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!

An Examination Of: Rokinon Manual Primes

Hello folks!

In this installment of Tstops, i’m going to take a look at the Rokinon Manual Primes. A budget set of fast primes in Canon, Nikon, MFT and Pentax mount.

The first and most exciting feature of these lenses is the combination of features it has, for one they are all a F1.4!!!!  Aside from the exciting stop, so rare in wide angle lenses, they are all also fully manual, Focus, and Iris.  Its as if all the vintage lenses we have been collecting for years for their manual Iris/ Focus mechanisms and low cost have been complied into a new, modern lens design. Also, not to forget, just for kicks, a fast aperture was thrown in.  I mean, honestly, there is nothing like this on the market.

These lenses come in two version.  The standard DSLR style, and their own in house “Cine” version.
I bought a used set of the standard SLR lenses with the intention of having Matt Duclos perform his own cine adaptation.  The difference between the two is subtle though they are optically identical.  The standard set, aside from being cheaper, have normal rubber grips for focus and a clicking Iris that stops on the half stops. The very cool Cine versions, have factory installed gears for the Focus and Iris.  In addition the Iris is smooth and infinitely variable.  There is a price difference between the two sets:

Standard Rokinon SLR series: (prices from B&H)
24mm F1.4 – $649 ( compared to the Canon L 24mm F1.4 at $1649.00 )
35mm F1.4 – $499 (compared to the Canon L 35mm F1.4 at $1329.99 )
85mm F1.4 – $289 (compared to the Canon L 85 F1.2 at $1759.00 )

Rokinon Cine Set: (only available in canon or Nikon mount)
24mm F1.4 Cine – $749
35mm F1.4 Cine – $549
85mm F1.4 Cine – $349

I chose to have Matt Duclos perform the modification for a few reasons, First the Rokinon Cine lenses are not yet readily available.  The still versions are available right now.  Second, i can have more control over how the cinevising is done.  Duclos modified lenses will have matching front diameters, my choice of gearing, and an Iris dampened to my specification.


Here is where things get interesting.  There is a reason Canon L primes are twice, triple or even quadruple the cost.  The optics.  The L series lenses will be “cleaner”.  That said, i’ve rented 35mm L series, that the Rokinon can eat for breakfast.  However, when a “good” L comes your way, it can be stellar.  This is not to say that the Rokinons are that far off from top shelf glass, they just lack  absolute perfection at every stop.  When they come into their own, a stop or two down from Wide open all of them are good for the price.

The 24mm Rokinon SLR lens:

It is pretty soft wide open.  It has a Zeiss Super speed like diffusion to it.  This cleans up very quickly @ F2, and is not particularly terrible.  I feel when a lens has a quirk, its to be catalogued in your brain as a potential look.  I dont mind that the 24 is soft wide open.  I now have an instant softening “filter” on tap. The 24mm L series are better behaved wide open, but for the price the Rokinon is completely acceptable.  @F2.8 the lens comes into its own.  Sharp, with great contrast and clarity.  The Rokinons are VERY warm, but that warmth is consistent through the different lenses.  Sweet spots at a F4.

The 35mm Rokinon SLR:

Far better behaved than the 24mm wide open, reasonably sharp @F1.4 with little drama.  Very Sharp when stopped down.  Sweet spots at a F4

The 85mm Rokinon SLR:

The real winner of the group.  Reaches good sharpness the quickest at ~F1.8, though wide open looks perfectly acceptable.  F2.8 looks awesome.  Its minimum focus is about 3 feet.  Kind of limiting really.

They all have a decent focus roll off, are uniformly warm, and have consistent looking bokeh.  Not amazing bokeh, but decent.  There is a trade off, in optics between amazing bokeh and the treatment of the in focus segments of the image.  Some older, truly razor sharp lenses have muddy, hazy bokeh.  Case in point my 1908 Wollensak, despite its age, is razor sharp, yet has a horrid smeary, bokeh.  Some older Panavision Primos are similar, they are incredibly sharp, but the Bokeh is nothing extra ordinary.  Same goes for some of the older zeiss lenses.  Canon on the other hand, consideres the bokeh as part of the lens design, and go out of their way to make sure the out of focus portion is as beautiful as the in focus part of the image.  These additional optical considerations are a part of the higher cost.  These lenses have to break somewhere optically considering the speed and cost, I think the bokeh is a perfectly acceptable place to be less than perfect.


These lenses are small and very light.  The build quality is somewhere between a standard Canon EF lens and an L series, but closer to EF.  More robust feeling than the EF lenses I have (50mm F1.4, 50mm F1.8, 85mm F1.8),  but not quite the “dripping with quality” build that a L series will have.  A mixture of high quality plastic, with the main drum, and mount being metal.  The Focus is smooth and tight, stiffest being the 85mm.  The other two have a lower resistance, and feel the “same”.   Being still lenses they are not front matched, and have a hood bayonet on the outer front edge.  The front threading on the 85mm being 72mm Thread, the 35mm and 24mm have 77mm threading.  The duclos Cinevise process will make them all 80mm cine Standard.

The current focal lengths available from Rokinon/Samyang are the 8mm, 14mm F3.1, 24mm F1.4, 35mm F1.4, 85mm F1.4.  Oddly they have omitted a 50mm (though I hear its coming).  When i have the option to order a set of primes ala carte, like S4’s or Master Primes my favorite lengths are 25mm, 32mm, 40mm, 65mm and 135mm.  I rarely use a 50mm any way.  I dont really think I will miss it, and worst comes to worst, if I need it I have a 50mm F1.4 Canon.  This set needs a F1.4 100mm or 135mm, and a F2.8 100 Macro.  If they made a 40mm or a 65mm i’d be in heaven.

The still glass versions I have still have clicking iris’ and no gears for focus. I am far more concerned with focus gears than de-clicked focus.   But thats simple enough as the focus rings only turn about 180-270 degrees, so zip gear rings are quite convenient.  That said the focus marks are rather bunched up near infinity.  Doing complicated focus pulls is somewhat problematic, especially if you are used to proper PL lenses.


(There used to be a music video here i shot with them, but the record label reshot it, and the link now shows the new video… sorry, cant take credit for others work!)

I will put up something shot with them soon….

Thats it for now,
Thank you for reading!!!

Coming up next: An Examination of the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 T2.9

Follow me on Twitter: @timurcivan

An Examination of: Black Magic Cinema Camera

Welcome back,

I have had MANY emails requesting a review of the Black Magic Cinema Camera, (BMCC).

So, I got a hold of a BMCC and spent a good 5 days with it on a production for Sesame Street.   You may remember the last time I worked with Sesame Street, “Share it Maybe” Starring Cookie Monster. This video was great fun, Directed by the Diamond Bros.  I teamed up with the “Bros” again to tackle a series of videos for Sesame.  “Share it Maybe” was shot on Epic and a Cooke 18-100 T3. This made for a beautiful look, however this project had elements that needed to be mobile and less reliant on the control of a studio.

Photo Courtesy @kendawgz on Twitter

We opted for the small and portable BMCC with Matt Duclos Modified Leica R lenses.

Our Initial Shoot featured the character “Telly” on green screen.  As you can see the BMCC when fully built is actually not very small or as light as you would think. It has quite a heft to it.   Its solidly, if not puzzlingly built.   My impressions of the camera remained unchanged from the first 30 seconds I picked it up till the last day of day 5, this impression had little to do with image quality (which was really nice, and thats about all im going to say about it for now).  Its poorly designed ergonomically.

Its definitely a first try camera.   Its essentially an off the shelf sensor, with an off the shelf LCD screen, Black Magic Hyperdeck Shuttle, Black Magic Deck Link card and a small off the shelf audio board, jammed into a small box.   It feels like it.  It is awkward to hold, with no thought to ergonomics AT ALL. This is why it needs this massive contraption to be made functional. IT would not have been hard to make this camera look like this:  An Ikonoskopp Dii.  The best hand held camera no one knows about.

It might look funny, But its hand held ergonomics are second only to the Aaton Minima.   Also, if its going to have a fixed LCD screen anyway, why not go Small HD DP4 route and have a loupe, that can make it an eye piece?  The BMCC’s screen is dead center on the back.  Meaning, with any kind of hand held rig where the rig is balanced, you cant see the screen, so you need a secondary monitor.  That just makes it more expensive, and heavier.   Its funny because, the ONE time you need the camera smaller and lighter is hand held, but thats the time when the BMCC becomes its biggest, heaviest, and most awkward.  In studio mode you can strip it down to just a lens and body.

Now the truth is, its really not that bad in the short term (I cant imagine shooting a 30 day feature with it), but for something with a $3k price tag, and the performance specs it has, a tiny bit of thought about the handling would have gone a long way.

It also has some very odd quirks in its operation.   For example, when shooting ProRes, and using LOG Gamma to preserve its dynamic range, its SDI out will only show what will be recorded to the SSD.  So if you put on the 709 LUT to make the LOG look more “pleasing”, the SSD will record the ProRes with the 709 LUT applied.  No good. This means to effectively shoot studio, you need to have a LUT generator (AKA a good DIT) to use a $3000 camera. FacePALM.  Ok fine, you can place a lut on the LCD screen on the back, but what about your client? I spent 5 days dealing with a work around; someone had suggested turning up the contrast on the Flanders monitor, while yes this sort of worked, it means that I can’t trust ANYTHING while shooting.   The On board 709 is super crunchy, throwing away the highlights and blacks, the in camera LOG is very flat and its difficult to see exactly where you are on the LCD on the back, and finally switching off the look on the Flanders monitor and using its waveform, will work, but clients do not like to see log after seeing the contrast/Saturation crank-up that was trying to fudge a normal looking image off the LOG.  This makes the BMCC a bit more wok than it should be for basic studio applications.

If they fix one thing…. please make the SDI and the SSD accept LUTs independently.

It has a few other ergonomic irritants.  The cables all connect on the left side (smart Side of camera) that goes near your face when doing hand held, IE, there is a spaghetti mess of wires in your ear, every time you try to hand hold the camera with a RIG.  Meanwhile the “Dumb” side of the camera, is where the SSD door is.   Just a smooth, flat, unobtrusive door….. If you are left handed/Left eye dominant, you will love hand held with the BMCC, it will likely be the only camera ever made for you.

Image Quality: So here is what we have shot so far.

You may not be able to tell specifically from this shot… but the BMCC’s image quality is AMAZING.  All the crap I had to put up with shooting the damn thing, is made up for in image quality.   Its basically, an F3 with sLOG, recording RAW, or to 1080p Prores directly in camera for about 1/5th the cost. Its got about 13 or 14 stops of dynamic range, low noise, great resolution, AWESOME color rendition and low moire.   Yea, the S16ish / M4/3ish sensor is a bit weird, and makes wides a pain, but I forgive the BMCC all of its qualms, simply because its picture is so pretty.    That said…. when choosing a camera for my next project…. I think I will still pick my Epic, but I cannot think of a better camera to learn on.

If you want to try out a BMCC, Josh And Jason Diamond own a BMCC and it is available for rentals. www.thediamondbros.com

Until next time when I take a look at the Rokinon Manual Primes!  Cheap, Fast and good?

Follow me on Twitter @timurcivan

An Examination of: Duclos 11-16mm Ultra Wide Zoom

In this installment of Tstops, i will be examining the Duclos 11-16mm T2.8 Ultra wide angle lens.  (Yes yes… i ve been promising this one for over 2 years…..)


This lens, originally a still lens ment for APS-C DSLR cameras, has been “perfected” by none other than the Master of Glass, Matt Duclos.  It started life as a Tokina 11-16mm.  Matt has worked the body considerably to accomodate a more robust Metal housing, that is seemingly affixed to the core structure of the original Tokina Design.  It is an exceptionally high quality conversion job.  No expense spared.  Far superior in fact to the standard “Cinevisation” process he provides for Zeiss ZF lenses.  The core components are changed for new ones, the mount is now PL and the price reflects this.  $3,495.00

Until recent history, few lens manufacturers took the care to create a lens that went ultra wide.  Nikon has an extremely rare 8mm fisheye, Peleng made a 8mm Fish eye and there have been a few other ultra wide lenses with ultra high price tags to match. Off the top of my head I can think of the Cooke S4 12mm, the Arri Master Prime 12mm and the Legendary The Zeiss Ultra Prime 8R.  With the advent of the APS-C Sensor size for Still image photography the need for even wider lenses to match the field of view of the full frame counterparts was necessary.  Thus the newer series of Ultra wide lenses from Canon, Rokinon, Nikon, Samyang, and Tokina.  This led to a unique by product.  The APS-C frame is remarkably similar to the S35mm Cine frame.  Suddenly, inexpensive ultra wide lenses are available for the cine format….. this is good.

What differentiates the Tokina (Duclos) from the rest of the DSLR lens pack is simply put, performance.  It’s sharp, it’s truly rectilinear, tiny, light, relatively fast, had the right manual mechanics and is miraculously CHEAP!   It seems Matt Duclos recognized the potential in this little champion and took to converting it for Cinema Use.

Truth be told, I have only used this lens a hand full of times in two years.  Once on a Documentary, once on a test video and on a couple small personal projects.  It rents out so often, that I never have the chance to use it.  Its gone literally all the time. That said, its so extreme in its optics, that there are only a few places to use its features.  Below, was the test I shot: Mixture of MiniS4’s and The Duclos 11-16mm.



This lens is marked T2.8.  I know the original Tokina version is F2.8, and I personally asked Matt if the lens is a true T2.8 or more like a T3.1?  His answer was that on a test bench its a true T2.8.  Well thats set to rest.

The lens is UNBELIEVABLY wide.  We are talking over 99 degrees of field of view here.  You can practically see your feet at the 11mm mark on the Zoom on a RED Epic.   In this setup I could see the ends of the rails in the shot.

I was fortunate enough to test out an Arri Ultra Prime 8R a couple years ago.  Since then,  I have not  had an experience anything like this.  Reality distorts.  The Duclos 11-16 is very specific, as it has unique characteristics.  It’s lack of distortion creates the sensation of the world being in a tiny box that you are peering through a peep hole into it.   I used this look on a documentary I shot last year.  I shot primarily on a F3 and a 5D, and had only 2 lenses.   The 11-16 on F3, and the 70-200 on 5DmkII. The subject matter was sensitive.   A bicycle race benefiting “The Center”; a resource center for people living with HIV.   The riders, were the friends and family of those stricken, and amazingly some of the HIV patients themselves.  I felt the need to see, the whole goings on of the ride in context to the people involved.  I went with the Ultra wide to bring the background into the portrait/interviews.  Below are some stills from the Ride, all shot on the Duclos 11-16mm:

You will notice how little distortion there is considering such incredibly wide focal lengths.

The 11-16 has a beautiful flare pattern, long and stretching across the whole frame, in alternating green and magenta apertures ghosts.   However its interesting reaction to light means that despite long distinct flares, this lens has very little veiling flare, so it retains contrast quite well, and along with it;  good color rendition when facing a bright source.  Only when the source reaches the middle does it begin to flatten the image.  See image #4 above, of the bicycle repair crew, As compared to image #2.  Both have strong flares, but only when the sun is practically center frame does the image get milky.

The lens is somewhat warmer than neutral, nothing a bit of color correction cant remove.


This lens is a good performer in the corners and center.  You can compare it against other lenses in its class here: The Digital Picture Site  This site is a great resource to see what still lenses are actually doing, and how they compare to each other.

The Duclos does well, considering its the fastest lens of the bunch. Most other ultra wides are F3.5+

The corners are sharp as well as the Center:


The internal mechanics, according to Duclos’ site, indicated that it is reinforced beyond what comes from the factory.  I have only had one issue with the 11-16 in the two years i’ve owned it. The front section came a tiny bit loose, from rigorous rental use.  Duclos, immediately repaired it free of charge, as it was under warranty.  Since then I’ve had little problems.

The iris is fully manual, de-clicked, and has .8 Pitch gear teeth.  It is VERY close to the PL mount, so I cant imagine being able to place a motor control on it.  Still good to have none the less as a follow focus with a narrow gear can reach it, like my Arri FF4.  This makes Iris pulls exact.

The PL mount is solid with no play.

The mechanics is where some of my issues with the lens come up.  I can forgive it a lot, since its a converted still lens, thats PL, T2.8 and 11mm for $3500.  That said, it does a few things totally “wrong”.  The lens because its a still converted zoom, has no reliable focus marks.  AT ALL.  The Focus marks at 11mm, are totally different than at 16mm. The scale is useless.  The AC has to manually set marks every time  Also since the focus throw is so short, it makes critical focus difficult to attain.  Now, I know you are thinking, but at 11-16mm isnt everything in focus?   No.  Its not. Somehow the optics create a distinct in and out of focus zones in the image.  Part of its charm really. Notice, image #2 above, of the man laying in the grass.  This is at 11mm, yet the shot has a shallow DOF.  So focus is an important issue, you cant set and forget.  It will hit infinity; thankfully.  So long as it does that, everything else is a moot point really.  Any decent AC can adapt.  At least it has built in focus gears…. That helps a lot as you can use the follow focus properly.


In conclusion:

This is an interesting little lens.  Specialized, wild, wacky, beautiful, fun and unique. What more can you ask for from a piece of glass.  It truly is a lens on the world.  It offers a perspective, a point of view so removed from reality, the viewer has to stand up and take notice.  Ultimately, thats what we want from our images.  A voice.

Thank you for reading, and until next time
Follow me on Twitter @TimurCivan

Coming up Soon:

An Examination of: Rokinon Fast Primes

An Examination of: Sekonic Litemaster Pro Lightmeter

In this installment of Tstops, I will be taking a look at my new favorite piece of kit.  Like being reunited with a long lost friend… a light meter!  More specifically the Sekonic L-478D “Litemaster Pro”.

The Litemaster Pro, the latest meter from Sekonic comes in Two models. The L-478DR ($469.00), pictured above and the L-478D ($389.00), which physically looks the same.  The main difference is that the “R” version has a built in Pocket Wizard to trigger photo strobes, in other words to a Cinematographer; No reason to spend the extra $80.00.

The light meter has for the most part gone by the wayside on a lot of modern sets.  With the digital capture comes digital tools for measuring exposure.  Waveform, False Color, Zebra stripes, Histogram(in my opinion not a useable tool for Video) and the proprietary over and under exposure functions most high end cameras have.  Back eight years ago, when I started my career as a DP I had the fortune to work with film a few times.  What was interesting about that time was that it was the shifting point from high cost film, to relatively inexpensive digital.  I learned both systems at the same time.  With film as many of you with a decade or more experience know, all you have is your stock, light meter and aperture.  You had to know where the middle grey, toe (blacks), and shoulder(burning to white) of the film stock fell, and you used a combination of incident and spot meters to know exactly where you where at any given point in a scene.  It was somewhat time consuming, but you knew exactly where you were, with no monitor and no concrete reference.  Just math.   I akin the experience of shooting film in terms of sea going vessels, with the objective of getting from point A to B.  Digital, is a 80 foot yacht with Radar, Sonar, GPS and beautiful expansive view of the ocean, from a comfortable seat on the bridge.  Film is being in a dark diesel Submarine, 50 feet blow the surface, with nothing more than a map, a compass, a stop watch, a good slide rule.  If you do your job right and carefully, when you open the hatch, you will be, to the foot, right where your navigator and helmsmen said you would.  Thats the difference.  Film is flying blind.  With skill and a thorough understanding of the medium however, you can get exactly what you want.

The light meter for the last few years has almost become a vestigial appendage, for a few reasons.

1: Live monitoring.  WYSIWYG workflow, means so long as you rough in your lights, you can tweak off a monitor… no  REAL need for a meter.

2:  Accuracy: in relation to the stock (Digital).  In the early days of digital, there was no ISO rating. Only, S/N ratio represented as “2000Lux/FX.X” format.  Essentially saying what stop the lens needed to be at to get Grey at 2000 Lux.  A engineers take on “ISO”.    In essence, it was a different story for the early days.  The Varicam, F900, DVX100, HVX200, EX1 etc… all were in the Video world.  Light meters were of little use, not only because the measurement system was different, but because old sensor technology had an inverse light response to film. Where as with celluloid, as you approach the shoulder, the stock, because the crystals are being exposed and thus rendered inert to light, actually becomes less sensitive.  This is the basis for the beautiful film highlight rendition.  It naturally compresses the highlights in an organic way. Similar to our own visual system.   CCD/Cmos sensors, have the opposite effect, they become MORE sensitive the more light you give them, and they have a finite point at which they can render detail   This is the reason we have a repulsion to video clipping.  It looks unnatural.   Today, however, the technology of new sensors, like the MX/DRAGON, Alexa, DSLR etc… enable, using gamma curves and LOG/RAW to redistribute the information in a more pleasing way, that mimics film.  Essentially, the difference in the interpretation of light gave false readings when you attempted to meter in a traditional sense on older technology.

3: Indie Mindset: The emergence of low cost video, and the explosion of hobbyist filmmakers many of whom eventually went Pro, grew accustomed to used the video only tools, and never bothered to learn the meter. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with that.  They work just fine, and are perfectly accurate.  Its just that, in the past a good meter was $300-1000.  While that hasn’t changed, why spend the extra cash for something that has built in exposure tools when you are on a very tight budget.

Now, Back to the Sekonic. Why do I have one then?  Well, the simple answer is that since I learned how to use both, methods, I can hybridize and greatly increase my efficiency on set.  Also, since the newer crop of fantastic digital cameras now adhere to ISO guidelines, the readings became meaningful again.  Later on in this post I will go over how I use a meter in the digital workflow on set.

OK, so what makes the Litemaster Pro so awesome?  Well for starters its a fully functional full featured light meter at an amazing price.  Oh… and it has a FREAKING touch screen!  I have no clue why its taken so long to implement that.  Touch screen functionality is so slick because you can make adjustments, in its own window, and get far more options in a clear, well laid out menu design.   Gone are the days of the dotmatrix LCD screen that seem like gibberish.  The only other options were bare simple analog light meters that while excellent, are only capable of simple functions. The Litemaster Pro, has deep, memory fucntions that are laid out on the display, on your choice of exposure scales, EV (exposure value) or Fstop.  For example, i can meter the Talent, then the intensity of the back light, fill, and background lights, and store the measurements, but because of the giant color screen, the Litemaster shows me all of those values on a scale at the same time, so visually I can calculate the ratios. Makes life so good.  I also have the option to view the variables ( ISO/Shutter/Apeture) in photo, Cinema, or HD terms.  IE, Fstops/Tstops, Shutter speed as a fraction or Angle.  You also get the option to view not only your taget F/T stop, but also your Footcandle or Lux at the same time.  I prefer to use Footcandle, because its an easy way to determine fall off, and consistency, and is far more accurate than the Fstop scale.  The Meter will read 1/10th of a stop in the Fscale, but i prefer to see a FC number.  Just makes life easier.

The Litemaster Pro is an Incident meter.  This means it measures the light falling on it directly.  There are two kinds of meters, incident and reflected.   Incident meters, usually have a white disc or White globe over the photo sensitive cell.  They are used in a manner that measures what aperture is necessary to obtain “proper” exposure on an 18% great card.    A reflected meter, like a spot meter, reads the direct illumination of an object through a lens.  It could be said that the camera exposure tools, like waveform are reflected meters.  I have a Pentax Spotmeter as well, and used it regularly, simple because it gives you the best way to see whats happening at a specific spot in the scene.   The Incident meter reads whats happening as far as the ambiance of the scene.

How to use the two kinds of light meters:

This is a simple crash course.  Nothing is set in stone, but this the basic way I use the two meters.

Lets take this scene for example, completely hypothetical.  A man(?…pardon my drawings) standing in front of a wall with a lamp, and a window.  Lets say the wall is a darker color than skin tone.

 I would take the Litemaster Pro, an incident meter, and walk over to the talent, and Take a reading with the white bulb facing  square to the lens.  This measures the overall ambience of the scene, with regards to the key light.  Yellow lines indicate sources, the black box is the meter with an arrow indicating direction of the meter. Lets say the meter reads a T4.0 for ambience.  This is your new starting point.  Everything from here is based on how you want the scene to look based on that reading.  Lets say we are going after a bright commercial look.  The talent should be very bright and evenly lit,  the window should be bright, the lamp should be too, while retaining some detail.

Then, to give a sense of how the edge lights are going to look, the sources being the window and Lamp, i turn the meter around, and read how they fall on the back of the subject.

Lets say I get an Incident reading of F5.6+1/2 from a combination of the lamp and window together.   I can then retract the dome of the Litemaster Pro, to help give more direction to the reading.   A dome Incident meter, will read light from all directions, in “3D” space.  Retracting the dome, essentially narrows its field of view, and lets you choose with some degree of accuracy, the source you want to read.  See below.  The top image is the dome extended, and you can see how the dome registers the direct light and the shadow side.  It is in effect averaging them.  When retracted, it becomes more directional.

So from here, to maintain control of the highlights in the sides of the talents face, i read the window and lamp individually.  The window, reading at T8+1.2 and the lamp side reading T4+3/4.  Here is where it gets interesting.  Now its time for reflected readings, to see what the actual objects in the scene meter at as compared to the T4 reading from the Key.  

You look though the spot meter and within its view finder is a small circle. That circle is the metering point.  I point it at the Lampshade, the talents face, the window, the darker portion of wall, and the bright point of the wall above and under the lamp shade.  I get readings as follows:

So, it seems the brightest points in the scene, the Window, and hot spot of the lamp both meter at T11.  This is three stops above the middle grey.  Lets say we are shooting on an DSLR, an 11 stop camera.  Having tested the DSLR, I know it holds 5 stops below middle grey, and 5 stops above before it clips.  Armed with the knowledge of having 4 safe stops of latitude above Middle grey, (I always try to avoid using the top stop as its usually ugly).  I know that nothing will clip in this scene as is.  The window, and the lamp both read only 3 stops above middle grey, though dangerously close. The darkest part of the wall, reads a stop below key @ T2.8.  I can now make some decisions,  I can  choose depending on what I want the scene to look like, to blow out the window and lamp, by reducing the intensity of the key, and opening up a stop to compensate without touching the lamp or window intensity, thus pushing their exposure up; OR i can reign them in, add ND gel to the window and a dimmer to the lamp to bring them down, and make sure they are completely exposed, ready for a power window in post.  Meanwhile, knowing the darkest part of the image is only a stop below key, i can choose to add cutters, and flags, to take the key light off of the wall, and add some contrast to the scene.    All of these decisions  I just made with the meter, I made without a camera.    Imagine the time savings of being able to get 90% of the way to your lighting without having to wait for a camera to be built or set up. 

This is why light meters work for me.  I love mine.  

Thank you for reading!


Follow me on Twitter!!!

Coming soon: Examination of: Rokinon Manual Primes, Speed demons on a budget!