I can remember my first conversation about Fujinon’s new 19-90 Cabrio zoom lens and it went something like this:
No, seriously bro… I’m looking for a good Cine zoom.
Something like a DP Rouge, but with a better focal range.
This thing has a rocker zoom on it. I’m not a reality shooter.
Just listen to me for a minute. This thing blows your CP.2’s away
in sharpness, it has an amazing range, 19-90 and the rocker comes off with
two screws. It is a TRUE Cine zoom. I wouldn’t have bought it if it weren’t!
Dude, it has a rocker zoom.
Stop being a bitchy little feature DP for a minute and listen to me.
I’m telling you this thing blows your lenses away and
is a serious Cine zoom.
How are the witness markings, pull of the lens and stop?
Great witness markings, the pull is super smooth and it’s a 2.9
all the way through.
Alright, alright, I’ll give it a look. When can I come check it out…
Are you sure that rocker comes off?!
Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant to try a lens that was calling itself a Cine Zoom, but had a rocker zoom on it. After all, I’m not as reality shooter, what use would I have for a rocker zoom?
As Director of Photography, I always strive to create the most striking images possible. A lot of what makes up these images is the vision I have in my mind, but without the right tools, those beautiful images may never become reality. Throughout my twelve-year career as a DP many vendors have created cameras, lenses and AKS they claim will help you to better achieve your vision. For me, a lot of the times these promises of revolutionary new gear fall flat.
It’s so easy as a DP to say, “well, I'll just have production rent the gear there is no reason to spend my own money on it and rent it, it’s just too big of a risk.” I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I’ve been genuinely excited about adding a new product to my own shooting package. After all, incurring the expense that comes along with it can be a scary proposition. For me to want to buy a piece of gear, I need to know that it will accomplish several things:
1. It needs to be better than its competitions similarly priced products.
2. It needs to provide an extended duration of use (5+ years).
3. It needs to be able to have a return on investment in 3 years or less.
These are just a few of the reasons why I have chosen to add Fujinon's new 19-90 Cabrio lightweight zoom lens to my personal shooting package.
I first came across the Fujinon 19-90 Cabrio when I was called to shoot a short teaser for the upcoming feature film Bullrider written & directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf and starring Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama). I was put in a scenario where I would be shooting with my Sony F3 handheld in a run 'n gun fashion with very little time to light or maneuver. I owned a set of Zeiss CP.2 prime lenses, but realized right away that prime lenses would never work for this particular project. I was going to be shooting Josh on a Ranch riding horses and mixing in amongst bull-riders and bulls. This complex environment made it imperative that I had a lightweight zoom with the widest focal range possible. I needed to be able to grab the action when it came in close to me, have a decent reach on the telephoto end and have enough stop for late in the day when the sunlight began to slip away.
That’s when my conversation with Ryan Beardsley of Lightstone Rentals came back to me. A fast lightweight zoom with a solid stop that I could use in a reality TV type configuration but deliver feature quality images with… The last thing I wanted to do was admit that my friend Ryan may be right, but it took about two minutes before I was on the phone with him checking on the 19-90’s availability. The first thing I noticed about the lens was it's weight. It's remarkably light for a zoom of this range but still has a solidness to it that is undeniable. The pull in the focus ring reminds me more of an ENG style lens than say my CP.2's but it is smooth and solid if not a little light. The witness markings are done in an incredible phosphorescent paint that makes pulling on the lens a breeze in dark environments. All in all I was wowed.
Being alone with no first AC or camera support team I had to come up with a camera configuration that made the most sense. This is when I turned to my good friends at Redrock Micro. Redrock Micro is often my first call when a new challenge arises as they provide support like few other companies I know. I laid out the situation for them and within an hour or so, we had put together a handheld rig that I truly feel that I could have gone to war with! We built a pretty basic handheld rig with 24” Steel rods, a lens support, handgrips and Redrock’s amazing new shoulder pad. Sounds pretty standard right? That’s when we made a few really exciting tweaks. We took Redrock's new wireless follow focus system and hard wired a thumb roller into it, that we then placed on the left handgrip of my rig. We added a weight plate but we replaced the weights with an Anton Bauer plate and battery which would power the wireless follow focus and counterweight the lens. I was then able to very comfortably shoulder the well balanced handheld rig, while keeping my left hand on the handgrip with the thumb roller focus unit and my right hand up through, yes, you guessed it, the ROCKER ZOOM!. I shot in this configuration for three days and let me just say, without the rig that Redrock helped me build, I don’t have any idea how I would have gotten through it!
Here are some stills pulled directly from the Bullrider footage. All stills are screen grabs and no color timing or manipulation of any kind has taken place. I was using Able Cine's AB range picture profile on the camera, which accounts for a bit of the "flatter" look. I tried to put Josh’s back to the sun whenever I could and I tried not to lose detail in the sky. Nothing says low budget to me more than blown out backgrounds and poor composition. As you can see from the photos, I was pretty successful in crafting high quality images in a run ‘n gun situation from a Cine Zoom lens that just so happens to have a rocker zoom on it! Who would have thought?
As you can see from this still the lens flares incredibly easily. In this particular situation the flares worked wonderfully for the story. In many other situations, I would make my camera team aware of the lenses susceptibility to flaring and take appropriate actions.
In possibly my favorite shot from the shoot, Josh stands in the corral back-lit by the sun. You can really see the sharpness and contrast of this lens despite using a picture profile that was designed to flatten the image out.
After the incredible experience I had using the lens on the teaser, I brought it on to my next job which was a series of five comedy spots for Clorox through "The Onion." (Be warned they are only posted in a resolution of 360P) Needless to say my experience the second time around was just as great.
For those DP's out there that are truly looking for a versatile lens, I can't recommend the Fujinon 19-90 highly enough. I am now using it on Features, Commercials and to my surprise, run 'n gun corporate gigs where I have really upped the look of the overall product. For as close to an all in one lens as I think you can get, the Fujinon 19-90 Cabrio is where it's at!
*Just a note, the Fujinon 19-90 Cabrio can be powered from and communicate with Sony Cameras such as the F3, F5, and F55. This makes using the lens on these cameras a dream!