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Return of the Cooke Panchro lenses


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#1 Tim Carroll

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 11:12 AM

Jon Fauer is reporting in the latest issue of Film & Digital Times that:
Film & Digital Times

"Like the Phoenix rising in Harry Potter, the venerable Cooke Panchro name is being revived, or should we say, reinvented. Film and Digital Times has learned that Cooke is working on a new set of PL mounted lenses for 35mm motion picture film and digital production. The six new Cooke Panchros—18, 25, 32, 50, 75, 100 mm, all T2.8—should be ready by the end of the year, available individually or as a set. Panchros are designed, manufactured and assembled in Leicester, England by the same team that created the S4 lenses, at an affordable price. They are clearly aimed at the large and vibrant community of up and coming cinematographers.

But these are not training wheels for your top of the line Cookes. When you get your ASC or BSC award, you are not obliged to trade these Panchros in for S4 lenses, much as Cooke owner Les Zellan would be delighted you do. The Panchros sacrifice nothing except a stop of light (T2.8 on Panchros vs T2.0 for Cooke S4). The resolution is expected to be as good as an S4 at T2.8. They are about 20% lighter and smaller. The new Panchro line is being designed with 4K (and beyond) digital and film production in mind.

The aperture is linear. Focus mechanisms are still cams. Focus scales are generous. And Cooke /i Technology is included.

Preliminary technical specs are printed on the next page. The Panchros are still a work in progress, so details, specs, shapes and other things may change. One thing is not going to change: the inexorable demand for more PL mounted lenses to put on all the new film and digital cameras, including the Sony F35, ARRI D21, RED, Aaton Penelope and the hundred-thousand existing PL mount cameras. Panchros have a prestigious provenance. The majority of feature films made in Hollywood during the first half of the 20th century were shot using Cooke lenses, and many of these were Panchros. In 1921, Horace W. Lee designed the Cooke Speed Panchro, a prime lens with a wide aperture for filming in low light.

In September 9, 1926, Kinematograph Weekly reported: “Over a hundred Taylor-Hobson Cooke lenses of various focal lengths are used by the photographic department of the Famous Players-Lasky studios. This interesting information is contained in a letter from Frank E. Carbutt, Famous’ Director of Photography. Mr. Carbutt adds that these lenses have, without, exception, given perfect satisfaction and that they have yet to find a poor Cooke lens.”

July 1930, from an article in The British Journal of Photography: “It deserves to be better realized in the photographic world to what extent Taylor-Hobson lenses have come into favour in the sound-film and silent-film studios in England and in Hollywood. The Cooke lenses of very large aperture have been establishing themselves increasingly in film production for several years past, and are now in use to an extent which is very gratifying to those knowing the merits of British products. In the same way Taylor-Hobson projection lenses have secured something like a monopoly among the ‘super cinemas’ in this country for projecting these same films. Frequenters of the movies may reckon therefore that most of the pictures which they see are both produced and projected by means of lenses made in the Leicester factories.”

By 1935, Cooke Speed Panchros for cinematography were supplied in 8 focal lengths: 24, 28, 32, 35, 40, 50, 75 and 108 mm. They all covered the standard or “normal” 35mm 1.33:1 format of 0.631 x 0.868 inch.

“Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are forced to see it repeated,” said a famous statesman. It seems that Cooke has not failed in their history lessons and are repeating the success of one of the most popular lens sets of all time. Cooke will be at the P+S Technik booth (SU9924G) in the Bavarian Pavilion at NAB, on the upper level of South Hall, near AVID."


You can read more about them and see pics in the current issue of Film & Digital Times.

Best,
-Tim
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#2 Todd Anderson

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 01:45 PM

I'm excited about this. Where is everybody else? Stephen Williams???

The T-stop of 2.8 obviously seems like a cap as to not cannibalize their S4's. Now if Kodak is possibly sitting on a fine grain 800 speed Vision3 stock, maybe T2.8 could become the new T2?

Regardless, I really hope Cooke throws out a competitive price. I know they are looking out for themselves by not under cutting their S4's, but I think at this day and age with all the new lens options coming out, not to mention the way RED has disrupted the whole ecosystem of camera and lens rentals, they would be better off to sell the lenses at closer to $5,000 a piece and sell the volume to this new "prosumer digital 35" market, and keep the S4's for the their legacy niche market (i.e. high end film production). I know that this is probably hard for them to swallow at this point, as I would think they are probably thinking of introducing them at closer to the $7,000 - $10,000 mark (half the price of the S4's), but I think the volume move, even if it means displacing the future value of the S4's, would be their best business plan for future vitality. Agree? Disagree?

I also thought it was a nice classy touch of introducing them as, "Panchro by Cooke".

Todd
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#3 Stephen Williams

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 02:00 PM

I'm excited about this. Where is everybody else? Stephen Williams???

The T-stop of 2.8 obviously seems like a cap as to not cannibalize their S4's. Now if Kodak is possibly sitting on a fine grain 800 speed Vision3 stock, maybe T2.8 could become the new T2?

Todd


Hi Todd,

I think they will make more sense as rental lenses rather than for an owner operator. More useful for day ext than night. Makes my 20-60 T3 seem pretty state of the art!

Stephen
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#4 Todd Anderson

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 02:59 PM

Hi Stephen,

But don't you think that by leaving them just as rental lenses Cooke may be limiting there market potential for the future? I mean, who would have thought that Zeiss would have been coming out with compact primes? Why not take advantage of this 'new' market?

Would you say depending on how far along the design is, would it be of benefit for Cooke to evaluate the market a bit closer and re-evaluate the speed? Maybe introduce them at T2.3—as the originals— even if there was a slight compromise wide open?

Would if be fair to say that the original Panchros probably needed to be stopped down to a T2.8 (if not T4) for them to perform well. And while this is not accepted today, nonetheless, how many people still rent Super Speeds for the T1.3 stop, even if they have a different look wide open at T1.3, versus T2 and above?

A better market potential introducing them as T2.3?

Interestingly, there is a blurb in this article on creative cow that mentions something to the degree of, "the price point also brings the benefits of Cooke lenses to independent filmmakers, film students and documentary makers...."

Now hopefully they mean 'students of film', too, as opposed to just 'trust fund kid film students'! ...

http://news.creative...et/story/861709

.
Todd

p.s: And yes Stephen, that does make your 20-60mm seem state of the art! Which if you remember correctly, I acquired as well after inquiring you about yours. Did I tell you I have tracked down three original Century rehoused speed pancrhos for a fair price? A 32mm and a 75mm for $1,800 each. And a 50mm for a bit more... getting serviced now..
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#5 Tom Jensen

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 03:24 PM

Hi Stephen,

Would if be fair to say that the original Panchros probably needed to be stopped down to a T2.8 (if not T4) for them to perform well. And while this is not accepted today, nonetheless, how many people still rent Super Speeds for the T1.3 stop, even if they have a different look wide open at T1.3, versus T2 and above?

Interestingly, there is a blurb in this article on creative cow that mentions something to the degree of, "the price point also brings the benefits of Cooke lenses to independent filmmakers, film students and documentary makers...."


Todd, I would say that all lenses perform better when stopped down 2 stops. While filming with S4's wide open is acceptable, performance is not optimal. People still rent the Zeiss Super Speeds for the speed but mostly for the cost. I challenge anyone to tell the difference between shooting with Cooke S4's and shooting with Super Speeds when going to telecine. With a print on the big screen is where you see the difference.

Now most DP's don't own their own equipment. They might have filters and some do have lenses but they are not the norm. It is cheaper in the long run to rent and maintenance is an issue. On a shoot, if a lens gets destroyed you can call the rental house and get a replacement right away. If you find out the lens isn't focusing properly, same thing. If you own the lens and something happens, the lens owns you. You are responsible. I think what Cooke is saying is that the rental prices will be affordable.

On a side note, the Cooke Panchros that you are using today are just the old style lens with a housing built around it so you can mount it on PL camera and use a modern follow focus. If you take the lens apart, there is an old style Cooke inside.
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#6 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 03:50 PM

Would if be fair to say that the original Panchros probably needed to be stopped down to a T2.8 (if not T4) for them to perform well. And while this is not accepted today, nonetheless, how many people still rent Super Speeds for the T1.3 stop, even if they have a different look wide open at T1.3, versus T2 and above?

A better market potential introducing them as T2.3?

Interestingly, there is a blurb in this article on creative cow that mentions something to the degree of, "the price point also brings the benefits of Cooke lenses to independent filmmakers, film students and documentary makers...."

Now hopefully they mean 'students of film', too, as opposed to just 'trust fund kid film students'! ...


Right, T2.3 Panchros would be an overall better move, as far as I can see. Noise on video and grain on film created by shooting at T2.8 in most night / low light filming conditions with small or no lighting packages would off-set any benefits in terms of the lenses' "look" _which would preclude DP's form using the lenses in the first place, if such low light conditions are to be encountered during filming, and they regularly are. So I remain skeptical about the rationale behind Cooke's NEW T2.8 Panchros move, other than "blast form the past," "heritage" lenses for a few T&H aficionados.


As for Cooke's claims of independent film makers being catered to, unless one has a BIG lighting package ($), T2.8 lenses are close to useless. Unless, as Stephen says, they are to be used for day work, or on big-budget films, where tons of lights are potentially more accessible. In my view, that is a very narrow market to be targeting with these new lenses.

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 21 April 2009 - 03:54 PM.

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#7 Stephen Williams

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 04:22 PM

If the performance matches the S4's then half price for 1 stop lost is a good deal, use the money saved on rentals & take the master primes for the night shoots. Cooke probably cant produce a huge no of lens sets, they are still hand made. At least it is a matching set unlike the new Zeiss lenses.

Stephen
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#8 Todd Anderson

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 05:39 PM

Hi Tom.

I have to agree with you about most lenses performing at two stops from wide open. And I think your point about the telecine versus print is valid, too.

And while I obviously see that it would be ridiculous for a DP who regularly shoots big budget features owning their own lenses, as one would want to choose on a technical level the best tool for the job (speed, primes verus zooms, specialty lenses, etc), as well as on an artistic level want to choose the most appropriate lens that captures the characteristics, tone, and mood of the story. And that would obviously mean owing a rental house case of glass. Not to mention your point about the responsibility of the the glass "owing you" when something goes wrong in the middle of a big budget project.

However, I still feel that Cooke is 'softly' catering to the RED market by getting their feet wet here. Even on their website introducing the lenses they have this blurb: "In addition many purchasers of digital cameras like Red also want a full set of lenses for an affordable price."

Now that can certainly mean rental, too. But I kind of read it as an option to these few thousand other RED customers that are lining up to pay about $20,000 for a set of primes. Or the people that were paying $27,000 for a set of used Zeiss Standards on ebay. These are the people that will probably make their one set of "house lenses" work for all applications (be that of a technical or artistic merit)

So I have to agree with Saul, in that I also think Cooke should step back and look at there marketing of these lens and consider the T2.3 stop. I feel they would be much more attractive all across the board. Again, I think it is more of an uncertainty on their part as to what they may do to there existing line, versus, that they can actually get an acceptable T2.3 stop out of the new Panchros.

Of course, I love the look of Cooke's.... so I would still take these even if they were a stop slower over other options... and just wait around for those low cost RED HMI's to hit the market ;-)

Todd
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#9 Todd Anderson

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 06:14 PM

Stephen,

How many total sets of S4's do you think Cooke has produced? One hundred fifty? Two hundred? Any indication that you have noticed looking at the serial numbers?

Todd
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#10 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 07:10 PM

However, I still feel that Cooke is 'softly' catering to the RED market by getting their feet wet here. Even on their website introducing the lenses they have this blurb: "In addition many purchasers of digital cameras like Red also want a full set of lenses for an affordable price."


Indeed. I had noticed that too. However, why would Cooke think that T2.8 lenses appeal to RED owners / productions? That is a bit of a leap of faith on their part, even arguing that video "sees" deeper into the shadows than film, a T2.8 lens seems hardly a good choice for anything resembling low light filming.

Stephen's argument of renting the Master Primes on demand and saving / better utilizing $$ if the Panchros compare favorably to the S4 (minus the 1 stop loss), makes sense. Personally, I just as soon get the prime set that enables me to shoot in light or semi- darkness from the get go, unless the rental price difference is really astronomical, which remains to be seen.
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#11 Marque DeWinter

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 11:24 AM

Indeed. I had noticed that too. However, why would Cooke think that T2.8 lenses appeal to RED owners / productions? That is a bit of a leap of faith on their part, even arguing that video "sees" deeper into the shadows than film, a T2.8 lens seems hardly a good choice for anything resembling low light filming.

Stephen's argument of renting the Master Primes on demand and saving / better utilizing $$ if the Panchros compare favorably to the S4 (minus the 1 stop loss), makes sense. Personally, I just as soon get the prime set that enables me to shoot in light or semi- darkness from the get go, unless the rental price difference is really astronomical, which remains to be seen.



Rental rates on the panchros for 5 should be around $500/day whereas that same in masters can easily go over $1000/day. Right now though a set of 5 supers is hitting $600/day a day due to demand... So on low budgets it can make a difference.

I agree that the 2.3 would make more sense. Especially if they are attempting to get to the Red market. Red's optics (no opinion in this) are listed as T1.8 (except the 300mm prime at T3). The Zeiss set goes from a T1.5 to a T3.6 which is a huge swing, but the lesnes are 1/4 of the price of the S4i lenses.

If cooke released the panchros for a 5 lenses set at $30k with a T2.3 I think they would dominate this market. If they stick to the T2.8 I think they will get a small portion of the market.

~Marque
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#12 Stephen Williams

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 11:41 AM

Indeed. I had noticed that too. However, why would Cooke think that T2.8 lenses appeal to RED owners / productions? That is a bit of a leap of faith on their part, even arguing that video "sees" deeper into the shadows than film, a T2.8 lens seems hardly a good choice for anything resembling low light filming.


Hi,

With Arri's new sensor at 800iso & Epic's not far away lenses that are sharp wide open @T2.8 seems like a good option.
BTW do you know many good focus pullers that can reliably pull focus much wider than T2.8?

When the Old Pancros T2.3 were new the fastest film was 50 ASA (or less?), they were not even really sharp wide open.
FWIW Cooke are running 3 shifts working 24 hours a day, they cant keep up with demand....

Stephen
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#13 Gus Sacks

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 12:20 PM

BTW do you know many good focus pullers that can reliably pull focus much wider than T2.8?


Yes! And I get them for every job I possibly can, shooting film of large-sensor HD...

I've used the S2/3 Speed Panchros at 2.3, and while they're very pretty lenses, when I used the Super Speeds again after them it was nice to have that extra stop sometimes, especially shooting on the RED @ 320 right now. 800 will be plenty nice, but until then...

Marque, I still get Supers and set of 6 Speed Panchros rented to me at $350/$400... But I understand demand.
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#14 Ryan Patrick OHara

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 08:55 PM

Hi,

With Arri's new sensor at 800iso & Epic's not far away lenses that are sharp wide open @T2.8 seems like a good option.
BTW do you know many good focus pullers that can reliably pull focus much wider than T2.8?

When the Old Pancros T2.3 were new the fastest film was 50 ASA (or less?), they were not even really sharp wide open.
FWIW Cooke are running 3 shifts working 24 hours a day, they cant keep up with demand....

Stephen


Thank you! That is EXACTLY what I am saying. Sharp at f/2.8 is the minimum I'd want to give my 1st AC. In fact, if you view lenses as an investment, the future of camera sensitivity is only going to get higher. Just look at DSLR's for the future of chip sensitivity. When cameras are hitting 1600 iso or 3200 Iso (only 1 or 2 stops improved sensitivity from where Red-mysterium and Alexa are now) the beautiful 2.8 lenses will have really very few situations where the stop is an issue.
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