Sigma Fills Out Nicely with 14mm and 135mm Cine Primes

Sigma has just announced the development of a 14mm T2 and 135mm T2 prime lens. Based on the Sigma ART line of optics, these two new primes will join the already impressive 20mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm . This news comes as no surprise to anyone who follows Sigma. The photo version of these lenses which were released earlier this year, seem like they were designed specifically to join the Sigma Cine family. They’re a welcome addition and render the Sigma Cine Primes a powerful option for cinematographers.  Continue reading Sigma Fills Out Nicely with 14mm and 135mm Cine Primes

SLR Magic’s 50mm “CINE” prime

SLR mAgic 2

SLR Magic is a Hong Kong based lens manufacturer who has enjoyed the limelight with some unique lenses at substantially low prices when compared to the competition. Their lineup includes oddities with titles such as Toy Lens, Hyperprime, Noktor, etc.. Recently, the Chinese manufacturer has made their way into the cinema lens market with fully manual, “cine” lenses.  Continue reading SLR Magic’s 50mm “CINE” prime

Planet5D Takes a Closer Look at Voigtlander Noktons

NoktonSet_1024x1024Micro 4/3 shooters are a great bunch. They realize the value of a lightweight, portable rig while still demanding 4K recording with image quality that rivals much more expensive rigs. The list of viable Micro 4/3 cinema cameras continues to grow and show son sign of slowing down. One of the only drawbacks to shooting Micro 4/3 has been the crop factor when compared to Super 35 format. Micro 4/3 requires wider lenses to achieve a field of view similar to that of a Super 35 format sensor, therefor increasing the depth of field of a given shot. For example, if you wanted to shoot a scene with a 50mm lens on Super 35 format, but with Micro 4/3, you would need to jump to a 25mm lens. This wider focal length is going to increase your depth of field and give you less bokeh. Most shooters struggle to compensate for this by using faster lenses. Continue reading Planet5D Takes a Closer Look at Voigtlander Noktons

New 10.5mm Nokton from Voigtlander Sure to Please Micro 4/3 Shooters

IMG_7331-0.PNGPhotokina is underway so naturally there are a ton of lens related announcements. There’s some camera news too, but who cares… Cameras are outdated dated within a few months these days anyway. One of the most interesting announcements which I’ve been waiting weeks to discuss is the new 10.5mm from Voigtlander. Not only is this a nice wide focal length, it comes in at an impressive f/0.95. That’s fast for such a wide angle lens.

Continue reading New 10.5mm Nokton from Voigtlander Sure to Please Micro 4/3 Shooters

Go Wide With Arri’s 9.5-18mm T2.9 UWZ

ARRI-UWZ-9.5-18-T2.9-Lens

UWZ… It’s pretty simple really. Ultra Wide Zoom. It’s not much of a zoom really with a mere 1.8x zoom range but who cares when you’re at 9.5mm! Arri’s newest zoom lens is something of a technical achievement and an answer to many cinematographers’ pleas for a high quality wide angle zoom lens option. While it’s range isn’t much to brag about, being just under 2x, it provides enough flexibility for a cinematographer to replace two or three prime lenses without sacrificing overall image quality. The real benefit of this lens is it’s rectilinear image and stunning quality across the entire image – all 33.7mm⌀ of it. Continue reading Go Wide With Arri’s 9.5-18mm T2.9 UWZ

Zeiss Reveals 15-30mm T2.9 Wide-Angle CZ.2 Lens

ZEISS Objektiv-Premieren auf der IBC Show 2013 | ZEISS Lens Premieres at IBC Show 2013Just ahead of IBC, Zeiss revealed their expected wide-angle Compact Zoom lens which fills out the CZ.2 line of lenses, which now offers coverage from 15mm all the way to 200mm  with just three zoom lenses. Zeiss goes on to detail a few features of the new zoom such as it’s compatibility with the other CZ.2 zooms in terms of color matching and performance, as well as it’s 35mm full frame coverage and interchangeable mount system. The speed of the zoom is a T2.9 which matches the other two zoom in the set, the 28-80mm and 70-200mm. Zeiss mentions a release date of April 2014 for this lens. Let’s hope they can keep up with demand. The 28-80mm which was supposed to begin shipping in June 2013 has yet to make a public appearance. Check out the complete article from Zeiss which also provides some details of their upcoming Master Anamorphic 100mm. Original Article > 

Zeiss Drops Wide-Angle Zoom Hints

new CZ.2

Compact Zooms

Zeiss discontinued their 15.5-45mm Lightweight Zoom (LWZ.2) about three months ago. This LWZ was a great range and a decent speed for hand-held and Steadicam work but it didn’t match up well with the design or build of the new Compact Zooms (CZ.2). Zeiss released the 70-200mm T2.9 Compact Zoom a few months back and has been slow to deliver since it’s release. The lens is an excellent tele-zoom that will be comfortable for shooters coming from DSLRs who loved their Canon, Nikon, Tamron, Sigma, Sony… Take your pick – just about every lens manufacturer makes a 70-200mm Tele-zoom. The 70-200mm performs very well at all focal lengths (review coming soon) which has left it in very high demand. Continue reading Zeiss Drops Wide-Angle Zoom Hints

Canon Fills Out Nicely With a New 35mm Cine Prime

20130407-105035.jpgCanon 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

New Alura Kit From Duclos

A few weeks ago, I dropped a little sneak peak photo of the prototype Carry Handle & Motor Bracket Kit. Fitting and testing was a breeze and everything is ready to ship. Head on over to DuclosLenses.com for all the details. Oh, and don’t worry… The 18-80mm kit is on it’s way as well. Continue reading New Alura Kit From Duclos

Angenieux 17-80mm Optimo

Angenieux 17-80mm T2.2 on the test projector.

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.

Zeiss Reveals New 25mm f/2.0

Not exactly the most unique lens to be introduced in the past decade. What a boring focal length, 25mm… The current 25mm ZF is an f/2.8 and really doesn’t do anything special except make clean images. It doesn’t perform really well in low light, it’s not some crazy wide focal length, and it doesn’t even focus automatically for you or stabilize your image. You might think, hasn’t this been done over and over again? Not really. Zeiss knows that people are carefully criticizing their ZF/ZE line of lenses these days. With all the attention they are getting for motion picture use, Zeiss is really stepping up the quality of their lenses. Some of their current line-up is what I would consider sub-exotic, like the current 25mm f/2.8. This new lens, with it’s dual aspherical element design, practically eliminates chromatic aberrations and distortion, according to Zeiss. I don’t usually believe press release claims especially when the samples provided are absolutely useless… But Zeiss isn’t usually one to claim false features. I’ll be waiting to get my hands on one of these bad boys as soon as they hit the market in late November with an estimated price of $1,700, at which time I’ll take some more conclusive sample photos that really show off the features of the new and improved 25mm f/2 Zeiss. Continue reading Zeiss Reveals New 25mm f/2.0

RED’s 17-50mm Reincarnation

RED recently announced that they were redesigning the front housing on their 17-50mm T 2.9 zoom lens. The previous housing had an abnormally large front diameter. The optics measured roughly 80mm at the front whereas the housing was a whopping 144mm. This made it very difficult to use the lens for 3D work since the lenses couldn’t be positioned close together. The lens is relatively light weight, but when paired with a matte box that was able to accommodate such large front, the rig suddenly becomes quite heavy.

Previous front housing design of RED 17-50mm.

Well, this is proof that REd listens to their customers. There is absolutely no reason, other than pleasing their customers, to change the housing of their lens. BAM! Well done RED! The new housing is a rather common 114mm diameter and will look relatively similar to the RED Pro Prime lineup. As far as I can gather, this is how the lens will ship from here on out. RED is offering an upgrade for existing lenses for a mere $250. If you ask me, this is a great deal. The material alone probably cost close to $200 for RED. So stop complaining about the salad bowl that is your 17-50mm RED and send it in for this upgrade.

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.

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.

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.