Angénieux Optimo Ultra Compact Zooms


September 20, 2021. An Angénieux 37-102 Full Frame Optimo Ultra Compact Zoom was hand-carried from the factory in Saint-Héand, France to its USA premiere in New York. Enroute from airport to rooftop launch, Jean-Marc Bouchut (above), Angénieux Senior Product Manager at Band Pro, kindly stopped by FDTimes long enough so we could take product photos for this edition. As the parking meter was running downstairs, the lens revealed superb center to edge performance, very low distortion, no ramping, and minimal breathing while checking with a PAT Accessories EXA Chart on the wall.

The 37-102 is the first of two new Angénieux Optimo Ultra Compact Zooms. The other one covers 21-56 mm. If the 2.7x zoom range sounds familiar, you probably have been using the iconic Angénieux Optimo 15-40 and 28-76 Super35 Spherical zooms for quite some time. The 15-40 was introduced in June 2005 and FDTimes issue 2 reported breathlessly, “Have you been wishing for lighter, smaller, shorter zoom lenses that make it as easy to shoot handheld, documentary style in 35mm as in 16mm? 

Now, 16 years later, that paradigm can be rephrased: lighter, smaller, shorter Optimo zoom lenses that make it as easy to shoot in Full Frame as in Super35. The new Angénieux Optimo Ultra Compact Zooms cover Full Frame with a 46.3 mm image circle. They have a completely new optical and mechanical design compared to the 15-40 and 28-76 Super35 zooms. 

Magic Hour, September 21. Fifth Avenue and 55th Street is blocked by barricades, police, trucks, unfamiliar flags and protestors. You enter the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel through an airport style body scanner staffed by TSA and Secret Service. Empty your pockets. Show your vaccine certificate. You are escorted to a private elevator. And you wonder, is all this because of the USA launch of the Optimo Ultra Compact Zooms?

Well, actually, it is UN week in New York. Delegates and bodyguards rush by. You are whisked up to the Salon de Ning rooftop outdoor event space on the 23rd floor of the New York Peninsula Hotel. Billionaire’s Row on 57th Street looms above. Band Pro and Angénieux are there: Amnon and Ronit Band, Nir Reches, Randy Wedick, Brett Gillespie and Veronica Vargas have flown in from Burbank, CA. Yasuhiko Mikami of Angénieux landed from Tokyo. He faces a mandatory two-week quarantine upon his return home, but says it’s worth “escaping” for the first time since February 2020. Quite right.

It was a celebration not only of the Optimo Full Frame Family, but also a sigh-of-relief gathering of a family of cinematographers, rental houses, camera operators and friends from the film community. We were bedazzled by the lenses, the setting, the city skyline, the scrumptious hors d’oeuvres and chilled champagne.

Photo by Yasuhiko Mikami

And now a word about that. As we munched on miniature crab cakes, John Rule, CEO of Rule Boston Camera, said that he missed the usual Food and Digital Times reports on fine dining and lens metaphor wine tasting. Well, this was the first large gathering I attended since BSC Expo in January 2020. Fine dining since then has been at home with Noemi’s amazing feasts along with a steady stream of takeout from Sushi of Gari, Ravagh Persian Grill, Maison Bangkok and PQR Pizza. 

Taking up John Rule’s challenge, here goes. As the New York Times describes Salon de Ning, “Drinks Are Expensive but the View Is Priceless.” We pay homage to the Optimo Ultra Compact and beeline to the bar. A glass of champagne, please. The bartender pours Veuve Clicquot. This is fitting: the champagne that launched a thousand ships and now christens the new lens line. Waiters appear with fashion show frequency. Have a slider on a brioche bun with Gruyère. Perhaps some seared tuna on toast. Skewers of savory chicken saté, slathered with peanut sauce. Try the wine? 

Magic hour gave way to a cerulean blue sky punctuated by thick clouds. The Gypsy Jazz trio played Django Reinhardt standards. Randy Wedick lit the space with Quasar Science Rainbow fixtures, all the better to demonstrate the Optimo Primes’ new three-bladed iris option, glimmery-glowy Internal Optical Palette and smooth bokeh of the Zooms.

Amnon Band, President and CEO of Band Pro Film & Digital, took the floor and welcomed the gathering of more than 50 guests. “The Optimo family is growing,” he said. “We’re really proud of the new Optimo Ultra Compact Zooms. Partnering with Angénieux, the industry-standard Ultra 12x has now grown into a true cinematic family of Optimo lenses. Ultra Compacts represent the missing pieces of the puzzle: pro, lightweight, compact zooms ready to fly on a gimbal, and optically designed to beautifully match the beloved Angénieux look.” 

Angénieux’s Yasuhiko Mikami spoke next, “These lenses are among the lightest on the market. They are excellent additions to the Angénieux high-end Full Frame collection that already include the Optimo Ultra 12X and the Optimo Prime Series. 

“The Ultra Compacts’ ergonomics, excellent optical quality, Angénieux look and robust, high-precision mechanics are part of a completely new Full Frame design. Image quality is consistent  at every focal length and focus distance. The iris goes from from T2.9 to T22 and is also capable of closing completely. The balance of contrast, color and resolution offers an appealing cinematic look. Focus and zoom groups are internal and constant volume. 

“The Angénieux Type EZ Zooms were one of the first cine zooms in the industry to cover Full Frame. Since their introduction in 2017, they have become the fastest-selling lens within the Angénieux lineup, and have been used in a variety of projects including many high profile productions. 

“In a sense the EZs have set the bar pretty high, and it was quite a challenge to develop a new lens to exceed them. The Ultra Compact Zooms optically outperform the EZs, with more sophisticated aspherical elements and more robust mechanics. The EZs were the first Angénieux Full Frame (and IRO-convertible S35) zooms. And now, Angénieux designers, planners and engineers have done something special. This is the second generation of Optimo compact lenses, after the famous Optimo 15-40 and 28-76, which like many second iterations is even better.” 


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