Friday, April 26, 2013

ZEISS COMPACT PRIMES – The Most Versatile Cine Lenses Around



When a second generation of Zeiss Compact Primes was launched several years ago no-one could have preditcted the success these lenses have achieved in the digital film industry. 


The first generation of Compact Primes was a hybrid of Zeiss ZF still photography lenses and their big motion picture counterparts – a true cine lens in a completely new housing, built for the merciless life on the set and equipped with 14 diaphragm blades to produce the beautiful round bokeh and out-of-focus highlights. The huge focus throw helped focus pullers do their work with precision and a de-clicked iris with matching 0.8 gears ensured easy pulling. The housing was standardized in size for all focal lengths and the optical performance matched Zeiss' ultra tight tolerances for low distortion, color rendition and excellent sharpness. Some focal lengths even came in T1.5. The lenses only had one major drawback – no interchangeable mount.


So Zeiss did what had to be done in the era of DSLR revolution and designed a new generation of Compact Primes based on their predecessors, but this time with – wait for it – interchangeable mounts. The CP.2 series became the ONLY LENS SYSTEM ON THE MARKET covering full frame 24 x 36mm format with cine-style housing, color-matched Carl Zeiss T* coating and a relatively easy mount swap with 5 choices to choose from, including PL, Sony E and Canon EF. The CP.2 lenses thus became one of the most solid equipment investments a digital cinematographer owner/operator could make, making a jump from one mount to the other a seamless and future proof procedure. 


This is what Zeiss says about the CP.2 lenses on their website:
“One of the most important aspects of a successful production is the competence and diversity of your team. Whether you’re shooting a commercial where exquisite color rendition and high contrast is important, or a tense, dramatic sequence in low light situations for a feature film, Compact Prime lenses offer you the performance you need to get the scene right. With a wide range of focal lengths, full-frame coverage, fantastic image quality, great flare suppression and precise focusing through the large rotation angle, Compact Prime lenses give you a flexible set of tools to make your film shine. With its long history in both photo and cine lenses, Carl Zeiss is dedicated to supporting filmmakers and allowing you to benefit from the highest possible image quality in any situation.”


The CP.2 family is growing steadily. The latest members are the 15mm and 135mm focal lengths and two full-frame Compact Zooms. Zeiss also listened to DOF junkies and demanding DP's and re-introduced the Super Speed line - three lenses consisting of the proven 50mm and 85mm focal lengths and the newly designed 35mm, all sporting the ultra wide T1.5 aperture for low light work and minimal depth of field wide-open.


Just by looking at a CP.2 lens cut in half (Zeiss has a couple of them available for demonstration) you can see the quality and craftsmanship of these optical cathedrals. The CP.2’s are assembled by hand in Oberkochen and proudly bear the “Made in Germany” tag on their barrel.


We use Zeiss Compact Primes religiously in our video production and they are a perfect match for the CanonC300. I sometimes put the much beloved CP.2 100mm/T2.1 on my EOS 5D Mark III and shoot portraits wide open. The quality of this lens is amazing – they say even close to Zeiss Ultra Primes.


More first-hand account on these Zeiss rockets will follow shortly. Meanwhile, back to work...