Canon wiggled their way into the professional cinema lens market with a few zooms and a trio of primes. Shortly after their initial line-up they added a wide and telephoto prime option to cap the end of their prime lens family. The line-up included a 14mm, 24mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 135mm. Not a bad set of primes, but the gap left between the 24mm and 50mm was painfully obvious. This week Canon has announced the development of a 35mm CN-E prime lens to add to their offering. Continue reading “Canon Fills Out Nicely With a New 35mm Cine Prime”
Angenieux and Cooke Join Anamorphic Forces
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”
Duclos Lenses Introduces Rokinon•Raw Primes
Many productions call for the absolute best lenses possible and end up reaching for Zeiss Master Primes or Panavision Primos for a well corrected, clinical look. This is great if you want an absolutely clean slate to work with in post since it’s always easier to dial down sharpness and add a bit of grunge after the fact. But what if you want something with a little more character – a little bit of flare, in camera. Continue reading “Duclos Lenses Introduces Rokinon•Raw Primes”
The Future of Zeiss DSLR Lenses
I’ve been on a bit of a Zeiss kick here lately, partly because I genuinely appreciate their products, but mostly because they continue to innovate and provide new glass for their customers. Earlier this week we took delivery of the Zeiss 135mm T2.1 CP.2 which marked the first time Zeiss released a lens as a CP.2 before releasing it as a ZF.2 or ZE. I’ll be sure to put some tests of the 135mm up soon, it’s an impressive tele-prime to say the least. This brings me to todays topic. The ZF.2 lenses that the CP.2 primes are based on are still being produced in quantity and Zeiss continues to add focal lengths and updates older designs on a regular basis. There’s certainly no sign of them slowing down. However, if you pay attention to the inter-webs, you’d have noticed rumors and results of their new 55mm Distagon floating around. Continue reading “The Future of Zeiss DSLR Lenses”
Get the Cooke Look at Duclos Lenses
There is certainly no shortage of professional motion picture prime lenses available in a wide range of focal lengths, features, and prices. Quite possibly the most common question we get asked at Duclos Lenses is wether or not a lens is “worth it”. That’s a very difficult question to answer most of the time. A lens can be an extension of one’s vision. It’s the tool that allows a cinematographer to capture the light they so dynamically seek. To one professional, it could be the quirky flaws that a lens introduces into an image that give it a certain personality whereas another cinematographer would consider that quirky flaw unacceptable. The value or worth of a lens is not always something tangible or measurable. But of course, sometimes it is. Continue reading “Get the Cooke Look at Duclos Lenses”
Canon EF Mounts For All
This post is part of a series of upcoming reviews of camera-lens mounts and their pros and cons. Quite possibly the most common camera-lens mount on the market today is the Canon EF and EF-S mount. Introduced in 1987 and updated in 2003, the EF-S mount added several features that improved on the original FD Mount including focus motors placed inside the lens to enable auto-focus. Step forward 2.5 decades and the Canon EF and EF-S mount are the reigning champion of still photography and quickly gaining popularity in the world of cinema. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll simply refer to the Canon mount as EF instead of EF or EF-S. If you need more clarification on the difference between EF and EF-S, google it. 😉
More Lens Options Than Ever
In a recent post I declared that it’s better to invest in glass than in cameras since new cameras come out every few months. I wasn’t just saying that to get people to buy glass, I meant it. Just this year there have been at least half a dozen cameras released or announced, if not more. With more cameras there comes more choices for lenses. Wether it’s a BlackMagic camera with it’s mighty little crop sensor or the new 5DMk14B-R whatevermagig. Lenses will always be required for cinema and in todays economy it’s all about compromise. So where do you compromise and what lenses make the most sense for you? Continue reading “More Lens Options Than Ever”
The New DuclosLenses.com
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.
Under Construction: The New Lens Lab
As many of you know, several months ago our facility was broken into, setting us back in orders with our 11-16mm lens and leaving us violated and insulted. Since then, we’ve been planning, researching, and pursuing a facility more suitable for our needs. If you had visited our old shop in Canoga Park, it was just that… A shop in an industrial park. Our new facility which I have endearingly titled The Lens Lab, is far more appropriate for our ever growing company. This will allow Duclos Lenses to accept more service work as well as technicians to increase turn around time and speed up production of our 11-16mm lens and future products. With dedicated test and tech areas such as dual independent test projectors and optical calibration benches, Duclos Lenses has never been better equipped to repair and maintain the motion picture industries most valuable optics. Located in Chatsworth, CA, The new Lens Lab should house Duclos Lenses for decades to come. Don’t forget to update your phonebook with our new address and phone number. Contact us today to have your lenses serviced in the all-new Lens Lab.
Duclos Lenses – 20222 Bahama St. Chatsworth CA, 91311 – Tel (818) 773-0600 – Fax(818) 773-0601
Still Lens Mount Swapping
The DSLR Revolution is in full swing at the moment and everyone is scrambling to get the glass they love on the camera they are stuck with. It doesn’t sound too difficult to simply change a piece of metal, but there are a lot of things to consider when attempting to change a mount. After-all, lenses are a precision tool, naturally. Lens and camera manufacturers all have their own mount system which specifies a flange depth, the distance from the mount flange to the film/sensor plane. When this number is accurate, the image that the lens produces falls on the sensor in perfect focus. Move it forward or backward by the smallest amount (.0005″) and your collimation will be completely off, throwing out your focus marks and destroying the accuracy of a lens, especially a zoom lens. All of the different SLR camera manufacturers had a similar theory and design, but just slightly different numbers for the flange depth. Wouldn’t it be great if they all agreed on a standardized mount that would allow any lens to be used on any camera? Yeah, it would be great. But that’s not how it works.
Zeiss CP.2 vs. ZF.2
Zeiss released their CP.2 (Compact Primes) cinema lenses about a year ago, not long after they dropped their original Compact Primes on the market. There has been a lot of debate about the value of the Compact Primes. With an influx of new primes with a range of price tags, there is no shortage of choices for the budding cinematographer or even the veteran looking to invest in some glass. At $3,900 a piece, or a set of five lenses just shy of $20k, the Compact Primes are some of the cheapest options out there for what I would consider professional cinema lenses. However, a lot of cinematographers are opting for the ultra budget conscious still photo lenses with Cine-Mods to bring them up to cinema spec. But what makes the Compact Primes so much more expensive than, say, a Zeiss ZF.2? After all, they are in fact the exact same glass but in a different housing, right? Sort of… There are quite a few features that really separate the two lenses no matter how similar their heritage is. The ZF.2s are Zeiss’ latest all manual still photo lenses. They just happen to make very pretty images when mounted to a motion picture camera as well as a still photo camera. The Compact Primes take it a step beyond pretty images and provide a professional set of features that can be very valuable to a cinematographer and his/her crew. I’ll start with the optics. Zeiss says that the CP.2 lenses use hand-picked elements that really increase the consistency and accuracy of the lenses. I can’t attest to this as I haven’t seen any difference in the glass or the test results produced by the Compact Primes, but it looks good on a brochure.
Support This Site
As you may have heard me mention before, this site is run entirely by me, Matthew Duclos, completely independent from Duclos Lenses. The cost of running the site, while minimal, does come out of my own pocket. I’m not one to beg or anything, but I do want to keep the site ad free and uncluttered to make the sharing and learning experience as clean and simple as possible. So I’ve decided to offer crap for readers of this site to purchase and support the flow of information and knowledge. If you enjoy posts and content here on the Circle of Confusion, please help me keep it running by purchasing some stuff from the Swag Store that I’ve linked below. For now, there is just one T-shirt just to see how many people actually help out, but I’ll be adding more stuff if all goes well. Thank you for the loyalty and continued support of this blog. It’s still just a hobby, but I truly enjoy sharing knowledge with anyone and everyone that is willing to accept. See you again soon!
Duclos PL 80-200mm f/2.8 Rental
I have to start this post by clarifying that this is NOT our project 70-200mm conversion. We developed a simple PL mount conversion for the Nikkor 80-200mm, the grandfather of the 70-200mm, a few years ago and made a handful for specific clients like Tom Lowe. Before we discontinued the short run of 80-200mm PL conversion, we built a pair for our own rental inventory. The 80-200mm is strong optically but not quite as nice as the 70-200mm. Regardless, the 80-200mm was the go-to telephoto zoom for sports and nature photographers for quite a long time. With it’s relative light weight, all manual controls, and convenient zoom range, the 80-200mm was a great candidate for our regular Cine-Mod. A lot of people wanted them for their HDSLRs but the Nikon and Canon mount just didn’t cut it after a while. We decided to develop a simple PL mount conversion that allowed our lens to be used on RED Cameras, Arri Cameras, and just about any other PL mount camera. The lens covers a full 35mm frame which is more than enough for a new RED Epic frame, and maintains an f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range. This simple mount conversion that we developed for our 80-200mm doesn’t sport as many features as our upcoming 70-200mm cine-conversion. Unlike our comprehensive, in-depth 70-200mm project, the 80-200mm internals remain untouched. For lack of a better comparison, the 80-200mm is the ugly step-sister of the 70-200mm… She doesn’t look or feel as pretty, but she sure does get the job done, if you know what I mean. We now have two twin PL mount tele-zoom lenses. In fact, one of them inherited some of the designs we developed for the 70-200mm project and features an interchangeable mount so it can still be used on a Nikon F or Canon Eos mount camera. Pretty versatile. If you’re wondering were this leaves us in regards to the progress of the 70-200mm project, you’re not alone. We had a few setbacks recently and had to put it on hold. The project is still in the works, so keep an eye on the blog for updates. If you’re interested in renting the PL 80-200mm, contact Matthew for availability and details. If you’re looking for more details on our yet-to-be-released 70-200mm project, subscribe to the mailing list from Duclos Lenses and be one of the first to know about release date and cost.
Why Cinema Lenses Cost So Much
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.
Zeiss 85mm Plays Nice With Sony FS100
A perfect example of the versatility of the Zeiss ZF.2 series. This 85mm f1/.4 comes in a Nikon mount from the factory. With a few upgrades and modifications, it’s perfectly suited for motion picture use. I performed the standard three part Cine-Mod which includes an 80mm front ring (77mm filter thread), 32-pich (0.8 module) seamless focus gear, and of course the de-clicked, dampened aperture ring. In addition to the standard Cine-Mod, I also added one of our semi-permanent Canon Eos mounts. This mount conversion physically attaches to the body of the lens and essentially takes the place of the original Nikon mount, effectively making the Zeiss ZF.2 a native Canon Eos mount lens. An excellent mount modification for use on a 5D or 7D. I just happened to have received a Canon Eos mount for my FS100 that I thought I would try out with this lens and it worked great. There is a little bit of play between the mounts, but no more motion than I would expect from a Canon lens attached to a Canon camera. The focus and aperture movement on this lens are like soft butter, creamy smooth. With a Super 35mm sized sensor on the FS100, the bokeh from this f/1.4 85mm is simply dreamy. I love it! I’ll be shooting some test footage in the near future with a few different lens makes and models. I just need to find an interesting topic and create some decent content. I’m tired of test charts… 😉