PL Mount – Red Epic/Scarlet, Arri Alexa, Sony PMW F3, Sony F65
Shooting with the PL mount means you have access to the best Cinema lenses money can buy. Some would argue whether these are any better optically over still camera lenses. After all, still camera lenses need to resolve higher detail, especially in medium format systems and FF DSLRs.
For me, the biggest advantage of PL lenses is their construction. They are made for heavy duty video use, and are designed to last a lifetime. On the flip side, they are expensive as hell.
For simplicity sake, I’m assuming a crop factor of 1.4x.
One of the oddest things is that the Arri PL (Positive Lock) mount has the most options when it comes to lenses! One could say it is the most universal mount. However, some lens manufacturers place their electrical contacts differently, so make sure your adapter or mount is the right orientation.
I’m going to change my system just a bit:
Red Epic/Scarlet, Arri Alexa, Sony F3, Sony F65
When you compare the best lenses, there’s hardly anything technical to distinguish between them. I personally don’t have the experience or eye to see any tangible earth-shattering differences, and I’ve seen many tests.
You will do well to remember that an exotic lens might perform extremely well in tests – but will it be available to you? There are thousands of cameras sold every year, yet the number of exotic lenses are limited. Why waste time running after unicorns, unless you have millions of dollars to spend on your feature film?
Frankly, let me stop here with a few thoughts on testing. You can test a lens quantitatively (using charts, projectors, etc) or qualitatively (prints, monitors, eye, etc.) There is no universally accepted system of judging the aesthetic merits of a lens.
Let me repeat: There is no universally accepted system of judging the aesthetic merits of a lens.
Unless you show people the same frame side by side, nobody will know or care what you left on the table. Do people think about the words you erased from your script? Do they think about the actor you didn’t cast? Do they think about the f-stop you didn’t use?
So why spend your valuable time over comparisons? It takes years of experience just to be able to make a proper comparison. And it takes an equal number of years to judge a proper comparison!
My advice? It’s not worth getting into if you’re starting out. When starting out, choose a solid, reliable option, using my methodology if that suits you, and start working!
Wisdom will come. Just not on a fixed schedule.
Don’t wait for it.
Lens and Body Caps
Every lens should have a Front Cap and a Rear Cap. I strongly recommend having both caps for each lens in your kit. Resist the urge to play passing the parcel.
The other important cap is the Body Cap:
You might be surprised how many people forget this while packing gear. Those who don’t forget usually lose them! Make a habit of always storing lenses with their caps on either end and you should be okay.
Body caps protect the sensor while you’re transporting the camera without lenses; or while you’re changing lenses.
Camera mounts usually come with a turret body cap – these are screwed on tightly to the mount, similar to how you would lock on a lens. I recommend having at least two of them.
Before winding up this section, here are some excellent resources for more information:
Check out these videos too:
- A Basic Introduction to Lenses
- 10 Lens Shootout between Red Scarlet and Canon 5D Mark II
- Making Leica Lenses
For excellent books on selecting and working with lenses, click here.