Invest In Glass


NAB comes once a year and manufacturers use the event to show off products to customers that gather in Las Vegas from all over the world. With the way the motion picture industry has been going, products are conceived, announced, and delivered within months. It’s become an extremely volatile industry for manufacturers and users. Almost every camera that was available at NAB last year including the Sony F3, FS100, Canon 5D MkII, RED Epic, and many others, have been replaced by newer, better models. This can be extremely frustrating for professionals looking to purchase a camera to make a living with.
RED always talked about making their cameras “future proof” but that was just a moderate way of saying that they’ll have upgrades available which is probably the closest to future proof. other companies like Sony are quick to release a basic model and shortly follow it with a professional version with improved features.
Now, take a look at lenses. Every single once of these cameras needs lenses. There have been a lot of new lens announcements over the past year, but none of the lenses from last year or the year before are any less competent than the new crop. I fact, lenses produced a decade ago are still working on feature films and haven’t been made obsolete. Go back even farther than that and look at professional cinema lenses like the Angenieux 25-250mm HR or Zeiss Ultra Primes and you’ll find a large number of professional projects are still using these as their go to optics. Sure they aren’t razor sharp and may exhibit a few minor flaws, but they’re far from obsolete. My point is, investing in a high end zoom lens or a set of primes will be beneficial for a much longer time than the newest camera.
There are only a few features that keep a lens future proof these days; an interchangeable mount doesn’t hurt. That way, whatever camera suits your needs, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to mount it. It’s also nice if the lens covers a full 35mm still frame. That way if your project calls for something like a Canon 5D or when RED releases and full frame sensor camera your lenses will be able to cover the full sensor.
Don’t be fooled by consumer marketing terms used to sell lenses. There is no “4K Compatible” or “Designed for Digital”. There are features such as tele centric (light exiting the rear of the lens is parallel) that will help give a slightly better image or lenses that will resolve a certain amount (line pairs). But a fifteen year old professional motion picture lens will still provide top of the line results thanks to high quality materials and mechanical-optical design superiority.
There will always be newer better cameras. Lenses can last a lifetime.


5 thoughts on “Invest In Glass

  1. This is very true, however a lens alone will not do. So vendors still need some cameras to rent out their lenses too. The trick is finding the long-time-breath camera. if you buy a Canon C300 for some $16K but after 6 months C500 which cost at least another $16K will make the previous obsolete or you buy Arri Alex for $75K, assuming you upgraded it to 120FPS etc, but you got at least 60 months out of it, then you know the calculation: 16,000:6=2666 while 75,000:60=1250.

  2. Spoken this a guy who loves lenses.

    Why just look at recent Vimeo videos that people have been shooting with 80-100 year old lenses. Less contrast, yes. But is that always a bad thing? And pretty darn sharp if you ask me, especially for being 80+ years old optic.

    The business, and in fact the world at large right now seems to be obsessed with gadgets. We have smart phones and people spend an enormous amount of time using them, but are they communicating any better? Are we making better films nowadays? Or just making better looking crap. That’s a technical terms which means Avatar 2. 😎

    It’s been a long time since I’ve had as much fun watching a film as I did the first time I saw L.A. Confidential. Studios are going for safer sequels. Television is going for reality. It’s GOT to get better. With all these great tools available to us, we really need better scripts!


  3. MATT, you know the latest XYZ 2.0 camera is soooo much sexier than lenses…. Doesn’t the 3.1 camera come with a lens? And it’s powder coated with cosmic reflective paint as well.

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