One of the hits of PhotoPlus Expo was a surprise sneak preview of Sony’s amazing new zoom lens for their PMW-F3 Camera. Shown unofficially and “out of competition” to a few cinematographers, the new 18-252 attracted lots of attention on the show floor. With good reason. This is the first 35mm format zoom that I know of with many of the useful attributes of a smaller format camcorder zoom: manual/auto-focus, internal optical image stabilization, manual/auto iris, manual/servo zoom.
When would you use all these auto controls? Well, imagine doing some of the things we take for granted with small video cameras, only this is a real 35mm format zoom lens. Bouncing around in boat, following action from a helicopter, handheld on the tight end of the lens, shooting sports, car-to-car, bike-to-bike — optical image stabilization can be a huge help.
The lens is lightweight and tiny–yet covers an astounding range: 18mm on the wide end and 252mm on the tight. This is possible because it uses the F3’s FZ mount, which has a shallow flange focal depth of around 18 mm. This is much less than the 52mm depth we’re used to with PL mounts, and the lens has a lot less “heavy lifting” to do. Furthermore, this zoom takes advantage of the FZ mount’s electronic contacts to “talk” to the camera, just like many of the DSLR cameras we are using. (FZ is the name of the propriety Sony F3 mount.)
Sony’s new 18-252 mm zoom lens has been previously previewed as a prototype under glass, but this was the first time we could grab it and go. Which I did, with the F3 on its Chrosziel rig and SR-R1 Recorder nicely balanced aft. Skeptical at first, I was amazed how the image stabilization was able to smooth out my deliberate jumps for joy shooting handheld all the way out at 252 mm. Even the auto focus glided smoothly from one point to another.
Could this be the first 35mm motion picture point and shoot?
Specs of Sony SCL-Z18x140 18-252 mm Zoom:
- FZ mount (F3 proprietary mount) – 35mm format
- 18 – 252 mm (14:10 zoom
- T3.9 (wide end) – T6.8 (tight end)
- 7 bladed iris
- filter diameter 82mm (forgot to check if it’s threaded)
- weight: 2.25 kg
- dims: 151.5 (w) x 173.5 (d) x 125.6 (h) at wide end
- 216.1 (d) at tight end — inner barrel extended
- Auto flange depth back adjustment
To describe this new lens, imagine one of the compact new long-range 35mm auto zoom lenses, like the Nikon 28-300 f/3.5-5.6. The front section telescopes out as you zoom to telephoto. Focus, iris and zoom gears are standard motion picture pitch, and will accommodate standard gears and accessories. The front focus ring slides forward for Autofocus/Manual Focus and back for Full Manual Focus–just like on Sony’s EX1 1/2″ camcorder.
The zoom is activated by the rocker control in the camera-right handgrip. For manual zooms or an external zoom unit, a switch below the handgrip disconnects the electric drive.