In the past few weeks we've talked multiple times about high-end cinema lenses. First, we shared a brief comparison of the Zeiss Compact Zooms and Arri-Zeiss Ultra/Master Primes. Then last week, we talked about Cooke lenses and why the "Cooke Look" is so desirable to filmmakers. However, there's one major brand of high-end cinema lenses that hasn't gotten much NFS love yet, and that brand is Panavision. That trend is about to change, though, because Panavision just released their Primo V series of lenses, which just so happen to be the first cinema lenses designed specifically for large sensor, high-resolution digital cinema cameras. Read on to see what these lenses are all about.
Even though Cooke S5's and Arri-Zeiss Master Primes are about as top of the line as cinema lenses can get (they all cost more than my car), Panavision glass has been the gold standard for cinema glass since the late 1950's. Their various sets of both spherical and anamorphic lenses have been used on many of the greatest films of all time, and the Primo line of lenses has even won an Academy Award for technical excellence.
Despite the fact that Panavision equipment isn't as widely used throughout the industry as it once was, the company is still pushing the limits of filmmaking technology. They're currently working on a prototype of a digital 70mm cinema camera, and they released their brand spanking new line of digital cinema lenses, the Primo V's. Here's what sets these lenses apart from the competition (from Panavision's press release):
The Primo V lenses are designed to bring the look and feel of Panavision Primos to digital cinematography, using the lens elements from existing Primo lenses, long an industry standard for top cinematographers. Primo V lenses take advantage of specific design adaptations to work in harmony with digital cameras, maximizing image quality while delivering Primo quality and character.
Digital cameras require additional optical elements including low-pass and IR filters that increase off-axis aberrations. Primo V lenses have been re-engineered to correct for this. Patent pending modifications eliminate the coma, astigmatism, and other aberrations introduced by the additional glass between the lens and the sensor, while preserving the desirable imaging characteristics of the Primo optics. The resulting image appears more balanced center-to-edge.
Over the past few years, many lenses have been marketed as being digital cinema lenses, without there really being any significant differences from traditional lenses. To my knowledge, the Panavision Primo V's are really the first lenses to be made with both the advantages and limitations of digital sensors in mind. Through compensating for the additional optical elements that are built directly into most digital cinema cameras (like optical low pass filters), these lenses achieve pure optical perfection, or at least something close to it.
Of course, the optical differences between these and the traditional Primos could very well be negligible to the naked eye, so it would be wise to shoot some tests if you're considering renting out a set of these for your next production.
The full set of Primo V primes will include 14.5, 17.5, 21, 27, 35, 40, 50, 75, and 100mm focal lengths. You can read more about these lenses in the Panavision press release, and you can see their exact specs in this nifty pdf.
What do you guys think of the Panavision Primo V's? Do you see any reason to choose lenses specifically designed for digital cameras over traditionally designed lenses? Do you think that more manufacturers will follow suit with their own lines of digital-only lenses? Let us know in the comments!