A popular topic of discussion these days is whether or not certain lenses are worth their huge price tags. Moreover is there a justified correlation between a lens’ price and how “good” it is. It’s an apt time to continue this conversation since there are more lenses to choose from than ever. Also, there are some seriously high-performing cine lenses at price points that are within reach of so many filmmakers. The number of “affordable,” full frame, super speed, cinema lenses alone is incredible (Canon CN-E, Sigma Cine, Tokina Vista, Zeiss CP.2, Rokinon XEEN). It’s an exciting time to be a DP. It can also be an overwhelming time to be a DP especially if you are an aspiring cinematographer who is just scratching the surface of all the lens options out there. Continue reading How do we decide the value of a lens?
Let’s sort this out… Ever since an article went live over at www.newsshooter.com I’ve had an email or a phone call almost once a day asking me if the new Sigma Cine Zooms were parfocal. Or as many of the calls/emails referred to it: “parafocal, paranormal, parafocusing, paralegal”, etc. etc. It’s parfocal (par·fo·cal), okay?! It seems like the entire industry suddenly became hyper aware of this term which has been around for a very long time and overnight, everyone’s a lens expert. Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page… Continue reading Are Sigma’s Cine Zooms Parfocal?
One of the most frequent questions we receive at Duclos Lenses from all over the world is in regards to the different versions of the Zeiss Super Speeds. Sticking to just the 35mm format (not 16mm format) version of Zeiss’ high speed primes, we’ll discuss some of the basic differences in an attempt to clarify some common misconceptions around the heritage of illustrious prime lenses. Continue reading What’s in a Name? A Guide to Zeiss Super Speeds
As with many lens manufacturers, Rokinon tapped into a market they may or may not have anticipated and as a result, their product line evolved along with user demand. The same thing happened with Zeiss when they realized that we were modifying their ZF line of lenses for cinema use. Back at headquarters in Germany, a quick visit to the engineering department and, BAM! Compact Primes. So what’s the difference between the Rokinon Cine, Cine DS, and Xeen primes? Is one better than the other? Why the big price difference? Should I sell my Cine lenses and get the DS lenses? Let’s take a more in-depth look at the line and try to answer these questions. Continue reading Rokinon, Cine, Cine DS, and Xeen – What’s The Difference?
Arri published a new video to their YouTube channel in which Zeiss Service Trainer & Technician goes through the step-by-step process of removing the factory front and rear element and replacing them with the new uncoated flare set. The purpose of the flare set is just that, to increase the flares and imperfections, or “character” of the Arri Master Anamorphics. Continue reading Arri Shows You How To Install Their Flare Set For Master Anamorphics
Canon produced a short video that does a really good job of explaining what constitutes a 4K lens and reminds us of how much technology goes into the glass coming out of Canon. It really does drive home the need for high resolution lenses for todays demanding sensors. Check it out below and let me know what you think. What’s more important to you, sharpness or character? Continue reading Canon Video Explains 4K Lenses
In a recent newsletter, P+S Technik Managaing Director, Alfred Piffl, felt it prudent to bestow a bit of knowledge upon cinematographers keen on having some vintage lenses re-housed – something that I feel is necessary coming from one of the largest lens re-housing operations. There’s no doubt about it; vintage lenses have made a huge resurgence in the motion picture world. It’s not a fad that I have a solid explanation for. Perhaps it’s the fault of modern cameras being so crisp and sharp, a rather clinical look in a world of romance and beauty. Or maybe it’s just the hipster trend to use an old lens that would otherwise be off limits. Regardless of the reason, vintage lenses are being refurbished and re-housed in large numbers. But users expectations must be brought back down to earth and kept reasonable. Continue reading P+S Technik Conveys Challenges of Rehousing Vintage Lenses
Testing the image circle of a lens is rather simple with a test projector but it can be somewhat subjective. There isn’t always a clearly defined hard end to an image when evaluating for coverage. Sometimes a little bit of light falloff is acceptable. A natural vignette can be pleasing but it can also blend into the limit of a lens’ image and make determining maximum coverage rather difficult. I’ve spent years compiling a list of image circles based on my own subjective opinion which was met with great thanks by most – but there has always been the inevitable email or phone call from a disgruntled cinematographer who was disappointed to find that a lens clipped a fraction of a millimeter into the frame of their image despite my records. There are variables, of course, in any analog assessment such as this. Because of this, Duclos Lenses has developed a tool that records the image circle of any lens, saving a reference image for individuals such as yourself to determine to what degree the light falloff is acceptable. Continue reading ICE BOX – Image Circle Evaluation from Duclos Lenses
Rokinon just released their new Cine-DS line of cinema prime lenses with color matched optics and uniform focus and iris gears – but what’s the difference between these new lenses and the older lenses in the lineup and which ones will work well for you? Wether you’re just getting into cinematography or you’re tired of wrestling with your L Series or or crummy kit lens, there’s a better solution available. In this post we’ll take a look at the new DS line of lenses from Rokinon and how they’ll work with a range of different cameras. Continue reading Are Rokinon Primes Right For You?
Zeiss recently released a technical article written by Dr. Vladan Blahnik. The article explores the history of Zeiss lenses and what drove them to design and manufacture more accurate, high speed lenses including the now famous f/0.7 50mm prime used by Stanley Kurbick to shoot Barry Lyndon. The article continues on to discuss the physics of a lens aperture and it’s relation to optics with a wealth of formulas and illustrations. If you’re a huge lens nut and have a spare 15 or 20 minutes, give this tech article a read and appreciate the knowledge and pursuit for optical performance that is Carl Zeiss.
Read the complete article here.
Duclos Lenses has spent a few years designing and refining their very own Autocollimator Bench for measuring and adjusting back focus of precision cinema optics. Here’s a bit from their press release. Continue reading The New Duclos Autocollimator Bench
Here at Duclos Lenses we’ve devised this somewhat satirical guide for buying new cinema lens. Take a gander and see what lens you come up with. Post your results in the comments and five winners will be chosen at random at the end of the week to receive some cool lens geek swag including shirts, hats, cleaning kits, etc.
This guide is all in good fun, but if you really do want some professional advice, contact Duclos Lenses.
Arri has provided a really simple, comprehensive diagram of the three different iris rod standards. It seems like there has been a lot of confusion about the proper distance from the axis of the lens to the center of the rods. A few basic details to go through here: The height of the rods (the distance from the lens axis to the center of the rods) is critical as a standard when designing accessories such as matte boxes, follow focuses, low bridges, or just about any lens related accessory. In this post, I’ll discuss the relationship between the different iris rods (15mm LWS, 15mm, and 19mm) and their associated low bridges.
The smallest and newest system to be utilized for motion picture work and as of recent, possibly the most common. The 15mm Lightweight system (LWS) is a variation of the 15mm Studio setup with roots began in ENG and DV setups. With the introduction of the DSLR revolution and tiny camera rigs such as the Blackmagic Pocket Camera and in some cases even a simple GoPro, the 15mm Lightweight system has carved it’s own place into the motion picture world commonly found on medium sized rigs such as RED and Sony cameras. The 15mm LWS is aligned to the center of the lens mount, with a relatively narrow spacing (60mm) and a fairly shallow axis to rod height (85mm).
If there was an “old school” rod setup, 15mm Studio would be it. 15mm Studio rods are the same rods as 15mm LWS but spaced farther apart (100mm), farther from the lens axis (118mm), and slightly offset from the optical center (17.25mm). Don’t get me wrong, 15mm Studio is probably the most common among high-end cinema sets based on the West Coast despite it’s age. The 15mm Studio system has become somewhat overlooked in terms of standardization with all the newcomers to the motion picture camera accessory manufacturing game assuming that the rods were aligned to the optical center. As far as I know, the reason for the offset of 15mm Studio rods was originally to compensate for weight and accessory distribution. The camera had additional weight on the “smart” side due to the viewfinder and controls so accessories such as the follow focus or motors were attached to the “dumb” side to balance out the setup. I’ll admit, the 15mm Studio standard is far older than me or anyone reading this and I’m no motion picture historian… If your 15mm Studio rods aren’t offset, then they’re not 15mm Studio.
If you’re anywhere other than Hollywood, you’ll likely find 19mm rods used as the standard. 19mm Studio is the updated version of 15mm Studio. As lenses and lens accessories became heavier and heavier, the need for stronger rods came about paving the way for a slightly heavier duty system. The 19mm Studio setup is spaced even farther apart than 15mm Studio (104mm), and slightly more distant from the optical axis (120mm) but is centered on the lens. The purpose of the 19mm system was to increase the load capacity when used with heavy lenses and reduce flexing.
Traditionally, stainless steel is king. These days you’ll find dozens of different companies producing “rods” from aluminum and carbon fiber which is fine for more 15mm LWS rigs where weight is critical and the stress put on the rods is minimal. Aluminum and carbon fiber may even be suitable for some 15mm Studio setups if they’re not demanding, but if you’re rig requires the wider offset of 15mm Studio rods, then you’re probably not worrying about the overall weight of your camera rig and should opt for a stainless steel variant. The same can be said for 19mm Studio – if you’re going to go with the beefier 19mm setup, don’t cheap out and use flimsy aluminum or carbon fiber. If you’re on the fence between 15mm Studio and 19mm Studio, there’s always 15mm HD rods. No, not High Definition… Heavy Duty. This would be a 15mm rod with a wall thickness double that of the normal 15mm rods. This provides a much more solid support with little to no flex even with a hefty Angenieux or Fujinon zoom. Iris rods will come in all sorts of lengths these days depending on their application. A heavyweight cinema zoom will call for 24″ rods whereas a DSLR rig may only require a few inches simply to attach a follow focus to the front of the rig or a battery to the back.
A simple pair of carbon fiber rods. Carbon fiber rods are usually hollow with end caps to keep dirt and dust out, but can also be found in a sturdier solid carbon fiber material.
The confusion comes in mostly when companies design and sell products that don’t conform to an industry standard. For example, a simple google search for a 15mm matte box will yield results from around the world with little to no mention of what system a given matte box is actually designed for. I’ve seen matte boxes advertised with 15mm rod holes but 19mm Studio spacing or 15mm LWS spacing but with 15mm Studio height. Some with fully adjustable offset and height, others with absolutely no height adjustment. I guess you just have to hope your camera plate has a height adjustment… Matte boxes are the primary source of confusion with the other most common accessory, the follow focus and/or motors not being much of a concern. This is because most follow focus systems will have a slide or pivot adjustment to accommodate different size lenses minimizing the standardization to simply rod size and spacing, disregarding offset and height.
Arri MB-20 II Matte box sample: Note the top pair of 15mm holes (15mm LWS) is centered on the optical center whereas the lower pair (15mm Studio) is clearly offset from the center. Also note the height difference.
Additionally, the height has been a topic of confusion in the recent past. Lets use the Red 300mm prime for example. Originally it came with a built in support, a bright red ring towards the front of the lens with a simple 1/4-20 (I think) threaded hole. If I remember correctly, there wasn’t any standardized height. You either had to use an arbitrarily adjustable, standard-less low bridge or stack bunch of washers just to attach the lens securely. It wasn’t designed for 15mm LWS or 15mm Studio. It was just a big red block with a hole in the bottom. It’s possible that Red intended the 300mm to be used with the 15mm LWS standard, but since when is a 300mm, one foot long, 6 lb. prime lens considered lightweight?!?!
While we’re on the topic of height; the other critical spec, the same chaos experienced with matte boxes can also be found in low bridges. The low bridge is the key to lens support. A lens can have a support post with standardized height and a nice 3/8-16 thread but it’s useless without a proper low bridge. A proper low bridge will be somewhat forgiving in terms of standardization with minor adjustments for height and offset, but not so much that the industry standards can be completely overlooked. With the 15mm Studio and 19mm Studio standard, a proper low bridge is easy to come by. Because of all the confusion with proper heights and standards when 15mm LWS was adopted for motion picture rigs, you’ll find that there are many 15mm LWS low bridges with a fully adjustable height. This makes them pretty useful but sometimes sloppy depending on the brand.
A proper 15mm Studio low bridge with adjustable height and offset.
I hope this clears up some of the confusion surrounding iris rods and lens accessories. Anytime someone asks me what brands I recommend for a matte box, follow focus, or low bridge, I generally stick to a single rule which is stick with the established brands. A company that has been manufacturing motion picture accessories for a good decade or so will know what they’re doing and will obey the standards making life easier for all of us. Of course, there’s an exception to every rule and in this case, it’s usually budget. If you can’t afford a high quality accessory, make due with what you can, but you’ll probably end up getting the higher quality product in the end so you might as well start with proper gear.
Several months back, Canon held an event at their Hollywood HQ showcasing their complete line of Cinema Eos products, but focused on (pun intended) their cinema lenses. There were a couple of speakers; one ,who’s name escapes me at the time of writing this, coming from a new-age cinematographers point of view talking about the benefits of modern image sensor technology and compact, lightweight style shooting – and the other, Larry Thorpe. If you’re not familiar with Larry Thorpe, he’s basically a guru of all things image acquisition. He’s worked for RCA, Sony, and now Canon. One may jump to the conclusion that he loves Canon lenses so much simply because it’s his job being a marketing exec. at Canon… But Larry is truly passionate about his work and optics in particular and it shows.
Larry’s presentation at the Canon event revolved mainly around optics and discussed current and future technologies. Canon released a PDF which essentially mirrors Larry’s presentation at the event that I’ve linked here. Give it a read and see why Canon is making waves in the industry with their cinema optics. See the PDF below.
So you bought a new Sony F5 or even better, an F55. Or you’re upgrading from a 5D to a C100 or C300. You’re Red Epic needs some better glass for the upcoming Dragon sensor. Regardless, congrats. Now you need some lenses to get the best performance out of your new camera. But where do you start? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a new camera almost every month these days. Sensor tech continues to improve and grow. However, lenses are a lifetime investment. Unless you jumped on the 2/3″ train and bought some lenses that are useless now you may have also noticed that a set of, now vintage, classic Zeiss Super Speeds is still $50k and they’re almost 40 years old!!! Let’s explore some options that won’t break the bank and still give you some amazing performance. Continue reading 2013 Cine Prime Lens Buyers Guide