It was at NAB Show 2009 when ZEISS introduced a line of cine primes targeted to the rising HDSLR and HD digital cinema camera users – Compact Prime (later known as CP.1).
This was in a very opportune time with RED ONE and Canon EOS 5D Mark II cameras in the market, which promoted within the industry high quality images at an affordable reach. We offered CP.1 with both PL and EF mounts, in 18, 21, 25, 28, 35, 50, and 85 mm focal lengths, 35mm full frame coverage, and catered to this new group of digital cinema camera users.
Not long after the debut of CP.1, the market potential for other lens mounts – F, MFT, and E as well rose. Therefore, ZEISS implemented a revolutionary new feature, which enabled users change the lens mounts by themselves to fit their needs – IMS (Interchangeable Mount System) – also added new focal lengths, and introduced as Compact Prime 2 (CP.2) at NAB Show 2010.
Since then, CP.2 enjoyed a huge success, and became the most popular cine lens family that ZEISS ever introduced. As of today there are over 30,000 CP.2 lenses being used around the world, which proves its concept of combining high quality optics with flexibility was widely accepted.
And at NAB Show 2017, passed 7 years since CP.2 debuted, Compact Prime 3 (CP.3 / CP.3 XD) is finally released as a new generation to all cinema camera users in the world.
Product photo of CP.3 lens (Photo: Manfred STICH)
The CP.3 series has 10 focal lengths (15, 18, 21, 25, 28, 35, 50 85, 100, and 135 mm) to its family, all lenses are available with or without XD functionality, and can be chosen from 5 lens mounts (PL, EF, F, E, and MFT).Also, it inherits ZEISS renowned optics, but with newly improved coatings, in lighter and smaller barrels, with improved focus torque, its signature IMS interchangeable mount system, 35 mm full frame coverage, and now available with its eXtended Data (XD) features on CP.3 XD version. Thus, its debut can be surely called a next generation of cinema lens.
CP.3 XD lens pictured with ARRI ALEXA Mini. Ambient Master Lockit Plus seen on the side (Photo: Manfred STICH)
CP.3 XD lens in use. The XD meta data can be recorded on Ambient’s Master Lockit Plus connected to the the lens (Photo: Andreas BOGENSCHUETZ)
CP.3 XD on ARRI Alexa Mini, and the CP.3 lenses on background (Photo: Carl Zeiss AG)
Comparison shot of CP.3 15mm XD (L) and standard version (R) from lens rear (Photo: Carl Zeiss AG)
Product photo of CP.3 XD lens (Photo: Manfred STICH)
The Pomfort Live Grade allows the XD lens user not only to import meta data, but also to monitor lens corrections on set (Photo: Andreas BOGENSCHUETZ)
DEBUT! ZEISS Compact Prime CP.3/CP.3 XD
Interview with the product managers for ZEISS cinema lenses portfolio
Christophe CASENAVE (L) and Helmut LENHOF (R) checking CP.3 lens performance in the lens projection room (Photo: Andreas BOGENSCHUETZ)
ZEISS launched the latest cinema lenses; “Compact Prime CP.3” and “Compact Prime CP.3 XD” series, and HOTSHOT had a chance to sit down with Christophe Casenave and Helmut Lenhof – the product managers for ZEISS cinema lenses portfolio at the ZEISS Oberkochen headquarters. We introduce the details of the new series, which opens the new era of ZEISS cinema lens.
Please explain the overview of this CP.3 lens family
Helmut: The CP.3 inherits our renowned optics, but with newly improved coatings, in lighter and smaller barrels, with improved focus torque, our signature IMS interchangeable mount system, 35 mm full frame coverage, and now available with our eXtended Data (XD) features on CP.3 XD version. We’ve announced 10 focal lengths to this family, all lenses are available with or without XD functionality, and can be chosen from 5 lens mounts (XD version in PL only).
Previously the meta data readout was only available on top end lenses such as Master Primes, but this CP.3 XD lenses would now bring meta data benefits to mid budget productions and even to owner operators.Our XD data currently includes focal length, T-stop value, focus position (distance), and lens characteristics corrections (shading and distortion) which can be reflected and pre-visualized on the set, before going to post production.
We believe this CP.3 XD lenses will promote high resolution post production workflow, and bring huge benefits to any production requiring precise image capturing and also when shooting VFX slates.
With such a success, why did you need to redesign or innovate the lenses?
Christophe: We feel honored and happy that our CP.1 and CP.2 lenses have become very popular among the users, but as a leading manufacturer of premium optics, it is our mission to constantly innovate and add new features to our products, and bring new benefits to the users.
We now see a wide variety of image sensor sizes, which makes our 35mm full-format coverage more sense, but the recent down-sizing of UHD cinema cameras and enhanced digitization of post processing workflow particularly drew our attention.
In other words, we are eye-witnessing the success of ARRI Alexa Mini, Sony PXW-FS7, Panasonic Varicam LT and Blackmagic Design URSA Mini etc., and this leads to the demands for new lightweight and compact lenses that will make handheld, shoulder mount, or gimbal operations easier.
And on the set and in the post production, we see increasing needs of lens meta data – which was only required in a high budget filmmaking until a few years ago.
So, these factors were behind the birth of CP.3 and CP.3 XD family.
What is the difference of targeted user groups between CP.3 and CP.3 XD lenses?
Christophe: When we privately disclosed the CP.3 XD lenses to some rental houses and production companies before NAB Show 2017, they all applauded. These are the people who cope with meta data every day. The new lenses will particularly take off the load from camera assistants, DITs, and video engineers, who work hard to capture and apply the correction data, every time before and after the shoot. This means CP.3 XD drastically saves time and cost in the prep room, on the set and in the post.Therefore, the CP.3 XD suites any high resolution projects, and we see a big demand for them as rental lenses, and in-house lenses for production companies.
(L) Zeiss lab test image of improved lens coating on CP.3 lens. New coating shows controlled flare and natural rendering, even when a strong light source is placed in the center of frame (Photo: Dr.Stefan BALLMANN)
(R) Zeiss lab test image of CP.2 lens, under same condition as CP.3 (Photo: Dr. Stefan BALLMANN)
(L) Zeiss lab test image of improved lens coating on CP.3 lens. The reduced reflections on each lens elements works to greatly improve overall image contrast (Photo: Dr. Stefan BALLMANN)
(R) Zeiss lab test image of CP.2 lens, under same condition as CP.3. The flare occurring between lens elements results in larger flares and reduced contrasts (Photo: Dr. Stefan BALLMANN)
(L) Due to its compactness and lightweight, the CP.3 lenses are easier to balance the camera and suites high mobility shooting styles (Photo: Andreas BOGENSCHUETZ)
(R) The dedicated transport case for CP.3 lenses (Photo: Manfred STICH)
(L) Showing lighter lens weight of CP.3 lens (15mm, PL, without caps) (Photo: Carl Zeiss AG)
(R) Weight of CP.2 lens (15mm, PL, without caps) (Photo: Carl Zeiss AG)
On the other hand, we keep the non-XD versions for individual DPs who are looking for CP.2 successors. If you hold and compare the CP.2 and CP.3, you will immediately notice the smaller size, lighter weight, and greatly improved focus torque of CP.3. We’ve even prepared a new lens transport case for CP.3, which is very light compared to the CP.2 transport case, and all these efforts have been made to benefit the DPs and assistants.
We see the cine lens industry becoming more exciting, with many new lenses from new companies.
How do you see this trend?
Christophe: We are amazed to see these many lenses being released in the past few years. However, our strength is the vast knowledge in lens making. In terms of camera lenses, we are the only manufacturer which can design and make, from high-end anamorphic cine lenses to super compact mirror-less lenses. We have teams of engineers who can make things visible, no matter small or large, in unrivaled quality.With this background, we strive to create lenses which we believe they are the best in precision, contrast, clarity, sharpness,and bokeh.
You know, there are few very good lens makers around – they also have been in the industry for a long time, and each is known for its character. This means, at ZEISS we make brushes that we believe they are the best, but it is eventually up to an artist to decide which brush to pick to paint a picture.
As for inexpensive new comers, we try and test most of their lenses, but often see optical and mechanical inconsistencies throughout a collection or set, and we think them as limiting factors in terms of looks and operability. But again, this is up to users to decide. We just make lenses, but only beautiful lenses (laugh).
Product photo of CP.3 XD lens (Photo: Manfred STICH)
Any other products coming up from ZEISS?
Helmut: We just launched the CP.3 and CP.3 XD lenses, and have to see and learn how our customers will receive these lenses, before we talk about anything further. However, as we’ve mentioned in the beginning, we are always searching for ways to improve and offer new values, so I must admit we have an ongoing project, but I am not able to tell you anything at this moment.
Christophe CASENAVE (L) and Helmut LENHOF (R) checking CP.3 135mm lens performance on ZEISS K-9 MTF checker (Photo: Andreas BOGENSCHUETZ)