New Vega Primes from TLS

The Vega primes are the latest development by renowned cinema lens rehousing company, True Lens Services (TLS). We got together (virtually) with TLS Managing Director, Gavin Whitehurst and chatted about this new project. Enjoy!

Matthew: Welcome to The Cine Lens, Gavin. You and I have known each other for many years, but can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and what you do at TLS? 

Gavin: Of course, Matthew. I’m a qualified mechanical engineer and I first started working for TLS in my early 20’s(2003).  I started out on the CNC machines in the workshop but soon started working on designs for matte boxes, lens modifications and of course from 2013 I worked on full lens rehousings.  When the original owners sold the company in 2014 and we became a part of the Procam group I started to take over the general running of TLS.  The Procam group struggled from the start of the Pandemic although TLS was still doing quite well.  In September 2020 TLS was purchased in a MBO by management and Foresight Group (private equity) and this is when I became the Managing Director. Because I love the industry and people in it so much my main objective remains to give the DOP’s and Cinematographers the tools, they need to do the incredible job they do and the confidence that our TLS lenses will hold up on the most rigorous of shoots.

Matthew: I first saw the Vega Primes at NAB in Las Vegas back in 2018, I believe. Are these the same lenses that were shown then and can you tell us more about the lenses in general? 

Gavin: I can confirm the lenses are exactly the same, although back in 2018 as part of the Procam Group the decision was to have these as rental only which wasn’t a popular choice with rental houses or individuals.  Once TLS became independent again the decision was made immediately to offer the Vega range for sale. 

Matthew: Most people would know TLS for their very popular Panchro, K35, and other vintage lens rehousings. The Vega Primes are the first project from TLS that isn’t a rehoused vintage lens. Can you tell us more about how this project came about and what makes the Vega Primes unique?

Gavin: This project was talked about for a number of years before 2018, I believe it was originally Keith Truslove and Colin Sanders idea (TLS founders), they were always great fans of Nikkor glass and wanted to offer a lens with the qualities and characteristics that the AF-S lenses possess.  Once a full frame sensor came onto the market and the fall off towards the edges became more apparent the decision was made to move forward with the project.

Matthew: The lenses are available in PL and LPL mount. Does TLS have any plans to offer the lenses in other mounts? 

Gavin: Canon RF is also a strong possibility in the future. These would all be available as an interchangeable option so mount changes between jobs would easily be possible.

Matthew: Currently, the Vega primes consist of 20, 24, 35, 50, 58, 85, 105, and 135mm. That’s a pretty complete set as-is, but any plans to add more focal lengths? Perhaps a macro?

Gavin: We are a company that listens very carefully to both DPs and demand coming from the rental houses. With the larger format movement, the current cinematic trend is often to get the cameras in closer and play things a little wider but multi-camera coverage is not going away and squeezing in the 2nd or 3rd camera angle can get tricky. With this in mind we are also evaluating bringing a longer focal length to market as a 135mm on a FF sensor doesn’t appear as long a lens as it is on S35. We have also been looking into adding a 28mm and have just completed a 60mm 1:1 Macro lens that matches incredibly well.

Matthew: There is no shortage of high-speed, large format primes today. What would you say sets the Vega lenses apart from other options?

Gavin: The quick answer is that the Vega’s are really easy to work with and incredibly versatile, but we understand this could be said about at least 2 other high-speed sets of lens. It also goes without saying that the lenses have the build quality and reliability that you would expect from TLS so you always have confidence even on the most rigorous of shoots. We also love them because they have the Nikkor character which many of us consciously (or subconsciously) already know and love. Our consistently circular aperture is also a huge plus for the smoothness of the Bokeh when stopped down a little. This consistency of the out of focus part of the image is becoming more important as DPs are often now wanting to really finesse the depth of field from shot to shot. With cameras like the Venice and Arri mini LF allowing very fast changing of NDs one can choose quickly the exact amount of DOF desired for each shot. Our circular iris means that bokeh remains very smooth and you don’t get a textural jump that you can sometimes see with some other lenses as you stop down.

Matthew: Are there any projects that have been shot on the Vega lenses and what have been DP’s reactions to using them in the field?

Gavin: The feature film “Twist” for sky cinema used the Vega lenses, the feedback from DP’s has been very good there has been many comments not only about the images captured but also how well the lenses performed in different light and conditions. The lenses have also been used on other projects that can’t currently be mentioned but we can’t wait to share some of the footage when this is possible.

Matthew: Thanks for your time, Gavin. Can’t wait to see some of the work that these lenses are currently being used on!

And that’s it! If you have any other questions about the Vega Primes, drop them in the comments below and we’ll follow-up. Some quick thoughts after testing the Vega Primes on the bench and in the field. If you’re familiar with the work TLS does and the beautiful simplicity of their focus cam design, you’ll know how well the Vega lenses will perform mechanically. For you lens techs out there, you’ll also share my enthusiasm for how serviceable these lenses are as a result of this design. I don’t have any frame grabs or video to share from my time shooting with them, but there is plenty of content out there already. What interested me the most was the quality and character of the bokeh. It was very natural and subtle – not busy or distracting. Subjects in frame popped easily against an otherwise blissful background when shot wide open. As always, I’ve included some basic tech specs below and of course, you can order the TLS Vega Primes directly from Duclos Lenses.

Focal Length20mm24mm35mm50mm58mm85mm105mm135mm
Max ApertureT2.0T1.5T1.5T1.5T1.5T1.5T1.5T2
Min. Focus8″10″12″15″TBD2′ 9″3′ 3″3′ 6″
Front Diameter110mm110mm110mm110mm110mm110mm110mm110mm
Weight3 lbs.3 lbs, 1 oz3 lbs, 5 oz2 lbs, 4 ozTBD3 lbs, 2 oz4 lbs3 lbs, 8 oz

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