We Got That Cooke Look

Cooke lenses
Have you ever wondered what a one-off cinema lens from a legendary manufacturer looks like attached to a Sony a7S II?

After visiting the Cooke Optics factory, we did, so we tried one out.

The results were lovely and left us at times amazed by the dimensionality, smooth rendering and quality. A Cooke lens of this type, the miniS4/i 32mm T2.8-22, is normally attached to a RED Cinema or an ARRI camera with a PL mount.

But for the run-and-gunner, late last year, Cooke announced the availability of their miniS4 with an E-mount and showed them at NAB. This is the first one in the States. Based on my experience, I hope they make more. And, following my previous cine article about Sigma, the prices have dropped from rental-only to affordable for a small to medium video production company, at $7,500 for that Academy Award®-winning look.

Cooke lenses

As the video shows, notice the color and contrast, an eye-pleasing sharpness. There’s no distortion or moiré patterns in the buildings with lots of shapes happening all at once and detail in the clouds.

The pattern quality in the outdoor shots surprised us, too, as well as the flag. We’re at least a football field away, maybe two, from that skyscraper and can make out a rainbow flag flying from a window.

Look at the blues in the sky in the midday sun. In the flare example, as the camera pans closer to the sun, they fade out naturally. There’s no banding, optically or on the sensor. Also, notice the warmth and presence in the skin tones of Amazon workers who walked past (making tech workers look sharp is an achievement in itself!).

Eric Johnson from Lill Monster Industries, who worked with me on the shoot, told me afterward in a message:

“In today’s production environment with an E-mount option, having not just access to legendary, or near legendary, lens manufacturers is a game changer. But now the price point has opened things up to owning such lenses. For video production, my still lenses days are numbered.”

In other words, “So long F-stop, hello T-stop!”

While Cooke isn’t marketing this lens for stills or portraits, as a photographer, I took a few snaps and the results were as lovely as the video.

Cooke lenses

The world needs the beauty a lens like this can create, and you’ve probably watched a film or two made with one like we had, most recently, Fleabag, Game of Thrones and Westworld.

Commenting about the market for the lens, Les Zellan, chairman and owner, Cooke Optics, said:

“The miniS4/i lenses are steadily gaining popularity for many genres of production since they have all the coveted attributes of Cooke prime lenses in a smaller, lighter and more affordable form.”

As with most lenses I get in for a demo, I put the miniS4 in a backpack and took it out for a ride with stops along the route. It was like a ride-and-clip, instead of a run-and-gun, and I’ll share a short movie from that experience later on my bike blog.

Tech Notes

The Sony a7S II was set up in a “portrait” creative setting and +3 in detail with no color correction. A custom setting was also used to compensate for the Super35 format recording on a full-frame sensor. To remove the vignetting and maximize available sensor space, “ClearImage Zoom” was turned on and then zoomed in a couple ticks with minimal loss of quality. The APS-C/Super 35mm was set to “on” as well.

The Specs

  • T-Stop Range: T2.8-T22
  • Angular Rotation of Iris Scale: 77°
  • Marked Object Distance: 300mm/12 in.
  • Close Focus from Lens Front: 139mm/5 in.
  • Angular Rotation to MOD Endstop: 300°
  • Max. Diagonal Angle of View for Super 35 Format: 50°
  • Length from Front of Lens to Lens Mount: 106 mm/4.17 in.
  • Max Front Diameter: 87mm/3.43 in.
  • Total Weight: 1.4 kg/3.08 lbs.
  • Maximum Format Cover: 33.54mm diameter (new Epic S35mm format)
  • Focus Scales: Two opposing focus scales – metric or footage; scales marked from infinity to MOD
  • Focus Drive Gear: 121 teeth, 0.8 metric module x 5.0mm wide x 101mm from the image plane
  • Iris Scales: Two opposing linear T scales – whole and third stops marked
  • Iris Drive Gear: 119 teeth, 0.8 metric module x 2.5mm wide x 85mm from the image plane
  • Screw-In Filter: M82 x 0.75 (25mm – 135mm)

Features

  • Optical Design: The optics are designed to give maximum performance at full aperture with superior control of flare, distortion and spherical aberration
  • Electronics: Accessible via contacts in PL mount that sync with /i-compatible cameras; our E-mount conversion did not talk to the camera
  • Color Balance: All miniS4/i prime lenses are color-balanced, color-matched and compatible with Cooke 5/i, S4/i and Anamorphic/i
  • Aperture: All miniS4/i primes have a true T2.8 aperture and cover Super 35mm format
  • Index Marks: Every index mark is labelled; more detailed markings allow for more detailed focus control
  • Focus Movement: Cooke’s Academy Award®-winning cam-style focus movement, coupled with the added benefit of a large lens barrel diameter, has allowed for an increased number of focus markings, particularly at close focus; spherical aberration has been controlled throughout the range of focal lengths to eliminate compensation of changes in back focus with aperture; a four-point contact bearing provides a smooth positive backlash-free movement
  • Camera Mounts: Cooke Hardened PL Mount with /i Technology contact; ours was tested in an E-mount
  • Focus Scaling: Large, clear numerals on both sides of the focus barrel benefit the focus puller when shooting under difficult lighting conditions
  • Compatibility: All Cooke miniS4/i primes, except the 18mm, have a common fixed front diameter of 87mm, with a focus drive gear of 121T x 0.8 mod and an iris drive gear of 119T x 0.8
  • External Finish: A scratch-resistant PTFE hard anodised finish is provided on all Cooke lenses, providing a durable, hard-wearing surface to meet the most demanding environmental conditions
  • Iris: An eight-leaf linear module iris assembly is fitted into miniS4/i primes with an aperture range of T2.8 to T22

You can follow DL Byron on Twitter @bikehugger

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