Thread: SALT Results... (Part 1, Results)

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  1. #1 SALT Results... (Part 1, Results) 
    Moderator Evin Grant's Avatar
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    (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.
    Last edited by Brook Willard; 07-03-2009 at 05:02 PM.
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  2. #2  
    Moderator Evin Grant's Avatar
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    (Opinion 2: David Mullen)

    David Mullen’s impressions from S.A.L.T.

    Some background: I mainly shoot with Panavision cameras and Primo lenses, so I don’t have much experience with other lenses, and I’m not an owner/operator who has had to evaluate lenses for purchase, nor have I worked as an AC prepping lenses. I’m not particularly technical – I tend to rent the most expensive lenses I can get away with and avoid shooting them wide-open. When people ask me what the best zoom lenses are, I tend to say whichever the rental house charges the most for. So I’m not very scientific about lenses. And I’m not a fan of zooms in general, I avoid them most of the time, and I like using contrasty primes because I like using lens diffusion. So take whatever I say with a grain of salt…

    I mainly just tested flare characteristics on a medium close shot, both a hard flare from a clear light bulb and soft flare from a diffused Kinoflo. I shot everything at T/2.8 except for the 18mm Zeiss Compact, which was shot at T/3.5 (I opened the shutter by a half-stop to compensate.)

    My general impression was that all the lenses at T/2.8, even the older Zeiss Standard Speeds and Super Speeds, and the zooms, were very similar in sharpness when screened at 1080P. Now that may be due to only looking at the image at 1080P, or because all their resolutions were above what the RED was resolving, or that at T/2.8 they start to behave similarly. I don’t know the reason, I’m just saying that they all looked pretty good if you were just concerned about center sharpness. My subject was framed against black so I had no impression of edge sharpness or fall-off, portholing, etc. In Matt Uhry’s test, these issues and differences were more obvious, plus he did one version at the widest aperture, increasing the differences even more. But my point is just that all these lenses could be considered as giving professional results.

    Other general impressions:

    The Cooke S4’s seemed designed to resemble each other very closely, whereas the other manufacturers’ lens sets had more subtle personality variations between the focal lengths.

    Some of the Zeiss Ultra Primes resembled the older Zeiss lenses in certain characteristics.

    The Angenieux Optimo Rouge zooms were prime lens quality, though focus did not “snap” into sharpness as crisply as some of the primes. They were the warmest of the lenses we tested.

    The Fujinon 18-85mm zoom, which showed up at the end of the day so we didn’t get to spend as much time with it, seemed incredibly crisp for a zoom, more snappy / contrasty than any zoom I’ve seen except for the Zeiss Master Zoom (which we didn’t test but I used once on a feature.)

    The Red Pro Primes were generally excellent, I mean, scary-good for the most part. They seemed a bit on the cool side, more like Zeiss than Cooke in that regards.

    The Duclos-Tokina zoom was also quite snappy / contrasty (something I like in zooms.)

    The 100mm lenses were generally the weakest of everyone’s line of primes.

    Impressions regarding flares:

    The slight star filter effect from the Cooke S4’s iris blades was distinctive. Oddly enough, the Zeiss Compacts, which have a lot of iris blades, also had somewhat of a star filter effect, just a star with a lot more points.

    The most flares were with the Zeiss Super Speeds and Standard Speeds. But the flares and red rings were pretty.

    The Red Pro Primes hardly flared. However, the 50mm lens had a sharp green ghost reflection of the bulb filament. It was odd simply because the other Red lenses did not behave like that.

    The UniQ Optics seemed to milk-out the most from the soft Kinoflo flare and even the bare bulb. I recall also a sharp white ghost of the bulb filament at certain points on a least one of the lenses.

    The Angenieux Optimo Rouges were similar to primes (i.e. good) in terms of flare, hard or soft, except there was an odd, faint pale white rippling pattern (like gills on a fish) at some points as the bulb passed through frame. Weird.

    Some lenses in general had a faint double-image of the bulb at some points, particularly the Zeiss Standard and Super Speeds.

    Most lenses had a faint red ghost or flare from the bulb but a few had a green ghost. On some lenses, that ghost was more saturated in color than others.

    The Ruby zoom had some sort of scratch on an element creating a strong star filter effect.

    --

    Conclusions:

    If I had to shoot a whole feature on a zoom, I’d first go for the new Fujinon T/2.0 18-85mm, and if not, then the Optimo Rouge zooms.

    The Red Pro Primes, to me, seem like the most bang for your buck in terms of cost-to-quality ratio. They seem just like lens sets that cost three or four times as much. But someone should check the 50mm to see if the coatings can be improved in terms of the crisp green ghost reflection. And the 100mm could be improved, but then, so could everyone else’s.

    UniQ Optics seem similar in optical quality except that their coatings need more work because they tended to get milky when a light was flaring the lens. No problem with rings or ghosts (except I think in one lens) but just the loss of contrast problem, almost as if there were a 1/8 Low Con filter on the lens at times.

    The Zeiss Ultra Primes, which I normally use when I’m not shooting Panavision, were not as well-matched as a set as I thought. But otherwise, they are workhorse lenses.

    The prettiest lenses for interesting flares were the Zeiss Super Speeds and Standards – if I were going for that “Close Encounters” or “Blade Runner” look without using anamorphics, those lenses would be the best for that.
    Last edited by Evin Grant; 06-26-2009 at 02:54 PM.
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  3. #3  
    Moderator Evin Grant's Avatar
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    (Opinion 3: Matt Duclos)

    would like to preface my thoughts by saying that all of the optics tested performed very well and none performed below my expectations. That said, remember that my experience is not that of a cinematographer, but that of an optical technician. A few things to keep in mind: Several sets of lenses were still in the prototype phase and were loaned to us with the knowledge that they would NOT perform at their maximum potential.
    Also, keep in mind that ALL lenses were test projected at wide open. Resolution and contrast drastically increases at a slower speed.

    The test I performed during the review were mostly to determine resolution and optical quality. The resolution was determined by projecting light through the lenses backwards with a test reticle at 52mm from the mount flange (PL-FFD). To give an idea of the resolution provided by the test projector, the reticle utilized a test patter with the smallest (finest resolution) being 200 lines per millimeter. Most sensors cannot resolve this resolution but I felt it prudent to test the most I could.

    All in all, the oldest lenses in the test, the Zeiss Standard Speeds, produced the lowest resolution and also displayed the most light and focus falloff. Use that as a gauge, we've all seen standard speed footage. They were the backbone of the industry at one time and all the other lenses at the test went up from there. All the new prime lens manufacturers seemed to have a little trouble with the classic 100mm focal length. Nothing of much concern, simply an observation that we all shared during the flare tests. Im not going to waste your time going over the older lenses tested such as the Cooke S4s and the Zeiss Ultra Primes. You've all heard what they are capable of and their test numbers will be included in the main review. I'll also refrain from sharing my thoughts on either of the independent zoom mod lenses, 14-24mm, and 11-16mm, for obvious reasons. Both performed very well. I realize that it may raise some questions as I was both a participant in the test as well as one of the manufacturers. The numbers on the 11-16mm were recorded by a third party to keep things fair.

    The Zeiss Compact Primes performed just as I expected. Again, considering the price, you get what you pay for. If you're looking for a set of lenses for steady cam or handheld work, consider these lenses an excellent option. Compared to the new crop of primes, these little guys are a breeze to work with. Their resolution was slightly lower than I had hoped for, but they made up for it in their contrast. Their mechanics are classic Zeiss; smooth, solid, and repeatable. Very nice fit and finish. All the lenses use the exact same outside dimensions, which is nice when you want to change focal lengths but keep the same setup. Their iris blades were almost a perfect circle at every stop. The set's variance in speed is a huge caveat. Especially the wide end at T3.5.

    It seems that the question everyone has is Uniq or Red. I honestly cannot find a good reason to pick one over the other. Both had extremely solid build quality. They both weigh enough to make a set of Super Speeds seem like toys. I found that both the Red and Uniq primes were squaring off at almost every focal length. The resolution would trade off. For example, a Red prime would have high resolving power in the center of the image and lower resolving power in the edge of the frame, and the corresponding Uniq would split the difference in resoltion, but would be even throughought the entire frame. Again, nothing too dramatic, but worth noting. The Uniq Primes seemed to be a bit more reactive to flare and glare, but I am certain this is a coating issue that has already been addressed in the production models. The Red primes seemed to have a minor focus issue. In several focal lengths, the focus in the center would snap easily to 200 line pairs. Then it would progressively fall off towards mid field (between the 16 and 35mm frame) and pick back up towards the edge of the frame. It seemed to be a flatness of field issue to me, an optical design flaw. Again, these are both nit-picky issues and I wouldn't say that either has a defining reason not to approve.

    Although both sets of new primes were unquestionably good for the price, the Angenieux Rouge lenses still took the hill. You really do get what you pay for with these guys, and then some. Considering their big brothers are twice the price, the Rouge lenses were solid throughout the entire zoom range. The CA was almost non-detectable as was breathing. There was almost no distortion on the 30-80 a very little on the 16-42. Angenieux has been in the game for a long time and it shows with their newest lightweight zooms. The focus and zoom stability in these lenses is almost unmatched in other cine zooms. Although it's worth noting that the rear groups in these lenses stick out much too far to be used on a reflex camera, so no film... But then again, you're reading this on REDUser... You probably shoot with a RED camera.

    My only unanswered question is that of serviceability... As everyone knows, that greatly contributes to the overall cost of a lens (or five). I'm sure I'll have a good idea of internal components soon enough. I'll share my thoughts then.
    As I said before, all of the lenses we tested were top quality optics and I look forward to working with them all in the future. Enjoy!
    Last edited by Evin Grant; 06-26-2009 at 02:53 PM.
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  4. #4  
    Moderator Evin Grant's Avatar
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    (Opinon 4:Matt Uhry)

    SALT Impressions:

    The test I designed was to have a look at foreground and background Bokeh, Breathing, Chromatic Aberration, Color Cast and Overall Contrast. To some degree you can observe distortion and field illumination, but these characteristics are better observed on a lens projector so I'll leave that to Matt Duclos. Likewise resolution is better measured on a projector, but I did include a USAF 1951 chart in the center of the frame to verify center Resolution and aide focusing.

    My observations are based on watching both mine and Davids flare test footage in Red Cine @ 4k full quality and watching the clips in 1080p on Evin's Projector.

    The first discovery was that the lens "sets" were much less uniform throughout the range than I thought, The exception possibly being the Cooke s4 and Angenieux Zooms which matched quite well. The least uniform set was the Zeiss Compacts - performance being all over the map.

    The Primes:

    Red's primes T1.8, performance wise basically in league with the Ultra Primes, which is very good. They Punch well beyond their price category. Especially the 25, 35, 85. 50mm was good but had some odd hard flares. The 100mm seemed to have veiling flare issues. Design wise these are BIG lenses. The 25mm weighs 2800g ! a 25mm T1.3 master prime weights 2200g. The focus gear is inset into the lens you cannot do lens changes without reseting the follow focus each time. They appear to be very nicely made, and finished. good feel on the focus and no observable backlash or image shift.

    Unique Lenses T1.9 are pretty close to the Red's except they flare much more easily. If they address the coating issues they will be "not the same" but similar. Build quality looked very good.

    Zeiss Compacts T1.5 - T3.4 Very Nice Mechanics and Markings. Disappointing performance wide open on the fast ones. Uneven color matching and flare characteristics throughout the set. They look decent at 2.8 but so does most everything else... Cover Full frame.

    Ultra Primes T1.9 have been my goto set with the Red - previous tests comparing them to S4's and Primo's have confirmed this. I was surprised to see that there was less matching of optical characteristics than I had thought. In some cases the RPP and Uniques were preferable to the UP's other times the UP's would outperform the RPP's. The size and weight and build of the Ultra Primes is pretty close to perfect I think. The 14mm is wicked good.

    S4's T2.0 have been my goto set for film jobs when not using PV lenses, but don't seem to agree with the Red's sensor as well as the UP's We only had a few focal lengths available to us to test and they performed well and seemed to have uniform characteristics to a greater degree than some other sets. Surprisingly the 16mm and 25mm looked much better than the equivalent Zeiss UP's, not something I had thought would be true.

    Supers Speeds T1.3 Lots of character, pretty bad WFO. If you are after flares this would be a good set to get. Look nice @ 2.8

    Standard Speeds T2.1 Lots of character here too - pretty steep resolution fall off towards the corners on the wider lenses. Some nice flares to be found. T stops can seem much slower due to light falloff at the edges.

    The Zooms:

    The best Zooms can now equal primes as far as resolution and flare resistance go. The give up some ground as far as distortion goes. Typical zoom behavior is to have barrel distortion at the wide end and pincushion at the long end. No distortion exists somewhere in the middle.

    The Optimo Rouge Series. T2.8
    The 16-42 and 30-80 are serious lenses, despite the name, price and red rubber grip. They had the least chromatic aberration and best flare resistance of the bunch. Resolution was amongst the best. I must admit I did not realize how good these lenses were until I looked at them in direct comparison to the primes. There is a bit of illumination falloff and some barrel distortion on the wide end of the 16-42, and some weird ripply flares you can provoke under very specific circumstances, but otherwise there is not much to say besides: Excellent.

    Optimo 24-290 T2.8
    David wanted to include this in the test because he said he shot with it frequently and it was interested in seeing how it compared with the new crop of primes. It holds it's own quite well as far as resolution, breathing. A bit more flare than you get from most of the primes.

    Fujinon 18-85 T2.0
    Evin put it quite well - you can see where all the money goes. Formidable price, yet formidable performance. It's really good in every respect, only flaw is a bit of the barrel to pincushion distortion. If I was in the market for an Angenieux 17-80 which is a great lens BTW I would get the Fujinon instead. Also would be my choice for a feature or TV show where I would be living on the zoom. Covers more than Fujinon say's so should be OK for future 5k formats.

    The Ultra Wides:

    Focus Optics Ruby T2.8, our prototype sample had a damaged rear element so it was hard to judge. The optics on the Nikon are excellent and I would think that production versions will be excellent. Build quality is very good. A bit more breathing than anything else. Covers Full Frame.

    Duclos Tokina 11-16. T2.8 It gives a little resolution away in the corners compared to the 14mm Ultra Prime, but it's got a less distortion, Way better than Zeiss 12mm T2.1. Great field illumination and flare resistance. Goes to 11 and gets left there most of the time.

    Conclusion:

    All the lenses we tested were good - I think it's most important to consider the artistic needs of your project rather than absolute performance numbers. Digital cameras are resolution limited by their sensor pitch and low pass filters ( if it has one ) so obsessing about maximum center resolution and MTF's is like worrying about top speed of your car when you live in LA and are thrilled to be going 65mph on the 405.

    Also please remember that this is "Testing in Anger" I'm trying to expose any flaws. Real shoots should generally have less demanding conditions than what you've seen here. so take it all with a grain of.... ( I'll spare you the pun )

    Matt Uhry
    Last edited by Evin Grant; 07-02-2009 at 12:28 PM.
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  5. #5  
    REDuser Sponsor Brook Willard's Avatar
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    (Opinion 5: Brook Willard Part 1)

    On the whole, SALT was a very surprising lens test for me - it definitely changed my opinions on a few sets of lenses and revealed some characteristics that I doubt I would've found if it weren't for the breadth of the test we performed.

    My experience comes from an equally aesthetic and technical background. As such, I'll sort of bounce between the two in my discussion of the lenses. I'll also focus on the mechanics and ergonomics of the lenses, as it's something I've made my business in the past. I've also written considerably more about the RED primes, as they are what many people are interested in around here.

    Remember that this test was designed to "break" the lenses. We were looking for flaws, for abnormal characteristics, for things specific to a given lens or lens set. As such, there is a lot below which calls on certain drawbacks and downsides to lenses. It's sort of the point. The longer the review, the more negatives that will appear [this is especially true of my lengthy review of the RPPs]. Just remember that for every negative thing that I write, there are ten positives that I may not be listing. It's like being disappointed with the color of the upholstery stitching on a Ferrari - it's still a damn Ferrari.

    So, with that disclaimer in mind, here goes:

    Zeiss Standards [T2.1]

    Lenses that everybody knows. Optically, I've always enjoyed [most of] these lenses. They have a lot of shape and light/focus falloff around the edges, particularly wide open. The good news is that it's not ugly, at least not most of the time. If you get them to a T2.8, they improve dramatically. Not much to say about these lenses that hasn't been said by others over the last 20-odd years. I don't think I've ever put a Standard on and said "whoa!", but I've rarely put one on and said "hmph."

    The notable exception is the 12mm. It's basically a 16mm Standard with some vaseline in the shape of an aspheron bolted to the front. Since we had a lot of wide lenses in this test, it's worth noting that this was probably the saddest of the bunch.

    Mechanically, they're a camera assistant's nightmare. They're easy to handle considering they're about the size of a tennis ball... but their age shows. The lens barrel is so small that the marks are way too few and too close together to make any assistant happy. The front of the lens also moves while focusing, which makes the use of a clip-on matte box a real pain. One note specifically for the RED - because the focus ring is so close to the mount itself, it's always difficult to get a motor or follow focus gear onto them. If you haven't already, unscrew the "ears" of the PL mount and flip them around. The RED's mount is so large that it interferes with these lenses a little more than others.

    Zeiss Mk. III Super Speeds[T1.3]

    I must admit that I've never really been a fan of these lenses. While it's great to have such a fast lens, they're so milky that I'm not a huge fan until they get to a T2.8. Once you get to a T2.8... they're fine. Good lenses - sort of the standard inexpensive rental prime set. There's enough distortion and shape to these to match the Standard Speeds [though the Standards perform better at a T2.1 than the Super Speeds do in my opinion]. While they don't match as well as some of the other sets, the differences aren't significant enough to raise an eyebrow.

    That's true of every lens in the set except for the 18mm. The 18mm Super Speed's flare is so hilariously intense that it looks like a Photoshop filter.

    Mechanically, they're a step above the Standard Speeds. It's only one step, but it's a big enough step to make them much less frustrating to work with. They're physically larger, so clearance issues are a thing of the past. The marks are bigger and clearer, and there are enough to make somebody happy. Every spot available on the lens has a mark on it - there are no gaps [I say this because some of the newer lenses below have questionable gaps on their barrel]. The front of the lens still moves while focusing, which makes gives it the same poor mechanical performance when used with a clip-on matte box.

    Zeiss Ultra Primes [T1.9]

    It seems fitting to describe these lenses immediately after the other Zeiss lenses. These are the first Zeiss lenses that have a "modern" optical feel to them. By that I mean that there is significantly more even field illumination, the lenses are sharper corner-to-corner and there are fewer sad optical characteristics [no milkiness, ugly flares, etc.]. They're great lenses and they definitely perform on the RED. There is a general lack of chromatic aberration with most of these lenses that raises them a notch above a few other prime sets - at least from a technical perspective.

    Interestingly enough, I had always assumed that the lenses matched more across the full set. They all had different flares, different levels of sharpness and slightly different optical characteristics. I suppose it makes sense - some of the lenses are optically identical to late Standard Speeds and some are much more modern. A huge plus to the set is that it's perhaps the most complete prime set out there - from 8mm [oh baby] to 180mm.

    But, while they may not all match perfectly, they are still similar enough that it never stands out. They have low distortion as far as I can tell and the field illumination is even enough to get away with, even wide open.

    Mechanically, I've always been a fan of these lenses. They're the perfect size lenses to me - not too big and not too small. They eliminated the problems with earlier Zeiss sets - the lens is internally focused and the gears are easily accessible. The focus throw is adequate, they are smooth enough and there are marks a plenty.

    Zeiss Compacts [T1.5 - T3.4]

    These lenses are a strange bunch. I don't really know what to make of them. On one hand, they're very pretty lenses that perform fairly well. On the other hand, they don't match at all. It's bizarre.

    Optically, they're sharp and fairly appealing. The faster lenses are a bit of a bummer when wide open, which really makes them slower in practice. That said, because the slowest lens is T3.4... you'll need to gear your lighting package accordingly. They also aren't well color matched. That said, the iris is the sort of thing that dreams are made of.

    Mechanically, they're great. It's like somebody sat on an Ultra Prime and put some blue paint on it. Some of the closer focus markings are a little random, but I'll always take too many over too few.

    These lenses are like a runner in a bodybuilding competition. They're great at what they do, but we're not measuring to their strengths. I suspect that if we put them up against a bunch of VistaVision lenses, we'd absolutely love them. Their 8-perf coverage will make them very popular when the larger Epics ship. But against the other S35mm primes, their bizarre inconsistencies and steep price hurt.

    So if you have 8-perf plans in the future, these lenses probably rock. If you don't... well, their strengths will be lost on you.

    Cooke S4s[T2.0]

    The Cookes surprised me more than any other set of primes that we tested. I was never a huge fan of these lenses as their performance was lacking from a technical perspective. They are high in chromatic aberration and aren't super sharp. They have some focus falloff around the edges and just don't inspire much confidence when pointed at a chart.

    The good news is that we don't get paid to shoot charts. These flaws seem to work together ini a pleasant way when pointed at somebody's face. While the chromatic aberration performance is still a bummer [no two ways about that], they're very pretty lenses. They're the perfect example of resolution being an irrelevant measurement when talking about a lens and its relationship with pretty imagery. The focus falloff is somehow more graceful with these lenses as well. At times, it almost makes them look sharper than the Ultra Primes. Still way too much chromatic aberration for my taste... and with the limited dynamic range of the RED, it can really stand out on high-contrast areas [a clipping sky, reflection or lamp].

    The flares were just about identical from lens to lens. This is perhaps the most well matched set I've come across, though I haven't had time to properly test the Master Primes in the way that we tested all of these other lenses. There's a strange star shape to the flare, something I assume is a result of the iris.

    The iris...

    Cooke really should've spent the additional $100 per lens to get a spiffy iris on there. Maybe some people love the star-shaped bokeh, but I personally dislike it. It's one baffling part to an otherwise lovely lens.

    Mechanically, they're lovely. They're big, but seem to be made of a lighter metal to compensate. The focus marks and throw are both fantastic. The lens uses a cam system for focusing - a system that spreads out the longer focus marks on the lens [making it much easier on a focus puller]. Apparently the cam system is also the easiest to service, though I don't have any experience on that front. The iris ring always feels a little sandy, but that might just be my hatred manifesting itself.

    I never liked the Cookes before this test. Now I'm a fan. I think that's pretty telling. Not my favorite still, sure, but they warmed my cold heart a few degrees.
    Last edited by Brook Willard; 07-05-2009 at 10:34 AM.
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  6. #6  
    REDuser Sponsor Brook Willard's Avatar
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    (Opinion 5: Brook Willard Part 2)

    RED Pro Primes [T1.8]

    I wasn't really sure what to expect from these lenses. On the one hand, there are the two first RED Zooms... not great. On the other hand, they've been marketed to the community as downright brilliant - a total departure from RED's past efforts. The good news is that they're somewhere comfortably in the middle. They really don't have any business being this good for $20,000... but they aren't perfect.

    Sharpness wise, they're on par with the Ultra Primes. They have rather even field illumination and the corner sharpness is generally good. Not perfect, but good. There is significantly more chromatic aberration than expected - no two ways about that. Flare characteristics were good, although the 50mm was pretty bizarre. WIth that in mind, I tested one of Keslow's shipping 50mm RPPs last week and it had a much nicer flare. I'm not sure if this difference is from changes made from our prototypes to the final shipping lenses or from manufacturing inconsistencies across different sets. The 100mm was pretty disappointing in both sets - it's not as sharp as you might hope, it has an unfortunate veiling flare and poor chromatic aberration performance.

    Mechanically, they're pretty good... but not perfect. First off, they're huge. HUGE. Bigger and heavier than S4s, bigger and heavier than Master Primes, bigger and heavier than any unsupported zoom. The focus throw is impressive on the lenses, but the focus marks are lacking. Sometimes there are gaps as large as 10-20mm on the barrel circumference. While the mark frequency is roughly equivalent to Super Speeds, the barrel is large enough that they had the opportunity to just about double the marks in some cases. I think that some lens companies [Duclos?] should consider a modification service for the lenses where they are disassembled and more marks are etched onto the ring. The grease in the lenses was a little thick for my taste, but still smooth. I'd like to feel them with lighter grease.

    One thing that had been heavily discussed before the primes shipped was that the witness marks on the barrel were not the same size as the fixed mark on the lens. Jarred stated that this was intentional - designed to prevent people from panicking and sending the lenses back when the marks don't line up perfectly at different temperatures. While I submit that a small notecard with the lenses might have been a more appealing move, I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt. I did, however, want to test if that fat line introduced any inaccuracy into the focus distance.

    I set up the 85mm prime at 10' - once with the witness mark lined up to one end of the fatter fixed mark, and once with it lined up at the other end of the fatter fixed mark. I then scooted a chart around until it was perfectly in focus and measured the distance from the chart to the camera's witness mark.

    There is a difference. At T2.0 @ 10', you have 2.5" of depth of field - from 9' 10 " to 10' 1 ". The thickness of the fixed mark on the 85mm RPP gave 3.25" of variance at 10' - so just a touch more than your depth of field. My testing method wasn't exactly precise, so I'm willing to accept that this number could be very skewed... but still, the margin of error is greater than the depth of field at T2.0. I didn't test any other focal lengths or any other prime sets for similar behavior. To be honest, this level of inaccuracy is often within the margin of error for a focus puller. So I won't really make a comment on it being good or bad, but I will say that I personally would've preferred the witness marks to be the same size. Why manufacture inaccuracy to prevent some support phone calls?

    Back to mechanics. On the witness mark front, the metal that the fixed mark is on is about 1/8" thick and the edge is slightly beveled. The fixed mark doesn't reach all the way around the bevel to meet the witness mark on the rotating focus barrel, so there's a little gap there. It'd be nice if it went all the way around to the focus barrel. I compared this to the S4s - they have a little "divot" carved out of the fixed outer barrel to get the witness mark as close as possible to the rotating focus barrel.

    This next point is quite unfortunate, as it's something I inquired about and recommended that they fix at NAB 2008... to no avail. As the RPPs focus barrel is similar in design to the S4s, there is a rotating inner barrel which is mostly covered by a fixed outer barrel. The inner barrel has the focus marks and gear on it and the outer barrel has the fixed witness mark on it. That outer barrel makes up the outside diameter of the lens - it's a touch greater than 1/8" larger radius than the inner focusing barrel.

    On the Cooke, the outer barrel is only present forward of the focusing gear. This means that from the rear element of the lens forward, the two largest outside diameters are the two gears - the iris gear and the focus gear. The lens has a larger outside diameter forward of the focusing gear, but not aft. This allows a lens to be swapped without having to disengage your motors or follow focus - just slide one lens out and slide another lens on. Everything lines up. This is true on every cinema lens I can recall ever coming across.

    On the RPPs, the outer barrel is present both fore and aft of the focusing gear. Since the gear is of a narrower diameter than the lens's outer barrel, it actually sits inside of a small channel about 15mm wide. This causes a few problems.

    First, you will be limited to the focus gears you can use. Some motors and follow focuses have fatter gears that will not fit into this channel. Rare, sure, but they're still out there. The other issues are going to be more of a pain. With a FF4 engaged on the lens with a ~10mm wide gear [the most common], the lens was effectively jammed in place. When it came time to do a lens swap, the follow focus had to be disengaged, the lens swapped, and the follow focus reengaged. With just the follow focus in place, it was possible to wiggle the lens free of the follow focus to get it out without disengaging the gear. Not ideal, but doable.

    When you have two FIZ motors in place, however, it wasn't so easy. It was possible with the motors in certain positions, but not in others. So if you're using a 2-axis FIZ with these lenses, there is the chance that you may need to reset your motor[s] every time you do a lens swap. It's not the end of the world, but it's disappointing... and something that could've been prevented very easily. If this seems trivial to you, it is. But the little things do add up... and it'll definitely get a raised eyebrow from your camera assistant every now and again.

    One final note - the RPP lens case that RED is selling. It's bigger than it needs to be, the foam is disappointing, there's no gap for AKS [a clip on matte box, or at least the 114mm back, for example] and it's all black on black. When the sun sets in the desert, the case will disappear. Don't get me wrong, it's super badass looking and stuff and probably looks great next to some camo netting, but it's not high on my personal list. It may be the perfect case for some people... but it's not the case for me. The great news is that you can get a custom case for about the same cost as RED's... perhaps even less depending on the company you go with.

    So overall impressions of the RPPs? They're pretty great lenses. For $20,000, they're nuts. But I think the most important thing that somebody can do before handling, examining and shooting with the lenses is to take a deep breath and try to forget all the hype. I'm not suggesting that hype is bad, but it can distort one's views on a product... particularly when the marketing is as effective as RED's. Everybody's new car is perfect until they realize the seatbelt sticks them in the thigh.

    Some of the mechanical decisions made on the lenses are unusual. I've shown the lenses to a lot of LA camera assistants and almost every one immediately notices the points I've listed above. While I can't comment on RED's reasoning behind the decisions, I can say that they are definitely against the norm.

    But the truth is that those things will not matter to the vast majority of people looking at these lenses. Even to the people that do notice those points, the points are minor. You're looking at an unbelievable set of lenses for $20,000. Chances are that if they seemed like the set for you yesterday, they're probably still the set for you today.

    Unique Primes [T1.9]

    While these lenses are not the same as the RPPs [not like RED would fake an x-ray], they definitely crossed paths at some point during development. They're just too similar to not share an ancestor. The prototypes we had were a little more sensitive to flares than the RPPs, but I blame that on the unfinished and uncoated nature of the prototypes. So since I'm not sure what to put on the production status of these lenses, I really don't have anything bad to say about them. They were fairly matched, plenty sharp and generally pretty. The 100mm was equally disappointing to the RPP 100mm, but I suspect that will get better as the lenses are pushed towards completion.

    Mechanically, they're good lenses. Just about as heavy as the RPPs and very similar in feel, design, materials and shape. Their focus gearing is superior to the RPPs, but strangely wide. It's not a bad thing, just unusual.

    These are good primes. I'm not writing a lot about them because they were so ridiculously similar to the RPPs. Not identical, don't get me wrong, but sort of fraternal twins. I think that there will be something of a race between Unique and RED to get a 18mm prime out on the market. That'll have a lot to do with the success of either lens set. But right now, it's a tie.
    Last edited by Brook Willard; 07-05-2009 at 08:01 PM.
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  7. #7  
    REDuser Sponsor Brook Willard's Avatar
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    (Opinion 5: Brook Willard Part 3)

    Angenieux Optimo Rouge 16-42mm & 30-80mm[T2.8]

    In discussions with friends and coworkers after the lens test, I tend to describe these two zooms [16-42 and 30-80] as "stupid good". Every time I saw one of these put up, it was a little too good to be true. If it looked great at one end, I assumed that it had to look bad at the other end. Or in the middle. Or wide open. Somewhere. But interestingly enough, it never did.

    I wasn't sure what to make of these lenses before the test. I've always had a love affair with the Optimos, but at half the price of the 15-40/28-76, I wasn't sure what to expect. It turns out they rock.

    They were very sharp, had even field illumination and were very consistent through the whole zoom range. They had just about zero chromatic aberration at any point [I can't actually remember seeing any CA on the lenses]. There was some distortion on both lenses that inverted somewhere in the middle of the zoom range - it was just about the only optical negative that I came across.

    The flares were always very subtle and consistent. Both zooms matched fairly well with the typical Optimo yellow tint. One unusual characteristic was a flare that can be best described as a "gill" flare. It appears to be light reflecting off of grinding imperfections on one of the elements. While I don't know if it's present in the other Optimos or if it's perhaps the result of a less precise grinding method used on the less expensive Rouge series, it was definitely bizarre. I'd want to shoot with them a bit before I could say whether or not it's an issue... but it's definitely a characteristic.

    The lenses are mechanically identical to the 15-40/28-76 - no complaints. The lenses cannot, of course, function on film cameras. If you ever shoot film, owning these lenses is not for you. But if you're strictly a shutterless digital shooter, these lenses have no business being so good for $20,000 a piece. I'd like to compare their speed to the T2.6 Optimos, though I've never been able to measure a difference between the T2.6 and T2.8 marks on the other lenses. These are at the top of my personal lens purchase list. I just hope they can make me a set without the ridiculous bright red rubber grips.

    Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm Zoom [T2.8]

    This lens is very much the go-to zoom these days. I've used it hundreds of times before, but I've never put it through its paces in a test like this.

    The results were about what I expected - the zoom is good. There are a few softer spots in the zoom range and the flares are very much those of a zoom, but since it was the only long zoom we tested, there's nothing to compare it to. At the focal lengths we tested, however, my opinions of the lens weren't really changed. It's still damn good... and comparable to the primes that we tested.

    Since it was such a different lens from the other lenses we tested, I won't say much more about it. It's still "the" long zoom in my opinion.

    Fujinon 18-85mm [T2.0]

    I didn't get much of a chance to look at this zoom. It's fast, pretty and reasonably sized for a 4:1. It's also a prototype with a few weird features [like this funny thing that video guys call a "back focus ring" ;)]. I've been told that the back focus ring will be built inside the lens so that it's not adjustable in the field. While I appreciate removing the ring, that sort of feels like a point of failure hidden inside the camera [something that we won't be able to fix on the day]. I think that sticking with a shim-based design would be superior and less expensive.

    Since the lens showed up at the end of the test and everybody was so excited to see it, I don't think that there was enough time for the reality distortion field to wear off before we wrapped it up for the night. It appears to be a great zoom with a lot of great potential and solid mechanics, but I don't want to state any opinions from such a short/incomplete test.

    Duclos Tokina 11-16mm [T2.8]

    This lens surprised me a bit. It doesn't look very impressive when you look at it, but when you look through it, it's a different story. I haven't had great luck with Tokinas in the past, but this lens shines above the rest. I hope its designer got a raise.

    Wide lenses are so inherently different than more common focal lengths that they can get away with unusual flare or distortion. That said, I didn't see much of either with this lens. It's a great workhorse, particularly towards the wide end.

    Mechanically it's a little unusual since it's a partial rehousing of a still lens... but since it's so wide, it gets away with it. You won't find yourself sweating bullets over a 50' walkup on an 11mm zoom... no matter what the focus ring is like. If memory serves, this lens was something of a prototype or it needed service. The focus ring felt a little funny, but it was funny enough that I'm sure it wasn't normal.

    Wide primes are expensive... and this lens is not. It's one I'd happily put in my kit.

    Focus Optics Ruby [T2.8]This was another lens that I, unfortunately, didn't get to spend much time with. Everything I've seen points toward two thumbs in the air. I'd read up on some of the other guys' thoughts or read Evin's thread on it.


    -------------------------------


    So overall, all of these lenses were very impressive. There isn't really a stinker in the bunch. The Optimo Rouge zooms were the huge standouts for me. There's not a lens or prime set here that I would deliberately steer somebody away from. There really isn't much of a conclusion to write here.

    Finally, just remember the initial disclaimer - most of what I've written above is designed to break the lenses and find their flaws. Even if a lens was perfect, I'd probably fault it for being too perfect. There's a bit of hoopty voodoo and cotangent defactorization in the whole concept of a lens test. Impressions will change from lens to lens, set to set and job to job. The perfect flare for one situation might kill the shot in another. Some barrel distortion might help romanticize a golf swing but screw up a science fiction movie. So don't rely on recommendations in what I've written, just read facts... and make your own opinion.

    Besides, Lamborghinis have terrible cup holders.

    ~Brook Willard
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  8. #8  
    Moderator Evin Grant's Avatar
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    Here it is folks!
    "All art is deception."

    My DP reel...
    http://www.evingrantdp.com
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    http://www.360dop.com
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  9. #9  
    REDuser Sponsor Brook Willard's Avatar
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    Enjoy, all. Tons more coming [pictures, footage, a pony, etc.]. :)
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  10. #10  
    Senior Member Matthew Duclos's Avatar
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    Good timing.. I saw pitchforks and torches in the near future.
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