As the talk was centered around comparing the different ‘look’ of various lens makes, Barry Malseed (owner of The Vision House) recommended those attending have a look at a couple of comparison tests that have been made overseas as good starting point when talking about different lenses.
A battery of tests were run by Matthew Duclos over in LA and can be found here.
The lenses compared are the Zeiss Master Primes, Leica Summilux-C, Zeiss Super Speeds, Canon K-35, Optica Elite S35 Digital, Luma Tech Illumina S35, Zeiss CP.2 Super Speeds and Canon CN-E. The tests were all done under the same control conditions and were tested not only by Matthew Duclos (a lens technician and service engineer) but also Will Keir, Phil Holland, Matt Uhry, Jeff Whitehurst, Evin Grant, Ryan Patrick O’Hara among others. The overall results are not to be interpreted as a definitive lens X is better then lens Y. The purpose of the test was to establish the different looks of the lenses as an overview of the different behaviors of each lens type.
If you are after an article that is more of a X vs Y lens Shane Hurlbut has produce a great online video which compares the Cooke S4 to that of the Leica Summilux C lens sets. Shane Hurlbut is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers and has shot films including Terminator Salvation, Need for Speed, Semi-Pro and Act of Valor as well as several TV series in America.
With lens theory (and the vast repository of knowledge on the internet) you can compare numbers, figures and look at video examples all day, but in the end you have to trust your own eye. If you are on the fence about a lens choice for a project, contact your local rental house to see if you can come in and have a look at the lens. Sometimes there are hidden alternatives or an old lens set that you wouldn’t have even thought about that can be uncovered in this process.
The Vision House would like to extend our thanks for the Australian Cinematographers Society for inviting us onto the panel and encourage those reading this article the have a look at some tests shown on the night that were done by the ACS. There is one for spherical and another for anamorphic.