Filmmakers, take heed: the Leitz Cine Primes and Zooms are sharp, with natural-looking bokeh and round, out-of-focus highlights, and they cover VistaVision. Lenses, not diamonds—it is lenses that are forever, or at least a long time—provided you get the right one. Even in this digital age, with new sensors and new cameras coming fast and furious, your lens investment can outlast the most recent camera. The lens that you choose to take your images affects the light that passes through it before finally striking the sensor. The lens you choose can put its own aesthetic stamp on the image, or it can deliver a generic so-so image without crispness or character. The question is: what lens are you looking for?
Why is the frame coverage significant? Why spend your hard-earned cash on a lens that covers such a large frame size? Because this is an investment, not a whim. Sure, small and light is great, and in some ways, it is easier making a lens that covers a smaller sensor; easier and cheaper. But what happens when your next job involves a camera with a larger sensor? Are you going to invest in new glass? I’m not expecting someone to choose a lens because they can use it on other projects, though that is a sound economic consideration. Once you’ve moved beyond your basic camera package and it is time to consider the lenses, the cost/value equation starts to change.
A Brief History
Leitz is a still-lens manufacturer, of some renown, but it has been involved in lenses for motion picture and video work for about two decades, if not more. Panasonic has been using Leitz Dicomar lenses in its camcorders for years. It was first noticeable with the DVX100, in 2003, and I know that Canada Leitz glass was being used in Panavision lenses long before that. The Leitz Cine Primes are a natural development following the Summicron-C lenses designed for the Super35mm format, but with an image circle of 46.5 mm the Cine Primes coverVistaVision, making it suitable for cameras with full-frame sensors.
Design and Image
These lenses are robust and built to exacting tolerances. The Cine Primes consist of 12 lenses covering focal lengths from 18 to 180mm. The prime set provides small incremental steps between the shorter focal lengths, great for framing in tight spaces, as well as for creative choices. All the primes in the set feature a 114mm diameter lens front, and share the same focus and iris gear position, for fast lens swaps. The 21, 25, 29, 35, 40, 50, 65, 75, 100, and 135 are 7.23" in length, while the 18 and 180mm are both 7.93" long. Each lens in the set is a fast T1.8, except for the 180mm, which is a more than respectable T2.0. The focus mechanism uses a cam follower design for accuracy and long life. With 270° of rotation, the focus scales (marked in feet) provide ample room for making precise focus pulls, and the range isn’t so great as to make doing a whip focus rack difficult or painful.
The Zoom lenses come in two short ranges, a 25 to 75mm and a 55 to 125mm. This allows them to be relatively small and light, while being able to hold focus (parfocal) and T-stop (T2.8) throughout the entire zoom range. Even more impressive is that the 114mm front of the zooms match the 114mm front of the primes.
Sharp and precise, the Leitz Cine Primes deliver a clean, crisp image, and the lenses exhibit little to no noticeable breathing as you pull focus. The iris of the primes and 25 to 75mm zoom feature 15 blades, for natural-looking bokeh, and extremely smooth and round out-of-focus highlights. Please note: the 55 to 125mm zoom does have 21 iris blades. For more on bokeh check out this other article.
The Cine Primes and Cine Zooms are color-matched to each other. This helps when cutting between lenses because there won’t be color shift, and it saves in post-production since less time is needed to color-correct the images to match.
The lenses are available in either a PL mount, or in an LPL mount. Though both versions of the lenses feature the same coverage, the LPL lenses can be used on cameras, such as the ARRI Alexa LF, and LF Mini without needing a mount adapter or to change mounts. Mount adapters can adapt a PL lens to LPL, and are usually fast to change, but using a dedicated mount instead is more precise. PL and LPL mount kits exist for the primes, as well as both zooms, so you can change a PL mount lens to an LPL for the 25 to 75mm or the 55 to 125mm and, with different kits, you can convert an LPL-mount lens to a PL.
Have you worked with lenses from Leitz before? Please feel free to share any comments below and explore the full range of cine-style lenses available on the B&H Photo website or stop in the B&H SuperStore in New York City.