Ever try to use a follow focus – even a good one, like the Edelkrone Focus One Pro – with a still camera autofocus lens from one of the major manufacturers? No?
Good luck with that.
It’s not that the gears won’t engage or that the focus pull itself isn’t smooth or precise – nor that there’s something terribly wrong with the lenses themselves.
Rather, it’s that most autofocus lenses designed for still photography do the opposite of what we need for videography. They’re:
- noisy; and
- they hunt.
Which is why so many of us switch autofocus off and focus manually when filming
But even then, we have challenges:
- The rotational distance from infinity to minimum close focusing distance is short. This makes sense when you’re shooting stills: the camera can focus faster because it’s moving less to achieve focus lock. It's not so good for videography, because it’s harder to achieve pinpoint, repeatable focus when you try to mark the spot.
- The inertial drag during manual focus with an autofocus lens is dramatically less than that of old non-autofocus lenses – and cine lenses. Again, this makes sense when you’re shooting stills: less drag also means faster focus, requiring less energy to get from A to B. It's not so good for videography, because it’s harder to achieve smooth pull focus. It’s the same basic reason why fluid heads are necessary.
- Some of the newest autofocus lenses are “fly-by-wire” and have variable effect as a function of the speed with which the focus ring is moved when in manual focus. Once more, this makes sense (a little less so in my book, but I'm old school) when you’re shooting stills: we don’t mind fine-tuning the last 10% if we can get to the first 90% quickly.
With all of this written, manufacturers like Canon are upping their autofocus game all the time.
Their new STM lenses are especially fast and quiet. And the new 70D and SL1 autofocus systems are at or near the top of the DSLR pile in terms of video performance (heck, you can even pull focus by using the camera’s touch screen, a la Magic Lantern).
But by the same token, Canon clearly understands the limitations of their EF-S and EF lens offerings. It’s why they offer their Cinema lens line.
And it’s why Zeiss does the same thing.
- Bigger lens barrels with longer rotational distances and better marked focus scales, more weighted feel, and built-in gearing make for better videography ergonomics and more precise focusing.
- An emphasis on primes (which, all else being equal will beat a good zoom every time) yields the highest possible image quality.
But have you looked at how much they cost?
I know — worth it to the people who buy or rent them, but for the rest of us it can be quite daunting.
You might think of him as the George Barris of Zeiss lenses, as his company takes outstanding prime lenses like the Zeiss Distagon 15mm f/2.8 and modifies them for optimal video handling at relatively modest prices.
Or maybe I’m just dating myself.
In any event: it's an interesting premise, yes? Check out the press release for the PrimeCircle XM lenses after the jump.
PrimeCircle XM Series on Delivery
From LockCircle Press:
The new PrimeCircle XM (manual focus and manual aperture) cinema lenses are finally on delivery, featuring smooth focus action with calibrated (one to one) focus scales for precise follow-focus work.
Designed for filmmakers looking for high quality optics and precise focus scales for serious focus-pulling work!
Cost-effective lenses! Budget matching the new generation of 4K cameras offering superb optical performances.
The XM Series is available in nine different focal lengths from 15mm to 135mm, and the new design comes with the “red aperture geared ring”!, added to improve “visual ergonomics” in the production field: the red ring means aperture control (the d.o.p. word), a different job than focusing!
Every single lenses has dedicated and calibrated (in the optical lab) focus scales (right and left) and aperture is geared for dynamic exposure control.
The focus scales are available in metric or imperial (feet) scales, and all the graphics on the barrels are engraved (every single lenses has dedicated calibrated focus barrels) and hand painted! Handcrafted with passion in Italy (Lake Como).
Optics are “state of the art”: really high resolution and high contrast for crystal clear sharp images, featuring incredible “pastel organic” backgrounds consistent across all the focal lengths.
Shooting moving pictures is totally different that shooting still pictures, this optics are aesthetically consistent over the different focal lengths: this is a real “must” for storytellers that want to keep the right cinematography feeling.
The PrimeCircle XM Series has serious “cinematic character” and tested in several feature films on the big screen all over the world.
Nine focal lengths available: 15/2.8 – 21/2.8 – 25/2.0 – 28/2.0 – 35/1.4 – 50/1.4 – 85/1.4 – 100 Makro/2.0 – 135Apo/2.0
PrimeCircle XM Highlights
– high resolution and contrast (Zeiss Optics)
– natural color balance and skin tones
– exclusive “pastel organic” (bokeh) backgrounds
– compact lightweight and ergonomic design
– perfect for handheld, run and gun, drones, gimbals
– precision mechanics with smooth focus feeling
– expanded focus mark spacing
– 95mm cinema standard mount on all the focal lengths
– 90mm filter thread (step down filter rings 77/82/86mm available)
– stainless steel heavy duty bayonet mount
– single “one to one” engraved focus barrels
– exclusive black velvet technology surface finish (unscratchable super-hard)
– fluorescent scales (glow in the dark) at request
– exclusive PrimeCircle top knurled “ultra-grip” ring for safety mounting/handling
– geared aperture ring (red code color) – left a right scales
– aluminum CNC machined cap – with ultra-grip ring
(cover photo credit: snap from LockCircle Press)