Duclos Lenses has developed a conversion process for the Canon Cinema Eos CN-E Primes that provides a high quality, stainless steel PL mount that allows the primes including the 14mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 135mm to be used with any PL mount camera. Continue reading “Canon CN-E PL Primes From Duclos Lenses”
The Xenon FF-Primes are only a few weeks away and are positioned to be an excellent mid-range set of prime lenses. But what if you want something with just a tad more performance? You reach for the Schneider Cine-Xenar III primes. I did a quick write up on these a few months back explaining how Schneider drastically improved the operational usability of the Xenar IIIs over the previous two versions. Unfortunately the first two iterations may have left a sour taste in some operators mouths. So what’s the best way to encourage cinematographers to give the Xenars another chance? Discount the heck out of them. Continue reading “Schneider Cine-Xenar III Rebate + Warranty Offer”
Tired of guessing which lenses will and won’t cover a specific sensor? Stress no more, I’ve revised the Image Circle Database that so many of you have been asking for. It’s an ongoing project that I update periodically as lenses come through the shop (there’s a lot of them). With the rate that manufacturers are designing and releasing new lenses, this database will be updated as a downloadable PDF often. If there is a specific lens you would like researched for image circle, please list it below in the comments. The Database is going to stick to primarily cinema lenses or at least those used for cinema often. Check out the details below. Continue reading “The Image Circle Database Is Back!”
So you bought a new Sony F5 or even better, an F55. Or you’re upgrading from a 5D to a C100 or C300. You’re Red Epic needs some better glass for the upcoming Dragon sensor. Regardless, congrats. Now you need some lenses to get the best performance out of your new camera. But where do you start? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a new camera almost every month these days. Sensor tech continues to improve and grow. However, lenses are a lifetime investment. Unless you jumped on the 2/3″ train and bought some lenses that are useless now you may have also noticed that a set of, now vintage, classic Zeiss Super Speeds is still $50k and they’re almost 40 years old!!! Let’s explore some options that won’t break the bank and still give you some amazing performance. Continue reading “2013 Cine Prime Lens Buyers Guide”
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”
NAB 2013 is officially underway. Aubrey and I have begun scouring the show floor for interesting new bits of information pertaining to cinematography and more specifically, lenses. I’ll be dividing this post by manufacturer and will continue to update throughout the show. If you have any tips, please feel free to email them to me and I’ll go check out the details and see if I can get specific details from manufacturer reps. Enjoy! Continue reading “NAB 2013 Rolling Update”
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”
This post has been updated since it was first released to reflect up-to-date information including pre-order details (above).
One would assume that these full frame (FF) prime lenses are intended for still photographers, but there are a lot of features that will appeal to cinematographers just just as much as still photogs. I recently had the opportunity to review an early set of the Schneider Cine-Xenar III primes which I consider to be proper, classic cinema primes. Read the whole post here. At the moment the mid-range cine lens options include the likes of the Zeiss CP.2, Canon CN-E Primes, and a few others not worth mentioning. A bit of background on this class of lenses; the CP.2s are based on their lower-priced cousins, the ZF.2 photo primes. The CN-Es are also based on their lower-priced cousins, the L Series photo primes.
Schneider-Kreuznach has a broad history in the world of optics. They’ve produced many sets of motion picture lenses as well as a plethora of photographic lenses for just about every format imaginable. A few NABs ago they announced that they were introducing a new line of motion picture lenses, the Cine-Xenars. I was particularly excited because they had long since absorbed Century Precision Optics back in 2000 and I had been expecting great things from both companies with the impending motion picture revolution. …And then I saw the prototype 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”
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.
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”
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”