Prime and Zoom Lenses

  • By David Kirk

Prime and Zoom Lenses

This overview encapsulates the most recent prime and zoom lens introductions from some of the leading manufacturers in this field. Significant trends are a continuing reduction in size and weight plus the ongoing transition from HD to 4K - by David Kirk...

Angenieux’ Optimo Primes Series is a joint effort with Band Pro Film & Digital and Jebsen Industrial Technology. The series is designed to complement Optimo Ultra 12x zooms. The six lens Silver Set initially comprised versions with 21, 28, 40, 50, 75 and 135mm focal lengths. 18, 24, 32, 60, 100 and 200mm versions are in the process of being introduced. Optimo Primes provide a minimum coverage of 46.5mm image circle. All focal lengths are PL mount. Cooke /i Technology and ARRI LDS metadata are supported. A common gear size and position are used across the entire 12-lens set. Each lens in the 12 piece series from 18mm to 200mm was designed to provide the best compactness and weight (ranging from 1.7kg to 2.3kg or 3.75 to 5.07lbs) while offering aperture at a fast T1.8 (with the exception of the 18mm and 200mm, at T2 and T2.2 respectively). Each lens in the Optimo Prime series features Angénieux’ new Integrated Optical Palette (IOP) technology. The IOP lens customisation system includes interchangeable internal optical elements, variable blade iris subassemblies, and rear filter design. “Following the EZ entry- level Full Frame zoom lens series, we are now offering a complete new high-end solution, zoom and primes, covering full frame,” says Christophe Remontet, Managing Director of the Angenieux Cinema Optics division.

ARRI introduced four new zooms designed to intercut seamlessly with any of the 16 Signature Prime focal lengths. ARRI Signature Zooms preserve all the key attributes of the Signature Lens look - smooth, warm skin; soft, delicate bokeh, high colour fidelity and exceptional dynamic range - in a lightweight package optimised for flexibility and speed. Together, they cover what is claimed to be the largest zoom focal length range in the industry: 16mm to 510mm. Their native LPL mount allows them to be used interchangeably on any S35 or large format camera. The 45-135mm T2.8 and 65-300mm T2.8 zooms first shipped in Q4 2021. The 16-32mm and 24-75mm T2.8 zooms will ship in Q1 2022. Every 65-300mm zoom comes with a 1.7x extender, turning it into a very high quality 110-510mm T4.9 zoom. And, similar to Signature Primes, every lens comes with a magnetic rear filter holder to facilitate the use of behind-the-lens filtration and optics. Canon’s RF lens family is growing by two with the addition of the Canon RF800mm F5.6 L IS USM, and the longest focal length RF lens yet, the RF1200mm F8 L IS USM. The new lenses share many of the same features, including Super Spectra Coating and Air Sphere Coating to help minimise ghosting and flaring, compatibility with both the RF1.4x and RF2x extenders and a customisable electronic focusing ring with manual focus capability during Servo AF. Additional features shared by both lenses include two focus presets with the ability to instantly switch between memorized focus distances; circular nine-bladed aperture providing photographers with soft blurred backgrounds and bokeh; dust and water resistance, plus fluorine coating on the front element for easy cleaning. The Canon RF800mm F5.6 L IS USM weighs in at 3.32kg and has a minimum focusing distance of 2.6 metres. Maximum close-up magnification is 0.34x, allowing wildlife image creators to fill the frame with small subjects such as birds at its minimum focusing distance. Optical image stabilization is up to 4.5 stops of shake correction and includes three IS operation modes. When using the RF1.4x or RF2x extenders, users can experience enhanced effective focal lengths of 1,120 and 1,600mm respectively. Canon describes its RF1200mm F8 L IS USM as the most powerful super-telephoto lens in the company’s RF lens line. It weighs 3.36kg and has a minimum focusing distance of 4.3 metres. Optical image stabilization is up to 4.0 stops of shake correction and, similar to the RF800mm F5.6 L IS USM lens, includes three IS operation modes. When using the RF1.4x or RF2x extenders, users can experience enhanced focal lengths of 1,680mm and 2,400mm, respectively. The RF800mm F5.6 L IS USM and Canon RF1200mm F8 L IS USM are both scheduled to be available from late May 2022. 

Cooke announced the launch of two additions to its expanding range of full frame lenses at the end of 2021. The two new Varotal/i FF zoom lenses bring modern design and materials to this line of zoom lenses that were first introduced in 1971, while the Panchro/i Classic FF range offers the vintage Speed Panchro look for full frame sensors. The Varotal/i T2.9 zoom lenses cover all full frame sensors and are matched in resolution, colour and fall-off to the Cooke S7/i range, thus providing a complete suite of Cooke full frame spherical lenses. The focal lengths of the zoom lenses are 30 - 95mm and 85 - 215mm respectively. The mounts can be chosen as either PL or LPL at time of order. “We are increasingly seeing a demand for smaller, faster and smarter lenses and our releases are at the centre of this,” says Tim Pugh, CEO of Cooke Optics. Additionally, on March 16th, Cooke Optics will be announcing new additions to its expanding range of full frame lenses during a virtual online event.”

Fujifilm has been making lenses under the Fujinon brand for over 70 years and is one of the few brands making 8K broadcast lenses. That technology filters down through the companies ranges of broadcast, cine and GF lenses. “While the lenses in our GF lineup have been developed primarily for still images, they offer some great features for videographers as well,” comments Andreas Georghiades, Group Marketing Manager at Fujifilm UK. “There are many ways that they can be used for movie-making - and are especially useful for those wanting to work in a hybrid way, creating a mix of stills and video - there are additional benefits to using lenses that are specifically designed for cinema. GF lenses can be used for quick and accurate autofocus at times when manual focus is difficult. For some projects like documentaries, AF can be extremely handy.

“GF zooms and primes are fast, allowing you to use all the creative potential of focus in movies, from a shallow depth-of-field to front-to-back sharpness. The key to using a small set of lenses is to have the director and cinematographer fully understand how the story should be told and create the action around that plan. You could achieve this with three or four primes from the GF lens range, for instance, GF30mmF3.5 R WR, GF63mmF2.8 R WR, GF80mmF1.7 R WR, and GF110mmF2 R LM WR. And each lens’s wide maximum apertures let you film in low light, as well as create beautiful subject separation.

“A GF zoom lens allows more freedom in solving location problems and means that you don’t need to switch lenses as often. You can think of these lenses as ‘variable primes’ because of their sharpness and low aberrations. The GF45-100mmF4 R LM OIS WR covers almost all of the most common focal lengths used in film-making and has a bright F4 aperture to make exposure easier in dim conditions, as well as picking out subjects against nicely rendered blurred backgrounds. It is also light in weight. There’s also a wide-to-standard option in GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR. And if you want to keep your distance from the subject or achieve a range of close-ups and ultra-close-ups with ease, there’s GF100- 200mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR. The choice of packing primes, or zooms, or both is something cinematographers take very seriously, and depends on each project.”

“Another big difference between stills and cine lenses is the way aperture is controlled. While stills lenses, like those in the GF system, use aperture control that is defined in hard stops, cinema lenses have unrestricted control across the aperture range and in between stops, making changes in exposure much smoother in motion. This can be used to adapt to changing light, just as in stills, but also for creative effect. For instance, a step-less aperture can be used to counter subtle changes in ambient light in a scene, or to change the depth-of-field for storytelling reasons.

“Selective focus control is a vital tool in movie making. As such, you can expect cine lenses to have a much longer turn in their manual focus ring, allowing more accurate focusing, especially when operation is remotely controlled. For the same reason, cine lenses like Premista models have a greater number of distance markings on the lens barrel, which makes it easier for film crews to achieve accurate changes to focus or focal length. There are currently three Premista lenses, 28-100mm T2.9 and the 80-250mm T2.9-3.5, and a 19-45mm T2.9, all having a tough and lightweight metal build. Although each one is designed for 35mm film-sized sensors, they in fact also cover the image area of GFX large format 4K capture at almost all focal lengths.

“If you’re thinking of using dedicated cinema lenses on your GFX system body, you need to use a mount adapter, such as a PL to GF converter, but this small addition really opens up a world of cinematic possibilities.

“With adapters, many retro-design lenses from decades past can add unique flavours and videographic expressions to your production, or might better suit a subject or era you’re working on. For instance, if you’re shooting a drama set in the 1950s, one might use lenses that achieve that traditional look, instead of trying to create it using software in post-production.”