Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Real World Lens Test - Cooke / Zeiss / Canon

It's been a while since I last updated this blog and I would like to pick things back up with a lens test between the indie friendly Duclos cine moded Zeiss ZF.2 DSLR primes and the mid range Cooke miniS4 true cinema primes. Just for fun I added the Canon L 24-70v2 f2.8 zoom and Canon L 70-200v1 f2.8 in for a couple shots. So let me set things up by first saying that this was not a comparison test of functionality because for me there is no question that the Cookes have the best user handling, breathing, and just about everything mechanical that I can discuss. The ZF.2s would be 2nd to the Cookes in this category and then the Canon zooms worst for usability. But this post is about optical performance in real world scenarios, no charts. I wanted to know just how justified is the $50k price tag for the Cookes when it comes to the final image and can you really tell them apart. Now don't get me wrong, if I had the money to put down I would buy the best lenses out there but unless your are made of money you have to try and get the most for your money.

Here are the basics of this test. Everything was shot on the Red Scarlet-X at 6:1 compression, 4K, 5000K for all situations and between 250 - 500 ISO. There was no post processing to the images with the exception of a minor FLUT adjustment (~1/4 stop) to the Zeiss and Canon images. The reason for this adjustment is that the DSLR lenses use F stops and the Cookes use T stops, therefor the Zeiss and Canon images were darker and to maintain a consist aperture value I had to tweak exposure in the raw file to get images exposed the same. Please note that images viewed via this blog have been compressed to some degree and the raw image will be your best way of judging true sharpness. All images in this post can be downloaded as R3Ds via Dropbox:

Download R3D Images:

Labeling Guide:
Cooke = Cmm-Fstop
Zeiss = Zmm-Fstop
Canon Zoom = CZmm-Fstop

1st Setup - 18mm Cooke / Zeiss - f/5.6

First take a look at the two images below and choose your favorite. You can click the image to enlarge.

>Zeiss ZF.2 
>Cooke miniS4

Want to know which is which? Drag your cursor left to right from the > above to reveal the answer. How is that for a blind comparison? Ok, let's push in a bit and really take a closer look. I have cropped out the point of focus for each image.

Notes: With this comparison I noticed a bit of distortion from the Zeiss.

2nd Setup - 50mm Cooke / Zeiss - f/2.8

Once again look closely and pick your favorite image.

>Zeiss ZF.2
>Cooke miniS4

And once again let's look at the cropped area.

Notes: I feel these images show the difference in contrast between the lenses and as I was racking the focus setting up the shot, the ZF.2s showed a bit more chromatic aberration in the blacks.

3rd Setup - 32mm Cooke / 35mm Zeiss / 24-70 @ 35mm Canon Zoom - f/2.8

The next two setups are a bit different because the Zeiss and Cooke sets don't have identical millimeter lenses meaning the frame may zoom slightly. Also I added the Canon zooms into the mix. Since the zooms tend to be better at the wider end of their range I used the two L lenses with that in mind. Now let's take a look at some skin tones. Let me apologize now for not having any gorgeous models on hand for this so you will have to deal with my ugly mug; I even left some 5 o'clock shadow to help judge sharpness :) Same deal here, pick your favorite and reveal the answers.

>Cooke miniS4
>Canon Zoom
>Zeiss ZF.2

...and the crop ins.

Notes: Take a look at the blinds in the background. Notice the magenta shift in the highlights on both the Cooke and Zeiss images. The Canon seems to hold a neutral grey a bit better than the primes.

4th Setup - 75mm Cooke / 85mm Zeiss / 70-200 @ 75mm Canon Zoom - f/2.8

Same as the last setup except swapping for a longer lens. The Zeiss is the odd ball at 85mm so I backed the tripod up about 6 - 10" to compensate with a similar framing. Last chance to guess which is which, good luck.

>Canon Zoom
>Cooke miniS4
>Zeiss ZF.2

Have you made your guess? Ok, check your answers then take a look at the crops below.

Notes: The Canon zoom proves itself for sharpness in my humble opinion.

Final Wrap-up

This test by no means is scientific and wasn't meant to be, if that were the case there would more charts. And there are certainly countless other more stressful tests to compare these lenses such as flaring, edge sharpness, and chromatic aberration but I feel this has been good start for showing average everyday scenarios. I did attempt to give a fair comparison between these lenses with as few variables as possible so that you can make up your own mind about which image you like and where you want to spend your hard earned money.  Just a reminder that you can download the raw R3D files for closer inspection using the link below. Thanks for reading and please leave your comments below.