Zeiss pulled the veil of their long anticipated update to the Compact Prime line which will officially be called the CP.3 and CP.3 xD. The new line will consist of FF35 primes ranging from 15mm to 135mm in a lightweight, compact cinema housing. The new lenses will feature high performance optics at affordable prices with a couple of features not yet seen in the Sub-$5K market. Let’s take a look at the details of Zeiss’ new cinema primes.
To make room for the new CP.3 primes, Zeiss is discontinuing the CP.2 line with the exception of the Super Speed T1.5 CP.2 primes; 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm and the 50mm T2.1 Macro CP.2 which will remain in production. During the launch event in Las Vegas this weekend, Zeiss informed the audience that the CP.2 line of lenses has been the most successful product in cinema lens history. I don’t have hard facts to back this up, but I don’t doubt it one bit. The Zeiss Compact Primes hit the market at the turn of the digital cinema revolution and really brought in a new era of affordable, quality cinema lenses. However, for some users that were more demanding, the CP.2 left something to be desired. After all, the Compact Primes from Zeiss are coming up on ten years old now and it’s time to refresh the line. So what’s new? The CP.3 take a slightly different approach to cinema lenses than other manufacturers are. They’re including Cooke’s /i protocol which allows for recording of vital metadata such as lens focal length, focus distance, t-stop, etc. – but go a step further and include their own embedded profiles for finer details such as illumination falloff, distortion, and more. This not only allows the user to record and compensate in post… But also tweak to their liking. Without baking a “look” into the glass, this new approach which Zeiss is calling their xD (eXtended Data) allows the user more control of their lenses throughout the creative process. What’s this about CP.3 and CP.3 xD? Here’s where things get interesting. If the fancy eXtended Data feature doesn’t interest you at all, then there’s a more affordable option : the plain CP.3 (no xD) which offers the exact same image characteristics and build quality, but simply without the /i Data protocol and hardware. As you can imagine, forgoing the circuit boards, connectors, additional hardware, assembly time, etc – the regular CP.3 primes become a more affordable option. Do bear in mind that if you choose the CP.3, there is no option to add the xD features at a later date. I don’t consider this a “catch” at all. If anything it’s the other way around. Zeiss is making the CP.3 xD primes but also offer a more budget conscious option to a wider range of customers. Well played. So which one is right for you? Decide now if you think you’ll ever find a need for the xD features. There’s your answer. Now let’s explore the actual lenses. The set at launch will consist of a 15mm T2.9 / 18mm T2.9 / 21mm T2.9 / 25mm T2.1 / 28mm T2.1 / 35mm T2.1 / 50mm T2.1 / 85mm T2.1 / 100mm T2.1 / and 135mm T2.1. The primes will all share the same focus and gear position and common barrel diameters and front diameter of 95mm, only differing in the length of the barrel between focal lengths. All of the lenses will cover a FF35 format sensor up to 43.3mm diagonal. There’s no difference in the size and no discernable difference in weight between the CP.3 and CP.3 xD. The mounts will be user interchangeable between Arri PL, Arri PL w/ xD, Canon EF, Sony E, Nikon F, and Micro 4/3. The mount pins for the eXtended Data are only available in the PL w/xD mount and not in any of the other optional mounts. However, thanks to the LEMO port on the size of the CP.3 xD primes, even with the other “passive” lens mounts, the data is still available to capture through an Ambient MasterLockit Plus. Focus rotation is a generous 300 degrees with plenty of well-spaced focus distance marks. The iris is comprised of 14 blades and maintains a very impressive circular configuration at just about any T-stop. Tech Specs for the geeks – more details after that: Having handled the new CP.3 lenses during the launch party, I can gladly confirm that the focus and iris movement are a vast improvement over the CP.2 primes. This was one of my biggest complaints with the older Compact Primes and Zeiss have definitely addressed this with the new CP.3 primes. They still feel just as solid and well built as their more exotic cousins; Ultra Primes and Master Primes – just without the bigger price tag and additional size/weight. There are a few key differences to note between the outgoing CP.2 and the new CP.3 besides the obvious eXtended Data features. The size and weight is the most obvious. The CP.2 had a rather large 114mm front that simply wasn’t necessary. None of the glas was anywhere near large enough to require such a bulk housing. The focus movement, which I mentioned previously, is a massive improvement over the CP.2. Lastly, the AR coatings. Zeiss says these are a whole new coating that we’ve not yet seen. Improved over their previous methods to maintain a more even distribution, providing a higher degree of correction. The non-xD CP.3 primes will begin shipping this June with a price tag of approximately $4,390. The CP.3 xD variants are scheduled to begin shipping in September at about $5,790 per lens. As usual, custom sets and flight case (this time a lovely Pelican AIR, carry-on compatible) will be available at discounted prices from Duclos Lenses who will begin taking pre-order post NAB (email them now if you want to get a jump on the competition). Check out the featured videos Zeiss has put together to show what the CP.3 primes are capable of. Enjoy! https://vimeo.com/213062221 https://vimeo.com/214394944