The Big Players are coming to join the HDDSLR Party! (PART I)

At the end of 2009,  I predicted two things:

First that Apple was going to release an iPad/iSlate.

My second prediction is that 2010 would be the year of the HDDSLRs – one in which finding their full potential with the help of other partners would lead to incredible developments.

2010 will indeed be seen as the coming of age of HDDSLRs.

Today Zeiss showed the very first “Compact Prime 2″ Cine Lenses that will mount on HDDSLRs.   In fact these are quite versatile in that they come ready to accept both and EL (Canon mount) and PL (Cinema standard) that can be switched on the field w a Tor-X screwdrivers. (Although Zeiss recommends you have them do this.)

I’ve had  chance to get my hands on this series and I immediately fell for them  -  I have also been promised a chance to test them out soon -I’ll be sure to share the test with you on this blog within the next few weeks.

The optical quality is excellent.   More empirical test coming on that soon.   But the main reason pros and advanced filmmakers will flock to this series relate to the ergonomics and practicaliy of using this lens on a just about any production.   You will find that the optics have been re organized in this lens – but that  it will perform very similarly to your ZE set. The main difference is that only the very best optics are chosen for this series vs the ZE lenses.    The second key point is that the aperture blades comprise of 14 blades vs the ZE series with 9 – therefore you can expect a much more beautiful focus falloff..

At this point they are releasing a set of 8 Compact Primes at NAB 2010 and making them available for sale in May.  A set of 6 will retail for less than $20,000.   You can of course buy lenses independently at a higher price.  Zeiss will be making the announcement as to which specific series of lenses they are releasing.

So what’s the big deal?  Well for once this is the first series of PL lenses that Zeiss has produced in history that covers the full 24mX36mm sensor – EVER…

All others covered he Super35mm format…   This is therefore a good long term investment it seems.   This should also put an immediate halt to people removing their mirrors and drilling into their mirror boxes to use these lenses.

Lastly – this is the first lens that I’ve received – that I CANNOT WAIT TO USE!

Why?  My 1st AC/Focus Pullers will love me.   When the lens it says it’s focused a .38 meters – guess what – it is!

Set your marks – and if you and your actor hit their makes – you’re tack sharp.

This cannot unfortunately be said about any Canon EF lenses much to my chagrin.   You should know that those lenses are not mechanically connected to the focusing ring – there is a ultrasonic motor between the focusing ring and the lens groups – ergo lenses are moved around by magnetic forces -not simply by good old friction or gears…  therefore if you take the time to focus on a spot on a EF lens (to mark a spot) – it will not be able to hit that spot consistently over a few tries no matter how careful you are – and that can be exasperating when shooting a narrative with actors of course – not being able to trust your marks.

Over the past 6 months I have ben shooting film/videos with the Zeiss ZEseries for that very reason.   Being able to pull focus with a camera that is in motion is absolutely critical.   And therefore on the Zeiss ZE lenses solve the dilemma.     In fact most of the 1st AC who are pulling projects with me – grumble about the challenges the Canon lenses give them… with the ZE Zeiss – they’re extremely happy.   The irony here of course is that the much more high tech Canon lenses with the world’s best AF, stabilizations and zooms – are being beaten by a 20 year old model of lens… few electronics…no autofocus…no fancy nadda.   I should say that I travel with both sets on jobs that require me to shoot stills – maybe it’s me, maybe it’s my eyes – but I need AF that the Canon EF lenses provide me.   Without the AF my performance is simply too poor.

Therefore – this  new series of “Compact Prime 2″ cine lense series is the real thing for people using to use the Canon HDDSLR systems on more serious video/film productions.    Not only is it built for the cinema wolrld – it also does two thing no one else does or offers to the HDDSLRs – The  “Angle Focus of Rotation” is huge.  What this means is that there is a greater than 300º rotation on the focusing barrel fom macro to infinity… this allows you for much smoother and ACCURATE focusing pull!  The entire area is also carefully marked with detailed distance measurements on the focus ring.  This is something you can’t do on a canon lens where the motion from right to left for going from infinity to macro – is at times 1/2 an inch or less on some lenses…   now you can TRULY follow focus and/or focus like the pros do out there!

Lastly -one nice finishing touch – the focusing rings come complete with mounted focus rings that allow you quickly an easily attache remote focus motors, zoom motors  and even yes… a motor to the APERTURE ring!!!

This will be the firs time you can control the aperture smoothly and remotely via wireless and that is HUGE !

Lastly – Zeiss will be releasing  a lens support that will mount on rods that will better supports the lens – - especially if it has 3 Preston motors working on it wirelessly!

So here is a CLEAR sign to me that the HDDSLR market is coming of age  - and that interest in it is far from waning.   One important note:  These lenses are not initially being released to work on any other HDDSLR system… which is a bit of statement to Canon’s clear lead in this arena…