Prime and Zoom Lenses

  • With David Kirk

Prime and Zoom Lenses

In the run up to NAB 2023, traditional glass is where it's at. The following article looks at the most recent commercially available studio lenses - by Contributing Editor David Kirk...

Broadcast studio lens development continues in a quiet and methodical fashion, free from the disruptive concepts being tested in many areas of media-related innovation. One advance with obvious long-term potential is the flat lens concept currently being refined by researchers at Pennsylvania State University. The PSU team recently created an 800mm diameter metalens using deep ultraviolet photolithography which is commonly employed in manufacturing high density electronic components. The DUV process is claimed to overcome the limitations of electron beam lithography more commonly used to create metalenses.

Angenieux' Optimo Primes 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 1.7 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.

ARRI recently announced four zoom lenses designed to intercut with any of its 16 Signature Prime focal lengths. ARRI says its Signature Zooms "preserve all the key attributes of the Signature look - smooth, warm skin tones; soft, delicate bokeh; high colour fidelity and exceptional dynamic range - in a lightweight package optimised for flexibility and speed. Together, they cover 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 towards the end of 2021, while the 16-32mm and 24-75mm T2.8 zooms shipped early in 2022. Every 65-300mm zoom comes with a 1.7x extender "turning it into a very high quality 110-510mm T4.9 zoom". All Signature Prime and Signature Zoom lenses are equipped with a magnetic rear filter holder to facilitate the use of behind-the-lens filtration and optics. In early 2023, ARRI launched a new line of Impression Filters that attach to the back of any Signature lens using this magnetic system. First to be released are eight Impression V Filters that give Signature lenses a vintage look. By incrementally shifting the focus characteristics of the image, the four positive and four negative diopter filters allow a range of detuned looks to be created via a single set of lenses.

Cambo has introduced two wide-angle lens panels, one for the company's WRS series and one for the Actus series: The WRE-2019 is based on the optics of the Nikkor PC 4.0/19 and is now available for use on Cambo WRS and Phase One XT cameras. The lens has been rehoused and fitted with a controller for the electronic aperture. The image circle is large enough to cover the sensor of an IQ3/IQ4 back and still permits about 4mm of shift. The ability to use filters was not available on the Actar-15 and Actar-19. The new Actar-20 has a 82mm filter thread. This lens is also intended for use with mirrorless medium format cameras. Its image circle generously covers the sensor of cameras such as the Fujifilm GFX-100s.

Canon's RF lens family has grown 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.

Cooke Optics' Varotal zoom lens was introduced in 1971. The Varotal/i FF series is a completely new design of three lenses which offers focal length coverage from 19 to 215mm. "Varotal/i FF completely eliminates the compromise that has been linked with zoom lenses for broadcast, efficiency or purely style, as they offer imaging performance which is comparable to prime lenses," says Carey Duffy,  Cooke Optics' Director of Product Experiences. "Varotal/i offers remarkable levels of detail for 8K resolution and beyond. All three lenses feature a constant T2.9 aperture speed at all focal lengths which ensures consistent results and excellent creative control. Thanks to a scratch resistant PTFE hard-anodised finish, these lenses are a selection of the most durable and hard-wearing on the market. They have a surface that can perform in even the harshest environmental conditions. They include Cooke intelligent /i technology which comprises /i data focus, iris and zoom position, /i motion inertial data, /i maps, plus factory calibrated shading and distortion data.”

Fujifilm Corporation's new HZK25-1000mm broadcast box lens is claimed to deliver the world’s highest zoom ratio (40x) and longest focal length (1000mm). It is designed to works with a Super 35mm sensor and also supports a sensor equivalent to 35mm full frame via a built-in expander to increase the image circle by 1.5 times. It offers the added benefit of maintaining the same angle of view in both sensors. At wide-angle, the lens provides F2.8 aperture, enabling shallow depth-of-field. The lens can features an image-stabilisation mechanism based on Fujifilm’s ceramic ball roller system. 

Samyang Optics, represented in Britain and Ireland by Holdan, has introduced a new V-AF lens family designed for Sony E-Mount full-frame cameras. The first lens in the series is the V-AF 75mm T1.9. Samyang will introduce four more lenses (20, 24, 35 and 45mm) before the end of 2023. "These innovative, lightweight lenses from Samyang will make it easier for filmmakers to work efficiently, maximising their focus on the creative process rather than worrying about their gear," comments David Fidler, Divisional Director, Holdan. "V-AF lenses provide greater compatibility with gimbals and drones because they all have the same form factor across five different focal lengths (ultra-wide to medium-telephoto). Compact dimensions of 73 x 70mm and a light weight of less than 300g means there is no need to reset equipment when changing lenses. The tally lamp located on the front of the lens indicates to the presenter whether video is being recorded or not. The new V-AF series supports resolutions up to 8K and all lenses are colour-matched to avoid shifts when swapping lenses. Nine aperture blades create a superb, natural-looking bokeh."

P+S Technik's TECHNOVISION 1.5X AproXima anamorphic close focus lenses are available in focal lengths: 40, 50, 75 and 100mm. Image circle is 43.3mm, close focus could be as close as 1'2'' (0.36m), T-stop is from T2.2 to T2.5 and front diameter is 156mm. Also new is a dressed-up version of the Evolution 2X lenses, described as a modern version of the Kowa anamorphic lenses and with a modern and improved iris mechanism. Sony's FE 20-70mm F4 G lens has a 20-70mm zoom range in a compact, lightweight full-frame lens with a constant F4 aperture throughout the zoom range.

"The FE 20-70mm F4 G is the perfect choice for a variety of content capture like vlogging and movie production through to still shots of portraits and landscapes," says Yann Salmon Legagneur, Director of Product Marketing, Digital Imaging, Sony Europe.

"Combined with a compact mirrorless body, this lens can deliver superb image quality in just about any situation at all focal lengths. An excellent choice for shooting with a minimum amount of equipment."