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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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
I say database… But it’s really just a list trying to sound official.
So basically, RED has given the world a great deal of technology at a great price. But they also induced many a headache with different sensor sizes, resolutions, specs, and names. To make things a little easier, I’m compiling a list of lenses that pass through the shop and recording their image circle, or the diameter that they will cover without vignetting. This list will simply show you what the lenses are capable of. Feel free to comment on this post if you see any discrepancies or want a specific lens added. I want this to be as accurate as possible. Also note that the sensor/format sizes are generalized. There are a ton of different industry standards. There are several dozen formats that fall under 4 perf 35mm film alone. Continue reading Lens Image Circle Database
I receive dozens of emails everyday and I want to respond to them all but sometimes it just isn’t possible. I’m not a trade secret kind of guy. I like to spread knowledge and educate as many people as I can. So here is a quick little FAQ in regards to lens modification and a few other common questions I am asked… Frequently.
1) What lenses work well for motion picture?
2) I have a bunch of still lenses. Can they be converted to work for cinema?
3) What is a Cine-Mod?
4) Can my lens be Cine-Modded?
5) What lenses are well suited for a Cine-Mod?
6) Can the mount on my lens be changed?
7) I have Nikon lenses. Can the focus be reversed?
8] The focus throw of my still lenses is short, can it be expanded?
9) Can lens breathing be corrected?
10) Can my lens be re-housed for cinema use? What is the cost?
Zeiss recently announced the addition of Nikon (official), Sony, and 4/3 mounts for their Compact Prime series. I expected this since it’s a simple mount and the interface was already interchangeable. I also expected new focal lengths which they announced just this morning. The adaptation of existing ZF/ZE 50mm f/2 macro and the 100mm f/2 macro. These are two of my favorite lenses in the series. The 50mm macro has far better image quality than the 50mm f/1,4 and focuses down to about 10 inches (1:2) but it does lose that little bit of speed over the 50mm f/1,4. Meh… And then there is the insane bokeh of the 100mm macro. With a close focus of 18 inches (1:2) the background is thrown so far out of focus, it’s gorgeous. I can’t wait to get my hands on this macro duo.Continue reading New Zeiss CP.2 Macro Duo
Back focus is a common term used to describe the Flange Focal Distance (FFD). Or the distance between the rear surface of a lens mount and the film plane or sensor. The most common FFD in my line of work is relative to the Positive Lock (PL) Mount system used on many motion picture cameras and lenses. The FFD for a PL camera is 52mm (2.0472441″) This means that when a lens is mounted to a camera correctly, the image produced by the lens should come to focus at exactly 52mm from the rear of the lens mount. Continue reading Focus back on back focus