P+S Technik Steps Up to the F3 Plate

P+S Technik Steps Up to the F3 Plate
Nikon F3 mount from P+S Technik

I received an email from a gentleman at P+S Technik a few weeks ago informing me of an upcoming product that might interest me. I figured it was regarding their 16SR Digital Mag which I think is awesome! But alas, it was something entirely new. An interchangeable mount system for the Sony F3 which comes equipped with a useless proprietary Sony mount and a standard PL mount. This new system from P+S performs similarly to their older Interchangeable Mount System (IMS) for the RED One. The system works by implementing an intermediate mount to which all of the lens mounts attach to. The mounts themselves are still the same as the previous versions so if you purchased a bunch for your RED One, they will still work with the new Sony intermediate mount from P+S. This is great news to me since the only company to make such an adaptor was MTF Services, and it was only Nikon F mount, and backordered by several months. I’m expecting typical German engineering and reliability, which is critical in something with required tolerances of less than .0005″ (that’s half of a thousandth of an inch). The system will include mount options including Nikon F, Canon Eos, Canon FD, Leica R, Leica M, Panavision, and the completely outdated but artistically trendy BNCR mount. So many options!

Several different mount options field swappable.

This system eliminates the need to purchase a mount adapter for each individual lens you own. Instead, you just buy one mount for your camera and you’re all set. P+S claims the system is “professional solution at a very modest price”. We’ll see about that. P+S will be at booth #64 at Cine Gear, the first weekend of June. I’ll be sure to swing by and get more details for all of you cine gear addicts. See you there!

More F3 Lens Options

More F3 Lens Options

I wrote a quick review about a month ago giving some good choices (and bad) for the Sony F3 when it comes to PL mount lensing. After the dust has settled and I’ve had some more time to try all of the options first hand, I’ve come up with some good ideas for the cinematographer on a budget as well as the pro looking to go Sony. I had heard of people using a Nikon to F3 adapter that basically replaces the PL mount but I hadn’t seen one in person until I went to NAB this past week and saw it for myself. The product comes from a company called MTF Services and allows the user to attach native Nikon mount lenses to the F3.

MTF Services Nikon to F3 adapter. Available from Abel Cine Tech (I think).

This opens up an entire world of high quality optics to use on the F3. Nikon announced they have sold over sixty million (60,000,000) as of April, 2011. That’s insane! But I believe it. This means that the old manual lenses I love so much for cinema can now be used natively. Even the newer Nikon “G” lenses can be used. You know, the plastic lenses without an aperture ring on them… Yeah. Nikon is going the way of “gelded” lenses which eliminate the manual aperture control ring. Their entire line of new pro zoom lenses including the 14-24mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm, are all G lenses and lack that manual control. Nikon did leave the little lever that the camera slaps to close the aperture down in the lens which the MTF mount utilizes to control even the newest crop of G lenses that lack the manual control. Accomplished by adjusting the blue ring on the outside of the mount adapter, full manual control is enabled on all Nikon lenses. The G lenses obviously wont have an aperture scale or any indication of what f-stop you are using, but it is a compromise after all. If you want to step it up a notch try using the Zeiss ZF.2 primes with an F3. What a dream team! the only thing these lenses lack for motion picture use is the features of their big brothers, the CP.2. The ZF.2 share the exact same glass as the CP.2 but lack the focus gear, smooth aperture movement, and uniform front diameter. This is all overcome with the Duclos Lenses Cine-Mod that adds a seamless focus gear, 80mm front ring, and a creamy smooth aperture movement. Obviously this option is a little self serving for me since Duclos Lenses provides the Cine-Mod and the lenses but I sell them because I like them. I don’t like them because I sell them.

Duclos Cine-Mod Zeiss ZF.2 lenses.

I haven’t seen a Canon Eos mount for the F3 yet but I suspect it’s not too far off since everyone already converted their Nikon mount lenses to Eos to use of their 5/7D. I’m looking forward to more mount options on the F3. I think it’s a great platform that allows the user a good compromise between indie DSLRs and a RED camera. Obviously there isn’t one camera that does it all and the same can be said for the lenses. This can be said for just about any manual Nikon mount still lens and the F3. There are also a few more lenses that were announced at NAB that would work well like the lightweight Angenieux zooms. I think most people would prefer to keep a F3 rig fairly light and avoid attaching gnarly heavy glass like the RED Primes and Master Primes. While I’m sure the final product would benefit from the beauty of Master Primes but if you’re shooting with Master Primes and an F3 it’s probably because you blew 90% of the budget on the lenses and didn’t have another choice. There are many more options when it comes to still lenses on the F3. While there may not be adapters to attach lenses like the Leica R series, you can always convert Leica R lenses to Nikon mount and still use the MTF mount. Be careful though, too many adaptations and you’ll start to introduce unwanted mechanical slop. Keep an eye on added components and calibrate often. Also, make sure you read up on which lenses work well before you invest a fortune on rare lenses from Ebay.

My advice is to try as much as you can. Don’t believe all the screen grabs you see online. Go out and try new lenses for yourself. Find a shop that will let you play with the lenses and shoot your own tests. You be the judge.

Photo Collection of NAB 2011

Photo Collection of NAB 2011

It’s that time of year once again. Duclos Lenses closes up shop except for those few unlucky employees who stay behind to keep the wheel turning. This year everyone is flying from LA to Vegas… What a waste. I prefer my loyal automobile to get me there in about the same amount of time as those flying fools. I’ll be snapping photos the whole way there and while at the show whenever I find something cool or interesting worth sharing. A virtual photo tour, as it were, for my guests to enjoy. I’ll do my best to utilize my plethora of Apple and Nikon/Canon toys to show as much as I can, as quick as I can. Please feel free to ask questions or request specific photos and I’ll do my best to accommodate. Now onto the photos!

 

UPDATE: Between WordPress’ irritating interface and the Hilton’s sluggish (at best) wifi, I’ve decided just to upload all to Flickr via my 3G iPad connection. Click the link below for the gallery. Enjoy!

click here: NAB 2011 GALLERY

 


Hitting the road, Vegas bound.
Duclos Lenses mobile command center. Fully operational.
20110410-072423.jpg
Duclos 70-200mm prototype arrives from LA just in time to show around tomorrow.

 

Doing a a few practical tests before heading down to the show. (Duclos 70-200mm and Zeiss 21mm ZF.2 Cine-Mod)

 

 

 

 

Angenieux Adds 45-120mm to Their Optimo Line

Angenieux Adds 45-120mm to Their Optimo Line

Angenieux has long been the standard for cinema zoom lenses and certainly isn’t stopping anytime soon. NAB brings out the best in new lens manufacturers (and sometimes the worst) so Angenieux took the opportunity to announce their new addition to the Optimo series of lenses. This time it’s a 45-120mm. A little on the longer end of an all-purpose zoom, this will share a lot of the same features as the other light weight zooms like the 15-40mm and the 28-76mm Optimo. It will cover a full Super 35mm sensor/film utilizing a 31.4mm image circle and will feature an interchangeable mount with options for PL, Panavision, Nikon F, and Canon Eos.

Interchangeable Nikon F and Canon Eos Mount.

The focus scale has 320° of rotation which is about as much as anyone could every want and offers separate interchangeable metric and imperial scales. It will weigh in at 4.3 lbs. making it perfect for lightweight, steadicam, and 3d rigs. It’s a constant T2.8 which isn’t the fastest zoom in the world, but it’s certainly not the slowest and matches well with other pro cine zooms. I’m sure we can expect the same accuracy and quality as the rest of the Optimo lenses. It’s focal range, 45-120mm is a little long even at the wide end giving it a horizontal angle of view of 27.4°-10.5°. A 45mm in a S35 frame is fairly tight and 120mm on the long end gives it a nice versatile throw. It’s 2.7x zoom ratio drops it in the same boat as the other short zooms. I’ll be looking forward to getting my hands on this little bad boy from Angenieux and putting it through the paces. I have no doubt I won’t be let down.

Optional 1.4x and 2x extender (PL mount only?)

Canon PL Zooms

Canon PL Zooms

Canon is releasing a couple of PL mount zoom lenses. Some might think this is a step in a new direction for Canon but they had great success with their 16 format zooms back in the late 80’s in the form of a 11-165mm and 8-64mm that were based on some of their popular video lenses.The optics and core mechanics were transplanted into a cinema friendly housing. The lenses worked great and performed very well. You can still find them floating around rental houses and private owners basements since they only cover a very small 16mm film format.

Canon's previous 11-165mm S-16mm lens.

Canon’s new lenses will be native PL mount and will cover an image circle of 27.5mm which includes APS-C sensors. The RED One requires an image circle of 28mm so you’re pushing it there… It certainly won’t cover the Epic camera with a required 33.5mm image circle. I would be willing to bet the telephoto of the two would have a larger image circle as is the case with most lenses. The focal lengths are going to be 14.5-60mm T2.6 and a 30-300mm T2.9-3.7. The 14.5-60mm size will be a little smaller than an Angenieux 17-80mm but larger than I would care to hand hold. T2.6 is a nice aperture for the smaller zoom but the 30-300mm will ramp and nobody likes a zoom that ramps. 🙁

If these two zooms are similar to Canon’s previous lens ventures, then they should perform very well optically and mechanically. I look forward to seeing these pups at NAB and bench testing them when they come to market. Good luck, Canon!

Nice Try, Sony

Nice Try, Sony

Everyone is raving about the new breed of “large sensor” video cameras most popular of which is the Sony PMW-F3 and it’s super 35 size chip. Shortly after Sony dropped news of it’s new intermediate camera they announced the specs for a set of three budget lenses that could be paired with the camera. The set of three lenses retails for about $5,000 (I think) which makes each lens a little over $1,500. That’s cheap! That’s pretty much the same price as a still photography lens. I waited for Sony to release actual production lenses rather than request press models that could have been tweaked for optimal performance.

A camcorder lens?

I came across a couple sets after a few months and had a chance to bench test them optically and get an idea of the general feel of the lenses. The first thing that caught my attention was the size of the lenses. Each lens is a little over five inches in diameter so I figured it would weigh a decent amount, but I was wrong. They’re actually not very heavy at all. Probably because they’re PLASTIC! Every external piece of the lens other than the mount is made of plastic.

Here's an example of the plastic corrosion from acetone. I tested it on the inside of a housing ring by rubbing a cotton swap soaked in acetone. The external does have a clear coat that helps, but still... Plastic?!?

Okay fine, maybe it’s the new, cheaper, modern way to make lenses and pass the savings onto the consumer, I’m down. But then I took one apart for funsies and realized Sony didn’t put any effort into these lenses at all. While I was taking the lens apart I came across so many things that rubbed me the wrong way like the plastic all over the place, the screws didn’t line up with their holes and were stripped before I even touched them. Not a big deal, I’ll just use a bit of acetone to dissolve the glue around the head. Nope! The plastic housing is not chemical resistant and acetone will simply melt the plastic and bond the screw even more. That’s okay, I have other methods for removing stuck screws, like heating them up to melt the glue. No, again! A single hit from my torch would turn the plastic housing of the lens into a blob of resin.

Difficult to tell from the photo, but this screw is inserted and tightened at an angle and then covered in glue. No acetone or heating help here. I'm pretty sure the small ring next to the screw is where the hole was supposed to be drilled. Oops?

Granted most of these problems are from a service standpoint. There are certainly fewer user issues than service issues, like the lack of critical focus marks and witness marks on each distance instead of just a number. Obviously this makes pulling focus difficult (or easy depending on how much you care about accuracy). As a user, you had better keep these lenses out of the dust and don’t even think about shooting at the beach. The housings are highly susceptible  to contamination (dust, dirt) leaving the focus and iris rotation gritty and uneven. And that gets me back to the service woes… In order to clean and lube a lens like this, the cost would be a little over half the value of the lens. That’s just not reasonable. I’m sure if you sent this back to Sony for service, they would send you a whole new lens and chuck the old one, common practice for consumer product service. Stick to TV’s and camcorders, Sony. You do great work there.

UPDATE:

I didn’t really go over the optics at all in my original post. But now that I’ve had a chance, I bench tested the lenses and they did perform decently. The optics are certainly not bad by any means. I would compare them to Zeiss Super Speeds. There is little to no light falloff at the edges and resolution is even from corner to corner. Breathing is present but minimal. To compare the Sony primes to existing primes would be difficult. Optically, I would say they fall between Ultra Primes and Super Speeds. These lenses will certainly get the job done. I may have been a bit harsh before… Nah.

Rolling Out Another Batch

Rolling Out Another Batch

The 11-16mm has been doing extremely well and received a lot of good reviews especially with the release of the RED Epic camera and it’s ability to cover the entire frame. There was a small slump where the lenses were constantly in stock and just sitting on the shelf. But now we can’t build them fast enough.

Bridge shot with RED Epic and Duclos 11-16mm by Mike Seymour

A little background on the lens and our conversion can be found here: Duclos Lenses PL Mount 11-16mm. We build our conversion lenses in batches of 25-50 at a time. The base lens is a bit difficult to find since it’s such a great photo lens, making it hard to find in stores and online.  Once we have all of the stock lenses ready to go we begin tearing down the plastic housings and unwanted parts. The lens is essentially stripped down to the core mechanics and glass. Our local machine shops crank out all new aluminum and stainless steel parts for the housing and components of the new lens. All of the material, machining, assembly, and testing is done right in the San Fernando Valley. When we say Made in the USA, we mean it. Kinda… (The original Tokina lens is still made in Japan).

A fresh batch of Duclos 11-16mm lenses ready for final touches and packaging.

Now that this current batch is well into production the lenses should start shipping again. We learned from our mistakes and are producing a much larger quantity of parts for the conversion. So if you’re in line for a Duclos Lenses 11-16mm, know that we are building them as fast as we can and yours is on the way.

NAB 2011, Here I Come!

NAB 2011, Here I Come!

I’m not sure what to expect this year from NAB. However, it should be exciting. RED has a lot of big announcements that they’ve been teasing on the forums. Sony has a few new cameras up their sleeve as usual. But there aren’t really any big optics announcements to speak of. I’ll just have to go to the show and find them for myself. I have high hopes for something new from Angenieux or Cooke. Zeiss is still rolling with their CP.2 lenses that everyone loves yet nobody can get so I don’t expect much from them. I’ll be sure to swing by all the other vendor booths and check out the new goodies. Hopefully I’ll have a fully functional pre-production Duclos 70-200mm to flaunt while walking the show floor. Regardless of the news, it should be a good time at NAB this year. I’ll be live updating from the show with tons and tons of photos. Keep checking back on April 11th and 12th for news. I’ll start a new post then. See you in Vegas!

Here are some snaps from last years NAB.

 

Redrock iPod follow focus at NAB 2010
Band Pro's Leica Summilux C Prime lens from NAB 2010

Zeiss to Brandish Micro 4/3 Mount (updated)

Zeiss to Brandish Micro 4/3 Mount (updated)

 

Zeiss recently announced that they will be utilizing the Micro Four Thirds standard on their sought after CP.2 Compact Primes. This will come in the form of an interchangeable mount in addition to the existing Nikon F, Canon Eos, and PL mount. The Micro 4/3 mount will allow the cinemaesque CP.2s to be used on the popular Panasonic AF-100 camera instead of adapting the Nikon, Canon, or PL mount. Just another example of Zeiss keeping up with the latest and greatest. The CP.2 lenses have an optional support hole on the bottom of the lens that I would strongly suggest utilizing since the Micro 4/3 mount is very fragile compared to a PL mount. I certainly wouldn’t suggest relying on only the Micro 4/3 mount to support a lens as heavy as a CP.2.

Sony F3 Lens Options

Sony F3 Lens Options

Sony is just starting to roll out their anticipated F3 camera. A Super 35 sized sensor in a mall, lightweight package. I try to stick to knowing a lot about lenses so you can hear more about the camera from Jason Wingrove’s real world take. But I will tell you all about your lens options when shooting with an F3. I’ll start with the most logical…
The camera comes with a PL mount. PL mount is the standard mount used by just about every non-panavision camera in the motion picture industry. This means that you have a slew of premium cinema lenses at your disposal and that’s how it should be. However, if you are on a budget and can’t afford an Angenieux 24-290mm Optimo then there are a few other options available. I know there are quite a few people making the jump to an F3 from a DSLR like a 5D MkII or a 7D and probably have some Nikon lenses or Leica lenses that you adapted to use on your Canon. Those are still great lenses and will perform just fine on an F3. Of course this is all under the assumption that real cine lenses aren’t an option. I want to make sure that is very clear from the beginning. There is no replacement for cine lenses like Zeiss, Angenieux, Cooke, etc. But there are many options out there for alternative lenses. A favorite of the DSLR revolution has been the Zeiss ZF lenses. They use great glass with advanced coatings and fully manual mechanics. If you don’t know why these still lenses are well suited for motion picture, read through Still Vs. Cine. Your set of Zeiss ZF lenses is sitting around gathering dust because you purchased a PL mount camera. No worries. There is a company called MTF Services that is making a kit to change your F3 to Nikon mount. I haven’t dealt with them personally but the mount looks decent. Now you can use your Zeiss ZF lenses as well as any other Nikon mount lens in your arsenal. The other common route the DSLR community has chosen is Leica’s R series lenses. The selection of prime lenses is great and the glass is simply stunning. Unfortunately there isn’t a Leica mount available for the F3 as far as I know. But there is a Leica to Nikon adaptor for Leica lenses that would solve the problem with the same kit from MTF Services. Yes, you’re converting your Leica mount to Nikon and your Sony mount to Nikon but everything is solid and as long as you take care of your equipment and have it checked frequently, you should be able to maintain the proper flange depth. The benefit to using still photo lenses with a camera like the Sony F3 is their size and weight. There are usually two major components on a hand held rig; the camera and the lens… The Sony F3 is already light enough for what it is. Choosing an appropriate lens makes all the difference in portability and ease of use. If you want to ditch the stills lenses and go for the more professional application, take a look at other sets of prime lenses.

Cooke Panchro

Cooke recently released their Cooke Panchros, a throwback to their original Cooke Speed Panchros that were very common back in the 1930’s and are still well known today. Cooke went on to make other great lenses like the S-4s and now the 5is. These were top notch cinema lenses. But they left behind all of the smaller productions that couldn’t afford a set of premium lenses. They filled the gap with their new Panchro lenses. A bit slow in the aperture at T2.8 but acceptable to say the least. The whole set is matched in speed and color reproduction. Small and compact compared to todays standards, the Panchros should do just fine for almost any application other than low-light. If you’re thinking about using Cooke Panchros but think they will be too slow because of low light, then your grip dept. isn’t doing their job.

Sony PL mount primes. 35, 50, 85mm

You might be asking “What about the PL mount primes that Canon is offering with the camera?”… Sony is offering three PL mount prime lenses (35,50,85mm) for an additional $6,500 (I think) that would work just fine on the F3. I haven’t had a chance to formally test these Sony primes but I’ve handled and used the 35mm on an F3 and I believe they will leave a lot to be desired for professionals. Think of it as the kit lens that comes with a DSRL. It gets the job done… But you can do better. I’ll reserve my final judgment for when I can put the Sony PL lenses through their paces and see what they can really do in a proper test environment as well as real work application. Who knows, they may surprise me. I can go on and on about all the cool PL mount primes you can now use with a Sony F3 but that would take several pages of writing that I simply don’t have the will to write. I’ll finish by going over one other option that I think suits the Sony F3 very well.

Angenieux Rouge zoom lens.

 

Angenieux makes an excellent line of lenses they call Optimo. This line includes their amazing 24-290mm, 17-80mm, 28-76mm, and 15-40mm. All of these lenses set the standard for cinema zooms over the past decade and truly are works of art. Angenieux set the bar so high they left the little guys at the bottom and needed to do something to put their glass in the hands of the creative newcomers. Along came their Rouge series. Originally aimed at those using a RED camera since they were digital only lenses. This meant they can’t be used on a reflex mirror camera since the rear element sticks too far into the camera body. The Rouge series consists of two lenses that are direct descendants of their Optimo parents, the 30-80mm and the 16-42mm. Distinguished by their protruding rear element and signature red rubber grips, the Rouge lenses perform just as well as their pricier counterparts, at a fraction of the cost. A good option, maybe one of the best options for a lightweight, professional cinema zoom lens… In the world.

Red Pro Primes: Between the Lines

This project started at the Red User Party in 2010 when Mark Pederson from Off Hollywood and Ketch Rossi in all of his eccentric, awesome style. Ketch approached me about adding marks to his Red Pro Primes noting that there were a few key marks that were left out. I’m not sure why certain marks were included or excluded, but the focus scale is a non linear helix design. This means that the spacing of the focus distance marks is restricted to the mechanical travel of the helix threads. Duclos Lenses had modified focus scale in the past. Even going to the extent of fabricating and engraving an entirely new scale from scratch in some cases. But the RPP really only required a few added marks. I thought it would be nice to go over the process of adding marks so that you can see what exactly is being done

Making temporary marks in pencil for the engraver to reference.

Continue reading “Red Pro Primes: Between the Lines”

Tokina’s 16-28mm Prospect

We have been considering several lenses for our next conversion process after the 70-200mm is complete. We started with the Tokina 11-16mm that did very well and thought it would be nice to stick with Tokina. However, Tokina didn’t have any other lenses that met our criteria. Certain specifications had to be met, such as constant, fast aperture, lightweight, internal focus and zoom, optical quality, and a somewhat decent platform to start with mechanically. When I heard about Tokina making a new 16-28mm f/2.8 lens I thought it would be a bit of a short range but still fit well. Then I saw the first photos of the lens and got really excited since it looked almost identical to the 11-16mm. In my head this meant that we could save a ton of time and money on research and development for the conversion parts and simply use the existing parts from our 11-16mm conversion. One step further, Tokina was planning to make this new lens a full frame “Pro” lens, perfect for the 5D. Continue reading “Tokina’s 16-28mm Prospect”

Zeiss CP.2 Arrives, Worth The Wait?

Yes. Worth the wait. I finally have my hands on my very own set of Zeiss CP.2 lenses. I know the lenses have been reviewed countless times but here is my quick run down on what exactly the Zeiss CPs are: CP stands for Compact Prime. The “.2” is Zeiss’ way of distinguishing from the first generation of Compact Primes which I will get to in a minute. The “Compact” Primes are indeed compact compared to modern cine lenses such as Zeiss Master Primes, Cooke 5i and the Red Pro Primes but a tad girthy compared to a Leica R series lens. The CP.2 lenses started their life as Zeiss ZF/ZE still photo lenses which are derived from Zeiss Contax lens designs. Regardless, the Zeiss ZF lenses are top shelf 35mm SLR lenses and are my first choice for budget motion picture shooting.

35mm CP.2 on a 5D MkII with follow focus and 15mm rods. Everything fits perfectly.

Continue reading “Zeiss CP.2 Arrives, Worth The Wait?”

Duclos 11-16mm Plays Nice With Sony F3

The infinitely knowledgeable Jason Wingrove sent me a snap shot of a Duclos Lenses 11-16mm on a brand new Sony F3 camera. If you haven’t heard of Jason Wingrove or a Sony F3, you need to spend some more time on the interwebs because they are both a staple in the motion picture industry. Jason was able to shoot with one of three Sony F3 cameras in the world at the time. He notes that the camera is very light which makes lens selection in regards to weight critical. Looks like the Sony F3 and the 11-16mm are a match made in heaven. By the way.. If you haven’t listened to Jason’s Red Centre Podcast along with Mike Seymour you’re missing out. Thanks to  Nathan Rodger for snapping the photos on location. Now if I can just get my hands on one of them Japanese moving picture things…

Photos by Nathan Rodger www.nathanrodger.com

Continue reading “Duclos 11-16mm Plays Nice With Sony F3”

Diving Into Micro Four Thirds

Olympus introduced their Four Thirds system not too long ago. Then they dropped it and ran with the Micro Four Thirds system and it looks like they are going to run pretty far with it. As far as I know there are only two companies currently using the M4/3 system; Olympus and Panasonic. Olympus is utilizing it in their smaller interchangeable lens cameras which are pretty cool if you ask me. I purchased a Olympus PEN as a M4/3 test mule recently and I love it. And then there is Panasonic with a similar line-up of small cameras. However, Panasonic took it one step further with their new AG AF-100.

Continue reading “Diving Into Micro Four Thirds”