T.Stops Blog

An Examination of: Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 T2.9

Welcome back.  In this installment of Tstops I will be putting the Fujion Cabrio through its paces. The Cabrio represents a leap in cine optics.  I will go into why I feel this is true but first I want to talk about Fujinon Optical Division a bit.

In recent years, Fujinon Optics Division; long known for their top of the line ENG lenses has turned their attention to the cinema PL market.  Their first outing, the legendary Premiere Series 18-85 T2.0 ( yes T2.0!!!) is something of a shocker.  Bear in mind, the only other readily available T2.0 Zoom that covers S35 is the Cooke S4 CXX 15-40mm T2.0.  The cooke only covers the wide to mid range interms of focal length, and standard 35mm interms of image circle. The CXX is considered an addition to its prime lens set the S4’s.  Optically the CXX is not perfect, it exhibits some barrel distortion and is not as sharp as the S4 primes.   The Fujinon 18-85 T2.0 is practically a miracle of modern optics.   The Fujinon 18-85 is fast, has almost no distortion, will cover 5K, AND its sharper than almost every set of primes available.  Claudio Miranda ASC, ( and now oscar winner) used one on a commercial that my good friend Tom Wong LCL600 DIT, was working on. He heard from the horses mouth that the 18-85 “…is sharper than Master primes”.  Miranda only shoots on the Fujinons as of late. He DPed the Tom Cruise film, Oblivion, Shot on F65 and Fujinon Premiere Zooms.  I saw this film and it looks astonishing.   This is a big deal.  Fujinon in only a couple of years in the PL market, has potentially bested some of the finest primes ever made… with a ZOOM!   The series consists of the following:

The 18-85 T2.0, The 14.5-45 T2.0, 24-180 T2.8, and the 75-400 T2.6.  This is an impressive set of zooms, covering practically every need except one.  These are big heavy studio zooms.  There is no real light weight option for hand held or Stedicam…. Until now.

It seems Fujinon is not going to quit making magic happen.   This is the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90mm T2.9.   …get this… it weighs 5.9 lbs! Thats just amazing considering its a true PL Cine Zoom with the Fujinon Premiere optics certification.  Just to make it even better, its has a built in ENG like hand grip that contains three motors to control the Focus, Iris and Zoom,  and with the proper interface can be controlled by a Preston or C-motion FIZ controller. No more spaghetti mess of cables, and heavy motors.  The lens will do it itself.  If you are shooting on an LDS (lens data system) enables camera like an Alexa or F5/F55, the zoom rocker will be powered by the camera without any additional power.  Thats just awesome.  RED is currently working on getting the power protocol to help make it functional with Epics and Scarlets as well.   If you need less weight, the FIZ hand grip is removable and it becomes a standard cine zoom. Just for a bit of context, without the hand grip the weight drops to about 5.5lbs.  A Master Prime 50mm weighs 5.9Lbs.    Think about that.  One zoom, with a range of 19-90 thats a very useable T2.9, weighs less than one standard 50mm Master Prime.  For a bit more context, the Cooke 18-100 T3.0, weighs in at about 14lbs.  This is a revolutionary piece of glass.  I felt so strongly about it that I sold my beloved Cooke MiniS4’s (iPanchros) and replaced them with the Fujinon Cabrio.   Its essentially an even trade.  The range is similar, (the cookes go from 18-100 in standard prime lengths) and the speed is virtually identical. (1/3 stop difference).  The difference being, not only do I never need to change lenses, but i get all the in between focal lengths I love.   40mm, 65mm, 90mm.  (i lose the 100mm though…)

So here is a break down of its features, please pardon a bit of redundancy:

-19-90mm T2.9
-5.9 Lbs Total weight, about 5.5lbs with the Motor handle removed
-Built in FIZ control with motor handle
-Built in macro function
-Built in back focus adjustment ( field adjustable)
-Fujinon Premiere quality optics
-MSRP $38,000 (comes in a bit cheaper from dealers)
-Zoom servo works with LDS compliant cameras (RED compatibility forth coming)


Considering the fact that the 18-85 costs about $87,300, I think the Cabrio is a bargain.  The optical performance obviously is not going to be identical, but it is certainly very good.   The lens is a touch softer wide open, as compared to T4.0.  It cleans up nicely just a half stop down from wide open.  This is not to say its soft when wide open.  Actually, I have been shooting it wide open, to help take its edge off.   At a T5.6 is literally too sharp on my Epic.   I recently used the Cabrio on a Hampton Inn commercial and was using a 1/8th Hollywood Black Magic Filter to bring a softer look to the footage.  The Cabrio has a certain, clarity thats hard to explain.   Black is Black.   It has a resistance to flare that is impressive, though you do get small edge flares as a light is approaching the frame.   They are not unattractive, and most importantly there is little veiling flare.   Its more a small quick flash thats looks like a candle flame.

Shot on Cabrio, Canon TS lenses and Optimo 24-290 for the long lens shots toward the end.

Commerical for Hampton Inn

The feel of the image is creamy, smooth, and sharp.  There is a subtle vignette, IE fall off from the center of frame.  When you shoot a proper S35 camera like an Alexa, F3, C300 or 4K on a Epic/Scarlet its far less noticeable    Only the bigger 5K of Epic really shows off the vignette.  That said, its very subtle and like an S4’s natural vignette, adds to the image.  Its part of the look, and is consistent through its zoom range out to 90mm.  This should be taken into consideration when shooting chroma key projects.   I’d recommend 4K on RED cameras for green screen, to help eliminate the appearance of fall of off.   All other cameras should be just fine.  One of the reasons i love the S4’s is this effect, and its something that was missing from the MiniS4’s.  They were far cleaner than their big brothers.  Im glad I have some of it back.

The cabrio is neutral with great color feel.   It responds beautifully to cooler lights, when mixing color temperatures    It seems to make tungsten seem gold, and Daylight sources seem pure white.   Granted with todays grading technology, the lens’ color cast is relatively meaningless, as it can be corrected out or added at will.  However, the beauty of this lens, is that in the same lighting situation, a wide -> close up, transition is seem less, because the image is being pushed through the same exact optics. ( not to mention fast as its the flick of a wrist to change focal lengths)  This saves time (read: $$$) in the grade, because you dont have to match between different lenses.



Part I: working with a zoom

For a hand held shooter, Documentarian, stedi-cam heavy production, the Cabrio is just indispensable.  Its range, and light weight make help solve many problems in the modern fast paced shooting environment.   In the past, about 20 years ago, zooms were used for a couple reasons.  When you needed VERY long ranges, or when you were screwed for time and need to move quickly in the studio.  Zooms were saved for these occasions for a specific reason.   They had a lot of trade offs.  Optically they used to be a mess, were VERY large and heavy, BUT offered some speed savings over constantly changing primes.   That was the past.   We have gotten to a point where, you can actually almost have it all with some zooms.   The Angeniuex Short Optimo series, are a great example. While small, and relatively light, they exhibit amazing optical performance at the cost of a wide zoom range. (almost have it all)   What the cabrio is doing, is giving you practically everything.   Optical performance, range, light weight, professional features, and a reasonable Tstop to work with.  In the aforementioned Hampton Inn project, it almost felt weird having no lens changes. I’ve been a primes kind of guy for a very long time.   I always felt that zooms, while beautiful in their optical imperfections were not for every project.   I would use my Cooke 18-100 once in a while when shooting a dramatic piece that called for a dreamy look.   I got so used to accounting for the couple of minutes of changing lenses with primes; when that was eliminated it kind of threw me for a loop.  For example, my camera department was ready so quickly between setups, I found they were waiting for me to finish metering, as opposed to vice versa.   But thats good! we can squeeze in a couple extra takes, and make sure my director is happy!

I touched briefly on color earlier.   One big advantage I’ve found making the transition to an all encompassing zoom is that color matching is inherent in the design.   The wide shot at 25mm is EXACTLY matched to the close up at 65mm.  Very basic grading is practically a drag and drop of an established look.   My previous set of lenses the iPanchros, while obsessively color matched by Cooke, had some variance. Specifically, the 18mm which was warmer than the rest of the set, since it was made from a different batch of glass.  Watch this video on how cine lenses are made to get a sense why its critical for a set of lenses to be made from the same batch of glass:

This saves you so much time and money in the grade.  Those short matching LUTs that make all the footage the “same” so the colorist can start grading is essentially eliminated.

Ergonomics PartII:  The build

The cabrio is a fully professional lens in every sense of the word.   PL, manual everything, a build quality in the upper echelon of the finest Cine lenses in the world.   The focus, Iris, and zoom rings are absolutely silky smooth, yet appropriately dampened depending on their function. The Focus ring is light as a feather with little resistance, the Zoom ring is stiffer but just enough to soak up micro twitches from your muscles when manually zooming, making for smooth zooms.   The Iris is the stiffest of all, which is great because it holds your stop where you set it, and helps prevent bumping the iris while moving the camera. This is not to say its stiff, but just that it will stay where you put it.

All the markings are done in a rather bright glow in the dark paint, that holds its luminosity for a rather long time.  A quick hit with a flashlight charges it right up again.   Critical for focus pullers in dark settings.  So useful.

The side grip is one of the more interesting points on this lens.   Fujinon is very forward thinking in this sense.  They have within their existing line of ENG lenses the technology for reliable, and well integrated lens servo motors.   The Cabrio has not only an LDS powered zoom rocker and Zoom motor, but it has full FIZ control (Focus, Iris, Zoom) in a very light weight package.   Technically speaking the Preston FIZ system is compatible, and needs a specific cable to connect the power and receiver to the Cabrio side grip. In theory, giving you one simple streamlined system for FIZ control. As with all new equipment, there are some bugs to iron out.   As of now i have not seen one full functioning  not because it doesn’t work, but most AC’s simply pull the side grip off, and use traditional motors.  Defeating the purpose really, but hey, to each their own.  Once the proper cabling is readily available, I think we will see more and more people using the built in motors.   They are self calibrating, and self centering.  The Zoom motor, functions perfectly with no cables, directly from the LDS pins on the Arri Alexa and F55.  RED is currently working on making it compatible with the LDS pins on the Titanium PL mount.  One quick note, when using a RED camera with the Cabrio, be sure to set the Iris ring to “Manual” on the side grip if you decide to leave it attached to the lens.  Because the LDS system on the RED is “read only” it provides n arbitrary voltage to the pins so that Master primes can get a proper read out.   That same voltage on a Cabrio, makes the Iris motor try to slowly center the Iris ring to T5.6.  So if you set the Iris to T2.9,  eventually it will creep to T5.6. Just turn the Iris motor switch to “Manual” and the problem vanishes cause you are disengaging the motor from the Iris ring.

The front diameter is a standard 114mm meaning its compatible with practically all matteboxes designed for cine lenses.

There is a very useful “Back Focus” function  Meaning if your lens is not tracking properly to the footage markers, you can quickly, set the correct back focus on a marked scale for repeatability back to proper default.  You can see it below, immediately behind the knob marked “Macro”. ( the lens pictures is the 14-45, but the function is the same on the 19-90)

It is NOT perfect however.   The Cabrio has two negatives.  Neither are true deal breakers.

First, the macro function means you are actually throwing the back focus “out of wack” which means essentially, you cant pull focus from a macro subject to infinity. You essentially are reducing the range of the lens to a 2′ “macro” section immediately infront of the lens.   Meh.  Wish it was a real macro, but considering the range, price and weight I can forgive.

Second, the focus marks are a bit too bunched up, and a few far in between at the long end of the lens. This is not a huuuge problem, since it feels similar to the Zeiss Super speeds, and they have been in use for 40 years.   They share a helicoil design which lends itself to this problem.  However, a few additional marks with smaller markings to fit more of them in would be welcome.   I have already expresse this to Fujinon, so lets see what happens.   This really only becomes an issue on the 85-300 Cabrio.   It has a very similar focus scale as the 19-90, but when shooting at 150mm+ the focus marks are dangerously close together.   Pulling focus at 300mm Wide open at T4 on the 85-300 Cabrio, can mean making focus pulls of a couple millimeters on the follow focus.   That needs to be adressed.   At 90mm on the Cabrio 19-90 its slightly annoying but not problematic.   I am spoiled by the cam driven focus mechanism of the Cooke iPanchros/MiniS4’s where the focus marks are far more evenly spaced and luxurious in comparison to practically every other manufacturer out there.  Perhaps simply making the focus throw on the Cabrio a bit longer would help.   Currently its about 240 degrees.  300 degree rotation would alleviate the problem significantly.  Also, if you keep the Servo grip on the lens, the follow focus knob from a ARRI FF4 wont fit on the “dumb side” of the camera  without an extension bar.  Small thing, but just something to be aware of .


In conclusion:

I simply love this lens.   I used three Cabrios, 2x 19-90’s and one 85-300 on a recent Sesame Street production, currently in post.  We were able to monster through an imposible shoot schedule, with triple coverage, at varying focal lengths, and wasting not a second on camera repositioning and lens changes.  I couldn’t have done this with anything else at the budget we had to work with.

The Cabrio looks great, is simple to use, and incredibly flexible.   I love it!

I will be updating this post as more footage is released from the projects i’ve shot with it.  So check back in a few weeks!

Thanks for reading,
Follow me on twitter @TimurCivan for all the latest updates!

Coming up next on T-Stops:
1: How to get the best from a RED camera…. I found some secret sauce!
2: The Mitra 3D Mic Pro, The most innovative and awesome sounding microphone i’ve seen in a long time!

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