Looking for a good zoom lens for the Sony F series Cameras that doesn’t cost the earth!
I have been looking for a good set of zoom lenses to use with the Sony F5 & F55 for sometime now. I love my Canon Cine Prime lenses & also my Canon EF L zoom lenses, but sometimes it’s just not convenient to use prime lenses and if I’m working on a Sony F5 or F55 you always have to use an expensive third party adapter or a fader ND with the Canon EF zoom lenses as the Sony F series cameras can’t control the lenses iris without additional equipment due to the fact that EF lenses have an internal iris.
I have done a bit of research in to available options for zoom lenses on F cameras & it seems your options are:
1 – PL mount lenses: These are very expensive but the best quality lenses money can buy. New releases like the Canon 17 – 120 ENG style lens or the Fujinon Cabrio’s have been specially made for the new batch of super 35mm HD cameras.
2 – B4 mount lenses: Add an expensive adapter to your F camera & you can have the joy of a B4 2/3rd inch lens Great for news, documentaries all sorts. Beware not all B4 to FZ adapters are equal! Always worth testing 1st.
3 – Nikon stills zoom lenses: Great quality but for me they focus & zoom the wrong way round. They also require an adapter & have a funny iris ring IMO.
4 – Canon EF- L stills zoom lenses: Great quality but once again they need an expensive electronic adapter to operate the iris or a fader ND which means you have the lens locked open at it’s maximum aperture but you just twist the ND to suit your exposure requirements. IMO Not ideal I don’t want everything at F2.8!
5 – Sony ENG zoom lenses: These aren’t as popular as they probably should be. I think it’s because they’re not a fixed constant aperture through out the range of the lens & also to a certain extent because of lens snobbery!They are not that cheap either.
6 – Canon FD stills zoom lenses: Before Canon made the auto focus Ef fit lenses that we know these days they used to make manual focus lenses called FD lenses. The FD lens are a fully manual lens with an external aperture, focus & zoom. The issue though is that the Aperture on the lens is Clicked for photography purposes, so a photographer would set the aperture and it wouldn’t shift. The FD part of the name pertains to the mount on the back of the lens. So I always ruled this option out until I came accross http://www.thelensdoctor.co.uk Eddie ( The lens Doctor) is a ex Canon lens technician who has a passion for the glass! He now removes the Old Canon FD mount and machines and adds an EF mount to the lenses and declicks the aperture. The mount he adds is a non electronic version of the EF mount. Why is this so important you may ask. Well, when filming you sometimes need to move the aperture during the shot or take depending on the circumstances. Maybe the sun came out or your panning from a dark area in a scene to a bright area. An exposure pull. The skill is to make that exposure pull without the viewer noticing the exposure pull! So to make this happen you need a smooth aperture ring and not a click stopped ring.
So I recently bought three lenses from Eddie the Canon FD 20 – 35mm , 35 – 105mm & a 70 – 210mm and I also bought from ebay an EF to FZ mount. The mount is so that I can fit these lenses fit onto the Sony F5 or F55 cameras. I bought a dumb mount as the lens doesn’t have any electronics to speak to the camera so you don’t need an expensive electronic mount.
Canon FD lenses were built to cover a full 35mm frame so if you use them on a C300 or other Super 35mm sensor camera you’ll need to add a magnification factor of X 1.53. I find the easiest way to do this on location is to half the focal distance and then add it. So roughly speaking a 50mm lens will have the field of view of a 75mm lens ( Actual is 76.5mm but that’s being picky!) but the depth of field characteristics will be the same as the original lens in this case the 50mm.
I have been using them very happily on my C300 & also my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with a speed booster (once again you don’t need the expensive speed booster as they have an external aperture). My first thoughts are how lovely it is to use these lenses with their external aperture & the fact that they seem to be parfocal. They hold their focus through out the zoom range. Also that they are a bit softer on skin tones than newer lenses. The colour rendition on them seems to be good and they feel fairly warm. Once again good for skin tones But I have noticed that they are a little bit more susceptible to lens flare or ambient flare, so for me I’ll always use these lenses with a matte box. I have a Genus matte box that goes really well with the size of theses lenses & has two filter trays.
Today I got to have a look at these lenses in comparison to the Angenieux 30 – 80mm Optimo DP zoom lens. This is an £18000 cine style lens. I shot the footage that I have linked to on this post of a test card at Shooting Partners ( http://www.shooting-partners.co.uk/) it was a quick look and the F5 was set to Gamma table STD5 and XAVC codec 1920 x 1080 25p. I white balanced the camera & the ambient light was at about F8.
When I compare the two lenses what I see is that the Optimo lens is very sharp with good resolution and colour rendition but so is the Canon FD 35-105mm lens. Ok maybe not as sharp as the Optimo but this is an £18000 lens against a £300 lens! In my opinion I like to have softer skin tones it flatters your presenters, actors or any person standing in front of the lens! We talk about sharpness so much these days but I think that there is a difference and a confusion as most people will talk about sharpness and really mean focus, as in “is it in focus?” But what I’m talking about is that these FD lenses have a lovely glow and softness to them and the subject is fully in focus! The FD lenses don’t resolve the image at the same level as the Optimo but this adds to the lovely feel of the lens and to me that means being able to be more creative and hopefully be able to evoke more emotion when it’s required.
I’m really pleased with this set of zoom lenses and I know that they will come in really useful for all sorts of work from interviews to cookery shows or even drama,commercials & pop promos. I’m really looking forward to shooting some fashion stuff with them with a low back lit sun! (sorry getting carried away :-)
They can be used on any camera that will take an EF mount so all Canon HDSLR’s, EOS C cameras, Red, Sony F cameras, Blackmagic camera’s, AJA CION and even the Arri Amira.
Are they 4K? I doubt it, but I’ll cross that bridge when someone asks me to shoot 4K and I’ll use my Cine primes (which are 4K) or hire in a PL mount zoom lenses, if that’s what’s required. Saying this though they may well suit the 4K job that happens to come in at that time. Just because it’s “4K” doesn’t mean it needs to be shot on the most expensive lenses. As the Cameraman you should use the correct tool for the job. If there good enough to shoot 18 megapixel Raw stills I’m sure they can handle a bit of 4K!!
I shot this recently in the back garden using the Canon C300 with the Canon 70-210mm FD lens with 2 x optical doublers which given the magnification factor of the C300 is 1.53 x the lens worked out as a 1285mm F16 lens. Whilst the sun was going down. I used the wide dynamic range custom picture profile. I just thought you may like to see it. I really like the crazy lens flare shots, so many different colours. :-)