I’ve been dropping little hints and grabbing quick iPhone pics of this bad boy. We’ve been working on it for a while now and were more than happy with it. First we were impressed by the exceptional image quality produced by this little Nikkor zoom. After the success of our 11-16mm re-house we searched for something else to tear apart. We thought about doing some mid-range zooms but that has already been done by Century and Cooke. I found a fairly large gap with the new emerging run-and-gun style shooters brought on by RED and now the DSLR revolution where there were no telephoto lenses that could be used easily with a steady-cam or any ‘lightweight’ setup. So we started looking for the best candidate. I evaluated many, many lenses including Canon, Nikon, Tamron, Sigma, and Tokina. There were a heap of really nice zooms even from the third party optics companies but none stood out as much as the Nikkor 70-200mm VRII, Nikon’s newest revision of their workhorse tele-zoom.
Let’s go through some of the specs…
- focal length 70-200mm
- aperture f/2.8
- min. focus 4.6′
- angle of view 34 to 12°
- weight 3.2 lbs.
- 9 bladed aperture
- 21 elements in 16 groups, 7 low dispersion, nano coating.
You get the idea. I believe Arri Media had a few of the older 80-200mm lenses converted for their own use, but I’ve not seen or heard of them since The Bourne Trilogy. Hence the choice of one of Nikons most supreme, versatile lenses in a package that is relatively light considering the focal range and speed. However, there were a few problems with the lens when considering it for motion picture use. As with almost any still photo lens, the optics don’t need much work, but the mechanics lack many, many features exhibited by it’s aspirational counterpart that is the cine lens. The first, most obvious is the focus. Not only is it backwards but it also has a focus throw suitable for an infant. So the first step was to reverse and extend the focus throw while adding a nice, smooth cine feel to it unlike that of the stock, dry, raspy focus barrel. The next pronounced flaw was the manual aperture, or lack thereof. We kept the original diaphragm since it was already very nicely shaped and added the manual aperture ring. The front diameter gets a bump to a common 95mm. The overall weight is kept sprightly with an all aluminum housing and stainless steel PL mount. And then comes the versatility. That stainless steel PL mount can be swapped for a Canon or Nikon mount on the fly. We thought the abundance of mount retaining screws that secured lens mounts in the past was a bit annoying and clumsy for field use so we used a ‘neutral sub-mount’ with a large threaded lock ring that secures all three mount options. At this point the lens is still in the prototyping phase. The lens pictured above is the only one at the moment and it’s being anodized right now for an upcoming exhibit at the PhotoCine Expo in LA this weekend. If you want to have a go at it just show up at the expo this weekend. Free admission with coupon code “tix4duclos”. DO IT!