June 5, 2011

Italian Camera Company Announces babyPrimes, Zeiss CP.2-Equivalent Lenses for 35% Less

[UPDATE from Carl Zeiss at the bottom of this post.] Zeiss CP.2 lenses are a top choice among HDSLR and AF100/F3 cinematographers because of their optics, size, and weight. At roughly $4k/lens, however, they're a tad expensive when compared to their ZF.2 still cousins (which contain the same optics and retail for around $1,500). Unknown Italian camera company kelvincamera has announced that they have successfully re-housed the ZF.2 with the CP.2 features (common front diameters, focus and iris markings, and fixed gear rings) and will be selling these "babyPrimes" for 35-40% less than the CP.2s (which would bring them in around $2,500).

Considering the ZF.2 lenses are sometimes a stop faster than their CP.2 equivalent (the 35 and 50 open to a full f/1.4 instead of f/2.1), these could certainly be of interest. Dante from kelvincamera told Cinema5D:

To reach this price and offer a serious re-housing we spent months on testing and building many different solutions and the point is that they are not 100% primes (CP.2 is one step higher and anyway not 100% true primes) but for a lot of people the Carl Zeiss lens quality and a Primes feeling with 2 side scales (also for iris) and a rock solid front mount of 95mm is a workhorse choice for digital cinematographers.

Note that kelvincamera is not saying the lenses are 100% as good as the Zeiss CP.2s, which are a "step higher," but are looking to fill the large gap in price between $1,500 and $4,000 (which is even more pronounced when you factor in the need for several primes in one kit). These babyPrimes join the Duclos Cinemod process, which costs roughly $250 per lens (to de-click the aperture, attach delrin focus rings, and add common front threads) in the Zeiss lens aftermarket. There's no further information at the babyPrimes site, but it's something to keep track of if you're going to be in the market for a set of prime lenses.

Link: babyPrimes

UPDATE: I received this email from Carl Zeiss, who would like to clarify that these are unofficial modifications. Here is what Zeiss has to say about the babyPrimes:

Since Carl Zeiss enjoys a very good reputation in camera lenses of high quality and performance we would like to clarify the situation for the benefit of our customers:

  • Carl Zeiss is in no way involved in the babyPrimes project or product of and does not maintain a relationship to the manufacturer.
  • The company Kelvinkamera+ or the quoted persons were not and are not in any form involved in the DigiPrime project or other projects at Carl Zeiss.
  • Carl Zeiss cannot confirm that the optics used in the advertised product line are from Carl Zeiss, nor can we confirm that these optics meet the typically high standards of a Carl Zeiss lens
  • All Carl Zeiss lenses are subject to extreme specifications, tests and measurements to ensure the respected Carl Zeiss Quality from their development to production to use. In this case, it is not permitted to label these products as “Carl Zeiss” lenses.
  • We would like to emphasize that Carl Zeiss cannot accept any liability for products that have been altered through unauthorized modifications. Therefore these products cannot be covered under the international warranty of Carl Zeiss.

[via Cinema5D]

Your Comment

12 Comments

Nice, would love to test run some of these lenses. Any word on how soon they will be available? Using CP.2's on my Feature Film next month. Would love to see how these ones hold up to my CP.2 set.

June 5, 2011 at 3:17PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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"Considering the ZF.2 lenses are sometimes a stop faster than their CP.2 equivalent (the 35 and 50 open to a full f/1.4 instead of f/2.1), these could certainly be of interest."

Attention. The cine lenses are calibrated in T-stop. That's the actual aperture, very precise. The still lenses are graduated in F-stop. It's a theoretical aperture. Most often a F-stop 1.4 is the same aperture that a T-stop 2.

June 5, 2011 at 3:36PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Bruno Chansou

You're right -- my bad.

June 6, 2011 at 12:36AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

That's the idea, but you've explained it wrong. F-stop is not theoretical - it is the mathematical equation relating to the size of the physical opening and the focal length of the lens.

T-stops are the theoretical number - they tell you how much light the lens should let in at a given aperture opening.

June 6, 2011 at 1:14AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Joe

T-stops aren't theoretical either. They're measured, so they'll give a more accurate exposure reading than an F-stop, but the F-stop is more accurate for judging depth of field, since it's calculated from an equation based off the size of aperture.

June 6, 2011 at 10:17AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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dustin

usually the difference is much smaller, like f/2.0 to T/2.1
I'd be surprised if these are not one stop faster than the CPs

June 6, 2011 at 3:51AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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June 6, 2011 at 10:19AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Bruno Chansou

There we go.

June 6, 2011 at 3:06PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

What do they mean by "CP.2 is one step higher and anyway not 100% true primes"? Are they referring to the small amount of breathing that the lenses exhibit when focusing?

June 5, 2011 at 11:36PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Michael

I think that's exactly what they're referring to.

June 6, 2011 at 12:36AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

OK, it is a year later and i am a year wiser. My experience has been this. With 3 cameras - The Sony Z5 (tiny 1/3" sensor), the Canon 5D (monster full frame sensor) and the Sony FS100 (Super 35mm sensor), and making use of 8 Zeiss Contax / Zeiss primes and zooms, I find that the f1.4 waaaaaaay too much shallow depth of field on both the Canon and Sony.f100 This shallow depth of field issue / craze has gone overboard. I simply don't like it on a 50mm and 85mm at f1.4 at close range (under 5-10'). These translate of course to 75mm and 120mm, lenses on the Sony F100, that are for the most part a bit too much telephoto and when wide open, produces a rather useless picture when coming in close. The dof up real close (2-3') is about 1/2" and the out of focus is sooo muchthat the picture becomes mush and certainly loses it's brilliance - looking like a cheap throw away lens from 1900. For those lenses up real close, I have to stop down to f2 to get a better result, maybe f 2.8. Which defeats the purpose of f1.4. On a night shot and not up close, they are fine, but getting tight head shots and facial expressions which is core to good movies - f1.4 just does not work.

But put on my 28 f2.8 (37 on the Sony), at f2.8, the picture is rather nice. The out of focus part is just about right - OK, f 2 would be a tad better, but this works nicely. When I study great movie after great movie, (Ben Hur, ET, Private Ryan, etc.), I see little to no evidence of the use of these super shallow dof lenses. In fact, I am wondering how do they get the crisp night shots without it. Wonderful clarity! It is interesting to note that the Oscar winner, "The King's Speech" was shot with all wide angle lenses - some as wide as 10-15mm I think - for face shots!!

I can see why Zeiss keeps things to f2.0 now.

And another thing. Who gives a rats ass whether it is f2 of T2.1? In the end, no one measures light anymore. You dial in what you want on the final image. I no longer care or rarely look at the actual f stop setting, except to get the precise amount of dof that I want for that picture and the proper exposure. I adjust gain, add ND's or filters, adjust the lights or with careful reservation, the shutter speed to achieve the results desired. F stop, T stop, whatever, is a control to getting that perfect shot - whatever it just happens to come to.

It is time to stop being a pixel peeper, gear junkie, a camera 4, 8, 100k! junkie, optician, and simply find the best optics, and shoot like hell and make a good story with brilliant cinematography. These seem to be lost arts and that is where the focus and aperture should be.

May 25, 2012 at 9:09AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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David
" Who gives a rats ass whether it is f2 of T2.1? In the end, no one measures light anymore. You dial in what you want on the final image."
Really? Then you havent had to do special cinematography like green screen, model matching or understand exposure, latitude characteristics while shooting at different ISO ratings on different model digital cameras or codecs that are inter or intra frame. What about MTF of the lenses you are using? THESE are part of brilliant cinematography as well.
How do you know how to set the camera for that great sunrise shot before the sun comes up, or time lapse? What monitor do you evaluate the image on? I certainly hope it is not the one on the camera! Do you use scopes?
Please, I want to know that what I have spent 20 years learning is negated by the "magic" of digital imaging?

Scott

November 16, 2013 at 9:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Scott