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Variable Primes


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#1 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 20 July 2008 - 05:24 PM

What ever happened to Arri Variable Primes? I remember when they came out in the mid-90's, but I've almost never seen them on set. Would they be a useful option on a low-budget feature, just to carry the set of 3, rather than 6 or 8 fixed primes?
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#2 Max Jacoby

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Posted 20 July 2008 - 05:37 PM

I'm not sure why they never really caught on, but I suspect it is their weight which makes them not ideal for steadicam and handheld.

But optically speaking they deliver the same performance one expects from primes, at essentially the same stop (T2.2). I once compared one to Ultra Prime on a projector and the Vari-Prime was even a tad sharper I recall.

They definitely are a good option for a low-budget film, unless you need the T1.3 stop of Master Primes or Super Speeds.
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#3 Arni Heimir

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Posted 20 July 2008 - 06:47 PM

I'm not sure why they never really caught on, but I suspect it is their weight which makes them not ideal for steadicam and handheld.

But optically speaking they deliver the same performance one expects from primes, at essentially the same stop (T2.2). I once compared one to Ultra Prime on a projector and the Vari-Prime was even a tad sharper I recall.

They definitely are a good option for a low-budget film, unless you need the T1.3 stop of Master Primes or Super Speeds.


I can tell you that the Variable primes are excellent lenses. As Max said, they are very sharp. But now zooms are becoming lighter, faster, more compact and even at par with the best primes in terms of optical quality.

I just don't think they are very practical anymore. A set of three costs similar to rent than the best zooms which cover almost the whole focal length range and then some.
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#4 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 20 July 2008 - 08:54 PM

You think zooms are getting lighter? All I ever see are Optimos, which seem to get bigger and heavier all the time.
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#5 Max Jacoby

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 02:15 AM

With zooms it is always a tradeoff between size/weight and speed. The zooms that are about as fast as primes (Optimo 17-80mm T2.2, Cooke 15-40mm T2) are heavier than the lightweight ones (Optimos 15-40mm & 28-76mm, Zeiss 15.5-45mm), which are only T2.6 and as such not meant as a replacement for primes.
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#6 georg lamshöft

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 01:13 PM

If I remember correctly, Michael Ballhaus liked them and used VPs for most of his work since "Air Force One".

Zeiss had to redesign some lenses because of stricter enviromental laws in Germany, some designs didn't survive... Maybe also the case with the VPs?

Edited by georg lamshöft, 30 July 2008 - 01:15 PM.

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#7 Max Jacoby

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 03:21 PM

Indeed, the AC article on 'The Departed' mentions the lenses.
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