What is a deakinzer? It is a lens created by Robert Deakin the cinematographer for the film “The Assassination Of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”. The film is a beautiful story of the bedrail of one of America’s Wild West antiheroes. I have always loved the time-lapse scenes in the film where it looks like the lens is broken with a really heavily selected focus and strong vignetting.

A direct screenshot from the movie “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”

Chilling out to the sound track that was recorded by Nick Cave an image of scene came back to me and I wanted to emulate the feeling.

In the film Deakin created the effect by taking old wide angle lenses and removed the front plain of glass, then placed the lens on the film camera. This technique Deakins claims to have pioneered and called the lenses Deakinzers. Deakins made three lenses and hires them out.

Deakins said

Most of those shots were used for transitional moments, and the idea was to create the feeling of an old-time camera. We weren’t trying to be nostalgic, but we wanted those shots to be evocative. The idea sprang from an old photograph Andrew [Dominik] liked, and we did a lot of tests to mimic the look of the photo. Andrew had a whole lot of photographic references for the look of the movie, mainly the work of still photographers, but also images clipped from magazines, stills from Days of Heaven, and even Polaroids taken on location that looked interesting or unusual. He hung all of them up in the long corridor of the production office. That was a wonderful idea, because every day we’d all pass by [images] that immediately conveyed the tone of the movie he wanted to make.

Source Wikipedia

I started off with my image in Lightroom where I balanced the image and then edited the colours in Alien Skin Exposure. I choose a vintage film stock for more subdued colours. I imported the image into Photoshop and created a bleach by pass effect, which I then muted down. I did this to create a little bit more contrast and to make the blacks deeper as well as desaturating the colours a little more. This gave a nice colour pallet for the image. Next I used two tilt shift filters and a strong vignette to replicate the lens defects that you normally see in Deakinzer images.


I think the image has a nice quality to it with the strength in the saturation differing between the blurred and sharp areas. The image has an old time feel yet doesn’t try to make you believe it is a real vintage image.

Let me know what you think.

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5 thoughts on “Deakinzer

    • The main difference is that Deakin’s lens unlike a lens baby cannot shift the plane of focus. The reason a lens baby can do this is because it is a tilt shift lens. THe deakinzer has a very narrow dof due to the missing front element. Although both suffer from barreling and vignetting.

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