I've Just had the chance to compare the new Red 18-85 and my Cooke 18-100, the short story is Red's new lens is really good and if you are looking for something in that range you should buy it. It's, the optics are great, it's really well made and represents an incredible value.
Our test took place at VR in Santa Ana, CA Brad Hagen had 2 new 18-85's and we had a look at one of them in his conference room. Brian Ferguson from Red stopped by towards the end to say hello. MJ Kerber, my friend, colleague and kick ass DP came along to offer a second set of eyes and to help out.
The lens is all metal, presumably aluminum alloy, it's got a nice finish on it that's matte black. The lens is fat and stubby, I did not weigh it but it's a few pounds lighter than the cooke 18-100.
Over the front element there is a mask with a rectangular cut out. The cut out may be a bit aggressive if you were to use this lens on a 4perf super 35 setup. I had no way to test this for certain, but it looks like you could remove it if you wanted to. Likewise if you mounted the lens 90deg off rotation you might experience a performance drop. No Problems here.
The front filter thread is 138mm. This is unfortunate because, cinematographers use 138mm filters, but they are drop in and NOT screw in. The retainer rings and sunshades for this system are a slightly larger diameter. It seems like an easily avoidable mistake the designers could have prevented if he/she had bothered to check what a 138mm filter actually is. You could screw in an adapter, but it could not live full time on the camera unless you got a new front cap.
The lens has slick built in .08 module gears, the front focus gear part was so fat it did not work with our chroisziel follow focus, but I think it will work for most using a studio style follow focus. When our 18-85 lens arrives we'll probably modify the support for the follow focus to make it work.
The focus ring was slightly over dampened for my taste, but it's not a problem, I wonder how it will be in cold conditions, not that I have to worry about that in Southern California.
Zoom ring and Iris felt great. Not sure how many blades there were on the iris, but it was nice and round and linear.
There is no built in provision for a support and very little real estate ( on level, non rotating parts ) to use a clamp on one. I'm sure we'll be able to get a support on there somehow, but it seems like the designer did not anticipate that anyone would want to use one. It would be great if in the future they included 2 tapped holes like the ones on the cooke so a support could be bolted on.
The rear mount area looks good, back element is adequately protected.. Mount appears to be stainless steel.
On the camera the lens FFD and focus scale were set correctly at the factory, It appeared to actually be "perfect" in total agreement with our Cooke which was recently serviced. Nice going Red ! Zoom tracking was off a little, but our camera's mount / sensor is not aligned correctly so that's to be expected.
A good way to view these comparisons is to open them in different tabs in your browser and toggle back and forth. All tests were done WFO - 2.9 on the red and 3.0 on the cooke.
Breathing: Very minimal at 18mm, increases a little at longer focal lengths. Here's a clip comparing it to the cooke 18-100 @50mm The rack is from 10ft to 4ft to Inf. and back to 10ft.
In these cases we went for best for best focus on the putora chart, using a panasonic 17" HDSDI monitor and image magnify mode. Chart distance was 10ft.
Edge Resolution / Distortion:
We focused on the chart in the center of the wall and then moved it to the corner. Shots were at 18mm, distance 12ft. It's also a chance to see the mild barrel distortion both lenses have. The Red has a bit more resolution than the Cooke in the corner. 18mm on the Cooke is a bit wider than 18mm on the Red.
Field Illumination and overall Color tone:
This white projection screen lit within .02 of a stop edge to edge with a 4 bank 5600 kino. directly over the camera. The Red lens has much more even field illumination than the Cooke and a cooler rendering of color tones
Looks like the Red uses some aspherics to get the even field illumination and good edge resolution, the price is some funky donut shaped bokeh.
Test of flare resistance and character using a led flashlight.
Red's first pro lens effort is a great success, it's a serious lens that can compete side by side with much more expensive lenses from cooke and angenieux, but at 20% of the cost. It's shortcomings are minor, but annoying none the less, the front filter thread and the lack of preparedness for a lens support. Both are fairly easily solved by aftermarket accessories, but also could have been avoided by a few clicks of the mouse while it was being designed.
Thanks for Reading,