MK lens series achieves ultra-compact & lightweight body and excellent cost performance. Cinematographer tells us the story of what makes MK lens series attractive.

MK lens series has been added to FUJINON Cine Lens lineup. MK lens series inherit its optical performance and resolve the issues of conventional cinema & DSLR lenses by achieving ultra-compact and light weight body with excellent cost performance. This time, cinematographer, Maejima Kazuo, who often do shoots with DSLR lenses, tell us the story of what makes MK lens series attractive through the image movie shooting.

Movie

The Status Quo in the Movie Production Industry

Although low-priced cinema cameras have been broadly adopted by the market in recent years, there have been virtually no dedicated cinema lenses available. Inevitably, in most cases, DSLR lenses would be used instead. But because those lenses are essentially designed for shooting photographs, there are certain situations where their limitations become apparent. When you're shooting on location, where every second counts, it can be a struggle to get the results you want by using DSLR lenses. Because the MK18-55mm T2.9 is a cinema lens developed specifically for movies, it eliminates all of the usability hassles associated with DSLR lenses. Next, I want to talk about what set the MK Lens apart from a DSLR lens when I used it for shooting a movie—the differences in terms of their optical (internal) elements and mechanical (external) elements.

The Birth of a 980g FUJINON Cine Lens

When I got my hands on the MK18-55mm T2.9 lens, what struck me first was how much it felt like a high-end cinema lens. The tactile sensation of its exterior and the smooth torque of the focus/zoom/iris rings, all of which feel just like those on a high-end cinema lens. As well as the same tight, clean and imposing appearance inherited from other FUJINON Cine Lenses, such as the ZK and XK series. But what surprised me most was its light weight: just 980g. A common belief among cinematographers is that cinema lenses have to be big and heavy. But once you get your hands on the MK Lens, you'll see things in a different way. In my work, I often do shoots with DSLR lenses. So, what used to be common sense to me was turned on its head: even though it's a cinema lens, it's actually lighter than DSLR lenses.

Differences with DSLR Lenses: Optical (Internal) aspects

First of all, regarding the optical elements, there are three main points of difference. First, the focal point doesn't shift while zooming. In other words, you can incorporate zoom movements into your movie. This is a big deal. Slow zooms in particular provide an extremely effective cinematic accent. Once you focus, you can change to any angle of view—this is also a huge advantage. Having to readjust the focus each time you change the angle of view before shooting is surprisingly time consuming. Each little bit of time adds up to become a huge amount of time, and this just puts more pressure on during a shoot. The MK18-55mm T2.9 doesn't use electronic controls. Controlling the focus movement is done optically and mechanically. So focus precision is equivalent to that of a high-end cinema lens.

The second point is that it doesn't exhibit lens breathing. It's not 100% suppressed, but at least, I felt it very natural. There's a tremendous amount of stress when the angle of view that you've chosen changes each time you focusing on the objects. I think every cinematographer who shoots with short delivery times knows what I'm talking about. In particular, when you set the focus for important scene, that scene will be ruined if the lens shows lens breathing.

The third point is that there's no optical axis shift. I was able to sense it immediately through the test shooting. It's so important to have a lens that gives you a sense of security and reliability, so you can concentrate on shooting without stress or a sense of unease.

Differences with DSLR Lenses:Mechanical (External) aspects

As for the external elements, the fully manual triple lens rings for focus, zoom, and iris resolve the less-than-satisfactory aspects of DSLR lenses. With DSLR lenses, while the zoom mechanism uses a manual mechanism, the focus and iris are electrically controlled. And for the iris, it's often the case that no iris ring is provided on the lens. The amazing thing about the MK Lens is that it manages to include this feature—commonly found on all cinema lenses—with this affordable price. It goes without saying that, because you can operate it intuitively, what you intended to capture can be reflected directly in the movie.

During the shooting, we shot a number of rack focusing scenes. The focus ring, with its rotation angle of 200 degrees, gave us sufficient control, and we had no trouble achieving fine-tuned focus. Experienced cinematographers know how hard it is to focus using DSLR lenses. Of course, the focus, zoom, and iris all use a 0.8M gear pitch, guaranteeing compatibility with third-party cinema accessories. Our whole shoot was done using follow focus. The iris ring can be operated seamlessly without clicks, and the fact that vibration and rotation noise don’t creep into the movie also makes it safe to use in shooting situations where doing numerous re-takes wouldn’t work.

Superb Optical Performance Inherited from previous FUJINON Cine Lenses

This movie is titled Edo Arts. The subjects are cultural properties whose traditions have continued since the Edo Period. The movie showcases highly detailed subjects, such as Edo shishū embroidery and the delicate cut glass known as Edo kiriko. The delineation performance of the MK Lens was spectacular. As you can see in the movie, the resolution enabled the texture and tint of the glass and embroidery to be reproduced accurately.

The scenes of Edo kiriko were shot in a dim room with only few light bulbs, but I was able to make great use of the T2.9 speed. We could make the room lighter with extra light source, but it is a big advantage to be able to capture dark part while keeping its atmosphere. In scenes where the amount of light is limited, T2.9 can be used over the entire zoom range, so even if you change the focal length, there’s no need to readjust the lighting. This contributed greatly to shortening the shooing time. The bokeh blur quality, which made full use of T2.9, is also beautiful and highlights the subject in a dramatically impressive way.

Bolstering the Lineup with MK50-135mm (Launch Summer 2017)

In addition to the MK18-55mm, the MK50-135mm will be added to the MK Lens series lineup in summer 2017. Combining the two will make it possible to cover the entire focal length range from 18 to 135 mm, thereby covering all the focal lengths you need for general cinema production. While we weren’t able to use them together for this shoot, the MK18-55mm and the MK50-135mm lenses share the same front diameter, filter diameter, and 0.8M gear pitch position. The two lenses are sure to complement each other superbly. It’s not something really conspicuous, but you can tell they’ve paid attention to even the tiniest details.

The Long-Awaited FUJINON MK Series

As I mentioned above, the FUJINON MK Series are lenses that we cinematographers have long been waiting for. When you look at this product, it’s clear that FUJINON has meticulously studied and addressed the issues facing cinematographers currently using DSLR lenses. The price is also reasonable, meaning that they’re not just cine lenses to rent, as in the past, they’re cine lenses that you yourself can own. Considering the time I spend shooting a movie, I estimate that I’d be able to recoup the cost of a set of these lenses within a year. What kind of lenses will FUJINON release in the future? I can’t wait to see the next leap forward from FUJINON Cine Lenses.

About the Author

Cinematographer Maejima Kazuo

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