A good three weeks ago, Ukrainian cinematographer Volodymyr Ivanov conducted a rather extensive series of lens tests on his Vimeo channel. As it happens, he is a colleague of a good friend of mine, so I reached out to him in order to put together a little interview about his findings. Here it is! one of the test scenarios: long focal length bokeh and flare test On conducting lens tests: Hi Vova, thanks for participating in this interview! Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background. My full name is Volodymyr Ivanov and I’m a cinematographer from Kiev. Most of the time I’m doing feature films for cinema and television. Right now, I have two upcoming feature films that I’m supposed to shoot this fall in Ukraine. Why did you conduct these lens tests? These two films are supposed to be completely different in terms of visual style and cinematographic storytelling, and the image texture as well. I was interested in running a series of tests that would directly compare different “top-end” lenses, so that I could find out which of them would better suit the images that I have in my head. Patriot Rental House in Kiev gladly provided me with an opportunity to shoot my tests with Alexa during one day on different locations. Which lenses did you choose for testing and why? I chose five sets of lenses: Zeiss Ultra Primes, Master Primes, Cooke S4, Cooke 5i and Leica Summicron-c. Ultras, Masters and S4 are the most popular out of the expensive Top-Class lenses all over the world (as well as in Kiev). 5i is positioned on the market as a high speed rival of Master Primes and Leica Summicron could be an analogue to Ultras and S4. I could also get some other lenses for my tests (I’ll try to do it next time) such as Illuminas, Zeiss compact Primes cp.2, high speed Mk3 primes, Cooke panchro and rehoused OKS, but this time I opted to shoot more tests on a greater number of locations rather than including more lenses. What are your findings regarding these lens tests? I came up with the idea to perform some tests that would really show the difference between these expensive lenses. In normal contrast tests all lenses performed very well – the color reproduction is nothing but great. Cookes seemed a to be a bit softer than Zeiss and Leica, especially 75mm, but in a way that I would describe as pleasant. The greatest surprise, however, are Summicrons – to me personally they looked really different from the other lenses. They produce an image in which the model seems to be “cut out” from the background and therefore look sort of “shallow “. Did any of these lenses stand out from the others? In wide angle tests there was not much difference to be seen either (except for the Leica that looked once again not “deep”enough). Cookes have slightly more distortion at the edges which didn’t look bad at all. The real difference appeared when we hit the lenses with direct light on a Flares test. That is where Zeiss (both Master and Ultra) showed the whole glory of their state-of-art coating – the lenses produce very nice and soft flares, and do not lose much contrast. The big surprise was Cooke 5i 16mm – any higher than f2.3 and this lens showed very strong inner reflections that by the time you get to f1.4 it covers the whole image!!! S4 produced a lot more flares and rays than the Zeiss – that didn’t look at all bad but still quite particular. What about the bokeh test? All lenses looked rather different but still very nice in the Bokeh test – S4 have a very specific star-shaped bokeh that is probably the most distinguishable feature of these Cookes. What was the goal when performing high contrast lens tests? The high contrast “Ghost” test was meant to push all the lenses to their very limit, but all contestants showed quite good results. I would say that Zeiss, because of their coating, are a bit more reliable in such challenging situations. You also did a Long Focal Length test. In the night street test, all long focal lenses looked once again quite good, especially the Master Primes – even wide open they are still razor sharp and do not lose even a bit of contrast! Another big surprise came from Cooke 5i 100mm – fully opened at f1.4, it produced big halo rings around the car lights – that looks a bit frightening! What is your personal conclusion of these tests? I’d say that out of all these lenses (that all are very good in general) Zeiss Master Primes to my mind are the best that money can buy – they deliver a brilliant super sharp image in most challenging situations even on a stop of f1.3! Their greatest disadvantage is their price, weight and size – they are still a bit too big to be used with gimbals, steadycams and drones (who would put a lens that is worth its weight in gold flying in the air anyway?). For situations where size and weight are an issue, Master Primes can be very well complemented with Ultra Primes which match together nicely. Ultras Primes would be a good choice when there is a lot of light hitting the lens like concerts, clubs, street lights. All Ultra Primes match each other perfectly in color reproduction and that is why they seem to be a perfect choice for green screen and 3D – for instance, these were the lenses that were used on The Hobbit in 3D. However, no matter how good Zeiss lenses are, sometimes they are just “too perfect”. Cooke S4 are a choice of many filmmakers who are eager to get a more textured look rather then brilliant image. Good examples of a “Cooke look” are such great shows as “Game of Thrones” and “Penny Dreadful”. creating the “Cooke Look” – Cooke S4 primes I can’t say anything particularly bad about Summicrons but, for some reason, I just didn’t like them. Maybe because these were initially designed as photo lenses and then adapted for cinema, and therefore produce a very unusual look compared to all other film lenses that I’ve been used to. +++ NOTE: Seth Emmons, the marketing director for CW Sonderoptic, sister company to Leica Camera, which designs and manufactures the Leica Cine lenses, came up to me via email. In it he clarified that Summicron-C lenses were from the beginning designed as cinema lenses and were not photography lens designs. -Olaf +++ What I find really strange is the Cooke 5i series. For lenses that literally cost a fortune and that are supposed to be the main high speed rival for the Master Primes, they have to many “unexpected peculiarities” like inner reflection and halos. Still, in an average situation the 5i bring a really pleasant image with good texture. In the end I believe that lenses are just one of many means that filmmakers have at their disposal to deliver emotion. I think that making tests and trying as many lenses as possible is a good way to find “your” image, that which would give you that particular blow of inspiration which all of us are so eager to find. Thank you and all the best your your upcoming feature films!Read more
CELERE HS prime lenses, manufactured in Germany, were first introduced in 2015. What makes these lenses special is that they are high-quality, affordable cine lenses with uniformed weight and size. Cinematographer Konstantin Konstantinou had a chance to work with the new lenses and shares his experience with them in this guest article. – Intro by Sebastian Wöber Working with CELERE HS Prime Lenses Two weeks ago I had the chance to shoot a TV commercial with the new CELERE HS prime lenses, made by the German company Hanse Inno Tech, who are most commonly known for their camera support accessories. Disclaimer: I’m not an employee or affiliate, nor do I receive any money from Hanse Inno Tech for this article. Celere HS 85mm T/1.5 Cine Lens So why on earth would I take a new, not even finished set of PL prime lenses (I only could get hold of the 25, 36 and 85mm) to shoot an actual TV commercial? A few weeks ago I read about these newly developed lenses here on cinema5D and became a little curious about them. Four lenses with a maximum aperture of T1.5, slight form factor overall with the same dimensions (!) (weight: 1050 g (2.31 lb) with 85mm front diameter and 77mm filter threads!). All of them color matched—for the same amount of money that would buy me a new VW Polo, fake emission values included. Sounded more than affordable! So I called Lars Andersen from Hanse Inno Tech, and he arranged for me to get the set for a small test. I’m a cinematographer, not a tech-guy, so I thought I’ll let the others film their charts and try the CELEREs in an actual production environment—and here’s how they performed: I must admit, after two days of shooting, I’m really impressed. They’re “the best bang for your buck” you can get at the moment if you’re looking for true PL cinema glass! Don’t get me wrong; they aren’t Cookes, nor are they Masterprimes—and nothing like Leica Summilux-Cs. Keep in mind, however; these lenses will cost you at least 5x as much as the CELEREs. For their price (€11.800,- for a set of 4), they deliver solid performance. The Celeres play more in the price range of CP.2s, Samyang XEENs, or rehoused GL Optics glass. In all honesty, though, they knock all of them out in the very first round! If you take a set of CP.2s for example (25, 35, 50, 85) you’re going to spend about €21,000 (almost double the price) and only the 35, 50 and 85 are super speeds. The Zeiss CP2 25mm (which is one of the worst CP.2s I have ever used – better take the Zeiss CP2 21mm T2.9) has a maximum aperture of T2.1. The CELEREs are sharp stopped down from T2, deliver a beautiful and not too saturated, not clinically sharp image with a nice contrast, and their focus breathing is minimal. The focus rings travel 250° (which is nice if you don’t pull your own focus) and both the focus and iris are smoothly damped. Overall finish is beautiful, and they just feel like they were made by a German engineer (which they were). Because of their small size, you can put (when available) a set of 6 lenses in a single case. Which is an excellent benefit for owner/operators. We shot the commercial on the Arri ALEXA, and the CELEREs delivered a beautiful image—they are constructed to cover a full-frame sensor, and so we found no vignetting or distortion on the edges of the Alexa’s super35 sensor. Of course, wide open at T1.5 you will get some corner softness. The AC’s Take on the CELERE HS Prime Lenses When taking the lenses out of the case for the first time, my 1st AC and Steadicam operator Martin Kreslehner was more than curious. But after handling them for over two days, he wanted to keep them and send back an empty case! What impressed him the most was the uniform weight (as an SC operator, this is a key feature for him). The transparent back-caps seem a little strange at first (they are a little stiff to put on the lenses because of their o-rings). But if you have ever accidentally dropped the cap of an Ultra Prime into a muddy puddle when taking the lens out of the case, you will appreciate these caps made by TLS. Just another very well thought out aspect of these lenses. Conclusion So, after a full weekend of using the CELEREs on an actual commercial shoot, what are my final thoughts? Would I buy them? Would I recommend others to purchase a set? The lenses truly met—and exceeded—our expectations. With the possibility to change the PL mount to Canon EF in the near future, and the not yet ready but newly developed exchangeable front lenses (this lets you match the look of your set to almost any other PL set on the market), at their price range, they really rock! This is the first in-between PL Set, having cinevised still lenses on one side and expensive cinema glass on the other end of the spectrum (both quality—and price—wise). If you plan to upgrade from stills to cinema glass, consider the CELERE HS primes as a valuable and future-proof investment. If you are not completely sold yet, rent them and buy after the exchangeable front lenses are available (at least that’s what I’m going to do). The CELERE HS Prime Lenses are available at: celerelenses.com Unfortunately the TV commercial is still in post production. Here are a few films shot on CELERE HS lenses:Read more
Arri has announced a new control panel at IBC for its Amira and Alexa Mini cameras. They also showcased firmware 3.0 for their cameras which, among other things adds new high & low end recording codec features in the form of MPEG 2 and ProRes 4444 XQ. Arris camera all adhere to a very simply and easy to use menu system (probably the easiest I’ve used). On the Amira and Alexa Mini the menu and screen can be found on the side of the viewfinder. The problem with this? You have to buy the viewfinder in order to operate either camera (physically, Arris new app allows you to control camera wirelessly with a the same interface). As a fairly regular user of the Amira I think this the viewfinder is one of it’s weaker features. Similar to old school broadcast cameras there’s a certain ‘sweet spot’ where if the angle of your eye is not quite right, it’s hard to gauge whether you are in focus. Third party systems like the Zacuto Gratical HD and SmallHD 502 offer a much crisper, feature rich option for monitoring. However adding another viewfinder/monitor to your existing Arri system can be counter productive, particularly if you’re trying to keep things compact (Alexa Mini owners). Enter the Arri Control Panel. This is exactly the same as the panel found on the side of the Arri viewfinder (minus the viewfinder). This saves you cost and real estate with doubling up on viewfinders; buy the one that suits you best and get the Control Panel separately. Of course this will also work in other ways (the way Arri will have no doubt originally intended it), it will remove the Control Panel from the operators side for the AC to on the dumbside (like the full size Alexa). The device is tethered via a cable and will cost in the region of €2,600. Check out Newsshooters video from IBC at the Arri booth: We can see firmware 3.0 in use here, it brings an interesting feature in the form of an intervalometer for timelapsing but most important is the additions of two new recording codecs. MPEG2 in an .mxf wrapper is now supported, working well in an XDCAM environment or original Canon C300 workflow. This means the Arri cameras now support a highly compressed (by Arri standards) option should you require a bit more quantity over quality. If you’re in favour of quality however, firmware 3.0 also brings in ProRes 4444 XQ support. This is a high quality codec supporting up to 16 bits in color information. A target rate of 500 Mbps for 4:4:4 sources at 1920×1080 and shooting at up to 120fps in HD and 60P in UHD. via/ NewsShooterRead more
I want to share with you 8 points to keep in mind when choosing a cinema camera. There is no such thing as the perfect camera, and today more than ever it’s about picking the right tool for the job according to the features you need and the budget you have. Survival of the Fittest The digital cinema revolution spans arguably over a decade of large sensor technological innovation and evolution. I fell in love the day I saw the first 4K DALSA Origin camera at NAB in 2003, so that’s already 12 years ago. There is much to be said about the history of the technology we have all come to know, love and rely on for our livelihoods, livelihoods many of us have thanks to the industrial upset and disruption these technologies have caused. What’s of even more interest to most of us is where the technology is headed. Those who apply a bit of strategic foresight can get ahead of the game, and ahead of the pack. While many of us envision ourselves as cinematic mastermind auteurs, just waiting for that breakthrough that will propel us into the limelight. The truth is most of us are battling each other every day for a edge that will win us run of the mill production work, corporate films and weddings. Disruptive technology has been, and will continue to erode the hourly or daily market value of the average working freelance or self-employed cameraman/editor. You are not your camera Let’s face it; there is a huge difference between the work the vast majority of us do to pay the bills, and the work of the Hollywood cinematographers that inspire us so much. This difference is a complex combination of experience, knowledge (think lighting knowledge especially), creativity, industry contacts, and also technology. Each one of these variables has the potential to give you an edge above your competition. While a camera does not define or guarantee success; it is a platform on which you can build. If you choose technology that is on a strategic and forward thinking trajectory, you’ll stay ahead of the curve when it comes to taking your experience and creativity to the edge and beyond no matter what you shoot. When it comes to deciding where to invest when it comes to camera equipment, it’s important to see beyond the shiny packaging and tech specs. It’s not enough to place your faith purely in the court of public opinion either. By all means, spend time on forums, read reviews and study specifications. But that alone is not enough. We all know who the players are. We follow the every move of Red, Arri, Blackmagic Design, Sony, Canon, Panasonic, and relative newcomers such as Kinefinity and AJA. There is more choice when it comes to large sensor cinema grade cameras now than ever before. Not all cameras are created equal, and not all who run the race will win. The fact is, these manufacturers are creating tools for us, and so we, and our work, our needs define the environment that determines their fate. Those best equipped to survive in our environment are more likely to survive and evolve. Beyond surviving, those who show true innovation can thrive, and in fact exert their own force on the environment itself. 1. Workflow A camera cannot be considered alone, it’s part of a bigger picture that exerts influence over, and is at times limited by post production processes, and so post workflow must also be taken into account. Manufacturers who acknowledge, and embrace this fact are already a step ahead of the others. 2. Gimmick vs Innovation Are three legs better than two? Or four? Clearly not if winning the race is the objective, and as an analogy, a camera built and brought to market with three legs is not going to last very long in the face of two, or four-legged competition. Gimmick should not be mistaken for innovation. A sure sign that a manufacturer has lost touch with the market is a camera that intends to change the tried, true and accepted norms for its use without good reason, or without following some other major change that is taking place. Innovation on the other hand is change introduced for good reason, or based on projected insight. Cameras do and should evolve, and while some new ideas may invoke resistance at first, good ideas will find acceptance even if it takes time. 3. Who’s at the head of the pack? One place where you can look to the industry at large is to answer the question who are the front runners? Quite often the answer is obvious, what are the biggest shows and films being shot with? The answer is Arri and Red, and to a certain extent 35mm film is still holding a spot at the top. So then ask yourself, what are they doing right? What are they up to? What are the trends at the top? 4. 4K and beyond. The age of 4K and above has well and truly arrived, that goes without saying. It’s been coming slowly but surely for many years now. Even if you are still delivering HD, I would argue your acquisition should be 4K at least, and there are viable options that fit all but the smallest budgets. 5. RAW To RAW or not to RAW? While RAW is certainly not right for every job, I would argue it is something you want at your disposal. Again, money is not an excuse anymore to be buying a camera that can’t shoot RAW in camera, or accommodate RAW in an external recorder. When considering cameras that don’t come standard with in-camera RAW recording, ask yourself why? Why am I being required to buy an extra piece of kit? Or look higher up the model line-up for features that should now be standard across the board? The answer is you shouldn’t and you don’t have to. 6. Look closely at the model line-up The manufacturers that have a long model line-up to maintain should be asking themselves serious questions. That worked when choices were few and prices were high, but the reality now is quite the opposite. As an example look at the situation Sony is in with the FS7, F5 and F55. As firmware updates bring the capabilities and features of the “lower-end” cameras closer to their more expensive brothers, the case for shelling out a lot more of your hard earned cash on the F55 instead of the F5, or the F5 instead of the FS7 starts to look thinner. 7. Bleeding edge trends Looking beyond the cutting edge to what’s really pushing boundaries right now can tell you where things may well be headed for all of us in the future. Sensors are getting bigger. I believe a trend we will see starting now from the players right at the top is a move well beyond super 35mm, beyond full frame, to 65mm. I know DP’s that are already starting to buy up medium format glass and have it re-housed for cinema use. Arri broke ground with the announcement of the Alexa65, and we’ve recently seen that there is a new range of Hawk 65mm anamorphic lenses announced. This is right at the cutting edge, and will not trickle down from the top overnight, but I believe it will happen in time. 8. Ergonomics and Upgradability More than just counting pixels, the demand today is for modularity and ergonomics. These are important aspects to keep in mind when weighing up performance and price of a cinema camera. Is there an upgrade path for the camera? If so does it require sending the camera back to the manufacturer in the case of Red, or can you upgrade the camera yourself like the URSA? Are you locked into the camera as it is, or are there modules that can be added or removed to build the camera for different situations? A camera should work well for you the way you want to work, and this is where things get subjective. Be realistic about your needs, will a larger, heavier camera body suit you, where the laws of physics and inertia give you some extra stability and smooth out vibrations in your shots. Do you work mostly on a head and legs, or do you work far more handheld? Do you work alone or have a camera assistant and focus puller on most of your shoots? A larger camera that suits a larger crew may not work so well for you alone. Of course this is not always the case. Each camera is different, menus and screens are in different places with different levels of accessibility. There is no one-size fits all solution We all have different needs, and thankfully no two cameras I can think of are the same. Each has unique pros and cons, but the important thing is that it’s not just about what’s hot right now. When choosing a cinema camera it’s about seeing beyond… where is all this headed, not only where the demand is right now in terms of the services you provide, but where will the demand be in two years time. What creative opportunities will this technology open up? How can I get in there first? The answers are right there between the lines for anyone willing to dig just a little deeper behind what’s making the news headlines. Look for patterns and notice trends. The next time you find yourself blindly comparing specs, or being swayed by opinion on camera forums, try to keep in mind a clear picture of where the technology is headed, and which manufacturers are truly, honestly innovating, moving in a forward trajectory to bring you better tools in the long run.Read more
We are here at BVE 2015 in London and together with our UK man Tim Fok I had a chance to have a hands-on with the super lightweight Alexa Mini, and an extended chat with Arri product manager for cameras, Michael Jonas. As might already have read in our news post about the new Alexa camera, the new “baby” Alexa is targeted at gimbal (like on a MoVi M15) and multicopter shooters. However, when holding it in our hands we realized that this camera will also be very popular with “normal” shooters who want to stay extremely small without sacrificing the legendary Alexa quality – but they must also have the money (to either rent or buy body-only for €32,500), and the camera quite clearly isn’t a bargain. It’s tinier than I thought it would be – it feels considerably smaller than a Red Epic, but they are similar in size. It’s very lightweight and according to Michael Jonas, it comes in at roughly 300 grams less than the Red Dragon / Epic. The Alexa Mini features a set of mounting screw holes that haven’t been seen on other cameras before. Mounting it on a normal tripod isn’t its main intended purpose, but surely a lot of people will want to do just that – and Arri will sell them a cage for that. It won’t take long until other accessory makers will provide solutions for that. Due to the fact that the body is made out of carbon fibre, the mounting screw holes were put onto the metal front part which holds the lens mount – the carbon fibre would break under too much force. Be sure to watch the full video to see some of the first footage of the Arri Alexa Mini which we were able to shoot at the Arri stand at BVE, and of course also to hear all the technical details about the camera from Michael Jonas. Arri plans to start taking orders in March and the body-only price (as mentioned above) will be EUR 32,500. We are planning to shoot a review film with a pre production model as soon as possible.Read more
Everybody was wondering when Arri would jump into the 4K camera race. Today we were surprised with the announcement of their new 6K camera, the ALEXA 65 that uses a giant 65mm sensor. The camera’s sensor is a new sensor developed by Arri that is slightly larger than a 65mm 5-perf film frame. Some sites claim that the sensor is comprised of three Alexa sensors that are arranged vertically and seamlessly stitched together. To cover the large sensor Arri is introducing a new line of lenses based on Hasselblad medium format stills lenses. This is all very intriguing news. We will let you know when we see the first footage from the camera and get a chance to test and review. Technical Specifications: 65mm digital cinema camer ARRI A3X CMOS Sensor Aperture equivalent to 5-perf 65mm film 6560 x 3102 Resolution 54.12 x 25.58 mm Sensor size (active image area) Sensor image diagonal: 59.87 mm ARRI XPL Mount (64 mm diameter) LDS metadata Same accessories as ALEXA XT cameras Electronic Shutter 5° – 358°, adjustable in 1/10° incrrements 0.75 to 27 fps (upgrade to 60 fps planned for early 2015) EI 160 to EI 3200. Base is EI 800 Dynamic Range greater than 14 stops Shoots: Uncompressed ArriRAW Check out the full documentation about the ALEXA 65 project in this 35-page pdf: LINK via newsshooterRead more
Arri just announced a run-and-gun camera that seems to fulfill every documentary filmmakers dream. A complete “compact” working tool with Arri Alexa quality, slow motion capabilities, zoom control and no setup time working right out of the box. You could think of it like an old fashioned video camera that had all the ergonomics and versatility laid out for fast one-man poduction, be it a documentary film or news gathering or old fashioned home videos. Here’s a complete solution that brings back all these qualities but made for “cinema” grade results made by the most reliable camera manufacturer of our time. This is an exciting product, so exciting we know it’s going to cost a lot more than most of us could afford. This is definitely a rental camera, not like a 650D you’ve got lying around in your equipment drawer. This is a serious cinema camera, not only for its sensor design, but also because it brings what the Arri Alexa provided: the ergonomics, quality and workflow that helps filmmakers make the best images possible. In terms of workflow Arri integrated “CFast 2.0” which is an in-camera CF memory slot with super-quick data rates. CFast 2.0 is an open format said to deliver a fantastic price-performance ratio through incredible transfer speeds, long recording times and compatibility with standard IT tools. Costs per GB are brought down and higher-than-broadcast-quality image pipelines are made available even to low budget productions. Here are the key features of Arri’s new Amira: • Ready to pick up and shoot straight out of the camera bag. (including startup) • creative liberation through functional, user-friendly design. • same amazing sensor as Arri Alexa. • records HD 1080 or 2K (with 4K imager). • 14 stops (clean!) dynamic range. • up to 200fps. • ProRes LT, 422, 422HQ or 444 codecs. • Integrated, motorized ND filters. • peaking, false color, zebra. • OLED viewfinder with extendable LCD on the side. • comes with a number of preloaded 3D LUT-based looks for fast grading. And here’s a sentence from the press-release concerning durability that just has to be quoted: AMIRA is a highly durable product constructed of the strongest possible materials. Sealed electronics provide top-level protection against humidity and dust, while an integrated thermal core results in highly efficient cooling. Productions can take AMIRA anywhere, from jungles and deserts to snow-capped mountain tops, sure in the knowledge that it will not let them down. There are many productions this product is perfectly tailored to. You can be sure this camera will take the video and cinema production world by storm.Read more
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