As of late, the DZOFILM brand is creating quite a buzz in the cinematography community. I can’t recall a lens release that created so many inquiries. Who is DZO? Where did they come from? Are their lenses any good? Let’s explore…
I first saw DZO back in April of 2019 at NAB where they debuted a pair of Micro 4/3 zooms ; the Linlung 10-24mm T2.9 and the Linglung 20-70mm T2.9. These were interesting, but didn’t quite convince me that they would be a good solution for filmmakers. Oh and they also had a 25-300mm Super 35 format zoom that looked like a carbon copy of the Fujinon 25-300mm, but I don’t think anyone gave that particular lens too muc consideration due to its size and weight. Fast forward to Summer 2020 and although we were in the midst of a global pandemic, DZO began teasing their next project. The Pictor zooms were announced and I’ve finally had a chance to put them through their paces. I’m not going to bother sharing footage of my cat or walking around a scenic park. You’ll be able to find plenty of that on YouTube already. What I will share is my honest thoughts on these two new zooms from the perspective of someone who’s torn into practically all of the cinema zoom lenses out there.
|Coverage||Super 35, APS-C||Super 35, APS-C|
|Lens Mount||PL, EF||PL, EF|
|Weight||3.35 lbs||3.75 lbs|
Let’s start with the most attractive feature… The price. The pair of zooms comes in at $4,799. Let’s get this out of the way right now – These lenses should be priced twice as much! Everyone has an opinion as far as image character goes. These lenses are not going to be optically perfect. But they’re no slouch. They’ll produce very usable images with low distortion, minimal breathing, and a pleasing bokeh. Since everyone’s a critic these days, I’ll focus on some of the mechanical features – The focus, zoom, and iris all have a very nice degree of rotation that is smooth, consistent, and well lubricated. The gears are nicely spaced and not crammed on top of each other. The zoom has several holes to accommodate the included zoom pins. Engravings are traditional mechanical engravings, paint filled with a nice bright yellow. There are a generous amount of focus distance marks which are nicely spaced. Both lenses include a support foot which isn’t at all necessary when used with their included PL mount; but highly recommended when using the bundled Canon EF mount. Speaking of which… Each lens comes in PL mount with an interchangeable Canon EF mount kit including shims and hardware. The front housing is a common 95mm with an 86mm filter thread. By most cine zoom standards, the lenses are ultra lightweight. But they’re still made of mostly anodized aluminum and will weigh more than most Canon L series lenses and even double that of the Fujinon MK zooms.
So who are the Pictor zooms made for? It’s hard to say. I think that if you slapped a German name brand on the side of these lenses, they’d fit right in on larger productions. But their price will definitely make them appealing to the emerging cinematographer that’s looking to take the next step up from still photo lenses into a proper cine zoom. The pair will work on a wide range of cameras thanks to the included swap-able mounts and S35+ coverage. Anything from a Blackmagic, ZCam, RED Gemini/Helium, Canon C300, even an Arri Alexa! Once again, considering their size, you can toss the pair into a shoulder bag and be covered from 20mm to 125mm for doc work or remote locations where you don’t want to lug around a huge Pelican case. I can’t speak to their longevity since I’ve only had them for a few weeks. Traditionally, reliability is one of the weak points of Chinese lenses… So if you’re looking for a bit more brand confidence, you may want to consider something from Fujinon, Canon, or Zeiss. As far as comparisons go, one could stack the Pictor zooms up against the Canon Compact Zooms, Angenieux EZ zooms, Sigma Cine zooms, or Arri Alura Zooms due to their similar zoom range. But again, the Pictor zooms will be much smaller and lighter and nearly 1/4 of the price. One could compare this duo to other zooms that would have a similar focal length in one zoom like the Laowa 25-100mm OOOM or the Zeiss 21-100mm, or Fuinon 20-120mm but those are priced quite a bit higher and will be much larger. You could also consider them a rival to the Fujinon MK zooms but the MKs will definitely win on size/weight thanks to their composite shell and native mirrorless design (ideal for the new RED Komodo).
Here’s a quick little Q&A session we had with a DZOFILM representative talking about the history, current products, and future of the company…
DUCLOS LENSES: Can you tell us more about DZOFILM, such as the history and how it got started?
DZOFILM: DZOFILM is a sub-brand of DZOPTICS and mainly focuses on cine lenses. Before establishing this brand, DZOPTICS was known for its industrial products. It not only designs and manufactures products about machine vision, but also acts as an integrated optical solution provider. The film industry is also a system combined with cameras, lights, monitors and so on, while lenses are a vital part among it. As new media especially short videos and short films swept around the globe, the demands for professional yet affordable cinema equipment increased. Also, DZOFILM is eager to pursue aesthetic feeling in its products, which is different from machine vision. After gaining enough experience in optical design and basic knowledge of film, we stepped into this industry with our Linglung MFT zoom lenses.
DUCLOS: How big is the company?
DZOFILM: Two floors and covers around 3800 square meters in total. There are around 90 employees in the company.
DUCLOS: What made you choose to offer the Pictor lenses in white? Is there a benefit other than a unique look?
DZOFILM: The white color is more like a proof of ourselves. We want to do more than what is expected and don’t want to limit ourselves into the safety area. Chinese factories have not tried white color on lenses before. But we did it. Apart from this, we do want to provide one more choice for our customers–a set of special lenses that people can afford.
DUCLOS: How did DZO manage to keep the price point so low on the Pictor cine zooms?
DZOFILM: As you know, China has a nickname–factory of the world. And thus we have good yet inexpensive raw material, precise processing machines, and mature supply chains. All these help us to control the cost. Secondly, zooms are always about compromise and we also compromise in our Pictor zooms. Thinking out of the target market of Pictor, we select the rather common yet useful focal range from 20mm-125mm. A wider angle and longer focal length will greatly increase the weight and the cost. We revised the distortion merely through optical design rather than applying aspherical lenses even though they do help. The Pictor zooms are designed based on our previous Linglung MFT zooms. We learned a lot during designing our MFT zooms, and avoided many problems that happened before. Also experienced workers are essential for a company. Most of them have been trained during development of our previous products. That helps us save time and money. And we leave more price space to the end users so that they can purchase these lenses at a rather competitive price.
DUCLOS: Do you have plans to develop more cinema lenses? Perhaps a set of primes or Full Frame lenses? (this Q&A was originally prior to the release of the Vespid Primes)
DZOFILM: The Linglung MFT zooms and Pictor S35 zooms are just the start. We are willing to hear from our customers and the market, and are dedicated to delivering more choices for video creators. Considering that it takes time to develop optical design and mechanical design, please be patient for our future products.
DUCLOS: Do you see the company continuing to focus cine lenses? Or do you think you’ll develop still lenses in the future? Are you open to that?
DZOFILM: DZOFILM is more market-oriented. We are willing to hear from end users. Cine lenses are just the first step, we hope we can create more possibilities.
DUCLOS: Where do you see the company in the next few years?
DZOFILM: This is a question that I also ask myself. What will DZOFILM be in the next few years? I would say, infinite possibilities. The company is growing and it is seeking more ways to develop, to explore, to try. It is new, and fearless.
In summary: I don’t see how a cine lens with high tolerances, reliability, and accuracy could be priced any lower. If you’re ready to pull the trigger, you can find the pair or individual DZOFILM Pictor Zooms over at http://www.ducloslenses.com.