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Panavision Lens Tests (Super Speeds vs Primos)

Panavision has a long-held reputation for excellent optics, specifically for their in-house Primo line. As the go-to lens set for many films shooting on Panavision cameras, they've become practically synonymous with the big-budget Hollywood look. Beyond their own glass, however, Panavision also has a large arsenal of lenses from other manufacturers that they have "panavised"—improving the mechanics, coatings, housing, and internal optics.

As an attempt to familiarize myself with Panavision optics and to see for myself the difference Panavision glass really makes, we tested a series of Primo lenses against the tried-and-true Zeiss Super Speeds—a set of lenses any Cinematographer is likely very familiar with.

 

Lens: Panavised Zeiss Super Speed (35mm) / Stop: T2.3

It's worth taking a moment to note and explain the Panavision naming system, which reflects the various levels of reservicing and repurposing Panavision has performed on each set of lenses. "Super Speeds" and "Ultra Speeds" are, infact, both Zeiss Super Speeds, but "Ultra Speeds" have had the optical coatings inside the lenses restored or redone altogether. For the Primo line, the various suffixes denote special uses. The Primo-V, for instance, has been specifically designed to work with the Optical Low-Pass filters common in digital cinema cameras, whereas the original Primo line (Primo and Primo Vintage) were originally designed for use with film emulsion.

Gear and Settings

  • Camera: Panavised Arri Alexa
  • Resolution: 2K
  • Format: ProRes 444
  • ISO: 800 and 1280 (Panavision Primo 19-90mm Zoom)
  • White Balance: 3200K
  • Frame Rate: 23.976fps
  • Shutter Angle: 180°
  • Filtration: none
  • Color / Gamma: LogC ProRes 444

  • All images have been exported as JPEG files at a width of 720, and at full quality.
  • A LogC to Rec709 LUT has been applied before any JPEG conversions.
  • Click on any thumbnail for a larger view.
  • If interested in viewing the original camera data or higher resolution stills, feel free to contact me.

    Testing Methods

    A soft, tunsgten light was set-up as our key light for our subject, with an output level of T1.4/2. No fill was used. A series of household christmas lights was set up behind our subject, approximately 15 feet behind her. Every lens was shot at 800 ISO and T2.3, with the exception of the Panavision Primo 19-90mm Zoom, which we had to shoot wide-open at T2.8 and 1280 ISO.

    Results

    Panavised Zeiss Super Speed (35mm)

    Lens: Panavised Zeiss Super Speed (35mm) / Stop: T2.3 Lens: Panavised Zeiss Super Speed (35mm) / Stop: T2.3

    Panavised Zeiss Ultra Speed (35mm)

    Lens: Panavised Zeiss Ultra Speed (35mm) / Stop: T2.3 Lens: Panavised Zeiss Ultra Speed (35mm) / Stop: T2.3

    Panavised Zeiss Ultra Speed (50mm)

    Lens: Panavised Zeiss Ultra Speed (50mm) / Stop: T2.3 Lens: Panavised Zeiss Ultra Speed (50mm) / Stop: T2.3

    Panavision Primo (50mm)

    Lens: Panavision Primo (50mm) / Stop: T2.3 Lens: Panavision Primo (50mm) / Stop: T2.3

    Panavision Primo-L (50mm)

    Lens: Panavision Primo-L (50mm) / Stop: T2.3 Lens: Panavision Primo-L (50mm) / Stop: T2.3

    Panavision Primo 19-90mm Zoom (50mm)

    Lens: Panavision Primo 19-90mm Zoom (50mm) / Stop: T2.8 Lens: Panavision Primo 19-90mm Zoom (50mm) / Stop: T2.8

    Panavised Zeiss Super Speed (100mm)

    Lens: Panavised Zeiss Super Speed (100mm) / Stop: T2.3

    Panavision Primo Vintage (100mm)

    Lens: Panavision Primo Vintage (100mm) / Stop: T2.3

    Panavision Primo-L (100mm)

    Lens: Panavision Primo-L (100mm) / Stop: T2.3

    Panavision Primo-V (100mm)

    Lens: Panavision Primo-V (100mm) / Stop: T2.3

    Raw Footage

     

     

    Many thanks to Alexa Lopez at Panavision, Jez Thierry, Angel Lopez, and Andria Hopkins.

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