Optar Illumina Super-16 Lenses
@2016 Jorge Diaz-Amador, all rights reseved
Updated 19 November 2016.
NOTE: CinemaTechnic is now offering service for the Optar Illumina S16 lenses. We have found many instances where these lenses are found to have no lubrication on the focus threads. This can cause accelerated wear, galling and eventual seizure.
We have developed an efficient new procedure that allows for cleaning an re-lubrication of the focus section, and check and calibration of back focus, all in only 2 hours of labor.
If you are interested in having your Illumina lenses serviced, please get in touch via email:
IMPORTANT: I do NOT sell these lenses on eBay. I’ve been made aware that someone is stealing the text from this page and cutting and pasting it into his eBay listing. I have nothing to do with this person and question his integrity since he is violating eBay policing and violating copyright laws as well. I would caution you against purchasing lenses from such a person.
The full set: 8mm, 9.5mm, 12mm, 16mm, 25mm, 50mm
The Optar Illumina 50mm T1.3, shown in Bayonet mount (covers 35mm)
The Super-16 Optar Illuminas:
Illumina lenses were designed specifically for the Super 16mm format. All the lenses in the set, even the 8mm cover the full Super-16 aperture. The 8mm Optar in unique in being the fastest lens available in this focal length at T1.3.
These lenses represent one of the best values in Super-16mm optics, even when compared with used lenses. With the cost-conscious nature of Super 16mm / 2k Digital Cinema production being what it is, the cost of some of the equivalent lenses from other manufactures is exorbitant. The cost of a new set of five Zeiss Super Speed Mk. III Super-16mm lenses (no 8mm) is $28,700 (2005 pricing).
All six lenses have focus and iris gears and 80mm fronts for compatibility with ARRI accessories. All the lenses have large clearly marked focus markings that can be read from either side of the lens. All the lenses are available in ARRI Bayonet or PL mounts. Should you wish to switch mounts on your Optar lenses, from Bayonet to PL for example, we can quickly exchange the lens mounts for you.
The mechanical design of these lenses is traditional. They have an all-brass construction, using a threaded focus drive. The focus section uses a combination of multi-start trapezoidal threads and single start 60º threads.
If you find an Illumina S16 lens with very heavy or uneven torque when turning the focus ring, the cause is most likely a lack of lubrication of the focus threads. Please see the note above about Illumina Lens Service.
Optical Performance and Color Rendition
I have compared the optical quality of the Illumina lenses against other Super-16mm prime lenses. Here I will compare them to the industry standard Zeiss Super Speed T1.3 (High Speed – HS) Super 16 primes
In terms of image resolution, I have not been able to conduct a carefully controlled test. My general impression is that the Illuminas are “high resolution, medium contrast” lenses (lower MTF), and the Zeiss HS are “high resolution, high contrast” lenses (higher MTF). Both lenses can probably out-resolve available film stock or digital sensors.
The Illuminas have slightly less contrast and more flare than the Zeiss HS lenses. This is due to the Superb Zeiss T* multi-coating, and Zeiss’ anti-reflex control (internal lens surfaces are “maximum black” reflecting no light.
The Illumina lenses have more flare and more focus shift when stopping down than the Zeiss HS S16 primes. This gives more of a “vintage look”. Keep in mind that we are talking subtleties here.
My advice for best results when shooting with the Illumina S16 lenses: stop down to the T-stop you will be using for the shot first, then adjust focus.
The best image sharpness from the Illuminas will, in general, be found at T2.8 to T4.0.
Illumina lenses have have a slightly “warmer” color rendition than Zeiss lenses. I owned the 8mm T1.3 Illumina and have successfully intercut between it and Zeiss Super Speed primes or Angenieux HR Zooms on many projects without any noticable changes in color, beyond subtle shifts that are easily compensated in color correction.
As a rough guide, the Illumina color rendition is closer to Angenieux than to Zeiss.