The Agony Of Choice – Vintage/Modern Lens Shootout

Daniel Bichler and I created a unique lens shootout between modern glass and famous vintage lenses, shot on our RED DSMC2 MONSTRO 8K VV camera.

As a cinematographer nowadays you have hundreds of lens options when creating your work, it’s hard to choose the “right“ one.

We have made a lot of films on Zeiss lenses (Otus, Supreme, etc.) during the last two years – they are sharp, they are clean and there is no doubting that they are good lenses. But after several projects we got to this point where we wanted to create more artificial, more creative work. We wanted to become more unique – and I think, that’s what every cinematographer wants today.

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So, we researched what other lens options we have out there. On the one hand, there is a lot of old still glass, vintage lenses like the Leica R and Mamiya 645. On the other hand, many lens manufacturers like Canon are also stepping into this game and bringing out new lenses like the new Canon Sumire Primes, which have more character than their cleaner CN-E primes.

When we found out about the really cheap Mamiya 645 lenses, we thought about this and said, “How cool would it be to adapt medium format lenses to our RED Monstro 8K VV with a Speedbooster?“

Immediately a friend of ours, Billy Gropper, told us he had those lenses at home, but he had never tried them out. So, we ordered a Kipon Speedbooster for our RED Monstro, created a small WhatsApp-Group and got really excited about shooting on medium format lenses.

As we were planning our test we somehow got in contact with even more friends and DP’s who had interesting lenses themselves or at least experience with some rare glass.

This is how our lens test got bigger and even more interesting. We had lots of DP’s and friends joining us, for example, David Kellermann and Viola Evang with their all-new Full Frame GLASWERK One Anamorphic Prototypes.

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About a week before the test we have heard about the new Canon Sumire Primes, so we got in contact with Canon Germany. We had only a few days left, but they were still able to send us a set of their brand-new Primes.

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Finally, it was test day. We built a small set in our office to provide a constant lighting condition for each lens. With a group of around 12 people, we started to shoot this test. We started very early in the morning and ended up finishing around midnight.

Tested Lenses

  • TOKINA CINEMA VISTA
  • CANON SUMIRE PRIME
  • GLASWERK ONE Prototype
  • GLASWERK ONE + Prototype
  • LOMO SQUARE FRONT
  • P+S EVOLUTION
  • CLAVIUS LENSES (With 2X Oval Insert)
  • CLAVIUS LENSES
  • LEICA R
  • ZEISS OTUS
  • MAMIYA SEKOR C 645
  • CANON FD
  • NIKON AIS
  • SCHNEIDER XENON FF-PRIMES
  • ARRI ZEISS STANDARD SPEED
  • KOWA 16H
  • SIGMA FF

It was really interesting to see how all the lenses performed. The lenses characteristics were sometimes pretty similar, sometimes unique and sometimes completely different.

As we tested the older vintage glass, it was even more interesting to see how they cover the full-frame sensor.

We were really surprised by how good the old Leica R glass performs compared to the other lenses. The Mamiya’s do also have their own unique look and feel to them.

From the more modern lenses we really liked the Tokina Vista Primes, but also found the Schneider Kreuznach Xenon FF Primes interesting. The Xenon lenses had a really special rainbow-flare, which no other lens had.

In conclusion, we would say it was an amazing experience to get this lens test done. It was also very interesting to see how some vintage lenses compare to newer modern glass.

More than anything, this test definitely makes it easier for us to choose the right lens for our upcoming projects. And ultimately that’s why we wanted to share this test with as many people as possible.

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