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Primes Vs. Zooms


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#1 Greg Gross

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 09:43 PM

I spent quite some time today reading chapters from "Reflections". I was particularly
absorbed with comments by Owen Roizman ASC,John C. Hora ASC,Jeff Cronenweth
ASC. Subjects ranged from how to create a smoke beam,what focal length for people
in advertising,art of building light,practical advice on not overlighting. One of the cine-
matographers said that he did not want to be seen using a zoom(a man after my own
heart). Although he would skip creative framing with a prime and use a zoom if the sp-
eed of work called for it. I rarely use a zoom in still photography unless the distance of
a subject(un-practical) from the camera is a problem. Of course framing subject with a
handheld camera has never been a problem for me,while using a prime lens. Now when
you look at the collected films that these gentlemen have shot,you'll just be blown away.
You'll have no problem understanding that they know what they are talking about. I envy
David Mullen ASC as I'm sure he gets to mingle with these gentlemen at times. This spring
I will begin shooting a film for the first time on super 16mm. I have produced,written the sc-
ript,will co-direct with my girlfriend,will photograph production. I'm using primes for the most
part and have written in to the script a lot of close-ups with two characters in dialogue. I do
not see a need for a zoom in the rental box. Do I have tunnel vision? Should I have a zoom
in the rental box anyway? Would anybody care to comment on speed of working with prime
lens Vs. zoom? Anybody want to share any experiences concerning this issue? I believe in
taking the camera to the subject,and I know that at times this is not possible to do.

Greg Gross
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 09:59 PM

Well, if you're the DP, sometimes you have to carry a zoom because you'll never know when the director dreams up a shot that requires one.

I avoid zooms in 35mm shooting when I can, but use them in HD (to avoid doing back-focus checks with every lens change, plus the HD zooms are fast and small compared to 35mm zooms.) But sometimes you have a shot designed that requires a zoom.

"Akeelah and the Bee" was mostly shot on Primo anamorphic primes, except for some B-camera shots at the big spelling bees where I needed to grab a few reaction shots of extras quickly, on the fly. But now and then I had a shot that needed to be done on a zoom. Partly because my longest Primo prime was 180mm, so if I needed something longer, I used the zoom rather than a telephoto anamorphic conversion.

But I also had one shot that started in ECU on a pair of eyes, pulled back and dollied 360 degrees around, showing the whole event. Now the director asked why I couldn't do that with a prime, but the problem is that I couldn't get tight enough with any lens shorter than a 75mm anamorphic, and probably a 100mm anamorphic would actually be the widest I could use to get two eyeballs in the shot, plus dollying back on a 100mm from an ECU would have been nearly impossible to pull focus on, plus stuck on a 100mm, I couldn't have seen much of the room as I dollied 360 degrees, plus a pull back and 360 dolly would have been a spiral dancefloor move, making perfect focusing even harder.

So it made sense to use the zoom and do the pullback with that, with no focus pulling necessary and then start the 360 degree dolly move near the end of the zoom out. As it was, I had to go from nearly 400mm to 48mm just to get the shot.

So even when I work with directors who prefer primes too, I always carry a zoom just in case.
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#3 Andrew Alward

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 11:05 PM

Now, do you mean using zoom lenses to have a zooming shot?

I personally don't favor zooming shots. But, I don't see anything wrong with using a zoom lens at a fixed focal length for a shot. I do still photography, and have found using zoom lenses very heplful in framing, especially in a hurry. The only down side that I would see in using zoom lenses, is that they are quite expensive for the fast lenses(which are the ones you want), and cheap zooms sometimes have chromatic abberation.
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#4 oscar jimenez

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 12:35 PM

If you are in such a big hurry, a good, sharp, fast and clean zoom lens helps a lot, I shot a video on 16mm last weekend, and damn, I had a primes high speed set ( Zeiss ) and a Zeiss macro 10-100 T2 zoom lense recently collimated and cleaned, Because of time and tight schedule issues, I ended using the zoom all the way over, just added a Super Fish Eye aspheron ( century optics ) when the shot demanded extreme wide shots, and worked out beautiful, Id rather stick with primes cos of image sharpness, but if you cant, then have a good zoom with you ( clean and sharp, such as Zeiss )




quote name='Tinman84' date='Feb 7 2006, 08:05 PM' post='89388']
Now, do you mean using zoom lenses to have a zooming shot?

I personally don't favor zooming shots. But, I don't see anything wrong with using a zoom lens at a fixed focal length for a shot. I do still photography, and have found using zoom lenses very heplful in framing, especially in a hurry. The only down side that I would see in using zoom lenses, is that they are quite expensive for the fast lenses(which are the ones you want), and cheap zooms sometimes have chromatic abberation.
[/quote]
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#5 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 01:52 PM

It's pretty sad that carrying a zoom with you labels you as not a professional. People have stated quite clearly that there is a need for zooms, especially on a tight schedule, reframing quickly, and needing less AC help in the long run.

I prefer zooms, and primes. It just depends on what the director is asking for.

Zooms do seem a lot easier though.
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