Lensing about

In a second lot of tests for the TV series I’m currently in pre-production for, my colleague Bonnie Elliot and I tested a range of different cinema lenses.

We set about creating a bit of a torture test.  Our set will have a lot of practical lights built into it by design so we started off with a dedo pointing right down the lens against black.  Then as the shot pans we find another couple of fluro tubes in shot, one at the same distance as the cast and one deep.  I find, against black, it’s a good way to reveal chromatic aberration where the colour fringing starts to play on the edges.

By panning the shot we can also look at how the lens flares move and travel.  I find the way a lens flares can be quite different when the source is on the edge of frame, in frame and just outside of frame.

In the deep background we have some xmas lights which are great for revealing how the lenses render out of focus highlights and an object at minimum distance that allows us to rack focus to minimums before going to the deep background and then back to mid ground.  This should show us what kind of breathing the lenses are exhibiting.

The fluro tubes at close range also reveal how the contrast is affected by what I call veiling flare or the milkiness in the blacks when a hot and broader light source is in frame.

We were also interested to see how the skin tones rendered and compare the geometry of each lens, that is, how they render a face !

The setup director, himself an ASC accredited cinematographer, had a predilection for the Cooke S4’s.

We also tested the Panavison Primos, the Panavision Ultraspeeds, the Zeiss CP2’s, Zeiss Superspeeds along with a Panavision 11:1 Primo Zoom.

We shot a T2 take and a T4 take of a wider lens, the 32mm/35mm and a longer 75mm/85mm lens of the same action.

I’ve cut the shot’s up, repeating them in bits a few times over.  this way you get to see and lock in each lens in that area, before moving to the next one.

I’ll endeavour to upload the T4 version, but this is the T2 pass.

Camera was an Amira shooting 23.976 1920 ProRes, and we have our WIP production LUT applied.



About johnbrawley

Director Of Photography striving to create compelling images
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6 Responses to Lensing about

  1. ghanns says:

    Hey John, the PV superspeeds have a magenta cast overall, the Zeiss lenses both breath too much for my liking, the PV primo set and zoom have a nice bokeh and the Cooke is up there imo. For me I’d choose a level of flare I like between those three for a winner. Great test.

  2. Sareesh says:

    Great test. Loved the Primo 11:1 overall. Never knew it existed (everyone uses the Optimo here).

  3. HD says:

    Hey John, hoping the EM1ii has some video improvements AND Olympus gets one in your hands before the release. It’s always inspiring seeing what you can do with their cameras.

    • johnbrawley says:

      Me too.

      I’m not so sure if VIDEO is what you want if the next E M1 iteration will be all that. What Olympus have told me is they see that the E M5II tier as their “video” oriented product. The way the GH4 is panasonic’s video camera.


  4. lior says:

    Great comparison. In my experience, the CookS4 does a great job.

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