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?
And here we are – our last day on the NAB 2016 show floor. We scoped out all the major lens manufacturers’ new gear, go out hands on some brand new tech and soon-to-be-released models. We spoke with some of our favorite lens makers to see what’s coming down the pipe. Overall, we’re less than enthused… Here’s our closing thoughts on the state of the motion picture lens industry as of NAB 2016. Continue reading NAB 2016 Recap, Final
NAB has officially begun. It looks like just about every lens manufacturer couldn’t keep it in their pants and dropped their news ahead of the actual show, with a few exceptions. This post is a general roundup up the news announced as of Sunday night before the show. We’ll be posting a daily wrap-up with a ton of photos and additional news from the show floor so be sure to subscribe and check back soon. If there’s anything we missed that you found interesting, send a tweet to @MQDuclos and we’ll make him run across the expo to check it out ;-). Let’s get to it! We’ve broken the product announcements up by manufacturer in alphabetical order. Continue reading NAB 2016 Preview
It was only a matter of time before Angenieux anamorphasized it’s 25-250mm Optimo Style and here it is. A 44-440mm T4.5 2X anamorphic zoom. This lens rounds out the rest of Angenieux’s anamorphic line-up which consists of a wide 30-72mm T4, and the mid-range 56-152mm T4. Let’s take a look at some of the finer details of this brand new anamorphic telephoto zoom. Continue reading Angenieux Reveals New Anamorphic Zoom Ahead of NAB
If you haven’t already, you should grab a copy of P3 Update. After you do that, check out a neat article by James Thompson, that explores what choosing a lens means these days and why shooters make the decisions they do. With feedback from industry professionals such as Richard Crudo, ASC, Steven Poster, ASC, and Jon Nelson, it’s a nice article that I feel taps into the direction that the motion picture lens industry is going in that you need to find what works best for you and the only way to do that is experience.
Take anyone of these lenses from any manufacturer, off any shelf in any rental house in the world, and I guarantee it will deliver an amazing image,” says Cinematographer Richard Crudo, ASC (“Justified”). “But, what does that tell us? Is it the right feel? Is it the right texture? Is it the right thing for what you are trying to do? And, that you only know when you have a script in hand and a director to talk about it with.” That chat with a director will also cover the subject of resolution. “We’re already at 4K resolution, which is more than the human eye can handle,” explains Crudo. “The only thing that really changes is apparent contrast at that point. [Manufacturers] should be worrying more and putting all their R&D into bit depth and color space [and] black level. That is where we really need to work, capturing highlights [and] the high-end of the spectrum.
Check out the complete article over at P3 Update.
Fujinon started a trend when they took their professional mid-range cinema zooms and slapped on a servo unit borrowed from their Broadcast Division. The result was the very successful 19-90mm Cabrio zoom, followed shortly by the 85-300mm Cabrio and just recently the 14-35mm Cabrio. During NAB 2014, or as I call it, Spring Christmas, Angenieux, Canon, and Zeiss all announced lenses with servo units in various practical applications. Credit where credit is due, Fujinon started it… Continue reading 2014, Year of the Servo Lenses
Not to be outdone by other recent announcements from Canon and Fujinon, Angenieux announced today a new line of Optimo Style lenses that will be added to their extensive, respectable line of professional zoom lenses. The press release details the new lenses as a 16-40mm and a 30-76mm. The two new lenses with be offered with or without their new Angenieux Servo Unit (ASU). No word on the speed of the lenses just yet but it’ll likely be between T2.6 and T2.8. If you’re familiar with Angenieux’s current line of Optimo (15-40mm and 28-76mm) and Optimo DP (16-42mm and 30-80mm) lenses, it may sound like the new Optimo Style line is simply another variation on their existing lenses. The Optimo DP 16-42mm and 30-80mm will be discontinued as individual lenses and available in pairs tuned from the factory as a 3D package. The new Optimo Style lenses will also feature interchangeable mounts in Arri PL, Canon EF, and Panavision flavors. Both new Optimo Style lenses will weigh in at a very nice 4.2 lbs. – almost half the weight of other “lightweight” zooms available. Angenieux goes into more detail noting that these lenses are tailored for high standards of UHD 4K production and will be available Summer 2014.
Other bits included in the press release simply cover existing lenses, shipping soon the new 25-250mm Optimo and their now shipping 56-120mm S2 Anamorphic Zoom. One other detail new to the press release is the Angenieux Servo Unit (ASU) which Angenieux had mentioned about a year ago but has just now officially announced it. the ASU will work with all of the lightweight Optimo lenses. This now makes three manufacturers who have jumped aboard the CinENG train. (I just made that up: Cine + ENG = CinENG get it?) The (ASU) provides control of zoom, focus and iris and is compatible with broadcast remote handles, cinema remote controls and wireless remotes. It generates lens metadata based on the Cooke/i technology protocol. The ASU and lenses are matched and calibrated at the factory.
Read the full press release below and check back often for live updates from NAB where we’ll find out what the real details are behind the new Optimo Style line of lenses. New optics? Rebranding? Either way, Angenieux has a reputation all over the world for making top-notch cinema zooms.
Press Release from Angenieux
Thales Angénieux Debuts New Optimo Style Lens Series at NAB
Charting New Course for 4K and Beyond Live TV and Mid-Budget Cinema Productions
Las Vegas, NV (April 4, 2014) – Inspired by the escalating demands for cinematic quality content to meet the rise of multimedia viewing and the trend of Ultra definition television, Thales Angénieux is introducing their new Optimo Style Series of zoom lenses. The family features three zooms – two hand-held and one full size — and provides focal length from 16mm-250mm with ability to lengthen the range with a 2x extender. The two lightweight zooms are also available with the optional Angénieux lens servo motorization system.
“A wider spectrum of production content is migrating to a cinematic look with 4K quality and that trend requires equipment which is adaptable to a large variety of cameras, configurations and budgets,” said Pierre Andurand, President and CEO, Thales Angénieux. “The all-new Optimo Style Series addresses those needs and provides a benchmark for quality and price/performance. It takes into consideration the industry’s most stringent requirements for ergonomics and versatility for live TV recording. Angénieux is going to exceptional lengths to ensure the first deliveries of this new lens line will be made in Summer 2014.”
The 16-40mm and 30-76mm zoom lenses are extremely light weight at only 4.2 pounds each, allowing perfect camera balance for on the shoulder or hand- held configurations. The 25-250mm lens, weighing 16 pounds, is an all-purpose zoom featuring the
desirable 25mm wide angle position and a 10x zoom range to meet a variety of production needs. This lens was previously introduced at IBC 2013 branded Optimo DP.
The Optimo Style series is fully compatible with the latest generation of digital cameras and provides the unique cinematic look of the Optimo line at an affordable price. The lenses additionally feature an easily interchangeable mount (PL, Canon EF, Panavision) for full compatibility with a wide variety of cameras.
The Angénieux Servo Unit (ASU) provides control of zoom, focus and iris and is compatible with broadcast remote handles, cinema remote controls and wireless remotes such as Preston or others upon request. It generates lens metadata based on the Cooke/i technology protocol. To help ensure flawless performance, the ASU and lenses are matched and calibrated at the factory. The ASU will additionally be available as an option for all the Optimo Lightweight Cine Zooms including the Optimo Style 16- 40 and 30-76 and the Optimo 15-40, 28-76mm and 45-120mm lenses.
Duclos Lenses recently announced a now program that offers customers the ability to bring their equipment in anytime for what is essentially routine check-up and maintenance. Any lens purchased from Duclos Lenses is eligible for two years from the date of purchase at no additional cost to the customer. This is great for users who shoot in harsh climates or rough conditions since they can simply bring their lens in to Duclos Lenses after a shoot and have it cleaned up, back-focus checked and calibrate, and evaluated for any potential damage done during the shoot. It’s like having your own personal lens tech to inspect your gear before and/or after every shoot. Considering Duclos Lenses has been servicing lenses for over a decade and has over 100 years of combined motion picture lens service experience, this is just another reason why Duclos Lenses is the premiere destination for professional motion picture optics. Continue reading Proper Maintenance Is Critical For New Lenses
It’s always nice to see two well established companies collaborating. Just ahead of NAB 2013, seeing Angenieux and Cooke work together is a perfect example. Cooke has a long history of making some amazing prime lenses. Angenieux sets the standard for motion picture zooms. Imagine the things they can do, combined. Just this morning, an announcement of just that, a collaboration, was released and the results are nothing short of excellent. Cooke will be offering a completely new line of anamorphic primes that will be about the same size and shape of their S4/i line of lenses, color matched with 5/i primes. Not to be outdone, Angenieux is releasing a professional anamorphic zooms lens to complete the Cooke prime line-up. Now you can have a complete set of primes and zooms, all anamorphic, all matched, all professional grade. Continue reading Angenieux and Cooke Join Anamorphic Forces
Yes! I have some material in the pipe on just this subject but I wanted to give a quick example. While taking some beauty shots of recent Cine-Mod performed to a Samyang 24mm f/1.4, I was pleased by the results of my initial photos. A bit of info: I had been using my camera for some casual street photography with a very nice, recently overhauled Angenieux 3 inch, f/2.5 lens attached to my Olympus OM-D. The lens remained on my camera over the weekend. When it came time to take some product photos back at the Lens Lab, I grabbed my camera with the Angenieux still attached and I figured I would just leave it there to see how it fared for product photos. The results were interesting to say the least. Not exactly product photo worthy so I decided to swap back to my go-to product photo lens which is currently an Olympus 45mm f/1.8. Continue reading Does a Lens Really Provide a Look?
As many of you know, Duclos Lenses has spent the past two months moving the Lens Lab from a small dumpy building in the middle of Canoga Park to our bigger, better facility in Chatsworth. It took a lot longer than we expected and it wasn’t easy. But we did it. I have to thank all of the customers who tolerated our longer than usual turn around time. We’re about 98% done setting up everything the way we want it. We just have to hang a few more pictures and paint a few more walls and we’re done.
On a similar note we decided to update our website while we were at it. The old site was nice and all, but every day I had at least a few emails from people asking how they can purchase items through our website. Unfortunately our old website publishing and hosting did not provide the services necessary for e-commerce. With the new DuclosLenses.com you can browse and purchase our entire catalog (almost) all from the comfort of your computer desk and enjoy our products faster and easier than ever. We’re really happy with the new site and we hope you like it as well. We’re still working the kinks out so if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to inform me or any Duclos Lenses rep.
Thanks again to our loyal customers. We look forward to serving you for years to come.
Given my profession of servicing lenses and the nature of such a precise vocation, I’ve become somewhat compulsive over the past decade. Some might even argue that I’m just downright anal about details. I wouldn’t disagree with that at all. I can’t stand imperfections or flaws. I feel compelled to perfect every minor detail that is within my capacity and even sometimes beyond my capacity, either succeeding or failing, but always learning. This became something of a curse when I started collecting cameras and lenses a while back. I would buy cheap “junk” off of eBay that looked pretty good in the auction photos, but upon arrival, the items were almost always worse than they appeared in the photos, which I came to expect. I couldn’t spend a ton of money on mint condition collectors items as my fiancé would be rather upset if $1000 was used to purchase a 25 year old film camera or lens. So I did my best to find good deals and restore them. It has become quite a painstaking hobby. I consider these dirty, beat-up old cameras and lenses a challenge. I wish I had taken more photos of the equipment I’ve restored prior to their make-over but I really didn’t think much of it at the time. I just wanted my collection to be clean and tidy. The tools and techniques I use on a daily basis have proven to be most valuable to such restorations, allowing me to cleanse, machine, anodize, and essentially re-engineer parts that were otherwise ugly and useless. Continue reading Vintage Lens Restoration
A quick snap-shot while bench testing a 17-80mm for periodic maintenance. The modern breed of exotic zooms are both work-horses and delicate instruments of perfection at the same time. They require the highest level of calibration to perform at their maximum potential. The 17-80mm was the second lens to join Angenieux’s Optimo team back in the mid 2000’s and is still one of the best 35mm zoom lenses on the market. After regular use on a television series, this particular Optimo only needed minor back-focus calibration and exterior cleaning. It’s no wonder Angenieux is having trouble keeping up with demand for their zooms.
Photography offers a moment of interest. Cinema demands sustained attention
I get a lot of emails and calls from customers asking what kind of lens package they should get for their shiny new Sony F3 or their tiny new RED Epic. The simple answer is, there is no simple answer. Let’s face it, for most of us who aren’t shooting the next Iron Man feature film, budget is the primary factor when it comes to choosing a lens package. A lot of folks who would be looking for a new lens kit are coming over from the still photo world. As you all know, the RED/DSLR revolution has changed the industry drastically over the past few years and allowed a lot of people to squeak by with existing gear or pre-owned gear that got the job done. Maybe now it’s time to step-up your game and get a set of true cinema lenses. Or maybe it’s time to snatch up some glass/metal tubes from Russia that Ivan tried to pass of as a cinema lens… Either way, what’s the difference between a 18-55mm Nikon kit lens ($90) and an exotic Angenieux 24-290mm Optimo ($70,000)?
Basically, everything boils down to two categories; usability and image quality. Obviously there are other factors involved such as production quantity, but that is usually tied into image quality. Again, the question is, why is a cinema lens so much more expensive than a still photo lens? Cinema lens prices increase exponentially as the quality increases. For this demonstration, the top of the price spectrum will be represented by the Angenieux 24-290mm Optimo, and the bottom will be represented by the Nikon 18-55mm kit lens. Some would expect a few test shots with some text overlaid on them similar to that of most online lens reviews (mine included), but this really doesn’t show much beyond very basic image quality. To be honest, with todays manufacturing processes and techniques, the overall image quality in the center portion of each example lens, would probably be fairly similar. That doesn’t mean that the next big feature film is going to go out and shoot on a Nikon 18-55mm, but it also doesn’t mean that an 18-55mm Nikon isn’t going to produce good results. This is where the usability of each lens comes into play. For example, the entire core, focus, zoom, lock rings, and housing of the 24-290mm Optimo are machined from billet aluminum. The only part of the Optimo that isn’t made of high quality aluminum is the mount… Because that is made of stainless steel. Comparatively, the Nikon 18-55mm does in fact have an aluminum core, but everything else is plastic and brass, which can be good. It keeps weight and production cost down to a minimum, but is devastating to mechanical accuracy and precision. It doesn’t mean that the Optimo is the better lens for every situation. I wouldn’t want to lug a 25 lb. lens around Disneyland to snap pics of the family with Mickey Mouse. This leads me to the fine details such as stability and accuracy. Cinema lenses are not auto focus and traditionally require a trained focus puller to nail focus in any given shot. This isn’t done by peering through the viewfinder or pressing a button. It’s accomplished by taping out the distance to the subject and then dialing in the measured distance on the lens’ focus scale, which means those marks better be accurate or someone is losing their job. Focus mark accuracy isn’t really a concern on still photo lenses since 99% of users simply depress the shutter button half way and let the cameras auto focus do the work. The other 1% of users who focus manually for still photography, usually look through the viewfinder, pick a subject and adjust the focus ring until it looks sharp, still no need for focus mark accuracy. Nobody sets up their SLR, tapes out the distance, adjusts the lens to that distance and snaps away. It’s just to realistic.
Speaking of focus, image shift and breathing are two more features that are critical in motion picture lenses, but not so much in still photo lenses. Let’s take our 18-55mm Nikon lens, put it on a camera, look through the monitor and rack focus or zoom. The whole image jumps around and loses focus because the components used inside the lens are very light-duty and left very loose to allow the tiny little drive motors to auto focus the lens for you. Comparatively, our 24-290mm Optimo is built with solid aluminum components that are precisely fitted and adjusted to keep everything as tight as possible. This keeps everything extremely smooth and accurate. If you adjust focus or zoom, the image should stay dead center and solid. This kind of performance requires extremely tight tolerances during machining and a very high level of care during assembly. Focusing with just about any still photo zoom lens will create a “breathing” effect that is simply an optical design characteristic. There is no adjustment for this flaw within the lens. It’s part of the optical-mechanical design and is taken into consideration during the development of a lens. Breathing is a bad thing in cinema because it really pulls the audience out of the scene. It changes the field of view of the lens and appears as though the lens is zooming in and out during even a small focus pull. This is why cinema lenses are designed not to breath and add substantially to the cost in order to do so. Tracking is somewhat related to breathing as it can really ruin ascot if not calibrate. Tracking is the movement of the image relative the the sensor/film, while zooming. Ideally, zoomed all the way in, an object in the very center of the image should stay in the exact same position on the sensor/film throughout the entire zoom range. Most cinema lenses include internal adjustment to calibrate tracking while still photo lenses aren’t concerned since you can simply re-compose before each shot.
Another common characteristic of still photo zooms is their speed, or maximum aperture. Take our 18-55mm Nikon for example, again… The maximum aperture is f/3.5 which isn’t too bad. But as soon as you start to zoom, it looses light and stops all the way down to an f/5.6. Modern SLR cameras can easily compensate for this with automatic adjustments to exposure with the shutter speed or ISO. The 24-290mm is comparatively very fast at T2.8 and maintains its maximum aperture throughout it’s entire zoom range. Mostly because it’s an annoyance to think about adjusting setting from shot to shot and trying to match everything, but also because it would look horrible if the aperture started to close down in the middle of a shot, ruining the lighting, look and feel of a scene. Okay, there are plenty of still photo lenses that maintain a constant aperture. In fact, most of the major pro lenses will do this easily. But these are usually a fairly short zoom range. Do the numbers… Take the 14-24mm Nikkor, a great lens with a constant f/2.8 aperture, the zoom range is only 1.7x. The 24-70mm, a 2.9x. And the 70-200mm, a 2.8x zoom. Those three lenses are Nikons current crop of pro zoom lenses. The Angenieux 24-290mm maintains the same constant T2.8 aperture throughout it’s 12x zoom range. That’s almost unheard of in still photo lenses. These couple of characteristics can be lumped into the optical quality of the lens but also effect the usability. Another usability concern for motion picture lenses is their durability. Granted, if a cinema lens is dropped, it’s almost certain that it’s thrown completely out of whack and would require re-calibration, they are built like tanks. The same can not be said for our little 18-55mm Nikon friend. However, there are a lot of modern still photo lenses that are built to endure relentless usage and can really take a beating. All of these details are very minor on paper. It’s when you really get into the nitty gritty and use the lenses on a daily basis that you realize the differences can be substantial. Kind of like looking at two different cameras on paper. Each camera has a 3″ LCD screen, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO adjustments, an SD card slot, compact and portable, and includes a strap! One is a Leica, the other is a Kodak. Both are great cameras, but they are clearly meant for different purposes and clearly have a cost difference. The same logic applies to still photo lenses and cinema lenses. I like to think of it this way: Still photography offers a moment of interest. Cinema demands sustained attention.
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.
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.