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Andrew Reid

Cooke factory tour 2020 by Jon Fauer

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

My take is when cameras get cheaper, people are able to spend more on lenses.  That’s better for the consumer because the same amount of money spent will hold its value because it is not spend on some thing disposable like a digital camera body.

The consumer is better off in the long run with $98k in lenses and a $2k camera body than $40k in lenses than $60k in a camera body.

Probably the best solution is $10k for 3 cameras and sound and $90k In lenses, if you can afford it...

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Interesting article and blog post!

 

Many folks prefer the look of vintage lenses with digital sensors.  It's good that Cooke has noticed this trend and reacted to it.  Of course, they are not the only lens manufacturer to come out with brand-new "vintage" lines.

 

It would be great if someone would test the character of the new Cooke "vintage" lenses against that of their old "Xtal Espress" anamorphics.

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I would like simpler lens designs to make a comeback in the cinema world. The large size and complex mechanics of most cinema glass is mainly to prevent breathing and chromatic aberration. Breathing correction accounts for half the size of the Master Primes for example. I find that unless you're shooting for a massive cinema screen, breathing isn't really too much of a problem unless you rack from infinity to close focus on a static shot. If you're shooting with a lot of camera movement, it's barely noticeable at all.  And hell, considering how much is shot on older anamorphics these days, even big-budget blockbusters, breathing is clearly not the issue it used to be.

Also, I disagree with the tact many manufacturers have taken with adding "character" to their lenses after the fact. They build hyper-modern, ultra-sharp lenses and tweak the coatings for more flare and ghosting. The result doesn't look "vintage" to me at all. It's looks like a modern lens with flare superimposed on the image as if it was done in After Effects. Sigma is especially guilty of this. Their "Classics" are duds in my opinion.

The Cooke Classic Panchros are much more successful in this aspect. They actually replicate the small dimensions and steeply curved surfaces of lenses past and the result is much more pleasing. Hell, even their Cooke S4s are practically vintage now, even though they set the standard for cinema glass just 10-15 years ago. Compared to the new Zeiss and Leica glass, their fall-off, vignetting and flaring appear to be from a different era.

I also think that the obsession with fast apertures is driving the direction of lens design towards a clinical direction. Having a lens that's usable but pleasing at T1.4 requires twice the engineering, twice the size and twice the price as one that's T2. It's actually easier to build a lens that's clinically sharp at that stop (and much much easier to build a lens that's useless at that stop) than one that maintains focus while supplying an image with character and charm. See the Leica Summiluxes, Cooke S5is, or Vantage Ones. Previous generations of high speed primes (Zeiss Super Speeds, Canon K35s) were mush wide open.

Basically lens design =

A. Pleasing, vintage-style character

B. Crisp sharpness at WFO

C. Price

Pick only two. You can't have all three.

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4 hours ago, tupp said:

Interesting article and blog post!

 

Many folks prefer the look of vintage lenses with digital sensors.  It's good that Cooke has noticed this trend and reacted to it.  Of course, they are not the only lens manufacturer to come out with brand-new "vintage" lines.

 

It would be great if someone would test the character of the new Cooke "vintage" lenses against that of their old "Xtal Espress" anamorphics.

I played with Xtal Express and Technovision Cookes at my previous job. They have nothing in common with the new Cooke Anamorphics. The Cookes have pin-cushion distortion. The vertical lines bend inward. The older lenses have classic barrel distortion. Also, they were converted from spherical lenses, whereas the modern Cooke Anamorphics are purpose-built. And some of the cylinders are rotated 90 degrees which stretches the image out vertically, in addition to it being squeezed horizontally. They are also fairly consistent from focal length to focal length and color matched. JDCs were notoriously inconsistent.

 

jdc xtal.jpg

20200106_101009.jpg

 

Top one is Zeiss SS. Bottom one is Speed Panchro.

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4 hours ago, BrooklynDan said:

I would like simpler lens designs to make a comeback in the cinema world. The large size and complex mechanics of most cinema glass is mainly to prevent breathing and chromatic aberration. Breathing correction accounts for half the size of the Master Primes for example. I find that unless you're shooting for a massive cinema screen, breathing isn't really too much of a problem unless you rack from infinity to close focus on a static shot. If you're shooting with a lot of camera movement, it's barely noticeable at all.  And hell, considering how much is shot on older anamorphics these days, even big-budget blockbusters, breathing is clearly not the issue it used to be.

Also, I disagree with the tact many manufacturers have taken with adding "character" to their lenses after the fact. They build hyper-modern, ultra-sharp lenses and tweak the coatings for more flare and ghosting. The result doesn't look "vintage" to me at all. It's looks like a modern lens with flare superimposed on the image as if it was done in After Effects. Sigma is especially guilty of this. Their "Classics" are duds in my opinion.

The Cooke Classic Panchros are much more successful in this aspect. They actually replicate the small dimensions and steeply curved surfaces of lenses past and the result is much more pleasing. Hell, even their Cooke S4s are practically vintage now, even though they set the standard for cinema glass just 10-15 years ago. Compared to the new Zeiss and Leica glass, their fall-off, vignetting and flaring appear to be from a different era.

I also think that the obsession with fast apertures is driving the direction of lens design towards a clinical direction. Having a lens that's usable but pleasing at T1.4 requires twice the engineering, twice the size and twice the price as one that's T2. It's actually easier to build a lens that's clinically sharp at that stop (and much much easier to build a lens that's useless at that stop) than one that maintains focus while supplying an image with character and charm. See the Leica Summiluxes, Cooke S5is, or Vantage Ones. Previous generations of high speed primes (Zeiss Super Speeds, Canon K35s) were mush wide open.

Basically lens design =

A. Pleasing, vintage-style character

B. Crisp sharpness at WFO

C. Price

Pick only two. You can't have all three.

What do you mean by steeply curved surfaces? Do you have any examples of this? One thing I have noticed with much older lenses is bubble bokeh, which I've read is the result of over-correcting spherical aberration. Some older designs were discontinued due to the ban on leaded glass, but from what I understand this obstacle is easily overcome.

Also, what lenses would you describe as having a vintage character and being sharp wide open? S5is and Summiluxes? I haven't used them.

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3 hours ago, HockeyFan12 said:

 

Also, what lenses would you describe as having a vintage character and being sharp wide open? S5is and Summiluxes? I haven't used them.

I think the FD L primes with aspheric elements are sharp wide open (in the narrow area that is in focus).   SOME (not all) the Canon K35s are based on the FD L primes (24 1.4, and 85 1.2 and maybe the 50 1.2??)  I think      At least the ones I had were/are sharp wide open (newer lenses are sharper though).    I have the 24 still and the 85 though my 85 still has an issue.

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12 hours ago, HockeyFan12 said:

What do you mean by steeply curved surfaces? Do you have any examples of this? One thing I have noticed with much older lenses is bubble bokeh, which I've read is the result of over-correcting spherical aberration. Some older designs were discontinued due to the ban on leaded glass, but from what I understand this obstacle is easily overcome.

Also, what lenses would you describe as having a vintage character and being sharp wide open? S5is and Summiluxes? I haven't used them.

Previous generations of cinema lenses (Cooke Speed Panchro, Zeiss/Arriflex, Schneider, Kinoptik, etc) used variations on simple double-gauss lens designs with few elements (lens than ten for most focal lengths) and deep meniscus surfaces on the inside. Modern cinema lenses contain many more elements in multiple group with aspherical optics to control aberration. If you have 13 or 14 elements, you don't need to grind them into deep shapes, except for very wide angle lenses.

To use an example from the anamorphic world, one of the reasons why Master Anamorphics are so flat and free of distortion is because the cylinders are spread out throughout the lens, there are more of them, and they have a shorter radius, i.e. curve. Previous generations of anamorphics had three or four steeply curved cylinders at the front of the lens which, while supplying the look we all know and love, also added a considerable amount of distortion and aberration to the optical system.

I think I misspoke a bit when I said "vintage" character. It's a such a catch-all term that it's impossible not to use. What I meant was having a pleasing character, as opposed to clinical boring sharpness. Pleasing character includes flattering skin tones, roundness of faces, smooth bokeh, gentle focus roll-off. Not necessarily vintage traits, but traits we all recognize as being preferred. And it is even more desirable that a lens reproduces these traits while being very sharp wide open, because everybody needs that shallow depth of field to be "cinematic".

My point was that the combination of strong technical quality, fast speed, and pleasing character is the purview of the top dog cinema lenses. Zeiss goes more towards clinical sharpness and neutral color, but Cooke, Leica, Vantage (and pretty soon Angenieux as well) are all very good at supplying fast lenses that look great and don't fall apart. Panavision is the best at this. Their Primos and Primo 70s are amazing glass that's both very sharp and packed with character.

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4 hours ago, BrooklynDan said:

Previous generations of cinema lenses (Cooke Speed Panchro, Zeiss/Arriflex, Schneider, Kinoptik, etc) used variations on simple double-gauss lens designs with few elements (lens than ten for most focal lengths) and deep meniscus surfaces on the inside. Modern cinema lenses contain many more elements in multiple group with aspherical optics to control aberration. If you have 13 or 14 elements, you don't need to grind them into deep shapes, except for very wide angle lenses.

To use an example from the anamorphic world, one of the reasons why Master Anamorphics are so flat and free of distortion is because the cylinders are spread out throughout the lens, there are more of them, and they have a shorter radius, i.e. curve. Previous generations of anamorphics had three or four steeply curved cylinders at the front of the lens which, while supplying the look we all know and love, also added a considerable amount of distortion and aberration to the optical system.

I think I misspoke a bit when I said "vintage" character. It's a such a catch-all term that it's impossible not to use. What I meant was having a pleasing character, as opposed to clinical boring sharpness. Pleasing character includes flattering skin tones, roundness of faces, smooth bokeh, gentle focus roll-off. Not necessarily vintage traits, but traits we all recognize as being preferred. And it is even more desirable that a lens reproduces these traits while being very sharp wide open, because everybody needs that shallow depth of field to be "cinematic".

My point was that the combination of strong technical quality, fast speed, and pleasing character is the purview of the top dog cinema lenses. Zeiss goes more towards clinical sharpness and neutral color, but Cooke, Leica, Vantage (and pretty soon Angenieux as well) are all very good at supplying fast lenses that look great and don't fall apart. Panavision is the best at this. Their Primos and Primo 70s are amazing glass that's both very sharp and packed with character.

Aren't Primos nearly a stop slower than Sigma Art, though? With much less coverage? And less sharp wide open?

Your answer makes sense to me, I think the issue is that "pleasing character" is such an ill-defined catch all. Shane Hurlbut I think defined his preference for S4s over Rokinons in terms of the S4s have more barrel distortion and softer edges, but then the Cooke anamorphics have pincushion distortion and have sharper corners than most competitors, so how do you sell something so hard to define?

Have you tried Signature Primes? I haven't but Arri seems to be selling them on the basis of look rather than sharpness and again it's not so clear what they mean. They've got this A/B comparison of a 75mm signature prime with an 85mm ultra prime I'm guessing and the biggest difference I can see is of course the face is rounder at a shorter focal length. And are you even sure not falling apart is desirable? K35s and Cookes seem so popular in part because they do fall apart. I suppose that's a pretty strong look, though, more intended for indies and music videos.

I think it all speaks to the divide between marketing and what actually looks good. Netflix is pushing for 4k but I fully expect the 4k Alexa to look worse than the current 2.8k model. 

Have you tried any Kinoptik primes btw? I've only used the infamous Tegea but there are all these really expensive Astro Berlin and Kinoptik lenses on eBay that I know next to nothing about.

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40 minutes ago, thebrothersthre3 said:

Why do you think this?

Just personal preference. I prefer the look of the 3.2k and 2.8k Alexa to the Alexa 65 and Alexa LF, it seems more organic and has more texture and I think that's part of the reason vintage lenses are so popular on the 65.

And features I watch that were shot at 2.8K look better to me than my own 4k+ footage (pretty obviously). But when I worked in post with a variety of cameras the Alexa footage always looked so much better than the F55 and Epic footage to me, too. It's just got a smoother look to it and the texture is smooth and looks more organic and more like film so even if the shadows are noisy it's a good look, and when you lose that texture it either looks more digital or more plastic to me. I know other people who feel this way, but I know a lot of people don't. It could be fine. The Gemini and Black Magic stuff doesn't look too bad to me, presumably since it's not over-sharpened. Oddly, Alexa ProRes is sharpened by default so who knows. Maybe it's the low frequency sharpening on Alexa footage that I like, but I dislike the edge enhancement on a drone or iPhone or something. I can't say for sure, just speculate. But when you capture too much fine detail it looks worse to me.

There's an interview with the DP on the Crown where he goes through all the steps he took to make the F55 look more organic. He wanted to use an Alexa but he wasn't allowed to. I guess I can relate to that. It's just personal preference. I really like the look of S16 and 2-perf S35. I like a more painterly image, I was more into Kaminski than Deakins. I like high speed film when I shoot stills. But I also want the texture to look good. I think it's also sort of a running gag, they keep delaying it and the joke among Alexa fanatics is they're delaying it because the 2.8k is already so good.

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I have to say, so far my Aivascope 1.75X MKII/Focuser-8 combo is performing in a manner that has me considering it as being criminally underrated. I know it’s not an Iscorama “clone” AFAIK, but their 1.5X I would assume is just as good as their other lens. I’m grabbing the Aivascope instead of my Kowa 16-H these days, and that’s saying something.

Im laying low for a couple more years. Vazen is on the verge of greatness... the 40mm was a good foray, but the revised focus method in the 28mm is on par with other anamorphics that have significantly higher price tags. If they can do a S35 line of lenses with those mechanics, it will be tough to say no. They do need to take Andrew’s advice on coatings though. Their lenses render a bit modern to my eyes. I think it’s a coating/color/contrast issue. The optical rendering (bokeh etc) is very pleasing.

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The Aivascope and Vazen are very pricey though. I don't particularly rate the image from either. Too clinical and doesn't have the mojo of the classic anamorphic lenses from 70's and 80's.

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17 hours ago, HockeyFan12 said:

Just personal preference. I prefer the look of the 3.2k and 2.8k Alexa to the Alexa 65 and Alexa LF, it seems more organic and has more texture and I think that's part of the reason vintage lenses are so popular on the 65.

And features I watch that were shot at 2.8K look better to me than my own 4k+ footage (pretty obviously). But when I worked in post with a variety of cameras the Alexa footage always looked so much better than the F55 and Epic footage to me, too. It's just got a smoother look to it and the texture is smooth and looks more organic and more like film so even if the shadows are noisy it's a good look, and when you lose that texture it either looks more digital or more plastic to me. I know other people who feel this way, but I know a lot of people don't. It could be fine. The Gemini and Black Magic stuff doesn't look too bad to me, presumably since it's not over-sharpened. Oddly, Alexa ProRes is sharpened by default so who knows. Maybe it's the low frequency sharpening on Alexa footage that I like, but I dislike the edge enhancement on a drone or iPhone or something. I can't say for sure, just speculate. But when you capture too much fine detail it looks worse to me.

There's an interview with the DP on the Crown where he goes through all the steps he took to make the F55 look more organic. He wanted to use an Alexa but he wasn't allowed to. I guess I can relate to that. It's just personal preference. I really like the look of S16 and 2-perf S35. I like a more painterly image, I was more into Kaminski than Deakins. I like high speed film when I shoot stills. But I also want the texture to look good. I think it's also sort of a running gag, they keep delaying it and the joke among Alexa fanatics is they're delaying it because the 2.8k is already so good.

I found a super 16mm film camera and Cine Arri Xenon lens...Wow!

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9 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

The Aivascope and Vazen are very pricey though. I don't particularly rate the image from either. Too clinical and doesn't have the mojo of the classic anamorphic lenses from 70's and 80's.

I think that both the Aivascope and the Vazen are fantastic value for money. The Aivascope in particular is the closest thing we will see to an Iscorama this century.

That 70s/80s mojo is not going to come to consumer-level glass, ever. Contrary to popular belief, it's not just in the coatings, it's also due to the shape of the glass, something that modern, mass-produced, computer-designed glass simply cannot easily replicate. The actual examples of vintage glass that I posted above were hand-ground in limited qualities by master opticians and were (and and still are) extravagantly expensive.

Even the Atlas lenses, which are $8K a piece and are marketed as having an old school look are missing a little warmth in my eyes. The reborn Kowas by P+S Technik are a little closer on the money, but come with a load of distortion. It's very hard to isolate the good and eliminate the bad, which is why Panavision and Hawk glass costs what it does.

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40 minutes ago, BrooklynDan said:

I think that both the Aivascope and the Vazen are fantastic value for money. The Aivascope in particular is the closest thing we will see to an Iscorama this century.

I admire them for trying, problem is a Bolex Moller or Kowa 8Z + Rapido FVD costs about $1000-$1500 and looks better.

Quote

That 70s/80s mojo is not going to come to consumer-level glass, ever.

We're only 20 years into this century, I am sure we can figure out how to make a 1970's anamorphic lens. Even computer aided optics design, surely can mimic just about anything.

Andrew of SLR Magic told me the cemented elements are the main issue. They tend to seperate. Not good for a lens that needs to be thrown around over many years or even rented out daily.

Quote

Contrary to popular belief, it's not just in the coatings, it's also due to the shape of the glass, something that modern, mass-produced, computer-designed glass simply cannot easily replicate. The actual examples of vintage glass that I posted above were hand-ground in limited qualities by master opticians and were (and and still are) extravagantly expensive.

Even the Atlas lenses, which are $8K a piece and are marketed as having an old school look are missing a little warmth in my eyes. The reborn Kowas by P+S Technik are a little closer on the money, but come with a load of distortion. It's very hard to isolate the good and eliminate the bad, which is why Panavision and Hawk glass costs what it does.

I should get the LOMO out and have a play with that again. Closest to HAWK you can get for the money, even with today's inflated prices due to such rarity.

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28 minutes ago, Andrew Reid said:

We're only 20 years into this century, I am sure we can figure out how to make a 1970's anamorphic lens. Even computer aided optics design, surely can mimic just about anything.

No idea if (Herr Doktor) Horst Linge (Isco) is still on active. Passed more than a decade since last time I've heard from him on topic. Schneider is though, so I don't think it's something impossible to achieve.

- E.

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16 minutes ago, Andrew Reid said:

I should get the LOMO out and have a play with that again. Closest to HAWK you can get for the money, even with today's inflated prices due to such rarity.

Speaking of Lomos, there's a guy who did a group buy on Reduser for newly manufactured front elements for the 35mm Squarefront. Once he got enough people to commit, he got a Russian lens factory to do a run. He was quoting around $2000 a piece. Now let's say that you wanted to mass produce Lomos again. The squarefront has four cylindrical elements in 2 groups. Let's figure $1,500 per element since the higher the number, the lower the piece. That's $6K just in anamorphic glass. Add another grand for a simple spherical group in the back. The original was a copy of a Zeiss Distagon. Plus a rugged housing with synchronized dual focus mechanics in PL mount. Van Diemen Optics quotes 6300 pounds for a squarefront housing. Let's just call it $4K which is the lowest conceivable sum for a sturdy lens barrel with two different focus movements. That's $11,000 for a brand new Lomo Squarefront, and I'm being extremely conservative here. And you're still getting a lens with poor close focus, severe breathing, mumping and considerable falloff on the sides. Multiply by three for a complete set of 35mm, 50mm and 80mm lenses and that's $33,000. Now how much is a set of used Squarefronts these days?

The economics of anamorphic at work.

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One interesting aspect of the modern budget anamorphics is the sort of "caricature" look. For example I've seen loads of SLR Rangefinder clips that show s sort of comically saturated blue flare that looks much worse than a good post-production flare plug-in, like Optical Flare.

I've also seen Aivascope clips where the sides are SO distorted it goes beyond charming retro and into a sort of parody of anamorphic distortion. even on a 50mm taking lens that'd look great with an Iscorama for example.

This happened in the pro audio world too. The early emulations of analogue tape (both software and hardware) were really exaggerated cartoonish ones that were far more than people wanted. As the years have gone on the emulations are now stunning, far better than a decade ago. They still aren't made as well really, build quality never returns it seems, but the final result is close enough as to not matter to the end user. And when all is said and done it's the experience of the final consumer that is important.

I wonder if lenses may go this way too.

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With computational photography, the look can be faked quite well even on an iPhone camera. So I am wondering in the future if AI will make anamorphic optics obsolete and we'll all be shooting spherical with a depth map.

Until then better keep hold of my vintage glass by the sounds of it :)

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