Zeiss ZF Primes - Lens Comparisson

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Zeiss ZF Primes - for DSLR and Super 35mm film makers

Using Zeiss ZF prime lenses is a great discipline and a great way to refine to your cinematic shooting.

A few weeks ago, I had some work experience students here with me at F-Stop Academy and so this gave me the prefect excuse as they wanted to go and shoot something after 3 days in a grade.

Near where I live there is a windmill and a series of fields that are just coming up for harvest. I've been waiting for the right light to shoot this windmill for quite some time.

I chose this particular day, because the light was very dramatic. It was a sunny bright day but there was a storm approaching and stormy weather often allows a very dramatic looking skylines whilst lighting up the landscape with bright sunshine. So we drove up to the Windmill and took my set of Zeiss ZF.2 lenses.

Zeiss ZF Primes

It's a 6 lens -  Zeiss ZF Primes set that I have created which includes:

  • 18mm f3.5
  • 25mm f2
  • 35mm f1.4
  • 50mm f1.4
  • 85mm f1.4
  • 100mm f2

This gives me a very good range of focal lengths to work in almost any situation. I shot using my Sony FS 100, using an MTF Services adapter from e-mount to Nikon.

* the red lens gears are from http://wideopencamera.com/cheap-lens-gears/

The Zeiss ZE primes have Nikon Mount and this adapter allows me to interface between the 2.

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I began by shooting this as a simple test which involved having the camera in a single position and demonstrating the different fields of view one can achieve using the different focal lengths on one scene.

But while I was there I also decided to challenge myself and not move much more than 2m in a the square to get as many different shots as I could using the different focal length lenses. Just using the Zeiss ZE primes - but I couldn't move the camera very far so choosing the right focal length lens was important.

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So what you're about to see is not just a series of lens tests but also shot the short film I created from the shots we achieved. I cut this using FCP X and graded using DaVinci Resolve 9.

Just after that film will also be a series of tests that I shot whilst in Las Vegas in April this year. I shot these tests from the 64th floor of the Cosmopolitan hotel overlooking the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas.

So I hope you enjoy the film and if you have any questions please drop them in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them for you as soon as I can get to it

I wanted to demonstrate different shooting environments, the 1st environment being a very natural looking field, and the 2nd environment being an urban landscape that is Las Vegas.

Hopefully what you will be able to see is how these lenses handle contrast saturation and sharpness in the different environments.

One of the things I love so much about Zeiss lenses is that they are incredibly well engineered.

For example the end stops on the barrel of the lens have all been calibrated so that when you hit infinity it is physically the end of the lens. Unlike some other photo lenses that go beyond the infinity mark on the barrel of the lens and so that can be frustrating. This is especially annoying when you are under pressure and you are pulling your own focus because you rehearse a move then just go beyond infinity and you've lost focus.

Thankfully the lenses from Zeiss are designed and engineered so that when you hit the end of the line that is infinity.

The second feature which is very beneficial about the Zeiss ZE lenses is that they have in built aperture rings.

Canon lenses don't and that means that you have to have use an electronic adapter like the Meta-Bone's and manually adjust your iris using the camera controls. Whilst this is not a complete nightmare, being able to manually adjust your iris of the barrel of the lens is infinitely easier and much more accurate. And preferable for ultimate control of your exposure.

And thirdly Zeiss ZF primes are built completely from metal and have no plastic parts whatsoever.

Finally - If you ever wondered how tough your lens is check out this video:

Zeiss ZE primes go through some incredible stress tests to really put the lenses through their paces - they cook them in an oven, drop em in a freezer, vibrate to simulate carrying them around for 5-10 years and finally they actually drop them onto a steel plate… Check out the video