Recently, Fujifilm released a unique piece of technology that took the best of modern box lenses and combined them with technology found in the cinema world.

We’re talking about the Fujinon HZK 25-1000mm box lens. This massive piece of glass covers Full Frame and Super 35 sensors, fits on any camera with a PL mount, and features an astounding 40x zoom range. We wrote about it not too long ago and covered reasons why such a tool was created

Recently, I had a chance to chat with cinematographer Daniel Pearl, who use this lens to film the 2022 Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas To All, a live event CBS Christmas special that streamed via Paramount+ on December 20th, 2022. Here’s what I discovered.

Incredibly Powerful

This wasn’t the first time Pearl shot a concert or the first time for Mariah Carey. Depending on the production and its needs, Pearl would sometimes shoot on film using cinema glass and even broadcast gear that was meant for a hockey game for his live shows.

“Nowadays, because of full frame formats, etc. and, you know, higher resolution television… the caption medium goes through inflation,” Pearl said. Producers and clients are just “not happy to shoot with a half-inch sensor.”

Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas To All'Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas To All'Credit: CBS

With image sensors growing in size and clients demanding their productions keep up with this image inflation, finding the right tools wasn’t clear cut. How do you achieve a close-up on a full-frame or Super 35 image sensor when you’re hundreds of feet from the stage?

“They want the full-size sensor,” Pearl continued, “and the term cinematic is thrown around.” 

This is where Fuji stepped in and gave Pearl the HZK 25-1000mm box lens to utilize as he saw fit, which created a lot of opportunities with its larger sensor coverage and wide aperture. 

What FUJINON 25-1000mm F2.8-5.0 Full-Frame Box Cinema Lens footage looks likeFUJINON 25-1000mm F2.8-5.0 Full-Frame box cinema lensCredit: Fujifilm

“That's what this lens is, it truly is a cinematic lens,” Pearl explained when talking about his conversations with Fujifilm. To get that massive range, a traditional cinema lens would have weighed three times as much as the box lens. But in the new form factor, using the technology developed for broadcast sensors, the new piece of glass achieved things regular cinema lenses just couldn’t. 

“There's not much weight,” Pearl explained. Even with all the glass and mechanisms, the box design allowed for the massive focal length to fit anywhere. “They had it on a crane a couple of weeks ago, so it is possible to balance this lens and use it in almost any situation.”

Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas To All! Close upA close up from 146 feet awayCredit: CBS

But that’s not all. Pearl explained to me that when shooting the new Christmas Special for Mariah Carey, the camera was 146 feet away. “It's the furthest away camera on the floor and shooting her close up,” Pearl explained. 

Not only was the range impressive, but also its sharpness and image stabilization. “Everybody’s jumping up and down to the music, and to pick up a little something, even just to operate on a very long lens,” was not only doable, according to Pearl, but produced incredible results. 

Pairing Glass to Sensor

The whole Christmas Special was shot in several sessions. Initially, a pair of Sony Venice cinema cameras were used with a mix of the Fujinon 25-300mm T3.5 and Fujinon 75-400mm T2.8. While later sessions included early production units of the Sony FR7 and a series of Sony HDC-F5500s, which also carry a Super 35 sensor and output in the now standard 4K.

Sony FR7The Sony FR7 PTZ cameraCredit: Sony

But when it was time to capture a close-up without any obstruction, Pearl needed reach. That is where the Fujinon HZK 25-1000mm box lens came in. He could put that dead center away from the sound booth. With that camera being so high, it could overcome any obstruction and allow tight close-ups even from over a hundred feet away. 

“Then I have the very long lens, the 25 to 1000, actually physically behind [the sound booth], further away from Mariah than they are,” Pearl said. 

Sony HDC-F5500Sony HDC-F5500 4K w/ PL MountCredit: Sony

Matched with the sensitivity of the Sony camera, Pearl and his team could achieve the cinematic images they were after using the wide aperture of the Fuji’s new box lens. “It’s quite incredible,” Pearl said.

Without this tool, Pearl would have had to rely on super fast primes set to a long focal length of 800mm or 1000mm.

Incredibly Niche?

In several days, Pearl was able to achieve a look that wasn’t always possible from a distance that was unheard of for a zoom lens. 

So, we should all go out and buy this new box lens, right? Well, no.

As with all incredible tools, this one is just as niche and with a price tag to match. A $330,000 price tag, according to Pearl, with some sources saying it’ll cost $245,000.

The high price doesn’t mean that we should also ignore it. For the right job or project, renting one can make a difference in what type of images you can create. Because of its sensor coverage and PL mount, this lens could (and should) find a home in narrative projects as well. 

Pearl also happens to agree. “Camera equipment tends to rent at 1/100 of its cost. That would make that a $2,500-a-day lens," Pearl explained. "Well, not everybody's going to be able to go for that, but at the same time, certain shots can be made only with this lens. The lens will start being used on features. There's no reason that can't be used on features.”

But what do you think? Would you utilize this massive zoom range for a film?

Let us know in the comments!