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Differences in lens price and appearance (6 replies and 9 comments)

fukuichi
4 weeks ago
fukuichi 4 weeks ago

Dear Master Roger and the forums.Thank you very much for opportunity for learning.I have a question.

Currently, from high-end cinema lenses such as Master Prime
Various lenses including still lenses are sold and rented.

Can we see it clearly difference with your eyes?
Do we really see a difference of tens of thousands of dollars on the screen?

For example, if A and B are in quiz format,
Is it a small difference that some people make mistakes?
Or we can't tell the difference on a PC monitor, but  can see it in a movie theater, etc.
Please let us know your opinion.

Also, I have a lot of low-budget work,
If you have an  recommended lens at an affordable price
Please let the opinion of everyone.

Thank you.

dmullenasc
4 weeks ago
dmullenasc 4 weeks ago

You might want to read this blog by Matt Duclos:
https://thecinelens.com/2011/10/07/why-cinema-lenses-cost-so-much/»

They used to say that the last 10% in quality accounts for 90% of the cost of manufacturing, or something to that effect. "Clearly see" the differences would be hard to measure, there are many things a viewer might not clearly see and yet they are important in producing a high-quality image.

Some cheaper LED lights, for example, have poor color reproduction that might cause faces to look a bit pastel, but a viewer might assume that any skintone reproduction is an artistic choice and not due to some technical limitation.

But a lot of the costs for cinema lenses, besides the quality, are due to needing to both be robust-enough for the rigors of production, and be able to be serviced easily by a technician. Plus if it is a rental house item, it could be used continually year-round on multiple productions, unlike a personal piece of equipment. Cheaper still camera lenses use more mass-produced and machine-assembled elements to lower costs, but this makes them harder to service.

But there have been many examples of movies shot on cheaper lenses -- the island sequence in "The Black Stallion", for example, was shot on a Cameflex with, I believe, still camera lenses. Visual effects houses like ILM used VistaVision film cameras with Nikon lenses. Stanley Kubrick used a number of adapted still camera lenses. So there are cheaper lenses out there that produce wonderful images for cinema use, they just might be harder to fix if you dropped them...  And with the cleaner, high-resolution look of digital cameras, many people are deliberately using funkier, older lenses to beat-up or soften the image.

fukuichi
4 weeks ago

Dear Master David
Thank you for your always easy-to-understand advice.
I understand the difference between steel and cinema lenses.
I really appreciate it.
Would you please give us another opinion if possible?

When Master Roger and Master David choose cinema lenses
Which difference do you focus on when choosing?
For example, resolution, softness, etc.
Could you tell me the point you are focusing on?
Thank you.

dmullenasc
4 weeks ago

Trouble is that you're considering buying a set of lenses, and that's a much bigger decision than renting a set of lenses, it's an investment over multiple projects, not a decision for a single project. I'm not an equipment owner.
As for what to rent, it depends on the needs of the production. Most of the time, I prefer clean, sharp prime lenses with minimal flare, not because I don't like softness (I do sometimes... but then I use filters for that) nor because I don't like flare, but because I have to worry about consistency and usability in the edit, and sometimes with a lens that flares easily, an actor misses their mark and delivers their best performance with a flare across their face because a bright lamp or window is now in the wrong part of the frame. Plus it is important to me that a set of lenses have the same personality across the focal lengths, and older lenses often vary a lot more in look. But there are other factors, like speed (how fast do I need) and weight (how often am I using the Steadicam or MoVI). So I talk to the director, I read the script, I see the locations, and I get a sense of the lenses that will be best. Plus if I am renting the camera from Panavision, then I'm dealing with Panavision lenses.

dmullenasc
4 weeks ago
dmullenasc 4 weeks ago

Keep in mind that one reason productions use high-end cinema lenses is not really how the image looks, it's things like reliability, robustness, ability to pull focus accurately (large barrel rotation, lots of distance marks), and even things like working with focus aid devices and sending lens information to the recorder as metadata.  Plus matching across multiple sets of lenses when you have more than one camera or more than one unit. But I'm sure you could give Roger a $100 used lens bought off of eBay for a movie and he shoot amazing images with it!

dmullenasc
4 weeks ago

"he'd" not "he". Edit function not working again.

dmullenasc
4 weeks ago

Odd, edit function is allowed on this reply to the reply I'm not allowed to edit...

dmullenasc
4 weeks ago

Is there a time limit after which you cannot edit? Can it be increased? 8 minutes after the post I saw the mistake and couldn't edit it, and yet 9 minutes after my reply where I listed the correction, I can still edit that reply and the ones after that.  Once I can edit my post, I can delete all these replies...[EDIT: 3 hours later and I can still edit all these short replies but I can’t edit my two long posts]

fukuichi
4 weeks ago

Very informative, generous with experience and information
Thank you very much for teaching us.I like this word that you introduced. I felt like I was familiar with shooting.
"The last 10% in quality accounts for 90% of the cost of manufacturing" Thank you.

ravikantrai
4 weeks ago
ravikantrai 4 weeks ago

But I'm sure you could give Roger a $100 used lens bought off of eBay for a movie and he shoot amazing images with it!

I'm sure one could give both you and Roger a phone camera and both of you would shoot amazing images with it.

fukuichi
4 weeks ago

Thank you for reply. You're right. I think so, too.

Baudelaire
4 weeks ago
Baudelaire 4 weeks ago

Its an interesting question, it came up in the interview Arri (part 2 i think) DR Franz Kraus said "you don't give professionals a swiss army knife" and used the metaphor of a kitchen and the variety of Chefs Knives, each one perfect for a certain task. I thought that was pretty illuminating.

fukuichi
4 weeks ago

I will check it. Thank you

The Byre
4 weeks ago
The Byre 4 weeks ago

Prior to buying a set of lenses, I went to a cameraman friend in London (over a year ago now) and tested several lenses, most of which he had on loan.  I had to buy, as renting in our area is really not an option.  It is also not how I work - I don't do debt and buy what I need and if it is too expensive, I either do without or do without.  One of those two options!

We looked at 35 and 50 primes or as close to those values as possible - except for Arri Sig. Primes for which we had just the 40mm and had to be used with an adapter ring.  The other brands were Zeis, Cookes, Canon and Xeen and he had a Panasonic Varicam and a Red something-or-other (which I did not want to use as I do not like them).

(He also had a goodly collection of vintage lenses, but although thy might be fun to use - his words - not really an everyday bread-and-butter option!)

I looked for skin tones, distortion, internal reflections, bokeh, colour aberrations and breathing.  (I no longer have the notes I made - so memory only!)

We both liked the Arri - no question!  Skin colours were very good and the bokeh was smooth and breathing almost undetectable.  The price was a bit OTT though!  But I suppose that's what you have to pay for the best of the best.

As for the rest - I was frankly shocked!  It seemed almost (but not quite) as if most expensive were the cheapest and the cheapest were the most expensive!  

The lens I would have thrown into the bin first were the Cookes.  Blotchy bokeh, strange skin colours and an annoying star effect and noticeable vignetting on both lenses - so it must have been there by design.  Zeis - skin colours could have been better.  Canon - good skin colours and technically sharp and good bokehs.  Xeen had the best skin tones but were a bit iffy below 2.  If you opened them up no further than a 2, they are the best.  Breathing was OK-ish for the non-Arris.  

(We did the skin tones by looking at one another - I am a pink-faced European and he is Chinese, so we had a good giggle at how red I looked sometimes and how green or red he went.)

Taken across all the results, I thought that the Canons were the best as they remained pretty sharp, even when opened right up.

As the Canons were his own, he was very happy with the results.  There are of course loads of other lenses on Planet Earth and I am sure that many of them are excellent - we only had those to look at.

I ended up buying a set of five Xeens, as I could wangle a brilliant wholesale price and I didn't consider that the lack of definition and sharpness below 2 was a big issue.

OK, not exactly a scientific test, limited to just a handful of lenses and pretty subjective - but it taught me a lesson - as Public Enemy said: "Don't believe the hype!"

fukuichi
4 weeks ago

Dear Byre. Thank you for sharing the valuable test results you spend your time with.
It was interesting that the results were interchanged between cheap and expensive ones.

The Byre
4 weeks ago
The Byre 4 weeks ago

Keep in mind that one reason productions use high-end cinema lenses is not really how the image looks, it's things like reliability, robustness, ability to pull focus accurately (large barrel rotation, lots of distance marks), and even things like working with focus aid devices and sending lens information to the recorder as metadata.  Plus matching across multiple sets of lenses when you have more than one camera or more than one unit.

There is also the fact that the cost of renting equipment is peanuts compared to what goes on in front of the lens!  

I am reminded of attending a recording at Abbey Road and I asked girl from the agency what they were paying per day - she said some figure just shy of £4k.  I pulled a face and she said "There are only three good rooms in London, so the price is not really relevant.  At least, not when you remember that the orchestra is costing us £82,000 a day."

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