SMPTE-NY April 2013 Meeting: Digital Cinema Lenses & Technology

Guest post written by Steven E. Landon-Smyth, a freelance writer, director, and cinematographer.

This past Wednesday night Adorama hosted the New York chapter of the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers‘ (SMPTE) April meeting titled “Cinema Lenses and the Technology for a New Breed of Digital Cinema Cameras”. Delivering presentations to a packed house of over 100 attendees were Angenieux’s Jean-Marc Bouchut, Canon’s Larry Thorpe; Cooke’s Les Zellan, Fujinon’s Thom Calabro, and Schneider Optics’ Don Shafer and Paul Cousins.

Thom Calabro gave an overview of Fujinon’s Premier PL 4K+ 18-85mm lens along with the newly introduced 19-90 T2.9 Cabrio Compact Zoom, the 85-300 T2.9 Cabrio Compact Zoom, and soon to be released wide angle 14-28 Cabrio Compact Zoom. Some notable features of these new lightweight zooms include; ability to work with or without the servo motor, servo motor can be installed or removed by the user (no need to send in for service), built in macro capability, luminous barrel markers, and an adjustable back focus.

SMPTE-NY Motion Picture Program Chair David Leitner took the stage to provide a brief overview of some trends he had observed at NAB 2013. He mentions anamorphic technologyArri introduced 4 new Alexa XT models with 4×3 sized sensors perfect for anamorphic shooting, Servicevision from Barcelona has 13 new anamorphic primes on the way, and Angenieux announced a new anamorphic zoom. Another trend is in compact lightweight zooms made to address the difficulties of shooting handheld with super 35mm sized sensor cameras. (Angenieux, Fujinon and Zeiss all have new compact lightweight zooms.) A new crop of lenses are now being made to accommodate larger than super 35mm sensors, namely the “full frame” sensors found in professional DSLRs with 35mm-sized sensors. Lastly there’s a trend in lenses with interchangeable mounts to accommodate PL, Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sony E mounts.

Don Shafer provided an overview of Schneider‘s current line up of 6 Cine-Xenar III prime lenses, which currently range from 18mm to 95mm. These primes incorporate special flare reduction inside the lens, which are consistent in look and color across the line, come in both PL and Canon EF mount, and provide coverage up to a 31mm image circle. Don also described the newly introduced Xenon FF-Prime Lenses. These lenses are specifically built to accommodate the larger imaging sensors found in high end HDSLR’s and other professional cameras.


Les Zellan, Chairman of Cooke Optics delivered an abbreviated version of his one and a half hour corporate presentation in record time. (Not only does Cooke develop great lenses but the founder also invented the dimpled golf ball! Who would have known?) Les described the development of Cooke’s /i Technology, which couples lens data to the camera. The lens utilizes a built-in computer chip to transfer exposure and focus metadata, which can later be used in reports or in post. He showed us some examples of how the /i Technology data was used in post production to perform almost real-time lens corrections for extreme wide angle shots, and informed us that Cooke will soon be releasing a whole new line up of anamorphic /i Prime lenses. “Why do people love anamorphic?” He asked. The answer is “anamorphic funkiness”. People are drawn to the imperfections of analog image acquisition. Cooke intends to address this need by “combining anamorphic funkiness with the legendary Cooke look.”


Larry Thorpe of Canon delivered a detailed explanation of their 4K lens R&D. Technicians are paying special attention to correcting chromatic aberrations in lenses with resolutions of 4K and up, where the aberrations span more pixels, thus creating a less than sharp image. Canon addresses these chromatic aberrations with glass elements designed to evenly balance the spectrum of transmitted light before it hits the sensor.

Last but not least was Jean-Marc Bouchut of Angenieux diving straight into their latest developments: a new anamorphic zoom which should be shipping in early 2014. He commented that just as cinematographers today are still using Angenieux lenses made back in the 50’ and 60’s, it is Angenieux goal to produce lenses today that are relevant and still in use 20 years or more from now.

[Top image courtesy the author.]

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