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Cooke anamorphic primes were instantly a popular
choice for DPs as soon as they were released. Rental houses and cinematographers
were excited to get true front anamorphic lenses that had vintage characteristics
with very modern optical and mechanical formulas. The Cooke lenses were well
received, but many DPs wanted bigger flares more reminiscent of vintage lenses.
Cooke answered with the SF version of their lenses (SF stands for Special
Flare). New coatings allow these lenses to produce more dramatic, classic front
anamorphic lens flares while retaining the rest of the optical and mechanical
formula that has worked well for Cooke. The mechanical design of the Cooke
lenses was a favorite of our 1st AC. For lenses that are fairly
large and heavy, the feel of the focus is light, smooth and linear with just
the right amount of dampening.
The look of the SF lenses were a big hit too. They do produce many of the characteristics that people love about vintage anamorphic lenses including quite a bit of distortion (especially on the wide focal lengths) and big beautiful flares. Breathing is heavy to moderate on the wider lenses, and moderate on the medium and longer focal lengths. We were all a little surprised just how much they breathe considering they are some of the most modern lenses in the test. Unlike some older anamorphic lenses, the Cookes are very sharp and have high contrast, even wide open, especially in the center of the frame. Things get a little softer in the corners on the wider focal lengths, but not soft as the vintage lenses we tested. They produce no noticeable chromatic aberrations. You won’t see ghosting, and the lenses don’t flare as easy as a lot of the older lenses tested. In short the image is sharp, clean and beautiful. The lenses are very consistent from focal length to focal length in some ways, and then quite different in others. For instance, color, contrast sharpness, lens flares and breathing are quite consistent for each focal length in the set. However, the character of the distortion and the character of the bokeh (especially with pinpoint light sources) vary from focal length to focal length. It’s not a good or a bad thing, but it’s something to look for in the tests.
If you want a lot of the characteristics of shooting vintage front anamorphic (including some beautiful flares) but with a cleaner, sharper more modern image, and amazing mechanics, then the Cooke primes are a good choice.
I feel that optics are the most essential tool a cinematographer has to capture emotion. We are always looking for different types of glass that will allow our clients to fulfill whatever vision they are looking to achieve. When I saw the prototype of the Cooke Special Flare anamorphic primes I was blown away. They give you the beautiful vintage anamorphic characteristics without the artifacts you get from some of the older vintage primes. I think Les and the great people at Cooke have taken the “Cooke Look” to another level.
The addition of Cooke
Anamorphics into the anamorphic lens arena is almost ironic, as their optics
have been a chief component in so many generations of anamorphic glass it’s
mind boggling. As I mentioned regarding the Japanese sets, we certainly cannot
bat an eye at Panavision’s legendary C-Series lenses with Cooke Speed Panchros
at their cores. However, the new lenses Cooke are producing are something
Physically, they are among the larger side of lenses we have explored in the tests, sizing in along side the Elite lenses. They come in two offerings, less flarey standard and then the “Special Flares” designed in conjunction with Camtec, that offer a more vintage feel akin to what Hawk did with their Vintage ‘74 lenses.
One aspect I will point out, aside from their size, is the pin-cushion distortion that is fairly unique compared to the standard barrel distortion many other anamorphic lenses sets exhibit. Nevertheless, the 65mm Macro has crept in the hearts of many prominent cinematographers and they do capitalize on their trademark “Cooke Look.”
The Cooke Anamorphic SF have been very popular lately and they meet a very nice road between modern mechanics and optics, while retaining a lot of the anamorphic "funkiness" that we have all come to love. Many modern day manufactures are after the cleanest and most optically perfect lenses they can produce. I feel that Cooke has made it part of their mission to be manufacturing based on aesthetics more than science. I think the SF set is a nice middle ground between say the Zeiss Master Anamorphics and something like the Hawk 74s. They have a very nice bokeh on the tighter lengths and are quite contrasty with subtle distortion and warm tones. This SF set adds back some very nice flaring that was missing from the original Cooke Anamorphic lenses and these just feel "right".
As if the Cooke Anamorphic/i primes needed any more funk... The SF (Special Flare) set delivered. While some focal lengths appeared to offer a marginal difference, others seemed to really shine with the SF modification. Image quality aside, the Cooke Anamorphic/i primes are a hefty beast. It takes a lot of metal to hold all that glass!