Category Archives: lenses

Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.

Fujinon have a long history of producing excellent lenses. When I used to shoot motorsports, windsurfing and TV news I used to use Fujinon lenses on my 2/3″ Betacam, Digibeta and DVCAM camcorders. I still have a Fujinon remote zoom demand sitting in the cupboard. Today Fujinon still produce high quality lenses for broadcast cameras.

fujinon-tv-zoom-1024x683 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.

But Fujinon don’t just make lenses for broadcast cameras, they also make PL mount lenses for use with super 35mm cameras. Perhaps their best known cinema lenses are their “Cabrio” zoom lenses. When it was introduced the 19-90mm T2.9mm Cabrio was ground breaking as it offered a silky smooth zoom servo with an ENG style handgrip on a compact zoom lens.

fujinon_19_90mm_t2_9_cabrio_pl_895225-1024x1024 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
The Fujinon Cabrio 19-90mm cinema zoom. A lens I’ve always enjoyed using and would love to own.

The 19-90 Cabrio was the workhorse servo zoom that many F5/F55, Red and Arri users had been wanting for a long time. I’ve used the Cabrio’s and they are great lenses, I’d love to own one, but my budget just won’t stretch that far. The 19-90 costs around $40K but it is a beautiful lens.

Aware of the demand for a similar lens at a lower cost, last year Fujinon introduced a more affordable 20-120mm T3.5 lens. However even though much cheaper, at £13.5K/$16K it is still quite an expensive lens, especially when you consider that a camera like the Sony FS7 only costs £6k/$8K.

FujifilmXK20-120-Leftftd-1400x739-1024x541 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
The Fujinon XK20-120 cinema zoom. A servo unit can be added to turn it into a servo zoom.

That brings us to today. Fujinon have developed a pair of new lenses specifically for E-Mount cameras. An 18-55 and a 55-135. The 55-135 isn’t ready just yet but the wider one, the MK18-55 is, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been loaned one to test.

AJC03759-1024x683 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
The new Fujinon MK18-55 E-Mount zoom lens.

As you can see the lens looks very similar to the more expensive XK20-120, but it’s actually a bit smaller and a lot lighter. The lens is an 18-55mm T2.9 (f2.8) Parfocal zoom. Parfocal means that the focus does not shift as you zoom as happens with most DSLR lenses. It’s E-Mount only, so you can’t use it on a Canon camera, but you can put it straight on to a FS5, FS7, even an A7S/A7R (The lens is designed for s35/APS-C so you need to use crop sensor mode or clear image zoom on a full frame sensor). No adapters needed! It’s a manual lens, no autofocus and there isn’t a zoom servo. But what you do get is beautiful image quality!

AJC03771-1024x683 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
The MK18-55 T2.9 on my FS7

The short back focus distance of E-Mount compared to PL or EF makes it easier to produce an affordable high quality zoom lens, that’s why this lens is E-Mount only. To ensure that the lens remains parfocal on different cameras it has a backfocus adjustment ring. This ring also functions as a macro focus ring by pressing a small button. This allows you to focus on objects around 1ft/38cm from the lens. When not using macro the minimum focus distance is 0.85m/2ft9″.

macro1-1024x576 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
The MK18-55’s macro function allows you to get very close to the subject. Click on the image for the full resolution frame grab.
dog-cu-1024x576 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
Frame grab from the MK18-55mm Fujinon lens. Click on the image for the full resolution frame grab.

The iris is a 9 blade iris with curved blades that produces a pleasing bokeh both inside and outside of focus.

hedge1-1024x576 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
Near and Far bokeh is pleasing thanks to a 9 blade iris. Click on the image for the full resolution frame grab.

To keep the weight down a lot of the lens exterior is made from plastic. It is quite a long (in length) lens. If it was all metal it would make a light camera like the FS7 front heavy, so while perhaps it doesn’t have the tactile feel of a $40K Cabrio it also doesn’t have the weight, the 19-90 is almost 6lb/2.7kg, the MK18-80 is just 34.6ox/980g. However it does feel well made. The focus, zoom and iris rings all feel very smooth and have just the right amount of rotation resistance and damping.

The focus ring has around 180 degrees of travel and the focus markings (in both metric and imperial) are clear and easy to read. Each ring also has a 0.8mm pitch gear ring.

AJC03769-1024x683 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
The MK18-55 with the supplied lens hood.

In use I found the lens a pleasure to use. I can perform nice smooth manual zooms with ease. It is easy to focus with just the right amount of focus travel, not too much not too little.  Focus breathing is very well controlled and quite minimal. It’s certainly one of the best lenses I’ve used at this price point. It feels and behaves like a proper cinema lens.

So what about the image quality? This lens does not disappoint. The images are sharp from edge to edge, corner to corner throughout the zoom range, even when wide open at T2.9. Contrast is good and even when shooting into the sun, flare is minimal. A square lens hood is provided with the lens that works well, but of course you can also use it with a matte box if you wish.

To me the images from this lens look closer to the ones I get from prime lenses than a zoom. I can see this lens being used instead of a set of primes for many productions and it certainly works out very cost effective compared to a set of decent prime lenses.

709-cu1-1024x576 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
The Fujinon MK18-55 at 55mm. Click on the image for the full resolution frame grab.
709-wide-1024x576 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
The Fujinon MK18-55 at 18mm. Click on the image for the full resolution frame grab.

Chromatic aberration is well controlled and minimal and I didn’t notice any significant colour cast or tint. The lens is also remarkably free from geometric distortions (unlike the  Sony 18-105 that is supplied as a kit lens with the FS5 that’s full of all kinds of distortions). There is a little, but it’s no worse than most other wide zoom lenses and nothing that I am concerned about.

into-sun-1024x576 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
Even shooting into the sun flare is minimal and shadows remain dark. Click on the image for the full resolution frame grab.

While T2.9 isn’t super fast it is at least a stop faster than most (all?) of the other budget cinema zooms on the market. Plus it’s absolutely useable at T2.9 unlike some other lenses that go a little soft or become prone to flare when wide open. I’d be perfectly happy to shoot at T2.9 all day.

dog-by-fire-1024x576 Fujinon MK18-55mm t2.9 E-Mount zoom lens.
Wide open at t2.9 the MK18-55 still produces a nice sharp image. Click on the image for the full resolution frame grab.

So, in case you haven’t noticed yet I really like this lens. It may not have the zoom range of the new Sony 18-110, but it’s a stop faster. It may not have the ability to be used on different mounts like the Canon 18-80 t4.4 but again it’s faster and has a real manual focus ring with hard stops and repeatable calibration. The new Zeiss 21-100 t2.9/t3.9 is interesting, but more expensive and not as wide nor as fast. You should be able to buy both the 18-55 and the 50-135 for less than the Zeiss.

So, if you are in the market for a proper digital cinema lens for your FS5 or FS7 do take a close look at the Fujinon MK18-55. I hope to get a chance to shoot some more interesting footage with this lens very soon and share it with you.

UPDATE: I should have anticipated this, I’ve been asked this many times today already. Given that the new Sony 18-110 f4 and the MK18-55mm are similar prices, which one would I choose?

I would probably choose the Fujinon, but my needs are not necessarily the same as others. Very often if I need a zoom lens I need a very big zoom range. For my storm chasing I use a Tamron 16-300mm dslr lens, I need a BIG zoom range. It’s a compromise, I know I can get better image quality with primes or a shorter zoom, but I often need to go from super wide to super long and the Tamron 19x 16-300mm zoom fits the bill.  For run and gun handheld work I actually quite like the cheaper Sony 18-105mm. Sure the focus is a bit wonky and it has a lot of different geometric distortions, but it’s really small, very light and the autofocus works OK. It does the job I need of it.

Currently I own various prime lenses. I also have the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 which I rate highly. For a drama or documentary shoot with my FS7 right now I would probably pack my 18-35mm Sigma, 20mm Sigma, my 14, 35, 55 and 85mm Samyangs plus the 16-300mm Tamron. I could see the Fujinon 18-55mm replacing ALL of the lenses below the 85mm Samyang, except perhaps the 14mm. So instead of carrying 4 lenses, I only need to take one and achieve the same kind of image quality (the Samyangs are T1.4, but normally I stop them down to T2 -T2.8 as they are a bit soft wide open). I will have less breathing, plus I can zoom during the shot. In addition I’m getting near prime lens quality without the need to keep swapping lenses when I need a different focal length.

The Fujinon is light and compact a big bonus when travelling. Once the MK50-135mm becomes available the pair would cover the majority of drama or short film focal lengths. Just 2 light and compact lenses. For me the Sony at f4 just isn’t quite fast enough for film style productions – great for run and gun and general purpose shoots but it’s not really the lens I want.

The only question that remains is what should I get for my F5 with it’s PL/FZ mount? If only the MK18-55mm would fit the F5. Have to save my pennies for the Fujinon XK6x20 20-120mm.

 

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The new Sony FS7 zoom lens, the Sony SELP18110G.

AJC03714-1024x681 The new Sony FS7 zoom lens, the Sony SELP18110G.
Sony SELP18110G servo zoom lens.

When Sony launched the FS7 II they also launched a new lens to go along with it. The previous zoom lens that was bundled with the FS7 was the SELP28135G, a 28-135mm f4 zoom lens that would work with Super 35mm, APS-C and full frame cameras. While generally well received this lens is not without it’s problems. For a start it’s not really wide enough for use as a general purpose lens on an APS-C or Super 35mm sensor. The other problem is that the zoom is very slow. Even when set to manual zooming in and out takes a long time. You turn the zoom ring and then have to wait for the lens to catch up.

The new lens is a wider 18mm to 110mm f4 lens. This is a really useful zoom range for a Super 35mm camera. But the new lens can only be used on S35mm and APS-C cameras. It can’t be used with full frame cameras like the A7s in full frame mode.

AJC03718-1024x681 The new Sony FS7 zoom lens, the Sony SELP18110G.
The front element of the Sony SELP18110G.

But what about the zoom speed? Well this has been addressed too. On the 28-135mm lens the zoom function is electronic. There is no mechanical connection between the zoom ring and the optics of the lens. The 18-110 has a proper mechanical connection between the zoom ring and the internal lenses, so now you can crash zoom in and out as fast as you want. In addition the zoom servo motor is much faster and motorised zooms take place much more rapidly. One downside to this is that it’s a bit harder to control the zoom speed. You can do slow creeping zooms if you are very careful with the cameras zoom rocker, but it’s hard to do. The difference in pressure on the zoom rocker between creeping zoom and medium speed is tiny. The lens tended to change zoom speed quite quickly. While it is indeed very nice to have a variable speed motorised zoom, don’t expect the fine degree of control that you get from admittedly more expensive traditional ENG lenses. Lets face it this lens is only around £3K/$5K which is remarkable cheap for a parfocal s35mm zoom. Take a look at the video below for an idea of the zoom speeds etc.

Is it really parfocal? Well yes, it does seem to be parfocal. I only had the lens for a morning to play with, but in all my tests the focus remained constant throughout the zoom range.

So, what about focus? Like the 28-135mm lens there is a nice big focus ring that slides fore and aft.

AJC03723-e1487017741838 The new Sony FS7 zoom lens, the Sony SELP18110G.
Focus, zoom and iris rings on the SELP18110G.

In the rear position the focus is manual and there are calibrated focus markings and end stops. You get about 180 degrees of focus travel from 0.95m (3.1ft) to infinity (in autofocus you can focus slightly closer when the lens is at the wide end). The focus ring has 0.8mm pitch teeth for use with most standard follow focus units, although this gear ring is very close to the end of the lens, so it may be tricky to use if you have a matte box in place. Breathing is very well controlled and barely noticeable unless going through very large focus throws. Out of focus Bokeh isn’t bad either, I didn’t observe any nasty surprises in the limited time I had to play with the lens.

Bokeh-1024x576 The new Sony FS7 zoom lens, the Sony SELP18110G.
Frame Grab. Near and far out of focus bokeh is reasonable on the Sony SELP18110G. Click on the image to view a full size copy.

Sharpness and flare. The lens appears to be nice and sharp at the wide end but just a touch soft at the long end. It’s not bad overall but when shooting at 4K I could just about detect the lens becoming marginally softer as I zoomed in. The sample I had was a well used pre-production prototype, but I’m going to guess that the production lenses won’t be hugely different. Shooting the roof of a house against a bright sky revealed only a small amount of flare, certainly nothing out of the unusual for a zoom lens.

18110-110-1024x576 The new Sony FS7 zoom lens, the Sony SELP18110G.
Frame grab from the Sony SELP18110G at 110mm. Click on the image to view a full size copy.
18110-18-1024x576 The new Sony FS7 zoom lens, the Sony SELP18110G.
Frame grab shot with Sony SELP18110G at 18mm. Click on the image to view the full size image.

Overall I really like this lens. It even has a support point at the front of the lens body for additional stability. While f4 isn’t the largest of apertures it is quite usable and even wide open the lens performs well. For the money it is a lot of lens. I think we need to be realistic with our expectations for zoom lenses and large sensors. Bigger zoom ratios require bigger lens elements if we want to maintain a constant aperture. Bigger lens elements cost more to produce.

AJC03729-e1487018834354 The new Sony FS7 zoom lens, the Sony SELP18110G.
Underside of the Sony SELP18110G showing the extra lens support points. A lens foot that attaches to the rear mounting is included with the lens.

One advantage Sony have over the competition is that it’s easier to make zoom lenses for the very short flange back distance of the E-Mount cameras compared to the deeper flange back of PL or Canon mounts. The closest competition to this lens is the Canon 18-80mm T4.4 (f4 ish) which is a fair bit more expensive (£4K/$6K). If you want a similar zoom range then you’re looking at the beautiful  Fujinon 20-120 T3.4 at around £14K/$19K.

Norway and the Northern Lights Video Blogs.

I produced 3 video blogs during my trip to Norway to shoot the northern lights. These blogs are now on youtube for you to watch. In the first video I take a look at some of the equipment that I took to Norway for the trip. I also look at how I like to lay everything out before I pack it and give some insight into some of the accessories that I like to take.

The second video looks back at the first week of the trip. You will see examples of the weather we had to deal with as well as some information on how some of the time lapse sequences of the aurora were shot.

The third video is about shooting a sunrise with 3 different cameras. The Sony a6300, FDR-AX3000 Action Cam and the PXW-FS5.
Packing for the shoot.

At the bottom of the page you’ll find a quick cut of a small selection of some of the Aurora footage shot on this trip.

Review of the first week in Norway.

Shooting a sunrise with 3 different cameras.

Quick sample of some of the Aurora footage:

Why Do We Need To Light?

Lets face it cameras are becoming more and more sensitive. We no longer need the kinds of light levels that we once used to need. So why is lighting still so incredibly important. Why do we light?

Starting at a most basic level, there are two reason for lighting a scene. The first and perhaps most obvious is to add enough light for the camera to be able to “see” the scene, to get an adequate exposure. The other reason we need to light, the creative reason why we need to light is to create shadows.

It is not the light in a scene that makes it look interesting, it is the shadows. It is the contrast between light and dark that makes an image intriguing to our eyes and brain. Shadows add depth, they can be used to add a sense of mystery or draw the viewers gaze to the brighter parts of the scene. Without shadows, without contrast most scenes will be visually uninteresting.

Take a typical daytime TV show. Perhaps a game show. Look at how it has been lit. In almost every case it will have been lit to provide a uniform and even light level across the entire set. It will be bright so that the cameras can use a reasonable aperture for a deep depth of field. This helps the camera operators keep everything focus. The flat, uniform light means that the stars or contestants can go anywhere in the set and still look OK. This is lighting for exposure, where the prime driver is a well exposed image.  The majority of the light will be coming from the camera side of the set or from above the set with all the light flooding inwards into the set.

eggheadsteam-e1479407949570 Why Do We Need To Light?
Typical TV lighting, flat, very few shadows, light coming from the camera side of the set or above the set.

Then look at a well made movie. The lighting will be very different. Often the main source of light will be coming from the side or possibly even the rear of the scene. This creates dark shadows on the opposite side of the set/scene. It will cast deep shadows across faces and it’s often the shadow side of a face that is more interesting than the bright side.

blade-runner1 Why Do We Need To Light?
Striking example of light coming from opposite the camera to create deep shadows – Bladerunner.

A lot of movie lighting is done from diagonally opposite the cameras to create very deep shadows on faces and to keep the background of the shot dark. If, as is typical in TV production your lights are placed where the cameras are and pointed into the set, then all the light will go into set and illuminate the set from front to back. If your lights are towards the side or rear of the set and are facing towards the cameras the light will be falling out of and away from the set rather than into the set. This means you can then keep the rear of the set dark much more easily. Having the main light source opposite the camera is also why you see far more lens flare effects in movies compared to TV as the light is often shining into the camera lens.

960_1 Why Do We Need To Light?
Another example of the main light sources coming towards the camera. The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford.

If you are shooting a night scene and you want to get nice clean pictures from your camera then contrast becomes key. When we think of what things look like at night we automatically think “dark”. But cameras don’t like darkness, they like light, even the modern super sensitive cameras still work better when there is a a decent amount of light. So one of the keys to a great looking night scene is to light the foreground faces of your cast well but keep the background very dark. You expose the camera for the bright foreground (which means you should not have any noise problems) and then rely on the fact that the background is dark to make the scene look like a night scene.  Again the reason to light is for better shadows, to make the darker parts of the scene appear very dark relative to the foreground and a high level of contrast will make it look like night. Consider a bright moonlit night, faces will be bright compared to everything else.

sam-shepard-jesse-james-e1479407719922 Why Do We Need To Light?
A well lit face against a very dark background means low noise night shot. Another example from The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford.

So in cinematography, very often the reason to add light is to create shadows and contrast rather than to simply raise the overall light level. To make this easier we need to think about reflections and how the light that we are adding will bounce around the set and reduce the high contrast that we may be seeking. For this reason most film studios have black walls and floors. It’s amazing how much light bounces of the floor. Black drapes can be hung against walls or placed on the floor as “negative fill” to suck up any stray light. Black flags can be used to cut and control any undesired light output from your lamps and a black drape or flag placed on the shadow side of a face will often help increase the contrast across that face by reducing stray reflections. Flags are as important as lights if you want to control contrast. Barn doors on a lamp help, but if you really want to precisely cut a beam of light the flag will need to be closer to the subject.

I think most people that are new to lighting focus too much on the lights themselves and don’t spend enough time learning how to modify light with diffusers, reflectors and flags. Good video lights are expensive, but if you can’t control and modify that light you may as well just by a DIY floodlight from your local hardware store.

Also consider using fewer lights. More is not necessarily better. The more lights you add the more light sources you need to control and flag. The more light you will have bouncing around your set reducing your contrast and spilling into your otherwise nice shadows. More lights means multiple shadows going in different directions that you will have to deal with.  Instead of using lots of lights be more careful about where you place the lights you do have, make better use of diffusion perhaps by bringing it closer to your subject to get more light wrap around rather than using separate key and fill lights.

 

Image quality with B4 ENG lenses on large sensor cameras.

DSC02056 Image quality with B4 ENG lenses on large sensor cameras.
2/3″ B4 lens on the FS700via the MTF adapter.

This is something that comes up a lot and I get many questions about. In part because I designed the MTF B4 to Canon, FZ and E-Mount adapters. Budget adapters that allow you to use a 2/3″ B4 ENG lens on a Super 35mm sensor by using the lenses 2x extender or on a center crop sensor without the 2x.

The question is… what will the pictures look like?

The answer is… it depends on the lens.

Not a very helpful answer perhaps, but that’s the truth of it. Different lenses perform very differently. For a start I would say forget 4K. At best these lenses are suitable for HD and you want to have a great HD lens if you want good HD pictures.

But what about the “look” of the images? My experience is that if you put a wide range ENG zoom on a S35mm camera the look that you get can be best described as “2/3″ ENG look with maybe shallow depth of field”. Lets face it, ENG lenses are full of compromises. To get those great big zoom ranges with par-focal focus there are a lot of glass elements in those lenses. Lot’s of elements means lots of places where CA and flare can occur. The end result is often a lowering of contrast and color fringing on hard edges, the very same look that we are used to seeing on 2/3″ cameras.  Typical cine or DSLR lenses tend to have simpler optical designs. Prime lenses are normally sharper and show better contrast with less flare than zooms due to there simpler internal design.

So don’t expect to put a typical B4 ENG lens on your S35mm camcorder and still have that crisp, high contrast digital cinema look. Of course B4 zooms are handy for the ability to zoom in and out through huge ranges while holding focus. So an adapter and lens may well make your S35mm camera more versatile. But if you want the best possible images stick to cine style lenses, DSLR lenses or zooms designed for S35.

 

News From NAB 2016 – Firmware Update for 18-105mm Lens.

Sony have released a firmware update for the 18-105mm lens that is available as a package with the FS5. The update addresses some of the focus tracking issues that some lenses appear to have. To update the lens firmware you need to go to the support page of Sony consumer:  http://www.sony.co.uk/support/en/product/SELP18105G

and download the update package. You will need to have the lens mounted on a camera and the camera connected to a Mac or PC. Full install instructions are provided after you click on the Mac or PC download link buttons.

More info on CMOS sensor grid artefacts.

Cameras with bayer CMOS sensors can in certain circumstances suffer from an image artefact that appears as a grid pattern across the image. The actual artefact is normally the result of red and blue pixels that are brighter than they should be which gives a magenta type flare effect. However sometimes re-scaling an image containing this artefact can result in what looks like a grid type pattern as some pixels may be dropped or added together during the re scaling and this makes the artefact show up as a grip superimposed over the image.

grid-pattern-1024x576 More info on CMOS sensor grid artefacts.
Grid type artefact.

The cause of this artefact is most likely off-axis light somehow falling on the sensor. This off axis light could come from an internal reflection within the camera or the lens. It’s known that with the F5/F55 and FS7 cameras that a very strong light source that is just out of shot, just above or below the image frame can in some circumstances with some lenses result in this artefact. But this problem can occur with almost any CMOS Bayer camera, it’s not just a Sony problem.

The cure is actually very simple, use a flag or lens hood to prevent off axis light from entering the lens. This is best practice anyway.

So what’s going on, why does it happen?sony-grid-artefact-explained More info on CMOS sensor grid artefacts.

When white light falls on a bayer sensor it passes through color filters before hitting the pixel that measures the light level. The color filters are slightly above the pixels. For white light the amount of light that passes through each color filter is different.  I don’t know the actual ratios of the different colors, it will vary from sensor to sensor, but green is the predominant color with red and blue being considerably lower, I’ve used some made up values to illustrate what is going on, these are not the true values, but should illustrate the point.

In the illustration above when the blue pixel see’s 10%, green see 70% and red 20%, after processing the output would be white. If the light falling on the sensor is on axis, ie coming directly, straight through the lens then everything is fine.

But if somehow the light falls on the sensor off axis at an oblique angle then it is possible that the light that passes through the blue filter may fall on the green pixel, or the light from the green filter may fall on the red pixel etc. So instead of nice white light the sensor pixels would think they are seeing light with an unusually high red and blue component. If you viewed the image pixel for pixel it would have very bright red pixels, bright blue pixels and dark green pixels. When combined together instead of white you would get Pink or Blue. This is the kind of pattern that can result in the grid type artefact seen on many CMOS bayer sensors when there are problems with off axis light.

This is a very rare problem and only occurs in certain circumstances. But when it does occur it can spoil an otherwise good shot. It happens more with full frame lenses than with lenses designed for super 35mm or APSC and wide angles tend to be the biggest offenders as their wide Field of View  (FoV) allows light to enter the optical path at acute angles. It’s a problem with DSLR lenses designed for large 4:3 shaped sensors rather than the various wide screen format that we shoot video in today. All that extra light above and below the desired widescreen frame, if it isn’t prevented from entering the lens has to go somewhere. Unfortunately once it enters the cameras optical path it can be reflected off things like the very edge of the optical low pass filter, the ND filters or the face of the sensor itself.

The cure is very simple and should be standard practice anyway. Use a sun shade, matte box or other flag to prevent light from out of the frame entering the lens. This will prevent this problem from happening and it will also reduce flare and maximise contrast. Those expensive matte boxes that we all like to dress up our cameras with really can help when used and adjusted correctly.

I have found that adding a simple mask in front of the lens or using a matte box such as any of the Vocas matte boxes with eyebrows will eliminate the issue. Many matte boxes will have the ability to be fitted with a 16:9 or 2.40:1 mask ( also know as Mattes hence the name Matte Box) ahead of the filter trays. It’s one of the key reason why Matte Boxes were developed.

IMG_1022 More info on CMOS sensor grid artefacts.
Note the clamp inside the hood for holding a mask in front of the filters on this Vocas MB216 Matte Box. Not also how the Matte Box’s aperture is 16:9 rather than square to help cut out of frame light.
SMB-1_mpa_04-1024x576 More info on CMOS sensor grid artefacts.
Arri Matte Box with Matte selection.

You should also try to make sure the size of the matte box you use is appropriate to the FOV of the lenses that you are using. An excessively large Matte Box isn’t going to cut as much light as a correctly sized one.  I made a number of screw on masks for my lenses by taking a clear glass or UV filter and adding a couple of strips of black electrical tape to the rear of the filter to produce a mask for the top and bottom of the lens. With zoom lenses if you make this mask such that it can’t be seen in the shot at the wide end the mask is effective throughout the entire zoom range.

f5-f55-mask More info on CMOS sensor grid artefacts.

Many cinema lenses include a mask for 17:9 or a similar wide screen aperture inside the lens.

 

Scheider Xenon FF Prime Lenses.

DSC_0034-1024x576 Scheider Xenon FF Prime Lenses.
Schneider Xenon 50mm FF lens on the Sony A7s

When you think of cine lenses then there are several brands that immediately come to mind. Zeiss, Arri, Cooke and Angenieux are probably the most familiar names but there are many others too. One brand I have been looking at more and more recently is Schneider.
Schneider Kreuznach have been making lenses since 1913. Based in Kreuznach in Germany they have long been know for their innovative designs and they won an Oscar in 2001 for Technical Achievement for their Super-Cinelux motion picture lenses.
A few years ago I met one of their lens engineers at NAB. I don’t think I have ever met a man as passionate about a lens design before or since. Every Schneider lens that I have ever used has been brilliant. They always seem to have near zero breathing, are always extremely solidly built and produce great images. So when I got a call from Manfrotto, the UK distributor to see if I would like a chance to play with some of the new Xenon FF (Full Frame) lenses I grabbed the opportunity.

DSC_0036-300x168 Scheider Xenon FF Prime Lenses.
Another view of the 50mm Schneider Xenon FF lens.

The Xenon FF lenses are cine style lenses available with either Canon, Nikon or PL mounts. The mounts can be changed should you need to switch mounts at a later date. They are priced to directly compete with the Zeiss compact primes. At the moment there are only 3 lenses available, a 35mm, 50mm and 75mm, all are T2.1. In the near future there will also be a 25mm and 100mm T2.1 as well as an 18mm T2.4 Yum Yum! I’d love to have one of those for my Northern Lights or Storm Chasing expeditions. They are all the same size, have a 100mm front diameter, all have a 95mm lens thread. This means that swapping lenses during a shoot is straight forward as you don’t have to change Matte Box donuts or re-position the follow focus if you’re using one. Being Full Frame lenses and rated for 4K these should be a great match with the Sony A7s.

I got to play with a 35mm and 50mm with EF mount and decided to try them on my full frame A7s shooting in HD as well as taking a few still photos (which are the equivalent to 4.5K) on a cloudy and rainy day.

DSC_0042-168x300 Scheider Xenon FF Prime Lenses.
14 blade iris and EF mount on the 35mm Xenon FF.

Straight out of the box you cannot help but be impressed by the build quality. These are substantial lenses, weighing in at around 1.25kg each with the EF mount. I could not find any plastic on these lenses, they look built to last.

The focus scale is large and easy to read, each lens being individually calibrated. Focus travel is a full 300 degrees. Even as you get to the far end of the focus ring the distances are still nicely spaced. From 9ft(3m) to infinity is around 100 degrees. Compare that to most DSLR lenses where the same focus range might be compressed into just  5 or 10 degrees and you can see that precise focus is much easier. Although sometimes  a very large focus travel can make focus pulls a little harder simply because or the large distance the focus ring has to be turned. But I’ll take a big focus throw lens over small throw any day.
The lenses have 14 curved iris blades giving a very round aperture even when stopped right down. I love peering into these lenses at the aperture blades as they are a work of art (but really hard to take a photo of). You can also see in the photo that the coatings of the lens are a distinct orange colour.

DSC04400-300x200 Scheider Xenon FF Prime Lenses.
Photo taken with the 50mm Xenon FF. Click on the image to enlarge or view at original resolution.

In practice the lenses did not disappoint. It did seem a bit odd to have such a large and heavy lens on the diminutive A7s, but as image quality starts with the lens a good lens can make all the difference. I shot at various apertures from wide open at T2.1 down to about T8 and didn’t notice any significant change in resolution across the range (I took photos as well as video to check the lens performance).

The lenses do tend to flare a little bit, the 35mm more than the 50mm, but I thought the flares were quite pleasing, others may disagree. Take a look at the video to get an idea of what they are like. There was a bit more flare at T2.1 compared to T2.8 or T4 on both lenses.
I did some big focus pulls to see how much breathing there was and as with all the Schneider lenses I’ve used breathing was very minimal. There is some breathing, these are not like the Cine-Xenars which have virtually zero breathing, but the breathing really is small.

Grab-thru-trees-300x168 Scheider Xenon FF Prime Lenses.
Frame grab, shooting through trees. 35mm Xenon FF and A7s.

Another test shot was to shoot some tree branches silhouetted against the sky to check for CA and colour fringing. Basically I can’t see any. Maybe right out in the very corners of the frame there is the tiniest bit of CA, but you really have to hunt for it.

Shoping-basket-grab-1024x576 Scheider Xenon FF Prime Lenses.
Shopping basket frame grab. 35mm Xenon FF. I love the smoothness to the highlights.

Colour wise there is no obvious colour shift, if anything perhaps very, very slightly warm. As expected the lenses are very sharp and crisp, from corner to corner, but not excessively so. I found that the images contained a lot of detail but had a pleasing roundness too them that I really like. I shot a chrome shopping basket and the reflections of the bright chrome look really nice. I think this is a combination of a little bit of flare without excessive sharpness. I think it’s a very nice natural look. This can be one of the benefits of a video lens over a stills lens. Stills lenses must be incredibly sharp to work with 24 or 36 mega pixel sensors. Sometimes this results is a super sharp image that lacks character. Arguably if you start with a very sharp image you can always soften it a bit in post, but sometimes it’s nice to start off with a more rounded image. Look at how popular Cooke lenses are, they are well known for their rounded rather than super sharp images.

As expected from a 14 blade iris the bokeh is very creamy and smooth. Both near and far out of focus areas look very good indeed. Out of focus edges are smooth and don’t show any obvious double edges or other distortions.

berries-grab-1024x576 Scheider Xenon FF Prime Lenses.
It’s really easy to get a very shallow DoF with a full frame sensor. Xenon FF 50mm and A7s.

Take a look at the video for a better idea of the lens flares and the overall image quality. I really like the look you get from these lenses and wouldn’t mind a set of them for myself. I feel they have a lot in common with Cooke lenses, but at a much more affordable price. I hope to test them further in the near future and to a wider variety of scenes. I suspect they will be very good on skin tones and faces.

 

SLR Magic 1.33x Anamorphot, anamorphic lens adapter.

anamorphot_angle_2 SLR Magic 1.33x Anamorphot, anamorphic lens adapter.
SLR Magic Anamorphot.

I’ve been playing with an SLR Magic Anamorphot. This is a high quality lens adapter that allows you to shoot in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a conventional 16:9 camera. The adapter screws on to the front of existing lenses and squashes the scene horizontally by 33% as you shoot. Then in post you squash the image vertically by the same amount and the end result is 2.35:1 aspect ratio footage.

There are some limitations and these are covered in the video, so please watch the video for a full explanation as well as some sample footage. For the money it’s a great way to get low cost anamorphic shots. As well as the aspect ratio change you get really nice horizontal blue lens flares giving you that JJ Abrams look to your productions. Really looking forward to trying it on my A7S once that arrives.

The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What’s it like to work with?

F55-shoot-in-singapore-225x300 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Alister shooting with the f55 in Singapore.

I was lucky enough to go out and play with an F55 while in Singapore. There was no pressure, nothing specific to shoot, just play time. This meant I could try different frame rates, different frame sizes, basically I could experiment. I also had the use of one of the lovely (but very heavy) Fujinon Cabrio 19-90mm PL mount servo zooms. The F55 was configured with the LCD EVF (my choice, I could have used the OLED) R5 recorder and a couple of Olivine batteries. The camera was one of Sony’s early pre production models, so while most things did work there were some modes and functions that couldn’t be used together that will be available on the production cameras. Most of the time I shot at 25p recording 1920×1080 XAVC HD with S-Log2 in camera and 4K raw in the RAW.  I did also shoot quite a bit of 4K XAVC at 25p and 4K raw at 50p.

The cameras menu system is well laid out and clear and easy to use. It’s different to the menu system used on the F3 and EX cameras, it’s actually much closer to the menu system used by the F65. The cameras key functions, things like ISO, shutter speed and white balanced are controlled using the 6 hot keys arranged around the camera function LCD on the left of the camera (Sony refer to these buttons as “switches” in the manual which is a little confusing). So much of the time there is no need to go in to the main menu. One thing I did miss was a dedicated white balance switch. There is a hot key button that allows you to choose between presets for tungsten, daylight or your own numerical colour temperature (just dial in the temp you want). But to do a white balance with a grey card, you have to go in to the menu and set the white balance from within the menu. Maybe on the production cameras you will be able to assign this to one of the assignable buttons. Of course with raw your not really changing the white balance in the traditional sense. What your changing is the white balance of the monitoring output and the white balance settings attached to the raw clips metadata.

DSC02691-300x199 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Sony PMW-F55

The camera is simple to operate once you have it in the record mode you want. But the multitude of modes, frame sizes, frame rates, compressed, codecs and raw, EI or non-EI will I’m sure confuse some people. Currently the camera has to be in some quite specific modes in order to be able to make use of the R5 recorder for raw recording. If the camera is in the wrong mode the R5 doesn’t even come online. But this is a pre production camera with early firmware so I’m sure the range of modes that can be used together will increase. As it wasn’t possible to shoot 4K XAVC S-Log internally and 4K raw on the R5 at the same time, for most of the filming I did I shot internally in HD using XAVC and S-Log2 while recording 4K raw on the R5. I did also take some time to shoot similar shots in 4K XAVC to compare to the raw footage.

DSC02681-300x199 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Sony DVF-EL100 EVF.

In the viewfinder you get the usual comprehensive information about the camera setup including the remaining record time on both the SxS cards and AXS card in the R5. The nice thing about the R5 is that it really does become a part of the camera and is controlled fully by the camera unlike many off-board recorders where you have to setup the recorder separately from the camera. The R5 has no buttons or switches on it’s exterior, just a couple of status LED’s, it’s all controlled from the F55’s menu.

VIEWING YOUR FOOTAGE.

F55-raw-viewer-1024x640 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Sony F55 Raw Viewer (same as F65 viewer)

For viewing and managing the raw footage Sony have a clip viewer application (which will be supplied with the camera or for free download) which is essentially the same as the F65 raw viewer. There are Mac and PC versions. Being realistic your going to need a fast computer with USB3 to be able to use this properly. I’ve just upgraded to a new Retina MacBook pro in anticipation of the arrival of my own F5. Transferring 250GB of raw data from the AXS card to a 2.5″ USB3 hard drive took about an hour. Thats not even real time. 250GB is about 30 mins of footage, some of which was 50p.

F55-raw-no-grade-bike-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Un graded raw shot of a bike in Singapore

Of course 2.5″ hard drives are not the fastest of drives so I’m sure I will be able to speed this transfer process up, probably to just a little faster than real time. But even so, be prepared for a slower workflow when working with 4K raw than perhaps your used to right now with conventional HD cameras. The Raw Viewer software allows you to view and playback clips using different gamma curves and lookup tables, as well as applying a number of image adjustments and corrections. You can also use it to convert the raw files to DPX files, either with or without adjustments such as a gamma curve, so right out of the box you should be able to work with the material.

F55-raw-with-grade-bike-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
The same bike shot as above but after a quick grade.

BlackMagic already have the raw and XAVC codecs working within a soon to be released versions of Resolve (including the free Resolve Lite), this software will be released well before the cameras becomes available. There are also working plug-ins for Adobe Premiere Pro from Rovi that should be finalised before the cameras ship with other NLE’s like Edius and FCP-X promising support in the very near future. For Avid MC, there will be Sony Plug-Ins for both XAVC and RAW at the start of Feb. For FCP-X, Apple has a plan to support XAVC (both 4K & HD) soon (I don’t have an exact timescale I’m afraid) with a plug-in developed by Sony. Sony Vegas, will support XAVC at the start of Feb as well.

I’m looking at building a dedicated Linux based workstation for working with the F5/F55 4K material. I plan to use the HD internal recordings as proxies for the edit on my Macbook or iMac and then do the 4K finishing using Resolve running on a Linux machine with plenty of graphics processing grunt. It’s much cheaper to build a Linux workstation than a MacPro, in addition it’s much easier to add additional graphics cards to get more GPU cores. These days it’s the number and power of the GPU (Graphics Processor) rather than the normal CPU that counts.

F55-Cabrio-300x199 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
PMW-F55 with Fujinon Cabrio, Genus Elite Matte Box.

Getting back to the shoot. The Fujinon Cabrio lens interfaces directly with the camera, so power is supplied to the lens for the servo zoom. Annoyingly the record button on the lens didn’t work, so I had to press the REC button on the camera body. I suspect this is just a camera firmware issue (UPDATE: According to Fuji this is a limitation of the Cooke i/Arri LDS lens connection protocols, in the future it may be possible to use either an adapted protocol or a cable between the lenses 20 pin connector and the cameras remote port). It behaves much like a traditional ENG lens, but it is a massive lump of glass making the camera extremely front heavy. I had a slight problem one morning coming from a nice air conditioned hotel out into the humidity of Singapore. The lens fogged up, as would any lens in those circumstances, as the front element is so big, it did take a very long time to get to the ambient temperature before I could use it. One small feature that is very nice is that the lens markings have been applied using glow-in-the-dark paint, rather like a watch face. So when shooting in the dark at night you could still easily see your focus markings. I wish camera manufacturers would do this with the camera button markings etc. The images produced by the Cabrio 19-90 are really very good. Lens flare is very well controlled, the images are sharp and free from any obvious defects. The bokeh is also very nice considering it is a relatively compact high ratio zoom lens. The Cabrio lens really makes the F55/F5 well suited to run and gun shooting. Stop the F55 down by an additional 2.5 stops and you’ll have approximately the same DoF on the F55 as you would have on a 2/3″ ENG camera. With such sensitive cameras as the F5/F55 this should be easy enough to do in most shooting situations.

F55-Merli-no-grade-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Shot of the Merlion before grading, so this is what the 16 bit raw clips look like.

The F55’s native ISO of 1250 meant I didn’t need to use any additional gain shooting around Singapore’s Marina Bay area at night. This is a well lit area, but even so the low light performance is impressive. Noise and grain at 1250 ISO is very hard to see, it’s a really, really clean camera. At higher ISO’s you do start to see noise and grain, but thanks to the 4K sensor this has a very fine film like look. I checked out the noise on the F5 at 20,000 ISO and it’s really not that bad, in fact during the workshop someone turned the camera to 20,000 ISO and most people looking at the monitor didn’t realise.

F55-Merli-with-grade-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
The Merlion after a quick grade.

In S-Log2 the camera has an EI mode that keeps the recording ISO at 1250 but then adds gain to the monitor and viewing LUT’s as well as the clips metadata. I deliberately over exposed a number of S-Log2 shots to see how they would grade. The results were very impressive, not quite as forgiving as raw, but very good with lots of information preserved in the highlights. One concern I have with the F5 is that it may actually be a little bit too sensitive. The F5 we had in Singapore in S-Log2 was rated at 2500 ISO, that’s really sensitive and I do have a fear that I’m going to have to use a lot of external ND filtration in addition to the cameras internal ND’s when I want a shallow depth of field.

The camera really didn’t take long to get used to. I think new users will need to read through the manual to look at the various recording options, monitoring and look up table settings. For example the camera has to be in the correct base mode (EI or Custom) before you can setup the 4K raw recordings. But beyond that it is a very logical and straight forward camera to use.

F55-DVF-L350-LCD-300x188 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Looking into the DVF-L350 LCD EVF.

Shooting in 4K has it’s challenges. Focus is ultra critical, especially if you are shooting in 4K so that post production can crop into the image for re-framing. I found that I was using the focus-mag button on the viewfinder for every shot, checking and double checking focus. I was using the 3.5″ LCD EVF for the shoot but I did try the OLED too. When your viewfinder is “only” HD or maybe not even HD you are going to need to magnify the image to see that critical 4K focus.

F55-DVF-EL100-300x173 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?As well as focus-mag you also have the usual peaking modes and settings (which can be assigned to the assignable buttons). But I really found that for 4k, while very useful, peaking alone was not enough to be 100% certain that your focus is spot on with any of the viewfinders, not even the OLED. I’m not saying that the viewfinders are sub standard, just that you really need a much bigger screen than 7″ to see 4K focus without zooming in to the image.

DSC02684-300x199 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
The DVF-L700 7″ LCD monitor/viewfinder.

While the DVF-EL100 OLED EVF is rather nice the small size of it’s panel (0.7″) does mean that some of the sharpness advantage it has over the 3.5″ LCD DVF-L350 is lost. The bigger screen of the 3.5″ LCD is easier to see than the very small OLED. In addition the flip up monocular of the 3.5″ LCD does make it more versatile. For ENG type shoots, run and gun or documentary shoots, I think the 3.5″ finder is the better choice. If you shoot drama then you can use the higher resolution OLED EVF and then add a larger monitor/viewfinder as well. The F5/F55 has to separate HDSDI busses. The main bus can be used to output clean video while the sub bus can be used to feed video with camera data overlays added for external viewfinders etc. There are two HDSDI connections on each bus.

F55-clark-quay-no-grad-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Shot of Clark Quay before grading the raw file.

I really enjoyed shooting with the F55. It was easy to use and the key camera controls are well placed. With the right shoulder mount (including the Sony one)  it will be reasonably well balanced with most prime lenses (I only had a generic base plate for the matte box rails). I do think that with many heavier lenses, rather than use the relatively light NP-FL75 batteries you will be better off with larger and heavier batteries to get better balance. One FL75 ran the camera for around 2 hours so a 150Wh battery would run it for about 4 hours.

F55-clark-quay-graded-300x158 The PMW-F55 with the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 PL servo zoom. What's it like to work with?
Shot of Clark Quay after applying a Hypergamma LUT.

The NP-FL75’s do charge very fast indeed, taking about 90 mins to fully charge from flat. You don’t have to use the new Sony batts. Any standard V mount battery will work. I’m going to be testing some of the new LiTH 150Wh batteries that are the same size as a typical 95Wh battery when I get my F5.

My next shoot with an F5 will be at the end of January when I will be taking one up to Arctic Norway to shoot the next part of my on-going Northern Lights film project. I’ll be shooting interviews with the local Sami people about the folklore and traditions that surround the Aurora as well as the Aurora itself. It will be interesting to see if I can shoot the Aurora in real time 4K using the F5’s 20,000 ISO rating. It should be possible as I managed with the F3 last year. I’ll be posting some sample clips from my Singapore shoot very soon (once I work out the best way to distribute a gig or more of material).