Camera Resources | Zeiss Cine Lenses

Carl Zeiss Lenses for Film and Digital Cinematography

Since nearly the introduction of the Arriflex 35mm in 1937, Carl Zeiss of Oberkochen, Germany has collaborated with ARRI to create superb lenses for 16mm and 35mm cinematography. This page is a general introduction to all Carl Zeiss cinematography lenses. If you are only interested in a specific family of lenses, please follow the links below:

Carl Zeiss Standard Primes

Carl Zeiss Super Speed (High Speed) f1.2 Primes

ARRI/Zeiss Ultra Primes

ARRI/Zeiss Ultra 16 Primes

ARRI/ Zeiss Master Primes

ARRI/Zeiss Master Anamorphic

Zeiss fixed focal length lenses for cinematography were made in several generations:

  • 35mm format lenses in ARRI standard mount (Standard Primes, f2/T2.2)
  • 16mm format lenses in ARRI standard mount (Standard Primes, f2/T2.2)
  • 35mm format lenses in ARRI Bayonet mount (High Speed / Super Speed primes, Mk. I, f1.2/T1.4, 18-85mm)
  • 16mm format lenses in ARRI Bayonet mount (High Speed / Super Speed primes, T*, Mk. I, f1.2/T1.3, 9.5-25mm)
  • 35mm format lenses in ARRI PL Mount, (Standard primes Mk. II, T* f2/T2.1, 10-180mm with focus gears)
  • 35mm format lenses in ARRI PL Mount, (High Speed / Super Speed primes, Mk. II, T* f1.2/T1.3, 18-85mmwith focus gears)
  • 16mm format lenses in ARRI PL Mount, (High Speed / Super Speed primes, Mk. II, T* f1.2/T1.3, 9.5-50mm with focus gears)
  • 35mm format lenses in ARRI PL Mount, (High Speed / Super Speed primes, Mk. III, T* f1.2/T1.3, 18-85mm with focus gears, Lg. focus scale)
  • 16mm format lenses in ARRI PL Mount, (High Speed / Super Speed primes, Mk. III, T* f1.2/T1.3, 9.5-50mm with focus gears, larger focus scale)
  • Super 35mm Prime lenses in ARRI PL Mount (Ultra Prime lenses, T1.9, 10-180mm, 95mm front diameter* large geared focus scales)
  • Super 35mm Prime lenses in ARRI PL Mount (ARRICAM LDS Ultra Prime lenses, T1.9, 10-180mm, 95mm front diameter*, large geared focus scales, built-in digital encoders for lens focus and iris)
  • 3CCD 2/3 in HD sensor Prime lenses in SONY B4 Mount (DigiPrime Lenses, T1.7, 7-40mm, 95 mm front diameter, large geared focus scales)
  • Super 35mm Prime lenses in ARRI PL Mount (MASTER PRIME Lenses, T1.3, 16-100mm, 114 mm front diameter, large geared focus scales, built-in digital encoders for lens focus and iris)
  • 35mm Full Frame Sensor (Compact Prime Lenses, T1.5 – T3.6, 15-135mm, 114 mm front diameter, large geared focus scales)
  • Super 35mm Prime lenses in ARRI PL Mount (MASTER ANAMORPHIC Lenses, T1.9, 35 – 135mm, 95 mm front diameter, large geared focus scales, built-in digital encoders for lens focus and iris)

*The 10mm, 12mm and 14mm Ultra Prime lenses have larger front diameters.

Zeiss lenses are also refered to by one of several Zeiss “Brand Names” or “optical designs”: Biogon, Distagon, Mirotar, Planar, Sonnar, Superachromat, Tessar, Vario-Sonnar, Vario-Tessar.

The meaning of our brand names
Carl Zeiss assigns a name to each Zeiss camera lens, in addition to the technical data about maximum aperture, focal length, and serial number.
This name indicates which optical concept the lens on hand is based on.
It tells the informed user at a glance for which applications this lens is optimized.
The names are registrated as brand names for Carl Zeiss.”

Of these lens designs, the Distagon, Planar, Sonnar and Vario-Sonnar were used for cinematographic lenses. All Zeiss cinematographic Zoom lenses are Vario-Sonnars

The following information is from the Carl Zeiss website:

Distagon®

When wide angle views go to extremes and beg the control via an SLR viewfinder, which means that the back focal distance has to be much larger than the focal length, a retrofous design called Distagon® is the right choice.

Typical Distagon® lenses:

Distagon® T* 4/40 CFE lens for Hasselblad Medium Format Cameras.
F-Distagon® T* 3.5/30 CFi lens for Hasselblad Medium Format Cameras.

It enables extreme angles of view like the Biogon® and far beyond – the F-Distagon® T* 3.5/30 CFi lens fish-eye lens covers 180 degrees, the widest in medium format – and with floating elements (FLE) in the Distagon® T* 4/40 CFE lens and the Distagon® T* 4/50 CFi lens field flatness and high performance are maintained even close-up.

Planar® and Makro-Planar®

The famous symmetric lens design invented by Dr. Paul Rudolph at Carl Zeiss in 1896. The Planar® lens is the most successful camera lens design – and, by the way, the most plagiarized – ever created. It provides the lens designer with numerous means to correct aberrations extraordinarily well. And its performance is very constant over a wide range of imaging ratios, enabling such a versatile lens variety as the Makro-Planar® lens.

The ideal basis for high-performance lenses with great color correction, high speed, flat image plane (this is where the name comes from) and low distortion. The Planar® design is the basis for nearly all professional “workhorse” lenses on earth and in space today, and for the fastest lenses ever created. The fastest lens in the Hasselblad range is of course a Planar® lens: the Planar® T* 2/110 FE lens.

Even the most sophisticated lenses on this planet, the Carl Zeiss S-Planar lenses for the semiconductor industry are only approximations to the perfect lens, although very close ones.

Sonnar®

A lens design with relatively few glass-to-air surfaces, invented by Dr. Ludwig Bertele at Carl Zeiss in 1930 to provide the fastest lenses of that day for 35 mm photography offering speeds up to f/1.5 and well controlled veiling glare.

Typical Sonnar® lenses:

Sonnar® T* 2.8/180 lens for Contax SLR Cameras.
Sonnar® T* 4/150 CFi lens for Hasselblad Medium Format Cameras.

This is where the name comes from, containing the German word for sun, ‘Sonne’, the symbol of utmost brightness. Since the Planar® lens with its many glass-to-air surfaces could successfully take over the ‘fastest lens’ role from the Sonnar® lens, after Dr. Alexander Smakula at Carl Zeiss invented anti-reflex coating in 1935, the Sonnar® design turned out its other virtues. Today it is the basis for compact high-performance medium telephoto lenses with speeds up to f/2.8, very elaborate correction of lens errors (in the case of the Sonnar® T* 5,6/250 CFi lens and the extreme case of the Sonnar® Superachromat 5,6/250 CFE lens), incorporating expensive optical glass types, and offering very even corner-to-corner illumination.

Vario-Sonnar®

The Vario-Sonnar® is a lens with an infinitely variable focal length which can replace a whole series of lenses for a certain picture format. The imaging performance is excellent across the entire range of focal length and is equal to that of a set of high-quality lenses. The infinitely variable focal length permits fast and exact framing.

Typical Vario-Sonnar® lenses:

Vario-Sonnar® T* 4/80-200 lens for Contax SLR Cameras.
Vario-Sonnar® T* 4.5/45-90 lens for Contax 645 Medium Format Cameras

 

Most Zeiss prime lenses for 16mm and 35mm cinematography are Distagons, which are “retrofocus” or Inverted Telephoto designs. This is necessary because on the ARRI 16SR, the lens mount flange sits 52mm from the film plane, and the the center of the mirror shutter sits 15.5mm ahead of the film plane, at a 45º angle.

The rear element of the lens must completely clear the mirror shutter, and any elements that sit less than 52mm from the film plane must fit within the 30mm inner diameter of the Arriflex lens mount. This makes it impossible to place the optical center (nodal point) of the lens at the correct distance from the film plane (the same distance in mm as the focal length) for shorter focal length lenses, or for most super speed (f1.2) lenses.

In the Zeiss Super Speed lens series for Super 16 and 35mm, (Mk. I – Mk. III), all focal lengths below 50mm are distagons. Only the 50mm is a planar in the 16mm series, and the 50, 65, and 85mm are Planars in the 35mm series. In the Zeiss Standard Prime series (T2.1, PL mount), 32mm through 135mm are Planars.

Lens Design Model/ Generation Format f No. T No. Focal Lengths Mounts

Distagon T* Standard Primes, Mk. I 35mm 2.0 2.2 16, 24 Std.

Planar T* Standard Primes, Mk. I 35mm 2.0 2.2 32, 50, 85 Std.

Distagon T* Standard Primes, Mk. II 35mm 2.0 2.1 10, 12, 14, 16, 20, 24, 28 Bay/PL

Planar T* Standard Primes Mk. II 35mm 2.0 2.1 32, 40, 50, 85, 100, 135 Bay/PL

Distagon T* Super Speed Mk. I 35mm 1.2 1.4 18, 25, 35 Bay

Planar T* Super Speed Mk. I 35mm 1.2 1.4 50, 85 Bay

Distagon T* Super Speed Mk. II/III 35mm 1.2 1.3 18, 25, 35 Bay/PL

Planar T* Super Speed Mk. II/III 35mm 1.2 1.3 50, 65, 85 Bay/PL

Distagon T* Super Speed Mk. I S16mm 1.2 1.3 9.5, 12, 16, 25 Bay

Distagon T* Super Speed Mk. II/III S16mm 1.2 1.3 9.5, 12, 16, 25 Bay/PL

Planar T* Super Speed Mk. II/III S16mm 1.2 1.3 50 Bay/PL

Distagon T* ULTRA PRIMES S35mm 1.7 1.9 10, 12, 14, 16, 24, 28, 32, 40, 50, 65, 85, 100, 135, 180 PL

Distagon T* MASTER PRIMES S35mm 1.2 1.3 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 25, 27, 32, 35, 40 mm PL

Planar T* MASTER PRIMES S35mm 1.2 1.3 50, 65, 100mm PL

Sonnar T* MASTER PRIMES S35mm 1.2 1.3 100, 135, 150 mm PL

Sonnar T* Standard Primes, Mk. II 35mm 2.8 3.0 180 Bay/PL

Tele-Apotessar T* Universal/PL mount 35mm 2.8 3.0 300 PL

Last Update:2/10/16

CinemaTechnic

Resources | Services | CinemaTechnic Home

 

Optics for Motion Pictures and Digital Cinema

error: Content is protected !!