Mark MacEwen Director of Photography, BBC Seven Worlds, One Planet
“I’ve used Cooke lenses before and always loved them.
I filmed elephant seals fighting for the Antarctica episode. I wanted to try and make the sequences feel and look different to others I’d seen shot, but they are a challenge to film - huge behemoths up to 18ft long and 8000lbs. Thousands of them turn up in mating season and the males prepare to fight for their right to breed,” he recalled. “I used the miniS4/i’s on a gimbal to try and get among them, capture the feel of the combat and creatively control the visual scene. But it’s no easy job moving around these monsters. I was frequently having to jump out of the way as one animal charged another, while others charge past you to escape. It’s one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been.
Outside of the flora and fauna, it’s the huge amounts of time we have to invest and of course the extreme demands we place on the kit, due to the environments we subject them to. I am happy to say that the miniS4/i’s performed flawlessly in every situation.”
“First, these lenses are so fast at T2. Second, they had a look I was familiar with from using the Cooke S4s on The Old Man & the Gun. The Cooke Look® carries between lens families. I knew that look so well and it was appropriate for this story.
Shooting large format is almost the same difference as shooting 16mm versus 35mm and the S7/i 75mm was my workhorse. It’s a bit more of a normal lens because it’s the same as the eye’s field of view and I wanted that immersive look for the series. I did lots of handheld and worked hard to make it feel like the camera was a character in the show so the viewer is placed in the streets of London.
We had lots of scenes in the mountains in Jamaica and the Cooke lenses really photographed nicely, especially with characters in the foliage. Cooke lenses are not overly clinical by design, giving you more dimensionality in the image. That has a bigger impact in a larger format production.”
Joe Anderson, Cinematographer, Top Boy, Netflix Season 3
Peter Chang, Director, Cinematographer, Cuba, Documentaries for IMAX and Giant Screens
"I wanted to test the Sony Venice camera and various lenses, including the Cooke S7/i for IMAX and giant screen projects. For Venice: La Serenissima, we used the Cooke S7/i Full Frame lenses extensively. It became not just my favourite, but my first AC and camera operator’s favourite lenses as well. Even in D.I. we all gravitated more to the images that were shot on Cooke.
We played around with the Cooke’s shallow DOF shooting wide open—something I would not normally do on an IMAX film—but we wanted to get a sense of its character and it’s really beautiful. In our portraits and shots on the canals you can see the texture and quality of the bokeh. The look was seductive. We saw a really nice balance with the S7/i lenses especially shooting the canals with a lot of white marble and turquoise water.
The feel of the Cooke fit my idea of Venice. The look feels vintage without being vintage; legant and full of dimension; modern yet natural, like the eye sees as opposed to something more stylized and geometric. With the type of filming I do for IMAX and giant screens, like my current project, Cuba, I gravitate to what my eye sees naturally—the Cooke Look.”
"Since the Alexa Mini went 4:3 I had shot with nothing but 2:1 squeezed lenses in either 16:9 crop or full screen 2:40 totally humbled by the extraordinary and daring magical imagery. Then, I was sharing cinematography on Dynasty with Michael Karsick and Starr Barry when it abruptly became a Netflix show and were obliged to shoot 4K. I suggested that we use the Canon C700 coupled with the new Cooke Panchro/i Classics because The Crown was shot so exquisitely by Adriano Goldman using vintage Cooke Speed Panchros (rehoused by TLS). I loved that dreamy forgiving and painterly palette.
By Spring 2017, Cooke had recreated the look of the old lenses using modern glass and barreling. Our timing was perfect. We took delivery of the first two partial sets of the new Panchro/i Classics supplementing them with vintage Panchros. The new lenses still bloom lovingly until 3.5/4 and have the curved focus field of the originals. The 9 linear iris blades allow for a glorious bokeh. It gives you the quality and feel of anamorphic, especially when shooting wide open."
Rodney Charters, ASC, NZCS, Dynasty, Netflix television series
Brain Pearson, ASC, Director of Photography, The Crossing, ABC Studios series
"Cooke Anamorphic/i SF and original Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses are a great match for our futuristic storyline on The Crossing.
These spectacular lenses give lovely, impressionistic, out-of-focus characteristics behind the subject. The sets and locations behind the actors have a very cinematic feel with beautiful bokeh, but their real strength is how they render faces with kindness— never harsh or too sharp. The new 300mm lens instantly became one of our B-camera favourites to use daily for close-ups.
They handle sunlight and high contrast settings beautifully, especially when shooting in the woods because they help to soften, hold and roll off highlights while keeping shadow detail solid.
"The lens we ended up going with was a pair of 25mm S4s. I went with these because of the way they render skin tones. I just wanted to try them out because I had never gotten to shoot on them before and this was a perfect opportunity.
I think Cooke has the best look for people's faces and because it was a very character-driven story I wanted to make sure that the actors' faces looked perfect and were the focal point of the image."
- Tyler Grimm, Director of Photography of Still
Graham Ehlers Sheldon, Producer & 2nd Unit Cinematographer, The Good Catholic
“Our use of the Cooke S4/i primes really elevated the look of the film, giving The Good Catholic a bigger budget aesthetic. The S4/i primes give a wonderfully warm and pleasing look that added to the warmth of the church interiors, which were lit by candlelight and tungsten.”
With a great deal of Steadicam work, the S4/i primes were the perfect weight balance to pair with our RED Epic Dragon. In addition, the lenses produced absolutely no vignetting when shooting wide open in 5K.
As a producer and cinematographer, the Cooke S4/i primes perfectly met both of my needs — from a rental cost as a producer, and as an artistic tool as a cinematographer.”
Last week I was invited to the famous Cooke Optics factory for a tour. I have been user and admirer of Cooke lenses for all my professional life and still using my trusty Varokinetal which is well over 40 years old on my Blackmagic camera. The look still creates comment and many ask how I get that 'Look'? Of course I reply it's to do with my talent ahemmm In fact I just finished a documentary Secret Spitfires using my Varokinetal http://secretspitfires.com.
Of course I took the lens with me to meet its makers and so glad I did. By luck, the famous Les who happened to be at the factory took us for the tour and immediately clocked the lens and was genuinely pleased to see it still in use. Out of curiosity he decided to test it on their rig to see how it faired after all these years. His engineers put it up, test pattern came up, lots of uuum, aaah, ooohs later, comment came that it was still as sharp as pin and what's more, was still to full spec!! I know I look after my gear well but the lens had never been services (never seemed to need one) and after over 40 years of regular use, still perfect.
Moral of the story is, next time you think why lenses like Cooke cost so much, there is a very good reason! If you see what goes into making one of their lenses and how many are rejected, rebuilt, retested, you'll wonder how they can do it for the price they do. The process is incredibly strict and so time consuming with unbelievable expertise at hand. I reckon my lens will see me out and I'll go before it does.
Ethem Cetintas - Filmmaker
Adriano Goldman Cinematographer, ASC, ABC - The Crown
"After testing many combinations of cameras and lenses and having to work on 4K for The Crown, we chose to use the Sony F55 and vintage Cooke Speed Panchros. It was always my intention to fight against the high resolution and ultra-sharpness you get from the modern camera sensors and by using the Cooke Speed Panchros I achieved a very romantic, filmic look with an incredible range of latitude for beautiful highlights and detail on the shadows. I have always enjoyed working closely with the production and costume designers."
I chose Cooke because I wanted the series to feel clean and contemporary. It was also very important to me that we could capture the details and mood on all of the different sets, especially the dark and dirty ones. I wanted the audience to be able to see the lights, and to feel what was in the dark parts of the frame, but still to have an interesting texture and creamy skin tones.
- Johan-Fredrik Bødtker
Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC - Cafè Society
"We paired the Sony F65 with the Cooke S4 Prime Lenses to achieve the look of Woody Allen’s film . Our locations became characters in the film but they were also one of the greatest challenges of the production.
We used Cooke lenses because, to me, Cooke is the ‘one’ because they built their lenses for cinema. Other companies usually use photographic lenses, rehoused for use with cinema cameras. We need serious lenses to record the plastic movement of light on every kind of image, from maximum brightness to maximum darkness, particularly into the penumbra, as Leonardo [da Vinci] called it."
For 'Carol' I used the Cooke S4/i lenses alongside a set of older Speed Panchros and two Cooke zooms. I've always worked with Cooke lenses. Early on when Cooke was deciding to make the new S4s they asked a number of cinematographers why we were so enamoured of the old Cooke lenses — what made them special for us?
It's because the early Cookes were made like portrait lenses. They have a slight fall-off in the flat field of the lens and create a certain contour and shape that is very pleasing to faces. Cooke kept that look in their new lenses and it’s wonderful for character-driven work. I knew that this story was going to take place in the emotions of the characters, and so Cooke lenses naturally lent themselves to this feeling of shape. They always feel like they have more depth, they're not clinical, and they enhance the imagery.
– Ed Lachman, ASC,
Felix Wiedemann, Director of Photography
"The choice to shoot anamorphic for Stratton was partly for the aspect ratio, but also because I like the characteristics of anamorphic lenses and the way they render 3D space into a 2D image. I tested the Cooke Anamorphics and immediately liked what I saw. They render a sharp image that holds contrast and colour separation beautifully. Beyond technical performance, they've got soul.
It’s about the feeling you get from the image. We chose Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses as our main set of prime lenses for 'Stratton'. I kept the lighting very natural throughout the shoot, but with a clear sense of sources and direction inspired by what the locations offered. We had a wide range of shooting conditions, from bright sunny beaches to urban night exteriors, and dark scenes underwater inside a pipe that was mainly lit by torches and lights that we prepared to look like coloured glow sticks. I was really impressed with how the Cooke Anamorphics held the colour and contrast equally well in each situation. They brought out all the nuances within each shot.”
– Felix Wiedemann, Director of Photography,
I’ve loved the Cooke S4 lenses since shooting my first film. It’s that special organic feel that Cooke lenses have always had; not so vintage to be uneasy and compromising, And, they have a solid range of focal lengths to choose from. Today I insist on shooting with them. Now as before, it’s that real Cooke Look.
Alex Catalán, AEC, Director of Photography
Josh McKie, Cinematographer, Documentary short and TV spot for The Global Fund
"We shot a 5 minute documentary and TV spot in very harsh, uncontrolled conditions across South Africa with a mixed style of a lot of run and gun shooting, super high speed, drone and helicopter shots.
Shooting in dark shacks, often with the lens wide open or at T2.8 they performed beautifully without having to think about it too much. The Cookes were thrown around a lot and put through dirty, dusty situations for two weeks straight without a single problem. We really pushed these lenses. They are mechanically superb but the sharpness was the best thing. They’re pin sharp when you need it but have a wonderful fall off to creamy softness in the out of focus regions."
The Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses are not as 'dry' as other lenses I've used before; they have a wonderful round feel to them. We really put the set through its paces, using them in a multitude of shooting situations, day, night, interior, exterior, rain, sun, even into a splash bag — and the lenses performed beautifully all the time, with nice oval bokehs. Antoine Roch, AFC, Director of Photography, Un homme idéal
COOKE DP: ALVIN CASE
After borrowing an old Mitchell 16mm from his school’s communications department, independent filmmaker Alvin Case taught himself cinematography at a young age. He continued using 16mm and Super 8mm film into the 1990s when he started shooting video. Today, he speaks to Cooke about his decision to use a Cooke miniS4/i 18mm prime lens for shooting his upcoming psychological horror film.
As an independent filmmaker -- meaning I write and shoot and direct with a small team of regulars---I have to be conscious of cost when renting equipment. Happily I can now tell my production partners that the Cooke lenses are worth every penny of rental. I was impressed greatly by the smooth mechanics of the lenses, which made it very easy for me, as the sole operator on the camera, to work focus and aperture with one hand while panning. I can't think of any lens where I could have done that on the first take. As for the image capture, I have long admired the 'Cooke look' and was pleased to see it evident in a digital capture environment. Alvin Case - DP
Jeff Levine, AC and DIT for Variable - Cooke Lenses
“I just wanted to take a moment and compliment you guys on the quality of your lenses. We recently wrapped a job using the Cooke 5/i lenses for the first time and we were blown away by the performance and quality of the lens in every facet. I do not think we would have been able to achieve the look we wanted with any other lens set.
The Cooke look was evident and perfect for the aesthetic we were trying to convey. The skin tones in particular were simply beautiful and I've never used anything that has captured them quite as well.”
Jeff Levine, AC and DIT for Variable
After receiving such a wonderful email, we had to talk to Jeff and find out more about this project….
"I've been in love with Cookes for a long time - glass is really important to me and I'm blown away by the quality and technique that goes into making each lens. The look of any story is paramount, and Cookes give a very honest and human look to images, particularly when shooting digitally - but they are also robust enough that I can rely on them in extreme conditions."
Greig Fraser, ACS, Zero Dark Thirty
Black Hawks and Poets
Greig Fraser started out as a stills photographer, studying at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. While working at a studio production company with both photographers and film makers, he realised he preferred the collaborative way in which the film makers worked, and switched specialisms. He began working with director friends on music videos, commercial spots and short films and gradually built his skillset and an impressive showreel. His cinematography credits include Bright Star, Killing Them Softly, Let Them In, Snow White and The Huntsman and, most recently, the Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty. Here he shares his experiences with Cooke lenses.
"The Cooke S4 lenses are the ones I turn to when in a tough situation. If I am shooting directly into practical lights, into backlight or shooting with the sun in my face the S4 lenses can handle it. Flare is at a minimum and many times none existent, I love these lenses"
Gordon C Lonsdale, DOP, Bones
An Audience with Christian Berger
Award-winning cinematographer, director, producer, writer, film academy professor, developer of film technology ... Christian Berger has a storied career in film that spans over 40 years and continues to go from strength to strength. Here he talks about the importance of lighting, the wide-ranging effects of digital cameras, and how Cooke lenses have enhanced his most recent films, including Haneke’s The White Ribbon – for which he was Oscar-nominated and received, beside many other awards, from the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography 2010 – and the latest work, coming in 2013, (working title) The Notebook by director Janos Zsasz.
“I love Cookes for their rather ineffable quality I call " roundness or fullness" They seem to render skintones more faithfully and flatteringly. They are very very sharp – yet not clinical.
I have had my S4i's for 4 years and I have never had any maintenance issues with them at all. When I first got them we had a truck knock the camera down with my 40mm on it. We had it checked out and it was perfect - it withstood the bang perfectly. More recently I was shooting "Dragonball Evolution" in Mexico under super dusty and rugged conditions and the lenses performed flawlessly.
I have used Cookes on the features Final Destination 1 and 3, Black Christmas, Willard, Kings Ransom, Dragonball Evolution and the TV movie A little Thing Called Murder, The New Beachcombers, and High Noon. and on the TV series, Tarzan, True Calling pilot, Out of Order, The Lone Gunmen pilot, Bionic Woman and coming this spring, Harper's Island.”
Rob McLachlan ASC,CSC
"Parts of Hollywood and Bollywood reside in Leicester"
World War II Heroes: The Full Impact - "D-Day to Victory"
The recent Channel 4 series World War II: The Last Heroes represented a powerful and novel way of bringing history to life. Latest generation slow-motion cameras and lenses were employed to capture in evocative detail the detonation and impact of real explosions of the same size and power of those actually experienced in World War II. Illustrating a series of moving interviews with aged Allied veterans, the explosions supplemented rare historic footage to tell the real-life stories of the survivors. Co-producers, Impossible Pictures in the UK and Entertainment One of Canada, approached DoP Jeremy Benning CSC to lead the camera team and here he explains how they went about capturing these highly charged sequences.