Click here to go to the first RED TEAM post in this thread.   Thread: SALT II results... (Part 1,2,3,4 Bokeh, Breathing & Flare and Part 5: Impressions)

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  1. #1 SALT II results... (Part 1,2,3,4 Bokeh, Breathing & Flare and Part 5: Impressions) 
    First off let me thank all the sponsors of this test starting with Jim, Jarred and for hosting such a vibrant community and for providing the prototype Nikon G mount for testing, you guys continue to rock and of course we would not even be here to do this without you.

    Matt & Paul Duclos and Duclos Lenses for hosting the test at their new and very impressive facility as well as providing such a yummy lunch. for providing all the latest Canon lenses for the test free of charge, you really came through at the last minute, talk about service!

    Jacek and Optitek for providing the Nikon Prolock mount and the Optimator for calibrating the backfocus of all the mounts.

    Test Orginizer: Evin Grant
    Test Directors: Matt Duclos & Matt Uhry
    Additional contribution: Phil Holland & Luis Flores
    Camera Assistaince: Josh Brown
    Logistics: Kiana Grant
    Model: Theresa
    Special thanks: Paul & Michelle Duclos, Jarred Land and John Shotwell
    Last edited by Evin Grant; 02-28-2012 at 06:32 PM.
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  2. #2  
    Part 1, Metrics:

    The below results were attained using the lens projector at Duclos lenses that is set up in it's own room, specifically for the purpose of evaluation of optics on an even playing field. The same projector and screen were used for all lenses and the distances were maintained for the equivalent focal lengths (3' for wide lenses, 6' for teles). A loupe was used to determine resolution in line pairs per height and width for the Center, Field (middle) and edge of the frame based on a super 35mm motion picture frame roughly equivalent to the Epic and Red One's image area. Although the projectors reticle has the markings for full 24x36mm still format some lens mounts vignetted this a bit and made any attempt to gauge full frame still corner resolution moot. All of the findings below should be interpreted as applying only to the Epic/S35mm frame. Lastly, although we did measure the lenses in line pairs this is an observational procedure and rather than deal with the political ramifications of publishing these absolute numbers we've decided to present them as they apply to the Mysterium-X sensor in the Epic and Scarlet. The data presented below is such that even measurements with a "Fair" grade will, for the most part, resolve the full resolution of the sensor.

    Where you see notes in the table below represent specific observations, if a field is blank that means that the lens performed average for that metric. If it was either better or worse or particularly apparent it was recorded.

    The last thing to keep is mind to take these results with a grain of SALT (Bad joke, I know) but numbers are not pictures, there really were no dogs here (OK maybe one) but for the most part the differences were about personality, not quality.

    Some general observations from the projection:

    The Optimos were extraordinary, other than some odd distortion you really see the performance and what you're getting for your $20K+. They out performed every other lens prime or zoom and had zero visible CA or veiling flare.
    The Duclos modded Tokina takes a great little optic and corrects for the inherent image shift, de-centering and other aberrations that the stock still lens displays, more on this later...

    Canon L:
    The Canon's performed quite well and overall had the lowest distortion of all the group, but also the most CA.

    Leica R:
    The Leicas we're less stellar than I expected in resolution but contrast was really good. They all have a unique quality that focuses the highest resolution to a slightly different plane than the highest contrast. This is the reason they all seemed to project a lot of veiling flare, but in actual photography it may not appear at all like flare, it's most likely what's responsible for the so called Leica "Snap".

    Nikon G:
    Although they performed great I had expected these to post higher scores, but what was apparent was their great contrast and how well they controlled flare and CA, especially the harder to deal with axial CA and purple fringing. The trade off seems to be a bit more distortion.

    Zeiss ZF: (Same optics as ZE & CP.2)
    The Zeiss wides performed quite well but the 50mm was the only real disappointment of the test. Weaker than all the other 50mm lenses including zooms. The 50 and 85 also suffered from a lack of contrast overall, of course that could be a good thing when shooting faces.

    The 70-180/200s:
    These three lenses, the Canon 70-200 IS II, the Leica R 70-180, and Nikon 70-200 VRII were all stellar, with the Leica being the only lens in the test to get a perfect score, with an astonishingly high level of detail and contrast and just a slight hint of veiling flare. The Nikon was just as good in the center and field only giving the corners up slightly to the Canon which had very even resolution across the frame and just slightly lower contrast.
    Last edited by Evin Grant; 02-25-2012 at 03:08 PM.
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  3. #3  
    Part 2: Mechanics

    There is a saying in the firearms word "Pistols are not rifles" it seem like an obvious statement but there is a common misconception with folks just getting into firearms that pistols can be primary weapons. I use this analogy because I think there are also many in the digital cinema community who think that still lenses can be used as primary optics for production. I do empathize with the desire to use inexpensive, high quality optics for low budget filmmaking, but that does not mean that they can accomplish the same task, with the same precision, speed or aplomb as a tool specifically designed and built for this purpose.

    Nikon and Canon auto focus lenses are a prefect example of this, from the projection results in part 1 above it's pretty obvious that both of the latest optical designs from the two premier Japanese brands are pretty damn great optically. Especially the 70-200s from either Co. which can both trade punches with the Optimos for straight up resolving power. Mechanically however they are just not up to the challenge of repeatable focus pulling or tracking a moving subject. OK, I know what some of you are yelling at the computer screen right now "Just wait for the Redmote pro!" and this does address some of the biggest issues with using AF lenses for cinema, that being the short focus throw and repeatability of hitting focus marks. However it does not address one of the most visible, image shift. Here is a video demo of this...

    Basically in order for the small motors is AF lenses to move the focusing elements in the lens at speed they need to have an inherent amount of play. If they are too tight the tiny motors will not be able to focus much faster than you can manually. This looseness means that when you change direction on the focus ring the image actually moves slightly, usually left to right but sometimes up and down too. On a small screen this doesn't always seem like such a big deal but on a 40' projection screen it's incredibly jarring and distracting. Things get even worse with the two 24-70 zooms, both quite good optically, but because the front ocular bells both telescope out of the main body, because of this they are prone not just to image shift while focusing but also zooming or just from the normal movement and bumps of the camera. Lastly all the newer AF lenses displayed the least image shift when changing focus direction and the oldest were the worst. My personal 24-70 Nikkor was all over the place, i've had it for 4+ years and it's been all over the world and taken some pretty extraordinary photos, but because of the abuse I've subjected it to it's much more prone to image shift. That means all AF lenses will gradually develop image shift that will not be able to be fixed or brought back to spec the way a professional cinema lens is designed to. The reason that Zeiss Standard and Super speed lenses can still be used today with no image shift is that they we're designed to have their focus threads "Sprayed" and built back up durring repair so that they could maintain their integrity. If I send my 24-70 back to Nikon and ask them to tighten everything up they'll just send it back with a note that everything is in spec.

    The best example of this is what Duclos have done with the Tokina 11-16mm lens, their re-housing and rebuilding of this lens does a lot more than just add gears and a PL mount. They re-center the optical elements and correct for parfocus optical issues that are "Within tolerance" of a stills lens but not of a lens expected to shoot movies. One specific tweak is to stabilize the rear element group during zooming so the lens tracks perfectly and no shifting occurs. Each lens need to be hand assembled because the tolerances of the stock lens vary so much.

    Here is a video of the exact same Tokina with the cone and without...

    The Leica and Zeiss lenses on the other hand are a much more reasonable choice for traditional cinema focusing. Both have focus throws in 200˚-270˚ range as well as pretty ample focusing marks for still lenses. It is also fairly easy to "Cine-mod" them with proper focus gears and uniform 80mm fronts for use with standard cine AKS like a follow focus and mattebox.
    Both focused very smoothly but both also showed a bit of image shift too, not as bad as the AF lenses but again the older the lens the worse the shift for the most part. And again there is no fixing this like on a cine lens.
    Most of the difference between the two comes down to design choices, the Leicas seemed to have more visible focus marks and slightly longer focus throws, but there are no fast (f2) 24mm or 28mm Leica R lenses so if that's important the Zeiss is a winner. Also the Zeiss lenses are available in the ZE EOS lens mount, although even if I shot Canon mount I think it's better to go ZFs with adapters so you can get real aperture rings.

    Just for reference the ZFs we tested were Cinemoded by Duclos and the Leicas were done by Matt Uhry himself.
    The ZFs were in Nikon F mount and the Leicas were in Canon EOS using Leitax mounts.
    Last edited by Evin Grant; 03-06-2012 at 10:47 PM.
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  4. #4  
    Part 3: Character, drawing and distortion...

    This test was designed to illustrate the subtle but important differences in how a lens renders or "draws" a human face onto the image plane. To do this I wanted to use a natural lighting setup on the model. I chose open shade and used the roll up door at Duclos for it's frame filling horizontal lines. I also matched the framing of my model (Two Ts) for every focal length so that the change in perspective from lens to lens could be comparable. Lastly for processing the example stills below I took my time and graded a frame from the Optimo 16-42 to give me a good representation of how I would like a neutral, flattering image, then applied this correction to the whole test. Now for the caveats, we were shooting outdoors at a working business so some of the frames we affected by slightly different lighting reflected from cars and such. I did my best to mitigate this and try to photograph like focal lengths under as similar conditions as possible but you will have to be slightly understanding about the conditions present. That said there is definitely a visible character to the lenses which is obvious by comparison.

    Lastly this is not a resolution test! I did my best to focus using the 1:1 zoom, and shot all lenses at a common f2.8, but models move and I'm not perfect so when looking at the 5K R3ds do not be discouraged if your favorite lens is a little soft, it was probably me. Refer to section one for the resolution results, they are far more accurate and controlled for that purpose.

    Since I also know some of you may not be happy with my interpretation of the color/contrast/saturation of these Jpegs I have uploaded 5K R3D stills for you to geek out over and compare, I just ask that you be gentle with my server and only download the lenses you are really interested in comparing. I could also use a mirror if anyone is interested in helping out.

    (For those of you from an external site unfamiliar with the Red R3D format you can download Redcine X for free from to play with the below images)

    Jpegs here....

    R3Ds here (Cntl/right click to download)...

    Here is an example comparison of the 85/90mm lenses...

    Canon 85mm f1.2 L

    Leica R 90mm f2 Summicron

    Nikon G 85mm f1.4

    Zeiss ZF 85mm f1.4

    You can see here with the Zeiss lens where a reflection brightened up the exposure a bit, easy to fix in RCX if your so inclined.

    As for my opinion, they all look pretty damn good, if I had to pick a favorite for character and color I'd go with the Nikon (big surprise) followed closely by the Leica and then the Canon followed by the Zeiss. Frankly I'm a bit stunned at just how similar they all are.
    Last edited by Evin Grant; 02-27-2012 at 05:34 AM.
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  5. #5  
    Part 5: Bokeh, breathing and flare...

    This test was designed and executed by Matt Uhry with the help of Phil Holland (operating the Gandalf staff of light)
    The purpose of this test is to see how each lens breathes in an extreme focus rack, both foreground and background, as well as how it renders elements when they are not in focus (Bokeh). Lastly we wanted to know how the lenses performed when a source flares them from different positions, this is exemplified by the bare lightbulb being drawn across the frame.
    The still life setup is lit with a 200W Joker HMI which metered pretty right on to 5000K with the addition of the slightly warm LED panel used for fill. When the flare test is performed a flag was rotated in front of the Joker so that the contrast would be greater, but otherwise the lighting for this setup should be consistent from lens to lens.

    The lenses that are faster than 2.8 were shot both wide open and at 2.8, the others just 2.8. This is indicated by the slate in frame.

    You can check out all the test clips on youtube in 720P here...

    The .H264 QTs were rendered out from RCX in 720P, 5Mb/s. with identical settings, they can be downloaded here but please watch them on youtube first and then only check out the QTs if you aren't seeing what you need to from Youtube, I want to spare my server as much as possible.

    Here are some examples of the 35mm...

    Canon 35mm f1.4L

    Leica R 35mm f2

    Nikon G 35mm f1.4

    Zeiss ZF 35mm

    In comparing the lenses above it's pretty obvious what the trade off for high speed is, CA! All the 1.4 lenses display a pretty obvious purple halo around the light bulb, where the Leica f2 35mm renders it pretty clean. Breathing performance is about the same for the three brands, bokeh is subjective but my personal taste leans (again not surprisingly) toward the Leica and Nikon.
    Last edited by Evin Grant; 02-27-2012 at 09:15 PM.
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  6. #6  
    Part 5: Impressions

    Matt Duclos:
    "So a word or two. ...Or three.
    This test, to me, was simply a chance to take all of the lenses we've all seen at one point or another over throughout our careers and compare them all at once, side by side. There always has been and always will be a worse, different, or better way to test lenses. Can't make everyone happy, especially the manufacturers. Sure, we would have sifted through dozens of lenses to find the best sample of each, but that simply isn't what the average shooter is going to be doing. When you look at mass produced still lenses from ANY of the manufacturers we looked at (including Zeiss and Leica) you are going to see variation in tolerances and quality. Some of the examples we tested were slightly ahead of the curve and some were behind. But all in all, it was a good example of real-world quality. Case in point, the image shift displayed by Evin's 24-70mm Nikkor was substantially more than I would expect from a brand new, out of the box Nikkor zoom. This is imply because Evin uses his gear on a regular basis and it's been "loved". Whereas my 70-180mm Leica that we tested scored excellent marks across the board, I searched the globe (literally) for a pristine example of that lens and even after finding that beautiful model I proceeded to tweak it even further. Again, it's all relative.
    I've been trying to get a point across to budding cinematographers for a while now in regards to Canon lenses for cinema and this test exhibits several of my points quite clearly. A lot of people are going to be using Canon L series lenses with their Epic and Scarlet and I can't emphasize enough the severe lack of quality inherent in using such lenses for cinema. Canon and Nikon make some amazing glass that can out-resolve just about any sensor on the market these days and do it at a reasonable price. But good glass doesn't make or break a lens. As we went over many times during the test, the mechanical build quality and materials used is about 50% of what makes a lens good or bad for cinema. Evin brought along his two Rouge DP zooms. Sure, sure... Not a fair fight to compare a $20k zoom lens to a $2k Nikkor zoom but it's that comparison that gives us the baseline. The Rouge lenses showed everyone what a true cinema lens is capable of, and that's just Angenieux's DP line. The materials, the design, the assembly, the glass, the coatings, everything that goes into making a lens is critical and when any of those elements is compromised either for faster production, cheaper retail, larger quantities, compromises have to be made. Angenieux Optimo lenses are an uncompromising cinematic tool and have earned their ridiculous price tag. The mechanical assembly and components in Nikkor and Canon still zooms and primes simply isn't up to the standards required by cinema. BTW, when I say cinema, I mean moving pictures which includes anything from home movies to commercials, to Transformers 8. I don't care how accurate the RED Eos mount is or how cool the REDmote is or how it allows for smooth focus and iris pulls, the mechanical components inside the lens stay the same and all of the sudden, your top-of-the-line Canon L lens becomes your weakest link and prevents cinematographers from getting the shots they want because they are limited by a plastic lens.
    After all the testing was done we sat down (pizza) and I asked everyone who they thought the winner was. Jokingly everyone said Angenieux (for obvious reasons) but then we decided that all of the lenses had their advantages and disadvantages. The Nikon and Canon lenses weren't up to snuff mechanically. Then the Zeiss and Leica lenses that were rock solid mechanically, couldn't quite nail down the optical quality. It's all a compromise when it comes to budget lensing. It's up to what you're shooting and how you're shooting it to decide where those compromises can be made, if at all.
    I won't go over what I thought of every individual lens. So here is my quick conclusions for each manufacturer.

    Canon - Mechanically messy. Canon makes some amazing topics without the mechanics to back them up. Great for shooters coming from a Canon DSLR setup to intro into cinema. Wide variation from lens to lens in terms of optical quality.

    Nikon - Mechanically decent, but not good. Usable on a wide range of cameras with proper mount adapters including dumb-mounts for most, including G lenses. No better than Canon in terms of optical quality.

    Leica - Everyone loves Leica. They are romantic, pleasing, exotic, and make gorgeous images. Mostly because their optics are technically poor. The "Leica Look" that everyone desires is really just 20 year old optical design. Mechanically solid but with 99% of the lenses available being used, it's very difficult to find a truly good example. (Sorry Sanjin) Leica is a great choice for budget cinema due to their build quality. It's not always about sharpness. ;)

    Zeiss - The exotic glass manufacturer brings their ZF.2 lenses to the table. While not the best optically, by far the best mechanically with modern materials and solid housings, great for cinema. The ZF lenses are a poor reflection of what Zeiss is capable of, but still comparable to the line-up used for the testing. The 50mm f/1.4, an age old optical design, is the weakest link in the ZF.2 series. However, it is easily replaced by the stellar 50mm f/2.0 macro ZF.2

    Angenieux - Need I say more...

    I think the most important thing we all took away from this test is that sharpness doesn't translate to good cinema. It always helps to start with a clean canvas and go from there, but it's not the most important factor when choosing lenses. Look at the bigger picture, go out and shoot with the as many lenses as you can. There's no reason to settle in a market that is being flooded with great glass. Experiment and see what works best for you."
    Last edited by Evin Grant; 02-28-2012 at 12:53 PM.
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  7. #7  
    Part 5: Impressions

    Evin Grant:
    I organized this test with the mission of trying to contextualize and quantify some of the things I hear on a regular basis about the use of still lenses in digital cinema. Primarily the desire to have a set of inexpensive lenses that can "hang with the big boys" IE professional, generally hand assembled lenses designed specifically for movie making. And optically there is no doubt that this is true, pretty much all the lenses from all four of the manufacturers can indeed resolve an image that will look great on a 40' movie screen. This has been said before by pretty much all the other contributors but, it's mechanics that really set apart the men from the boys in this area. I know what you're thinking "Yea, great, I get it Evin. But I can't afford Leica Summilux-Cs, Master primes or even Optimos so what then?"

    Well, at that point I suggest you consider the material your shooting and it's intended presentation to the audience. The primary issue with still lenses is image shift when changing focus direction, or zooming, a problem that will not bother anyone watching a 720P web video on a computer, or probably even on a 50" 1080P plasma, but if you plan on any sort of theatrical presentation I seriously suggest you consider renting proper cinema lenses instead of buying. At 40' that image shift goes from barely noticeable to "what the F&%# was that!". Also consider that without adequate focus scales your 5K image may be reduced to no more than SD by a missed pull or by focusing by eye. Trying to get my models eyes in focus with any of the still lenses using the 1:1 mode outdoors was a real eye opener, I doubt I was able to hit half of them.

    Of course some of this may be mitigated by the Redmote Pro when it finally lands, it's hard to say until we actually get to test it. One thing for sure is it can only get better, at least for the AF lenses. Now all of this needs to be taken into context, if you're doing nature and landscape photography, there is little concern with using still lenses, there aren't going to be the kind of rack focuses and tracking necessitated by narrative filmmaking. If you mostly shoot handheld where the image is not going to be stable no matter what you do the image shift is probably not going to be noticeable (although I pity your AC).

    I realize some of this comes off as Hollywood snobbery, but the reality is that if you make your living on sets the way we do then the time it takes to mitigate the issues generally associated with still lenses is just not worth it when a production is spending over $100K/day. Now for lower budget passion projects there are many, many ways to get around these issues and you generally have more time than money, so a post fix or jury-rigged solution may be just fine. There is also much to be said for the creativity of camera people, so anything is possible if you play to the strengths of your tools.

    OK, now for my thoughts on the lenses themselves...

    Canon L
    I was more impressed by the Canon lenses than I wanted to be, as a Nikonian since Jr. high I really wanted them to suck, but the reality is they did great, and in the area of field flatness and distortion they did better than Nikon. The reason I still prefer my Nikkors though comes down to contrast and color rendition. Lenses and coatings are interesting things, depending on the element or technique used they can impart subtle but real differences in an image. I've always felt Canon lenses had this warm, soft, almost pastel color rendering, accentuating yellows and magentas. It can certainly be beautiful but just not my cup of tea.

    Leica R
    Now this I found very interesting, I am a pretty devout Leica M lover, I have an M4 used by one of the most prolific rock photographers of the 20th century Jim Marshall and have always been a big fan of the Summicron lenses. The R series on the other hand seems to posses a very different feel to the M. It still has an almost dead neutral color rendering which I appreciate but the Leica "Snap" is a little more muted,
    although still punchier than the Canon's. Matt D goes into a bit of detail about that above so I won't repeat it. Suffice it to say that although I appreciated the color and rendering of the Rs I'm not putting my G Nikkors on eBay just yet. Matt Uhry provided this set and it's mostly from the late 70s and early 80s so it may be interesting in the future to try some of the latest 90s to 2000 R lenses but the cost of these is so high you might as well buy PL mount cinema glass.

    Nikon "G" series Nikkors
    In the interest of full disclosure let me say that this is my personal set of lenses. I was really pumped and excited to see my new G series Nikkors wipe the floor with the other lenses in this test but the reality is they did fine but there was no objective basis for declaring them the winner. I like them best because they have a strong contrast and primary color palette that seems to punch up red and blue especially well.
    This new G series is also very resistant to flare and pretty good at controlling CA, although not perfect wide open. There is a certain 3-dementionality to the fast primes in this series that the Matts and I noticed, it's unclear what may be causing this, possibly the contrast and field illumination. The mechanics are pretty standard AF awful, we'll have to see how they fare with age. If my 24-70 is any indication then I'm not hopeful. What I am really looking forward to is the Duclos rehoused verion of the 70-200 VRII, this lens (and the Canon and Leica versions) were real stand-outs.

    Zeiss ZF
    The Zeiss ZF series is probably the most popular still lens series in use for cinema today and that is obviously because of their superb mechanics and generally high optical quality, especially for the wides. I found the color rendition to be much cooler than the other brands but not unpleasantly so. Zeiss is often criticized as being too clinical, but that hasn't stopped the big boys in Hollywood from using their lenses for almost 100 years. Fundamentally the color character of the ZF line is not much different than the Master Primes. Of course they do not share the same mechanical or design philosophy but the feel and rendering is certainly related. I hold Zeiss to a pretty high standard and the wides we tested certainly reached that level. The 50mm and 85mm however seem to be designed to give an intentionally soft look wide open compared to it's Nikon, Canon or Leica counterparts. This is most likely intended for photographing people, you can decide for yourself if this is desirable or not, I generally prefer to use filtration for softening. Luckily there is a 50mm and 100mm f2 macros that seem to offer more resolution performance is desired.
    Last edited by Evin Grant; 02-28-2012 at 06:26 PM.
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  8. #8  
    Phil's SALT II Thoughts (1 of 3):
    The primary question that this test is set out to answer was "are these still lenses suitable for cinema use". We tested for resolving power, contrast, chromatic aberrations, field of focus, optical distortion, image shift, centering, lens breathing, parfocal performance, flare, and also we identified several somewhat "intangable" features such as "lens character".

    Full Disclosure:
    I am indeed "the Canon guy" at this test, However, I'm not one of "those" Canon fanboys. I own a lot of lenses, many are Canon lenses, and those lenses I like. I also own Leica R lenses and a few older Nikons, some Olympus OM glass, and a bunch of miscellaneous lenses from other manufacturers. Overall I'm a prime shooter over a zoom shooter if I can avoid it.

    My Interest In Still Lenses:
    For still lenses for motion picture use I am primarily concerned with their ability to hold up to the scrutiny of a theatrical projection at 40 feet and larger as that's the sandbox I play in. I tend to do a lot of VFX heavy work and certain lens characteristics are more desirable to me (such as minimal distortion). If there was a quality set of cinema style lenses that covered 8-perf I'd likely sell my soul to own them.

    Angenieux Optimos:
    The Optimos are worth every penny. They out performed pretty much every lens tested at their widest apertures. There is lens distortion, but that's to be expected with their compact size; especially with a wide lens like the 16-42mm. Chromatic aberrations are controlled exceptionally well. Same with flare. Off the test path I even took a flashlight and shot it around the lens to see what sort of veiling glare I could get. Not much at all. Also, true to form, they are parfocal. As our "control cinema glass" they performed very well and it's clear to see why they are so popular. Minus some light fall of on the wide side of the 16-42mm, they are sexy.

    Canon L:
    Clearly the one thing that stood out for me against the other manufacturers was how "flat" the optitical distortion was on Canon glass. It was noticeably better across the board. If you are doing work with say hard geometry like buildings, panning shouldn't have very noticeable barrel distortion. This is one of the major reasons I prefer primes over zooms. The odd bit was on our test copy of the 35mm f/1.4L it seemed to be be softer than expected. It could be copy variation, I tested out my version of the lens at home and it was indeed better than our test copy, in my opinion. On the zoom side the 16-35mm f/2.8L Version II shocked the hell out of me and certainly has improved on the older design.

    Nikon G:
    I was very impressed with the flare control and general contrast of these. The 85mm f/1.4 exhibited more barrel distortion than I expected, but apart from that all of the glass performed pretty well. The 24mm f/1.4G was not as impressive as I thought it would be. Their primes performed pretty nicely in my book, but the Nikon magic hit me with a zoom. The 14-24mm f/2.8 lens is rather amazing for what it does. I would say it has slightly better performance than Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L. Nikon is doing something very right with that lens. Outstanding.

    Leica R:
    I hold Leica R (and M) glass in very special place in my heart. Whatever black magic voodoo that Leica has employed in manufacturing their 90mm primes over the years is very powerful stuff indeed. That said, these lenses did pretty well. Clearly they suffer just a bit on the wide side and tend to get "interesting" in the edges. Leica did change "something" with their 1990+ versions that could improve this. Overall they did pretty well. Not the contrasty punch of modern optics, but they have a smoothness about them that I find pleasing.

    Zeiss ZF:
    For me Zeiss was the biggest disappointment of the day. And I loathe saying this as the Master Primes have proved to be some of the best glass around. The one stand out awesome performer is the Carl Zeiss Distagon 21mm f/2.8 in actual use it produces fantastic color and contrast. Oddly I'm on the hunt for a new lens in this range and was keen on seeing how it stacked up against the Leica Elmarit-R 19mm f/2.8 and my rather good copy of the Canon 20mm f/2.8. For me it's slighlty better than the Canon, with the Leica following close by. The ugly duckling from the whole test is the 50mm f/1.4ZF. It could be copy variation, but damn this one really shocked all of us by not performing up to the other 50mm lenses tested. Nikon, Canon, and Leica in the 85mm-90mm range are also just better. The 25mm f/2 is very nice and performed stronger compared the the Leica 24mm f/2.8, but we didn't stop down to match the speed and resolving power of the Nikon and Canon 24mm f/1.4s. I imagine they are close or better performers around f/2.

    The 24-70mm Problem:
    The 24-70mm focal range is incredibly useful on both FF35 and S35 sensors. However, I have a hard time using these suckers for cinema purposes mainly due to the huge amount of image shift when focusing and zooming. This is a design issue, as it stands, the loose barrel that extends is clearly at fault. This is particularly sad because both the Nikon and Canon lenses exhibit very little breathing. My advice with these lenses is to use them very, very carefully when pulling focus and I would likely avoid attempting to pull zoom while focusing. On a 40 foot + screen it would extremely apparent.

    The 70-200mm Range Zooms:
    The Canon, Nikon, and Leica options in this range are all very good choices. However, there are a few things that jumped out during the test. The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II breathes like a bear that just ran a marathon. It never actually hits a full 200mm in it's focus range. Meaning at 4 feet you are looking at around 130mm and at 30ish feet you are seeing at the most 190mm. I can confirm that the Canon was a bit longer and closer to 200mm as we marked the ground where 200mm landed for both lenses. It's a known issue and well documented. Most people don't seem really concerned. The Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II breathes as well, but not as much. The Leica Elmarit R 70-180mm is a scary nice lens. It's extremely sharp and punchy. This lens actually shocked all of us with it's extremely high performance and it tops both Nikon's and Canon's offerings.

    Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 and Duclos Cine-Mod:
    The 11-16mm f/2.8 has proven to be a really popular length for Red shooters. For pure cinema use, the stock lesn is housed terribly and suffers from image shift and centering issues. Because we had both on hand we looked at both a stock Tokina version and the Duclos Cine-Mod version. Duclos's work fixes up pretty much all of the negatives of the stock lens and put's it into a very nice cinema friendly housing. High fives to the Duclos team on this front. They've turned a good lens into great lens. Here is the Duclos Cine-Mod on a Red Epic:

    Lens Character:
    There was lot's of talk about individual manufacturers general characteristics. In my experience Canon glass tends to be on the warmer/red side. Nikon on the cooler/green side. Leica also on the cooler side. Zeiss more so on the cooler/blue side. Canon saturates red a bit more because of this and warmer colors tend to get reproduced with a bit of "pop". Outside of this test I find similar things with Sigma and Canon, but with lens consistency across the range. Sigma is almost like a strange combination between Nikon and Canon, but their wider lenses tend to get very warm/orange, especially the fisheyes. Tokina as well seems to get warm on their wides. Nikon seems have a bit more punch to the greens and blues. However, Zeiss seems to have more pop than that even. Zeiss overall, especially stopped down to f/4-f/16, has a ton of micro contrast and punch. Leica on the other hand has an almost "velvet" feel to the image overall with slightly more muted tones. On the color reproduction side Zeiss and Leica have always felt more natural to me. Many internet wars have started over the "Leica versus Zeiss glass" debate. I'm more of a Leica man myself and like the sort of surreal draw they produce, but there's a few Zeiss lenses that are sexy little beasts. Everybody will have different opinions on this matter and it gets even more fun if we start talking about cinema glass character, but that's outside of this conversation.

    Final Thoughts:
    For me there is no clear winner here as none of these "systems" are designed for cinema use. These lenses can be used just fine for cinematic purposes, but only if you know what their strengths and weeknesses are. Don't go pulling focus on a lens that has too much image shift or strange centering issues or you'll throw the audience out of their chairs. If you are expecting amazing performance from the modern zooms that are sub $500 for theatrical projection purposes, you are going to be sorely disappointed. We didn't even test that glass here, but those have more play then these top of the line lenses. Optically speaking these lenses can resolve as high or even higher than some of the cinema

    Continued on page 12:
    Last edited by Evin Grant; 02-29-2012 at 12:00 AM.
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  9. #9  
    Senior Member Tom Gleeson's Avatar
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    What aperture were the lenses set to for the measurements? Thanks for the test.
    Tom Gleeson
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    Senior Member Kwan Khan's Avatar
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