It's the most amazing franchise of the last 20 years. Possessor of some of the most grounded and over-the-top action of any film series. Multicultural without feeling like it tokenizes anyone.

There are a lot of things you can say about theFast & Furious franchise, but one that also deserves attention is that it creates a real document of how we have shot movies for the last 20 years, taking us through the transition from film to digital in a way that felt seamless.

Let's look at each film and how its cinematography evolved.


Shot by Ericson Core, the first Fast & Furious movie from 2001 was in many ways more a technical reflection of 1990s cinematography than what was to come.

Shot on the Moviecam Compact and SL, with a 435 for off-speed shooting, it used Ultra Primes, the then top-of-the-line cinema glass from Zeiss.

This is before the Master Primes would come out in 2005, so this was state of the art for Zeiss at the time. 

The biggest hallmark of the time, though, is the film stocks they shot. Kodak had started rolling out the Vision lineup, which we associate more with the films of the 2000s and up to today (5219, Vision3 500T, is the most recent release and likely the last major revision of a film stock Kodak rolled out), but we're still on Vision 5279, the first of the 500T Vision stocks, which is likely what a lot of the night scenes were shot on. 

You can see it in the distinct look of the night chase scenes, which feel more 90s than 2000s. They also used 5245, the older EXR slow daylight stock, which would soon be replaced with 5201, which likely also led to the palette.

If you look at the way the BTS looks you can see clear indications of the 90s hallmarks of the film, including blown-out highlights in the day exteriors getting colored a bright orange (photochemically, of course, this is pre-DI) and the gritty high contrast night exteriors.

Also, check out the very period-specific CGI getting you inside the feeling of the engine.

2 FAST 2 FURIOUS (2003)

The film that launched the amazing naming convention for the serious (no "The Fast & The Furious 2" for this franchise) and shot by a new DP, Matthew Leonetti, kept with the same camera bodies and film stocks, relying on a mix of EXR and Vision, though taking advantage of the newer 320T 5277 and 200T 5274T in addition to the 79 for night work.

The biggest shift with 2 Fast 2 Furious is from Zeiss Ultra Primes to Cooke S4s. The Zeiss lenses have always been notoriously both sharp and a little bit cool, while the Cooke lenses are a bit softer, creamier, and a hair warmer in their look.

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The decision to go for S4's on this project is an interesting one; the Ultra Primes were known for action films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, while the S4's were known for romance and drama like The Cider House Rules. The softer "Cooke Look" is undeniable in shots like this one, with flattering skin tones and a bit of "creaminess" even to the in-focus parts of frame, clearly different from the sharper feeling of Zeiss Glass.

It's possible that the thinking was that, since we were moving to a fresh location, and without Vin Diesel, a new look would help have its own feeling.

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With the third entry in the franchise, director Justin Lin, who is arguably the genius behind so much of the life of the series, took over and brought along cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, who would go on to become the staple DP of the series.

Alongside the new team at the top is an entirely new camera platform: Panavision.

Panavision cameras and lenses work best together, and we see this production move over to Primo lenses, a Panavision Millenium body, and Panavised ARRI 235 and 435 bodies for handheld and special effects work.

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Panavision is known for making some of the best, sharpest, clearest glass in the world, and that look can definitely be seen in the crisp imagery of the film.

It also moved the franchise onto Vision 2 5218, the first Kodak stock really designed with digital finish in mind.

Another major thing to note is that this is the first film in the series to use a digital intermediate for finishing. Considering the extensive night work and highly saturated colors, having access to a full suite of noise correction and selective color control tools opened up a whole new palette unavailable before.

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For the fourth installment, we have the first time we are repeating a director (Lin), but another fresh DP, Amir Mokri.

Technology moved along as we see the team stick with the Panavision lenses from the last installment, but expand their palette of film stock choices, including the ultra-fine grain 5201 50D and the Vision3 5219 500T, a fast, crisp, punch stock that remains popular to this day.

This is really the film where you start to see the "look" evolve into something that feels more modern and contemporary. While even Tokyo Drift feels a bit like it's from another time, Fast & Furious manages to be the start of the films feeling "contemporary."

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FAST FIVE (2011)

Arguably the pinnacle of the series, and a great place to start if you haven't seen any of the previous films, director Lin stuck with the franchise for the third time.

Cinematographer Stephen F. Windon returns, sticking with Panavision lenses and sticking mainly to the stocks used on Fast & Furious—5201 and 5219, with the 01 being great for ultra-fine grained daytime work and the 19 being amazing in low light settings.

These two films are the most consistent film to film, which is interesting considering the two separate DPs making the decisions between the two productions.

Shooting in 2.35x1, you can really see the combination of a cool color palette and muted flesh tones starting to come into its own, along with wider latitude stocks that don't leave night scenes feeling quite so "crunchy."

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FAST 6 (2013)

Fast 6, along with Fast Five, remains at the top of the list for films in this series.

Lin directs for the fourth time and continues to outdo himself, with amazing action sequences and well-integrated plotting that make the franchise work.

Interestingly, after three films on Panavision, Fast 6 moves back to Arriflex, with the Arricam LT.

This is in some ways a return to form, since the Arricam LT is a descendant of the Moviecam Compact that was originally used to shoot the first film.

In addition, they return to Zeiss Ultra Prime lenses (with Angenieux Optimo zoom lenses), the same glass as the original film, even though at this point we're several years into the Master Prime era. 

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FURIOUS 7 (2015)

Lin stepped away, and director James Wan took over with Furious 7, but cinematographer Stephen F. Windon continued, sharing responsibility with Marc Spicer, a frequent second unit DP at the time.

Just looking at the image above you can see how far the imagery has come. Now the cameras have the latitude to hold detail in the sky, it no longer needs to be clipped out and driven to a color to have a "look," like was required for the exterior scenes in the first film 14 years earlier, shooting on contrastier 1990s film stocks.

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The big change at this point is the move to digital capture with the ARRI Alexa being the main platform. This is actually a relatively late move, with digital already being a frequent and almost default capture platform by 2015 for many high-end productions.

Lensing is all over the map, a mix of Panavision Primo, Zeiss Ultra Primes, first for the series Zeiss Master Primes, and Fujinon Alura and Angenieux Optimo zooms. 

There is still some film in there, running through a 35-III likely for slow-motion and action work, with two daylight Vision3 stocks, 50D 5203 and 250D 5207, making it most likely only for daytime stunt work.

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Windon continues his streak, shooting his fifth film in the series, this time teamed with F. Gary Gray. 

This is another film shot on Alexa, with a return of the Zeiss Ultra Primes (the real consistent factor in the series), combined with Fujinon Cabrio zooms, and of course, those beautiful Optimos.

The major shift here is that there doesn't appear to be film shot at all, with instead RED and Blackmagic Micro cameras used for stunt, action, and slow-motion work.

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F9: THE FAST SAGA (2021)

Lin reteamed with Windon (shooting his sixth project in the Fast universe), getting the dream team back together, for F9.

While Lin/Windon Fast films have been shot on a variety of platforms, they returned to the format of their peak period together (films five and six) and took the platform back to Panavision Primo lenses. 

This is particularly interesting since Panavision has largely started pushing other lenses and their newer DXL and DXL2 camera bodies with their full-frame sensors. But F9 is still shot in Super35mm format on Alexa and Panavision Millennium XL bodies.

By covering the transition from pure-film to pure digital capture, the Fast franchise is a great ride through one of the biggest shifts in the history of how images are captured for film.

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What have you learned from the cinematography of these films? Leave your thoughts in the comments.