine a f0.7!

  • I started learning still photography on my Dad's Minolta SRT-201. I shoot Canon now. But have an adapter to still allow me to use the old MD mount for my manual Minolta Lenses.

  • If Kubrick was alive today he'd use a Digital Bolex D16.

  • 4:16
    I love this photo, because Jack Nicholson thought Stanley was taking a photo of him, when he was really taking a photo of himself & his daughter.

  • Selfie enthusiast

  • I don't even care about Kubrick's still cameras, yet here I am watching your video and finding it fascinating. You could make a video about the kind of toilet paper he used and somehow make it enjoyable!

  • The Pentax on the desk is a M42 mount spotmatic not a K.

  • Hey Tyler, something occurred to me that I thought I'd share. I was watching a grindhouse B-film from 1982 called Vice Squad (very good, by the way) and was rather impressed by the night photography and noticed a shot at one point in the film taken of the back of a car in motion in the city from the POV of obviously another traveling car and was really impressed by the wide-angle and seemingly slo-mo sense and I was thinking, "Man, this looks like something out of Kubrick," and when I checked the credits learned that the cinematographer was John Alcott! You might want to check out the film sometime as a sort of Kubrick miscellany. (BTW, the trailer for Vice Squad is on Youtube. I think it is one of the greatest trailers ever made. Check out the editing.)

  • Another great one

  • Something that Kubrick did so well, as well as other artists like William Eggleston in his photographs and Wim Wenders in his film "Paris, Texas," is achieve dynamic and appropriate color composition that supports the thematic bones of the film. David Fincher also has an incredible eye for color.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAW09Jy48bM&t=2s

  • From what I can work out talking to crews who worked with Kubrick, I think he descended into obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) with photography in later years. For example, on 'Eyes Wide Shut' he would get the focus pullers to shoot lens tests after a long days shooting and do camera steady tests (film weaving through the gate). Pointless as significant problems would show up in the daily rushes.

  • there is one famous nikon lens that was owned by Kubrick which he used as an iconic prop in a movie, Im talking about the spherical glass all seeing eye of HAL the computer in 2001. This was in fact a Nikon 8mm fisheye camera lens that was mounted on the front panel of HAL to represent his eye, this type of lens had built in rear mounted filters, yellow, red and green, by selecting the red filter the effect of the red dot "pupil" we see in the movie is achieved. here is a link to a review of that lens. I used to own one of these lenses back in the 1980s when I was a pro photographer . http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/8mm-f8.htm

  • contax or kiev

  • 4:04 – This is probably Contax II…

  • What a great series. Very informative and well done. Thank you.

  • Did Kuberick ever use a zennit camera?

  • Nikon f and f2 are legendary

  • 4:05 Nikon S2

  • 4:10 Nikon S2

  • Which Minolta?

  • Nikon S  around his neck

  • The cameras that you believe are by Leica at 4:00 are actually Zeiss Contax rangefinders. Magnificent beasts.

  • Great video mate 👍

  • @CinemaTyler What is the incredible music used in this video? Please link.

  • Kubrick's Kool Kameras 📸

  • I wonder what Kubrick would have thought of the digital era. Would he have opposed it or embraced it?

  • Love your in-depth profiles.

  • Excellent job making this video about Kubrick and photography.

  • The Arri IIc also takes a 400 foot magazine.

  • I have 2 Pentax K1000 and they are beasts. A supreme example of mechanical and optical brilliance, just like 2001

  • Kubrick! The 1st one to come up with the idea of mirror selfies

  • awesome video, thank you

  • I have the Nikon F my Uncle Dave carried in Vietnam and use it occasionally to this day.

  • Here's a tip shithead, don't pick up the music pace as you start talking more shit.

  • In these times, many people prefer (and absurdly fight) for one brand in photography, BUT the Kubrick lesson is, test everything. Every brand and every model of cameras, most as possible. Because a camera is JUST a tool for your point of view. Stanley was a MASTER.

  • +1 on the Nikkormat (also Nikomat, depending on where it was being sold) at around 4:00 in.
    The camera at 4:04 is the Nikon version of the Leica RF camera, the Nikon S2, 3 or 4 (not the S or the SP). Canon also made a version of this kind of camera, back in the day.

  • The camera at 4:11 is a Nikon S, Nikon's answer to the Leica RF (rangefinder) camera. It's different from the S2, S3 or S4 camera at 4:00 in that its main OVF (optical viewfinder) window is smaller than those of the later models.

  • Sorry. at 6:00 you say that the Arri IIc can hold 200ft of film. The Arri 35mm film mags came in 200, 400, and 1200 feet capacities. 35mm film runs at 90ft/min at 24fps – you do the math.

  • I hope you read this comment. I want you to know that I hold you in the highest regard. Please do more like this.

  • The two rangefinders you couldnt identify are Nikon S rsngefinders or maybe Contax.

  • love cameras

  • 620 is wider than 120 by a quarter or three eighths. I ran 120 through a 620 camera once.

  • Kubrick would love modern cameras.

  • Truly a pioneer. Kubrick was doing "bathroom selfies" long before any teenage or 20 something girl ! @ 4:16

  • I'm pretty sure the camera you are not sure about is a Nikon s rangefinder

  • That's not a Nikon F but rather the classic Nikkormat FTn in the picture with Kubrick with his wife standing next to him outside(Clockwork Orange era). GREAT Videos!!

  • At 4:17 that's a black body Nikkormat(Probably an FT2)

  • At 5:16 that a blackbody Nikkormat FTn w/50mmf2 Nikkor lens. Nikkormats were often used as back up cameras for the flagship Nikon F.

  • The “Nikon F” camera, is a Nikkormat, and the camera Stanley is holding immediately after that, is a Contax rangefinder.

  • The camera after the Contax, is not a Leica, it is a Nikon S2 rangefinder camera

  • Excellent content!

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