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Header image for article Testing ARRI's New Signature Zoom Lenses

Testing ARRI's New Signature Zoom Lenses

In late September, ARRI introduced a new line of Signature Zoom lenses in focal lengths of 16-32mm, 24-75mm, 45-135mm, and 65-300mm. All feature full-frame coverage and fast, constant apertures of T2.8. The 65-300mm is also available with a dedicated 1.7x extender, for a 110.5-510mm range and maximum aperture of T4.95 when mounted.

Of course, all of these full-frame cinema zooms use ARRI’s LPL mount (with 44mm flange focal depth and 62mm inner diameter) for mounting on ARRI’s ALEXA LF and ALEXA MINI LF. With a compatible 3rd party mount adapter, they’ll also mate with bodies from other manufacturers such as the Sony VENICE and recent RED cameras featuring their MONSTRO sensor.

We recently got the chance to check out the two longer lenses in the line, the 45-135mm and 65-300mm. We were able to shoot with them (briefly) and put them under the ‘macroscope’, so to speak, in our dedicated lens projection room at AbelCine’s Brooklyn, NY facility.

One of the biggest things that jumped out at us was just how light and manageable these full-frame cinema zooms are. As with ARRI’s Signature Primes, the zooms also use a magnesium alloy for the housing, which feels just as durable as aluminum but is significantly lighter. At only 8.25 lbs. for the 45-135mm and 17.85 lbs. for the 65-300mm, we felt like we had to make sure there was actual glass inside to reassure ourselves that these weren’t just casework mockups. Other modern cinema zooms covering similar ranges can easily weigh a good 5-10 lbs. more, and rarely cover full-frame natively.

Optically, we found the lenses to continue the trend set by ARRI’s Signature Primes, producing extremely detailed images that were virtually free of distortion. Subjectively, the coatings contributed to an overall ‘lush’ rendering (that adjective came up over and over again during our time with the lenses) with particularly flattering skin tones and organic (but predictable) falloff. At the telephoto ends of both lens’ ranges, we found the aperture’s wide (and constant) T2.8 opening and 11 rounded iris blades to really allow us to exploit the shallow depth-of-field associated with full-frame sensors.

"The lenses we tested were really consistent to each other, which speaks to the level of craftmanship ARRI puts into their lenses," said Rob Lieberman, Service Technician, Optics at AbelCine. "They produce an image that is incredibly true to life, with essentially no noticeable distortion, and they are exceptionally sharp across their entire range."

We think these new, longer Signature Zooms from ARRI will be particularly in home at rental houses and with individual owner-operators. With their lightweight and compact size, they’ll contribute to a nimble camera package with a smaller overall footprint, especially in conjunction with bodies like the ALEXA MINI LF. They could even help enable the use of full-frame cinema cameras in applications previously un-thought of (large-format documentary, anyone?). Be sure to check out the video to see some ‘grab-n-go’ footage and how well they cut together, as well as a closer look at the lenses themselves.

Geoff Smith
Camera Technology Specialist, AbelCine NY

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Intro image for article ARRI Announces New Signature Zoom Lenses
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ARRI just announced an extension to their Signature lens family, with four new Signature Zoom lenses. These lenses are designed for universal use with any large-format or Super 35 camera.
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