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By Colin Coomber – Technical Director & DoP at Shift 4
It’s well known that in recent times, some DoPs have turned to old, messy, dirty vintage lenses to take the edge off. With this popularity and demand higher than ever, lens manufacturers have started to deliberately alter the qualities of new lenses. Cooke is the latest to do this with the resurrection of their Speed Panchros christening them Cooke Panchro/i Classics.
In our video below, we pitted them against a set of rehoused Speed Panchros, to see how these lenses work and just how good a job Cooke has done of emulating these classic lenses.
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As our video shows, Cooke has done a very good job indeed. In my opinion, they have all the best parts that the original Speed Panchros offer with the convenience of a modern set of lenses, with characteristics like warped, interesting defocus, generous flaring, and forgiving sharpness. For these reasons, many productions have utilised the Cooke Speed Panchros to get a soft vintage feel from a digital camera.
This frame shows off the interesting bokeh of the Speed Panchros. When the iris is wide open they give the highlights a circular shape, with definition on the outer edges fading away in the centre. This can exaggerate the defocused background of a shot giving it a dreamy feeling.
In this frame from Whiplash, we can see an example of flaring in the Speed Panchros. Due to the older coatings on the lens, vintage lenses tend to flare more easily than moderns lenses, and the Cooke Speed Panchros are no exception. The flare of a Speed Panchro will vary from lens to lens, but most display big vail flaring filling the frame and lowering the contrast, as seen here.
THE WITCH (2015)
This shot from The Witch, being shot on a wide-angle Speed Panchro up close and personal, highlights the warping of the background that can be achieved with a shallow depth of field. The slight circular warping at the edges of the defocus makes this look almost like an old-fashioned photograph.
These frames from Mr. Turner show that even when used for wide or deep focus shots, the slightly soft sharpness of the Speed Panchros can take the edge off of a digital camera even without shallow depth of field.
What you can’t see in the frames above is the work involved in selecting the Speed Panchros for these projects. Because of their age, Speed Panchros can be very different from set to set, and then within those sets, you can have differences from lens to lens in flaring, sharpness, and colour balance.
Note in the picture below how the skin varies from lens to lens:
This tends to be why vintage lenses like these are found on the set of a music video or commercial, as they’re usually fast cut and can get away with more imperfections. Long-form drama and features less so, which means finding the exact set of vintage lenses can be difficult and frustrating when they’re not available. This is where Cooke’s new Panchro/i Classics come in. They display all the characteristics discussed above, but with consistency across the set.
Consistent white balance, consistent sharpness, consistent flares. On top of this, they’re built into S4 style housing with Cooke’s i technology, making for a happy focus puller. Well as happy as they can be.
If you like these lenses then you should check out our other modern vintage revivals, the re-envisioned Kowa Anamorphics from P+S Technik and while you’re there you can look at the other classic vintage lenses we have to offer such as the Canon K35s and Zeiss Super Speeds.
Other ‘Cooke Look’ cine lenses (PL mount) available for hire at Shift 4:
Monday, June 18th, 2018