Over the course of two days, in a studio in Burbank, California, a band of self-proclaimed “lens geeks” set out to complete the ultimate vintage cinema lens test. The project first began as a collaboration between ShareGrid’s Brent Barbano, and Duclos Lenses’ own Matthew Duclos. Initially, Barbano and Duclos had been planning to complete a rather small-scale lens test with the industry’s most popular and widely used vintage lenses. However, upon approaching director and cinematographer Mark Lafleur to ask him to participate, they discovered that he too was getting ready to carry out his own vintage lens test. The two sides decided to join forces, and before long a whole team was assembled. With Lafleur and Barbano as Directors and Executive Producers, and Duclos as Lens Consultant, Kyle Stryker was brought on as Director of Photography. The team also came to include Camera Assistants Matthew Borek and Michelle Diaz, and Nick Ferriero as Editor. Continue reading “The Ultimate Vintage Lens Test”
Shane Hurlbut recently took a set of the Canon Cinema Compact Zoom lenses, 15.5-47mm and 30-105mm, complete with Multi-Mount and Zoom Motor Bracket as well as the two flagship lenses, the 14.5-60mm and 30-300mm with our Carry Handle and Motor Bracket kits out for a spin on his newest project that you may have heard of – Need for Speed.
I love what Duclos has made. They are ergonomically made to flow with the lens and they also incorporate a Haden M26T motor bracket to engage the zoom focal lengths. They are built like a brick house,
Check out his full article on his blog here – Adapting Your Canon Arsenal with Duclos: A Way for Filmakers to Increase Speed and Convenience on Set.
Canon introduced their pair of lightweight zooms, 15.5-47mm and 30-105mm, about a year ago and they’ve had a bit of a rough start. They were introduced into an already saturated market where every other manufacturer had been making zoom lenses for decades. Canon is no newb when it comes to high-end cinema zooms. They had their line of S16 format zooms a few years back (remember 16mm film?) that were adapted from their long running and still successful video lens division. Everyone knows that Canon makes great lenses. Their L series is a perfect indication of high quality, professional glass. But in the recent past, there wasn’t really any professional cinema lens offerings from Canon. The new lightweight zooms were an excellent comeback! They had all the features I look for in a zoom lens. They are designed with simple, robust components throughout the lens. Plenty of focus marks on clean, simple barrels. Consistent T-stop of T2.8 throughout the zoom range. And just about every other feature of a professional cinema zoom lens. Continue reading “Canon Lightweight Zoom Universal Mount From Duclos 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”
Rokinon announced their 35mm T1.5 “cine lens” a few months back, their maiden offering in the world of budget cinema lenses. Now they’re announcing their next alteration set to release this September in the form of a wide angle prime lens. A 14mm T3.1 which actually sounds quite nice. Rokinon didn’t release any pricing but with a cheap plastic body and low-cost materials, the lens will certainly be a good, cheap alternative to higher priced wide angle options. It’s primary competitor will be lenses like the Canon 14mm f/2.8 which receives well deserved great reviews from Canon fanboys Continue reading “Rokinon’s Next “Cine Lens””
Everyone is talking about the Rokinon line of lenses. Also known as Bower or Samyang depending on what country you reside in. They’re all the same lenses just different badges. Rokinon lenses are an excellent alternative to pricey cinema lenses mostly due to their cheaper, featureless construction. These lenses don’t come with any zippy auto focus motors nor do they offer camera controlled aperture functions. They still (as in non-motion) photography lenses with completely manual controls. Maybe a pain for those used to automatic lenses from Nikon or Canon, but great for those looking for an entry level cinema option. The lenses are commonly available in Nikon F or Canon EF mount. Continue reading “Rokinon’s Intro to Cinema Lenses”
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”
We’ve been building our 11-16mm lenses as quick as we can while still maintaining the highest quality standards we can. We’ve received great feedback from a lot of satisfied customers and look forward to continuing to fill orders. There are quite a few back-orders still but rest assured, we are working diligently to fill orders as quickly as possible. This particular photo is our Nikon-F mount model. We offer the lens in PL, Nikon-F, and Canon-EF. Such a versatile little beauty. 🙂
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.
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.
I’ve been using a D300 since it first came out. I made the decision to stick with DX format lenses and workflow a long time ago and the D300 was the best DX Nikon body at the time. Similar to Apple with the iPhone 3G, Nikon added an “s” to the end of their product name and I didn’t think twice.
Obviously the biggest upgrade in the new D300s is the capability to shoot 720p video at 24p. A lot of people are making a big deal about the added feature, but I’m really not drinking the cool aid. The video feature is a novelty. In fact I’m considering returning the darn camera. Not strictly because of the finicky video, but also because Aperture doesn’t support RAW processing for the D300s which I find very odd considering the processor is almost identical to that of the D300 which is supported. I can easily over come the latter issue by simply using Lightroom instead. So now I have the choice of keeping my D300s and selling my old D300 or dumping both and getting a D700 😉
With the success of the PL mount manual 11-16mm, I decided to explore other options. It seems that there aren’t many good candidates for cine conversion out there. We made a hand full of PL mount Nikon 80-200mm lenses with the usual bells and whistles. But nothing that could keep up with our Tokina conversion.
Along the way I learned that many people had switched from PL to the Nikon mount on their RED camera to save money on glass. This is great because we also customize the Zeiss ZF lenses that are Nikon mount, but it left our available lens lineup a bit confused in regards to mounting options.
Many of our potential 11-16mm customers had already switched to Nikon mount, making our PL lens useless. I thought it would be great if I could offer a Nikon F mount version to those who still loved their Nikon glass and didn’t want to switch mounts frequently. The 11-16mm Tokina comes from the factory in a Nikon mount, but there is still no aperture control. With the complete cine-conversion, the aperture is activated and all the controls are manual, but now with a Nikon F mount. Perfect!