Seriously, what focal lengths did Akira Kurosawa really prefer?
Akira Kurosawa is my favorite director. There’s a lot of missing information on the cinematography of his films, and lots of unsubstantiated hearsay. Most books or google searches has someone quoting he used ‘telephoto’ lenses.
But did he?
It was obvious the writers never bothered to probe further, possibly due to ignorance of cinematographic techniques, lenses and so on. I searched for years but couldn’t find any definitive information on the subject.
- Seven Samurai
- Sugata Sanshiro
- High and Low
- Red Beard
- Throne of blood
I would have loved to add more, but it took too much time, and I already had the information I needed with this bunch. After shooting for so many years I don’t really need to check every frame. You sort of develop an eye for it.
My goal was to:
- Find the family of focal lengths he used (not find the exact numbers – that I didn’t care about).
- Find the T-stops he typically worked with.
The conditions of the study
Before we go ahead, you need to read about the terms I use in the video and article:
Kurosawa used multiple formats in his career, from Academy to Super35 (1.85:1) to anamorphic (Tohoscope). Every time the format changes, the lens choices will change – to the get the same ‘look’.
Important: I will be presenting the focal length assuming a sensor with an 18mm vertical height.
Tip: You will need to use a crop factor to arrive at the focal length for your camera sensor. To find the equivalent focal length corresponding to the sensor you’re interested in, divide the vertical height by 18, and multiply with the focal length I’ve presented.Read more about crop factors here.
The lenses used by Akira Kurosawa
Here’s a video of the lenses used by Akira Kurosawa:
This content is only available with a subscription or Wolfcrow Lifetime Access. Click here to buy a subscription.