The lens development team at ARRI Rental has designed and built two new large-format lens series. One is the ALFA line-up of anamorphic lenses and the other is a series of Moviecam spherical lenses. ARRI Rental’s team were also the designers and developers of the company’s DNA lenses for full-frame and 65 mm cinematography.
The ALFA series comprises eight lenses ranging in focal length from 40mm to 190mm. Like the DNA lenses, they evolved from ARRI’s artistic collaborations with filmmakers looking for new looks for storytelling and conveying emotion. Available from ARRI Rental facilities around the world, they are fast at T2.5 for most focal lengths, solidly built and give a unique, expressive anamorphic look to large format content.
The original idea behind ALFA lenses emerged from a longstanding relationship between ARRI Rental and cinematographer Greig Fraser ACS, ASC, also one of the main collaborators on the DNA lens program. In response to Grieg’s request for new options for shooting with a large-format anamorphic aspect ratio, ARRI Rental and ARRI worked together to modify sets of Master Anamorphic lenses. As well as adapting them to cover the larger format, ARRI Rental technicians customised the lenses internally, trying to achieve specifically requested image attributes.
Greig said, “The modifications we built into the ALFAs brought out a new dimension in the Master Anamorphics, with a soft vignette around the edges but a super-sharp centre that we could degrade if required. ARRI Rental put great focus and attention into achieving our goals. Although these lenses are extremely different from, for example, the DNAs we worked on for ‘Mary Magdalene’, their team has been able to pivot and alternate their focus in the same way that I alternate my focus when I'm working on different projects.”
Further prototyping of the ALFA lenses continued with comments and guidance from Nikolaus Summerer, a German cinematographer who has also had a long term relationship with ARRI Rental. The collaborations with Greig and Nikolaus, and R&D within ARRI Rental, led to defining specifications for a production series of ALFA lenses. They have robust, purpose-designed new lens housings, but still contain Master Anamorphic glass combined with other bespoke optical elements and modifications that create an entirely new look.
Moviecam lenses were first produced in the 1980s, using extremely high-quality glass dating from the 1970s. ARRI took over Moviecam in the 1990s, mainly interested in cameras and incorporated some of its camera systems into the ARRICAM ST and LT35 mm motion picture film cameras. Now, in the 2020s, ARRI Rental is concentrating on the Moviecam lenses.
Recognising the value of vintage optics to digital filmmakers seeking a special look, ARRI Rental followed the original Moviecam design and built the same 1970s glass into sturdy lens housings with modern features, ready for use on new large-format productions. Compact and lightweight despite their full-frame coverage, they come in 11 focal lengths from 16 mm to 135 mm and have a T2 stop across most of the range.
ARRI Rental has created a large number of consistent Moviecam sets that will be available across all of its global territories. The Moviecams intend to combine the vintage look with practicality and ease of use. Apart from the 100mm and 135mm at T2.8, all of the other lenses are T2 except the 60 mm, which goes a stop further to T1.5 as an option for low-light situations and bokeh effects for portraits. Optical performance is consistent throughout the range, useful for cinematographers who want a vintage aesthetic but also enough freedom to explore all focal lengths without creating work for themselves in post.
German cinematographer Christian Rein has used prototype Moviecam lenses on a series for Netflix and an upcoming movie. “I like the quality of the vintage Moviecam glass, which looks very organic and soft, but without losing detail or drawing attention to itself,” he said. “The Moviecams are very forgiving on the skin. The roundness of the lenses is outstanding, the bokeh looks very naturalistic, and if they flare, it doesn’t look as technical as with other lenses.”
Both the ALFA and Moviecam series are LPL-mounted and incorporate LDA chips for efficient lens data workflows, making them suitable even for VFX-heavy productions. The lens housings are manufactured in-house at ARRI Rental, incorporating all of the lens development team’s experience creating and customising diverse optics for clients. Highly uniform in size and lens ring placement, the Moviecams and ALFAs are as fast and easy to work with as any other modern cine lens series.
ALFA and Moviecam lenses are available through ARRI Rental facilities worldwide. www.arrirental.com