Thread: Signature Primes vs Master primes - What are the key differences?

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  1. #1 Signature Primes vs Master primes - What are the key differences? 
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    Hey i've been doing some research on signature primes and master primes, and couldnt find alot comparison wise. Was wondering if any of you seasoned DP's might have an opinion on the pro's and cons on these lenses.
    From what i can tell at a glance is the Master primes are a little faster, and the Signature Primes are Full frame, while the Master primes only cover Super 35. Any more detail would be greatly appreciated.
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member Domenic Barbero's Avatar
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    They are completely different lenses. Signature are Full frame and beyond and LPL mount. They weigh less also. They have a new method for controlling breathing and CA handling. Also Id say they are less contrasty and i think have more pleasing flares straight out of the gate with out switching elements etc. They are also a tad bit slower at T1.8 compared to T1.3. Also Masters have more focal lengths I believe. I love the signatures and want a set real bad.
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    Senior Member Nick Morrison's Avatar
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    As Domenic said:

    Master Primes are larger and faster, but only cover S35.

    Signatures are smaller and a smidge slower, but cover FF.

    My understanding too is that Master Primes still look more technically "perfect" - ie more contrast, etc and also have tons of primes to choose from.

    Signatures appear to have been detuned a bit to look a *little* bit more like Super Speeds. Like modern Super Speeds. They have definitely intentionally engineered some "funk" into them.

    Whereas Master Primes were always meant to look "perfect" if that makes sense. At least perfect as defined 10-20 years ago.
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    Senior Member Luka Sanader's Avatar
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    are the Signatures made Zeiss or tis Fuji inside like Alura?
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  5. #5  
    Senior Member Domenic Barbero's Avatar
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    Arri has developed the signatures on their own. They no longer have a relationship with zeiss from my understanding from Arri.
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  6. #6  
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    The Signatures were designed to steal back market share from Cooke.
    Basically they are more forgiving and skin is less likely to reveal every pore in what can at times be quite disagreeable from the Master Primes.
    A more direct comparison would be with Cooke S7/i lenses, which are FF and T2.0
    In side by side tests, the Cookes actually have more contrast.
    Basically Arri has recognized that most feature content is human face/skin based so many DP's would choose Cooke in the past.
    New market, new times, excellent opportunity for Arri to reassert itself.
    Rental houses can now offer a complete Arri package that is well positioned for narrative content which is more portrait than action/object based.

    Here is a test someone did comparing a couple of primes from both sets :
    https://vimeo.com/346030577

    Supreme primes are also interesting in that they have gentle fall off and transitions from in to out of focus.
    This too used to be the domain of Cooke's.
    Master's can suffer from sharp focus transitions which may make a shot unusable if focus is not always spot on.
    Last edited by C. Burkhart; 03-12-2021 at 03:04 PM.
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    Senior Member Luka Sanader's Avatar
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    after all the fairytales are finished we still dont know (if we care at all) who makes the Signatures? They are branded Arri but its less likely that Arri went and purchased a optical factory and spend millions in order to developer something new form scratch in such short time frame...
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  8. #8  
    Moderator Phil Holland's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason beaumont View Post
    Hey
    Hi Jason, as you mentioned the Master Primes were/are mainly T1.3, designed for Super 35mm 4-perf, and really were state of the art lenses in 2005. They maintain many of the things that make them special. Clean modern look compared to glass from prior generations, usable wide open, minimal artifacts, decent contrast. I would be remiss to mention the glass-like nearly frictionless focus pull on the Master Primes, which has pros and cons.

    Arri Signature Primes benefit from similar advancements being made about 15 years later. Designed for the Alexa LF's full sensor, mostly a T1.8 set sans the 200mm T2.5, and a modern clean look with some character. One thing that makes them special is the magnesium body, which helps shave their weight. Characteristically they have very minimal breathing and are well corrected.

    Arri released the Signatures with dedicated LPL mount, which I've listened in person as an Arri rep mentioned that's the only mount around for large format, which um.... is marketing. I don't work for Arri, but maintain a good relationship with them. The LPL mount helps keeping the Signature series shorter in length as well as assisting with some design related considerations particularly on wides and telephoto lengths. It's also a bit forward thinking as the potential to cover even larger formats there.

    LPL is a 44mm Flange Focal Distance, same as Canon EF. Traditional PL is 52mm.


    Quote Originally Posted by Luka Sanader View Post
    after all the fairytales are finished we still dont know (if we care at all) who makes the Signatures? They are branded Arri but its less likely that Arri went and purchased a optical factory and spend millions in order to developer something new form scratch in such short time frame...
    Fairytales aside the first question you must ask yourself is if you like what the lenses do. Arri has never "made" lenses, but rather have designed them with other manufacturers, designers, and optical engineers. In the case of the Signatures there's a very talented designer behind the curtain and Arri spent some time developing all that. Some of their collaborators and manufacturers have been proudly displayed on the lenses such as Zeiss, others have subtle nodes to other places of manufacturer such as "made in Japan".

    They did spend millions, but worked with a manufacturer for several years developing them.

    Off the record if you want to design a good lens you're still looking at around a million bucks per focal length. Give or take a few bucks this has been a general rule of thumb in recent years. The only thing that has changed is you can design and even build lenses for far cheaper, recently did a hard investigation on just that for a specific set of glass, but you'll be making some pretty interesting concessions along the way. This somewhat accounts for some of the wild variances in price regarding all lenses when you get deeper into a lens' features from the optics to the mechanics as well as ease of serviceability.

    Lens market is pretty wild these days, but you know rather immediately when you're shooting with decent glass. Hard concept to grasp in such a dynamic lens market, but that's pretty much how it is.


    Quote Originally Posted by C. Burkhart View Post
    The Signatures were designed to steal back market share from Cooke.
    It was an interesting time when VistaVision and "Large Format" hit the market. Tokina and Cooke were first to the VV party. But Arri needed stuff for the LF and it seemed that Zeiss wasn't who the chose to partner with to create that. Interestingly enough the Zeiss Supremes were subsequently positioned against the Signatures rather directly with their smaller size and weight.


    I'm rather fond of Signatures. They have a lovely look. In terms of minimal breathing it's them and Tokina when it comes down to it. I'd say if you're dancing this dance, taking a look at the Angenieux Optimo Primes is worth it as they have a nice falloff as well.
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  9. #9  
    Senior Member Michael Lindsay's Avatar
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    I have worked with both lens series (as well as S7s and I have tested Leitz FF)... Sigs = Signatures ... MPs = Masterprimes

    Sigs are all designed FF.... MPs are not (but some longer FL do cover)
    Sigs are warmer than MPs
    MPs have stronger contrast in rendering
    Sigs have less Axial CA than MPs on the focal lengths I tested.
    Sigs are easier going in their rendering on most focal lengths...
    Sigs are designed not to be too perfect on all the middle focal lengths.. the extremes get more technical in approach.
    MP seems to flare a bit less but it is nearly always a nicer flare with the Sigs
    Sigs are more rear plane telecentric than most MPs (this is not always a good thing with Red cameras when using the Lowlight OLPF)
    MPs where designed for Film... Sigs ONLY for digital (this is reflected in their mount)
    Sigs have more focal lengths 16 FLs from 12mm to 280mm
    Sigs are a bit easier to handle due to texture of finish and width of lens.
    There are no aspherical grinding marks in the Bokah of the Sigs (no onion rings).. This is not true of MPs
    Focus does seems a little less cliff edge with Sigs but to be honest I didn't really find this a big issue with MPs (but this is maybe because I always used diffusion)
    If you are shooting for their respective designed film back target size (S35 and FF) you will notice that..
    Sigs fall off a bit more to the edges and they also have more pupil vignetting demonstrated in the cats eye bokeh.
    BUT often MPs are use Open gate or Red 6k so this levels them out a bit...

    Subjective stuff..
    As for them looking more like cooke lenses I don't feel this tell the whole story. Yes they are closer but so was everyone else's lenses as well... S7s are def still more 'organic' looking. Arri seem to have given up the contrast and sharpness over resolution/bokah/attractive fall off proposition of earlier lens series..

    PS Cooke S7 lenses, Arri Signatures and Leitz FF lenses are all, as I understand it, uniquely designed for Cinema. This is not true of many of the other FF lenses. This doesn't always matter but sometimes it does.
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