Create Lower-Contrast Footage with Cooke Optics miniS4/i Uncoated Lens Elements


Lens selection is an important decision for any Director of Photography. Lenses from different manufacturers and different eras offer unique characteristics to better suit the director’s vision for a film or scene. While color grading gives you the flexibility to adjust images in post, there are intrinsic qualities inherent in the construction of the lens itself that can't be fully replicated. And with on-set grading becoming more commonplace, the ability of a DP to create a "look" on set with just lens selection can endear them to the director and lead to future work. Cooke Optics, one of the major players in the cinema-lens world, lets DPs do just that by offering uncoated front/rear elements for their miniS4/i series of lenses.

 Coated lens (left), versus an uncoated lens

Cooke introduced their miniS4/i series to give DPs smaller, lighter alternatives to their S4/i series with the same optical performance and color matching, but at a price point more conducive to ownership. The only sacrifice is that, at T/2.8, they are one stop slower than S4/I lenses. With these optional uncoated front and rear lens elements, DPs who have invested in a set of miniS4/i lenses now have the flexibility to swap out the existing front/rear elements of their lenses for uncoated versions.

"Without coating, lenses yield softer images with less contrast..."

Lens coating has evolved over the years to include multi-layers and special recipes to reduce flares and internal reflections, resulting in increased contrast and perceived sharpness; it’s "all in the sauce," as they say. So why, you might be wondering, would someone want to remove the coating on a lens? This gets me back to my earlier point on creating unique looks. Uncoated lenses evoke the nostalgia of vintage lenses, with all their enduring deficiencies. Without coating, lenses yield softer images with less contrast and, of course, flares and internal reflections aplenty.

Now, this look isn't for everyone, and it’s definitely not suitable for every project. This is what makes stripping lens coating from expensive cinema lenses a less-than-appealing option for owners. With the miniS/4i uncoated elements, you get the best of both worlds. Simply take your lens to a qualified lens technician and swap out one set of elements for the other, depending on the project at hand. And don't worry; lenses are made to be serviced, and the process is quick and easy for most professionals.

From Janusz Kaminski having the coating stripped off Panavision Ultraspeeds to shoot Saving Private Ryan, to Hoyte Van Hoytema using a set of his own uncoated Cooke Panchro lenses on Her, many DPs chose to take advantage of the uncoated aesthetic. For current and prospective owners of Cooke miniS4/i lenses, these uncoated lens elements might be an option worth considering if you're looking to create a unique look, enhance the versatility of your lenses, or simply add some nice flares to your footage.

See the link/video below for a comparison between coated and uncoated Cooke miniS/4i lenses.

1 Comment

Please correct the spelling of both of the cinematographer's names that you've mentioned.  These guys are at the top of their craft and deserve the time and care of having their names spelled correctly:

Janusz Kaminski

Hoyte Van Hoytema