This post has been updated since it was first released to reflect up-to-date information including pre-order details (above).
One would assume that these full frame (FF) prime lenses are intended for still photographers, but there are a lot of features that will appeal to cinematographers just just as much as still photogs. I recently had the opportunity to review an early set of the Schneider Cine-Xenar III primes which I consider to be proper, classic cinema primes. Read the whole post here. At the moment the mid-range cine lens options include the likes of the Zeiss CP.2, Canon CN-E Primes, and a few others not worth mentioning. A bit of background on this class of lenses; the CP.2s are based on their lower-priced cousins, the ZF.2 photo primes. The CN-Es are also based on their lower-priced cousins, the L Series photo primes.
Both Zeiss and Canon borrowed optical designs from their photography war chest whereas Schneider used their high-end Cine-Xenars as inspiration. The point here is that the technology and design trickled down from higher up with the new Xenon-FF lenses, instead of the other way around like other manufacturers. Don’t get me wrong… Anyone who has used Canon L Series lenses for photography knows that they are all great and sharp. Same goes for the Zeiss ZF.2s. They are awesome photo lenses and both can be modified and used for cinematography with great results. But it’s a compromise. Let’s hope that Schneider stands out from the crowd and offers fewer trade-offs with their new Xenon FF-Primes. Let’s get to the fun facts that I have so far.
The new Xenon FF-Primes, named for their 24mm x 36mm full frame coverage, will have a common speed of T2.1. The “set” will start with the 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm. Not exactly a full set, but it’s a great start. Canon launched their CN-E cine primes with a 24mm, 50mm, and 85mm, leaving a huge gap between the 24mm and 50mm. I much prefer the 35mm focal length if I had to choose between the two, especially for larger sensors like the 5D or upcoming Red sensors. The Xenons will have uniform 14-bladed irises and provide a nice circular bokeh at all T-stops. The barrels all have identical dimensions with a constant volume design. No barrel telescoping or setup alterations between lenses. Schneider also announced the development of the 25mm and 100mm which you can find details on here. The Xenon primes will all have a 100mm front diameter and a 95mm filter thread, and be approximately 2 lbs. each, depending on focal length and final designs. This makes them smaller and lighter than their Cine-Xenars but still a good size, easy for lightweight shooting. They’ll all have focus and iris gears, perfect for a follow focus or remote operation with motors. The barrels are absolutely filled with distance marks and clear witness marks for focus and iris. The barrels are clean, simple, and simply effective. There’s a support foot that makes mounting the lenses to DSLRs more reliable with proper support. The lenses will be offered in PL mount with optional Nikon F and Canon EF mounts.
Phil Holland, if you don’t already know him, is something of a jack of all trades, master of most. His experience with lenses rivals my own with a passion for odd, one of a kind lenses as well as a vast knowledge of lenses, past and present. The Schneider Xenon FF-Primes spent their time in my shop, on the projector, and then went straight to Phil for some time on a camera to for some shooting feedback. Here is an expert from his RedUser review with the new primes from Schneider.
First Look – Schneider Xenon FF-Prime Lenses
A couple days ago Ryan Avery of Schneider Optics contacted me and informed me that he had a set of prototype Schneider Xenon FF-Prime Lenses. He also asked if I’d like to test them out for a day and mentioned I might be the first to shoot any images with them. Being the lens nut that I am and my new fondness of the Cine-Xenar III lenses I certainly couldn’t pass that up. Below are a few of my thoughts regarding the lenses. I only had about 4 hours of shooting and inspection time with them, but I tried to get as much done as possible. Consider this a “quick preview”.
Where Did These Come From?
These lenses started their life when they were announced and shown as the Video Xenons, however, much has changed during their product development and these lenses are indeed finally coming to the market at the end of this year as Xenon FF-Primes. Matt Duclos provided a nice preview of these lenses on his blog here. He also was able to put the lenses up on the projector and make some observations about the lenses a couple days ago. I’ll add the link right here when his article is up.
- FF35 Full Frame Coverage (36x24mm)
- T2.1-22 Iris Range
- 14 Iris Blades
- Weighs approximately 3.3lbs each
- Designed for 4K
- Color Matched
- Minimal Breathing
- Uniform Size and Gear Spacing
- 300 Degree Focus Pull
- Generous Focus and Iris Marks
- No Image Shift
- 100mm Outer Diamter
- 95mm Front Threads
- Available in PL, Canon EOS/EF, and Nikon F Mount
- Available 4th Quarter 2013
- MSRP $4000 each
So pretty much with that price point I’d say that these are a potential game changer. Let’s take a closer look. Here are my quick impressions of the set:
The very first thing you’ll notice when you hold one of these lenses in your hands is that they are very well built. These are not toys, they are tanks. Clearly the Xenon FF-Primes have been designed to stand years production use and abuse. They are very solid and feel like a solid piece of metal and glass. That’s great news.
I highly recommend you read the entire write up from Phil’s test on RedUser here.
Price & Delivery (Updated)
As of Summer 2013, the Xenon FF-Primes are scheduled for release Fall 2013 with a price tag of $4k per lens of $12k for the three lens set. The two additional lenses, the 25mm and 100mm are scheduled for release sometime in 2014. One thing is for sure; I’m looking forward to getting my hands on these primes and doing some tests in projection and in the field. If they perform as well as I expect, the first place you’ll be able to get them is Duclos Lenses.