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Zeiss Superspeeds


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#1 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 27 November 2005 - 08:05 PM

Who here can tell me the history of the Zeiss Superspeed line of lenses for 16 and super16mm? (What year which model came out, etc.) I've rented a friend's set a bunch of times, and they look great, but they're physically so small that I can never get them to work w/ a 2 sided follow focus and a 2 stage matte-box at the same time. (The follow focus knob bumps into the back of the matte-box.) Is there a model that's got the same glass in a bigger barrell? Thanks. J..
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#2 Mike Williamson

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Posted 27 November 2005 - 08:40 PM

Check the archives, as I believe that Mitch Gross posted something about various generations of Superspeeds awhile back, and he'll know better than I do.

If I recall correctly, there are three generations of these lenses. The first open up to T1.4, rather than T1.3. Following that, there are two subsequent generations that open up to T1.3, but I don't know what the differences between them are.

As far as larger barrel sizes, the Superspeeds come in different housings. I used a set with PL mounts intended for 35mm that had a larger housing than the Bayonet mount versions that are intended for 16mm use (with SR's, etc.) I'm not sure if you could get a 16mm set (9.5, 12, etc.) in the bigger 35mm housings. Maybe the PL mount 16mm set has a bigger housing on it?

Personally, I used what I believe were the most recent versions of these lenses on a 35mm feature I shot last year and I liked the lenses a great deal. After commenting that I'd heard they were soft when shot wide open, the owner of the rental house put them up on a collimator and we looked at sharpness through the different iris settings. With this particular set at least, the test showed them to be just as sharp wide open as stopped down.

More recently, I've been working with a few different sets of Superspeeds in regular 16mm, a mix of probably first and second generation lenses. Though I haven't seen any bench tests, these lenses probably aren't as sharp as the ones I used this summer. It's hard to say because you're comparing regular 16mm workprint to 35mm workprint, so I could quite easily be wrong. But with so many sets produced over a long period of time, you'd want to test any set before using them on a big project. I feel like you could easily get a great set of lenses or a real pile of junk if you just turn up at the rental house and say "superspeeds please."
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