A couple of years ago I put together a little lens test consisting of 13 sets of prime lenses. What I wanted to find out was, what are the differences between lenses in a purely image resolving way. You always hear about differences in lenses, and one might have a certain kind of look or feel, and they're often described like a fine wine, with descriptors that don't always make sense. The purpose of this test is really to see the differences between lenses, the look from one set to another.
This was hardly a scientific test, or in optimal conditions. We shot inside Old School Camera in Burbank, CA. I want to thank Old School Camera for helping with this test, these were all of the lenses they had in house on this particular day. Ultimately I would have love to have tried different lighting and environments, but this test still gets the results across.
We shot all of the lenses wide open, to really show off their individual character and resolving power. The test was shot on a Red Dragon. I've separated the Spherical and Anamorphics, as they're two very different looking categories of lenses.
18mm - does not cover 6K on Red Dragon
25mm - does not cover 6K on Red Dragon
35mm - does not cover 6K on Red Dragon
100mm - flatter and duller color
The set has a non uniform lens size.
The 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm are the best of the set
18mm f/2.8 - Does not cover 6K on Red Dragon, neutral color, very small body
24mm f/1.6 - Does not cover 6K on Red Dragon, neutral color with slight blue shift
35mm f/1.4 - very sharp lens
55mm f/1.4 - minimal breathing
Vintage body style on the set
Overall a great set, great look. Generally expensive to rent.
16mm - Does not cover 6K on Red Dragon, very small body
24mm - Does not cover 6K on Red Dragon, this lens had some play in the focus
32mm - Does not cover 6K on Red Dragon, a medium level of sharpnes
50mm - very pleasing look
85mm - Sharp, slighting warm, very pleasing look
100mm - very pleasing look
18mm - Does not cover 6K on Red Dragon, blue vignette, focus falls off at edge
25mm f/2.2 - Does not cover 6K on Red Dragon, Blue Vignette
32mm f/2.3 - Does not cover 6K on Red Dragon
40mm f/2.3 - Slightly warm color tone, darkening at edge of frame
50mm f/2.3 - medium warm color tone
75mm f/2.3 - little cooler, fairly sharp
100mm f/2.8 - little cooler, very sharp
The 50mm and 75mm are very different then the rest of the set
15mm f/4 - ugly flairs, does not cover 6K
20mm f/2.6 - very soft, does not cover 6K
25mm f/2.3 - major halation, does not cover 6K
32mm f/2.3 -slight vignette and slight blue shift
40mm f/2.3 - bit soft, slight vingnette
50mm f/2.3-1st ok lens of the set, slightly blue, acceptably sharp
75mm f/2.3 -
100mm f/2.3 - acceptable sharpness
The 50mm, 75mm and 100mm all cover 6K on the Red Dragon.
The set as a whole had a fairly similar color uniformity.
Only 250 sets ever made
arri master primes
16mm f/1.3 - slight vignette at 6K, slightly soft
18mm f/1.3 - slight vignette at 6K, slightly soft
21mm f/1.3 - slight vignette at 6K, very very sharp
27mm f/1.3 - slight vignette at 6K
Very Modern and clinical look. Bodies on these are very large and heavy. zero breathing in focusing. The coating on the lenses reduces lens flairs significantly.
Did not have a full set to test*
Cooke mini s/4 (uncoated)
18mm f/2.8 - slight vignette at 6K, very unpleasing flair
32mm f/2.8 - slight vignette, very sharp and vibrant colors
50mm f/2.8 - just as sharp as master primes
These differ from typical mini s/4 lenses in that the coating was removed from the lenses, so they're more likely to flair.
red pro primes
18mm f/1.8 - Does not cover 6K on red Dragon
25mm f/1.8 - slight vignette at 6K, flair is neutral, semi-subdued
35mm f/1.8 - slight vignette at 6K
Larger body size on this set. As sharp as master primes without the color characteristics. Undervalued set.
Zeiss super speeds
18mm f/1.3 - does not cover 6K on Red Dragon
25mm f/1.3 - Does not cover 6K on Red Dragon
Overall this set is very neutral colors. Very sharp lenses, has held up well over time. The tone can be a bit flat or even muddy blending the image together.
50mm f/1.6 - very wide distortion
Cooke s/2 anamorphic
40mm f/2.3 - Huge front element, medium amount of sharpness
50mm - Sharper then the 40mm but the flair isn't as pleasing
75mm - warmer lens, hints of brown in the image, 1/4 stop darker at the same stop, a lot of breathing in the focus
100mm f/2.8 -not sharp at all
Lomo anamorphics - Square front
50mm f/2.8 - medium amount of breathing in focus, not very sharp at f/2.8
75mm - not sharp
100mm f/2.3 -slightly sharper then the 50mm
150mm f/3.8 - Signs on halation, soft lens, chromatic aberration
28mm f/2 - High edge distortion
Complete sets might be hard to find, we only had the single lens to check out
Ok so Lomos may not exactly be cold lenses but they are Russian, well soviet to be exact. They were built by the Soviets back in the days of the USSR and were derrived from Zeiss glass after the Russian invasion of Germany in world war two. They come in several different mounts and two types of virieties.
I own a set of the Sphericals and have a lot of experience with them, and have grown to know their quality and strenghts.
Lomos are a great transition into the vintage lens world, without breaking the bank in cost and without being to extreme in look.
These lenses have a look similar to what you would expect from the Zeiss super speeds and standard speed series. They've got good contrast and pretty decent resolving power. Like the older Zeiss glass, the image they render tends to blend together very organicly, nothing really "pops" out of the image, like on a cooke lens. They don't have much of a color shift in general, and give a fairly nurtral color cast. Lomos have a bit of a desaturated and muted look, but not overly so.
I like to say these lenses love to grab onto texture. The more texture and the more grungy the better.
Anamorphic and spherical
Lomos come in two virities; Anamorphic 2:1 and Spherical. The Anamorphics have quite a large ammount of distortion. They're great for music videos and more artistic proojects, but may not be the best choice for contemporary looking stories.
The anamorphics should be avoided for anything needing a lot of visual effects, as the high distortion will be hard on any post house. If they match the look perfectly make sure to shoot a lens distortion chart for the VFX supervisior, as these can have quite unique qualities.
The anamorphics are also known to have less resolving power. They're quite soft lenses and should be downsampled as often as possiable. Shooting HD for HD delivery won't yeld the best results, and I personally think they should only be shot in 4K or higher resolution to bring some sharpness back into the image after downsampleing to HD. Trust me you won't think it's too sharp after the downsample.
Their are various types of mounts that were created durring the russian era of manufacturing lomos. OCT-18, OCT-19 and BNCR. OCT-18 lenses were more typical of 16mm cameras and it's common to find lenses where the front element rotates as the focus shifts. These are not as common in the field today due to the high amount of rotational distortion when focusing.
OCT-19 lenses are very similar to the early Zeiss lenses, with the Iris in the front of the lenses. OCT-19 is almost identical to PL mounts except that they're a little larger and the key is shifted to the top and center. BNCR is similar to OCT-19 and some lenses are able to fit both type of mounts.
Today the modern Lomos which are not related to the origionals other then in name use the Arri style PL mount.
Many of the vintage sets in use today go through a modification process to convert the mount to PL. Some are rehoused, but few lens techs will touch them. The lenses can be hard to service depending on what types of servicing they received in soviet days. The joke is that they were lubed with vodka.
Lomos have some of the most interesting history as far as lenses are concerned. They were made by the soviet union in the days of the USSR, which most people know. Their origional birthplace is in germany however. In world war two when the russians pressed into Germany. The Zeiss factory was invaded and the origional plans and even some of the origional raw glass was taken back to russia.
The mount was modified after the war to it's various types to keep them from being used if the Allies were to capture any sets.
Durring the time of the USSR and due to comunism, Lomos were free to anyone with the aurthorzation to use them and own a set. If you had an issue with the build quality of a particluar lens that would be no issue to replace one out for a new one. However, the old lens would have to be destroyed in order for a new lens to be issued. The same is true if the license to own a set expired. So many of the sets we find today and many of those in the US were hidden away from distruction for many years until the fall of the USSR.
My personal set of lenses were hidden in a storage facility for 20 years in kyrgyzstan, and many other sets share similar stories.