The talented team of filmmakers, Randy Wedick and Brett Gillespie, just finished a short film to showcase the new Angenieux Optimo Primes. What better way to test a new lens than portraits? After all, motion pictures are mostly occupied by actors’ faces. When Angenieux asked Band Pro to doc an Optimo Prime demo film, they knew it had to be about portraiture.
“Our visual reference was Richard Avedon’s 1979-1984 series of portraits, In the American West. He photographed real people, not actors or models, against a white backdrop.
“Only the Angenieux Optimo Prime 40mm prototype was available when we filmed this August. The camera was a Sony VENICE, mostly in Rialto (extension system) mode. We also worked with VENICE in traditional hand-held configuration. But for most of the three-day shoot, the camera body lived in a nondescript backpack that I carried.
It was run-and-gun Rialto tether mode: a cable connected the camera body in my backpack to the camera sensor/lens head that I was holding. We wanted to work as low-key and inconspicuously as possible.”
“One thing that was not so inconspicuous was our roll of white seamless, Avedon-style, that we put on stands and rolled around LA. We went to the three neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area where there actually are pedestrians walking around: downtown LA, Hollywood, and Venice beach. Ironically, this demo makes it look like people in LA truly walk. We went to those places, asked people if we could film them, got great portraits, and of course got their releases.”
“It was amusing that we could just wander around with this high-end Full-Frame VENICE cinema camera and one of the best lenses in the world—looking like guys with a DSLR making a travel blog.”
The pleasing color palette of the VENICE camera with the beautiful quality of the Angenieux Optimo prime lens was a super attractive combination for skins tones and making people look wonderful. The Optimo Primes excel at gorgeous skin tones. We did portraits where the eyes are razor sharp but skin tones are nice and smooth, not soft, but just beautiful.”
The Angenieux optical designers say it has something to do with micro contrast. I’m just learning about micro contrast and the more I read about it, the more I hesitate to use the word until I really understand everything about it. Micro contrast preserves sharp details but also softens contrast, smoothing textures out.”
The Optimo Primes have very even field illumination. Out-of-focus highlights in the background are uniformly circular. The lenses seemed to avoid any cat’s eye bokeh. Focus is sharp at the plane of focus. It reminds me a lot of what a Full-Frame Summilux-C might be like. The Optimo Prime has a similar kind of image quality, except with a little bit more flaring.
“We worked with the Optimo Primes wide open at T1.8 to about T2.8. Remember, these are Full-Frame lenses and on some of the extreme close-ups, you have to pick which eye to focus on. You have to pick which side of a face should be sharp. That’s a beautiful thing for portraits.”
“ Angenieux specifically asked us to film a large variety of skin tones. So we were lucky to be in a city like LA and in pedestrian areas with access to all kinds of different people.”
The portraits shown here were not processed in Baselight or DaVinci Resolve. It’s just me putting RAW files through Sony RAW Viewer with a simple ASC CDL offload. There is no chromatic aberration, even totally wide open. No vignetting and no port-holing. The Angenieux Optimo Prime exhibits technical prowess in all the right places and they are, at the same time, also artistic in all the other right places. For example, There’s no geometric distortion, but sharp in-focus areas fall off gently in an almost three-dimensional way to areas that are smoothly soft. I think this must also have something to do with Angenieux ’s long experience making fine lenses that have historically always been stellar at filming the close-ups of movie stars.”
Please watch the full video here:
Original text source: Film Digital Times