(Opinion 1: Evin Grant)
Hi, my name is Evin and I’ve been a glassaholic for 19 years….
After all was said and done the primary purpose of the SALT (in my mind) was to generate opinions, data and impressions that would help Redusers make a more informed decision about the new lens choices available to them. This required getting together a well respected and representative (creatively & technically) group as well as as much new and veteran glass as possible to test. There were a few missing (MPs and Illuminas most notably) but the show must go on as they say.
Here are the individual impressions and opinions of the group we gathered together. The group as a whole seemed to see and appreciate the same qualities in each of the lenses and although we have some slight variation in opinion on what this means when shooting it’s important to note that our impressions were for the most part unanimous.
Here are my thoughts…
Firstly I was honestly surprised how little variation there was in actual footage.
A tiny bit of color variation but all the lenses tested could be cut with little color correction needed. First I’ll start with the Fujinon 18-85mm T2 lens, we did not have a chance to fully test it because it arrived late but it was immediately obvious that this lens was something special. The image is crisp and contrasty and almost leaps off the screen with zero breathing. Of course the $82K price tag will keep this in the rental column for me for some time but it’s an amazing feat of glass.
The next biggest surprise was the Angenieux Rouge zooms 16-42mm and 30-80mm. These two lenses not only punched their weight with the primes, but bested all of them for CA performance. I’d still choose some of the primes for Bokeh but only by a hair. Nice flare character with some Aspherical “gilly-flare” They also showed a distinctly yellower image than the neutral Zeiss/RPPs or warm Cookes.
When we get to primes it’s important to talk for a second about consistency within a particular lens set. As I mentioned before all of these lenses rendered sharp, pleasing footage that could be cut together but on a more critical level there are differences that show up over multiple focal lengths. (This does not apply to resolution, read Matt Duclos’s section for that) I was also a bit surprised by how much variation there was within many of the sets I had always though of as top line. The most consistent set from wide to tele, in both look, flare character and bokeh was the Cooke S4s, followed closely by the Optimos. The Zeiss Ultras, Standard Speeds and Compact primes come next having generally good uniformity. The RPPs, Uniques and Super Speeds all come in last here mostly because the wide lenses are of significantly different optical designs than the teles and so display a greater variation in flare and bokeh character (although not unpleasing in the least).
My impression of the primes is that they all have their place…
The RPPs are great, they are extremely sharp and have a very nice image fall off, very little breathing and extremely even field illumination. The trade offs are weight and average CA performance (On par with Ultras but better than S4s).
The Uniques are a very good counterpoint with performance equal to the RPPs, although I’m sure they are different designs they seem to share some DNA and render similarly (See Matt Duclos’s section again) but with less flare resistance (this may be fixed in the production units).
The Zeiss Compacts preformed well but not extraordinary compared to the other new glass around. Although they did show nice contrast and bokeh they all had a tendency to flare in a strange star patten. They are very light though and cover the full 24x36mm still frame. It would also be nice if the wides were faster.
The Cooke S4s were consistent, warm and pleasing with the best focus fall off but had a bit of veiling flare and the least pleasing bokeh/OOF highlights, especially when the star pattern appears between T2.8-4. They also displayed above average CA.
The Ultra primes surprised me in just how little difference we could find from the Standard speeds. They showed better sharpness numbers in the corners but overall they performed very similarly. Good flare control, contrast and uniformity. Probably the best barrels of all the primes.
I found the Zeiss Standard Speeds and Super Speeds to have the most pleasing flare characteristics over all. The Supers certainly suffer much more from lower contrast and veiling flare though. Bokeh was also pleasing on both old school Zeiss sets.
The Ruby 14-24mm Nikkor performed very well, especially for sharpness and field illumination but suffered from a scuffed rear element that made flare evaluation tricky. Breathing was OK but not up to the Optimos. Bokeh was nice and seemed very similar to the RPPs.
The focus travel of 50 degrees will be about 100 degrees on the shipping unit. The ruby is only 3 pounds and great for hand held and stedicam it will work on all pl mounted film and digital cameras and covers the full 24x36mm (6K) frame.
The Duclos Tokina 11-16mm T2.8 also performed very well especially considering the extreme focal lengths. Nice flare character with some Aspherical “gilly-flare” but pleasing overall.
My opinion on corner performance…
A lot has been made of lens corner performance recently in light of the newer Red sensor being larger and requiring a larger image circle. Although I think this is an important consideration to be taken into account, I would also state that only very infrequently do objects appear at the very corners of the cinema frame in a fashion that requires high detail representation. In fact many times the “shape” a particular lens adds to the image is desirable to subtly focus the viewers attention in the frame. This is of course a personal preference but it’s important to note that all the lenses tested here out performed the Red sensor in the center easily.