ALPA Brings Switar Back to Cinema

Swiss camera manufacturer ALPA has taken a big leap into the world of motion picture lenses by reviving the Switar brand. Their initial set of prime lenses will consist of a 35mm T3.5, 45mm T2.8, 55mm T3.5, 80mm T2.0, 140mm T2.8, and 210mm T4.0. The most pronounced feature of this new set is their massive 70mm image circle intended for motion picture use with medium format systems from the likes of Fujifilm, Hasselblad, and Phase One. Let’s take a closer look at what ALPA has planned for the Switar brand.

1949 ad scanned by steevithak - camera-wiki.org

Cinematography veterans may recall the Kern-Pillard Switar primes of yesteryear for their tiny, unassuming stature. Designed and manufactured in Switzerland in the 60’s and 70’s, the Kern-Pillard Switar lenses could be found most often on C-Mount 16mm Bolex cameras. Their ultra compact size and fast aperture made them quite popular with amateurs and professionals alike. Vintage Switar lenses have seen a resurgence in the world of Micro 4/3 cameras thanks to mount adapters. (left: 1949 ad scanned by steevithak – camera-wiki.org)

ALPA is another name that some may recognize and recall their classic 35mm film cameras. However, similar to the Switar name, ALPA of today is quite different than the ALPA design house that created the ALPA Reflex. After the original company shut down in the early 90’s, the rights to the ALPA name were acquired by Ursula Capaul and Thomas Weber. Since then, ALPA has produced some of the finest intermediate cameras for medium format backs in the world. Their most recent work has produced one of the most unique collaborative cinema products, the ALPA Platon – a PL Mount intermediate camera that utilizes a medium format Hasselblad digital back for motion picture production.

Naturally, ALPA saw the opportunity to pair their new Platon camera with their very own lenses. Leveraging the Switar name, APLA has introduced their new line of cinema prime lenses. What the lenses lack in speed, they more than make up for in image circle – producing an image large enough for the medium format digital cameras such as the Fujifilm GFX100 and the Hasselblad H6D-100C or even a dedicated motion picture camera like the Alexa 65 and IMAX cameras. The lenses will be equipped with a PL or LPL mount.

While the Switar and ALPA names are both veterans of the photographic world, they’re both just that… names. In ALPA’s press release, there’s no mention of optical design or manufacturing which leads me to believe that the new Switar lenses may not be entirely original or that ALPA is collaborating with another lens manufacturer.

This approach wouldn’t be out of the question for ALPA considering their recent collaboration with Schneider; making a rather nice 36mm medium format lens. However, none of the machining or design is reminiscent of Schneider… ALPA also recently teased their XO line of camera accessories aimed at the Fujifilm GFX100 camera which seems identical to solutions offered by Italian accessory supplier, LockCircle.

I usually prefer to have hands-on experience with a product before I share with you all – but ALPA hasn’t provided any demo units and at the time of publishing this post, hasn’t provided any sample images shot with the new Switar primes. As a result, we’ll certainly provide additional coverage of these lenses once they’re closer to seeing the light of day. Stay tuned!

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