Cooke is back in the Varotal zoom lens business. These things seemed to go in cycles. Horace W. Lee designed the legendary Cooke Speed Panchros a century ago, in 1921. A half century ago, in 1971, Cooke introduced the 20-100 mm T3.1 Varotal zooms, designed by Gordon H. Cook. Primes returned in 1998 with the Cooke S4 series. And now, Cooke announces two new Full Frame Varotal zooms: 30-95 mm T2.9 and 85-215 mm T2.9. They come in PL or LPL mounts.
I tried a pre-production 30-95 Varotal this week. It beautifully matches and complements Cooke S7/i T2 Full Frame primes. Was it my imagination, but are skin tones even smoother—not softer, but cosmetically gentler? The lens is compact, rugged, convenient for the current crop of smaller Full Frame cameras. It looks like a Cooke, not only with the images it captures, but also with the familiar hardened, shiny black anodized barrel.
The 30-90 T2.9 reminded me of my first Varotal, a 20-60 T3.1 35mm format zoom. Its maiden voyage along with a brand-new 35-BL3 was on second unit of All the Right Moves in 1983—mud, rain, and lots of running around. The Varotal was unique. It was the first zoom I had ever used that didn’t breathe. You could rack focus from a close-up low angle to the far-away crowd and the image did not shift. And because of all the mud and rain, changing prime lenses was not practical. Its 3x zoom range covered wide to mid-range. And so, the Varotal worked as a variable prime, not because we didn’t want to zoom but because we didn’t have time to use primes.
The new Cooke 30-95 Varotal can work in similar ways. Expect to see it on Steadicams, handheld, remote heads, car mounts, underwater housings, on fast-paced dramas where 20 lens changes a day would amount to a half hour of extra time that cannot be scheduled. The Cooke 30-95 Varotal covers pretty much the same field of view as that first 20-60, with a similar 3x zoom range. (Divide focal lengths by approximately 1.4 for the FF-to-S35 conversion.)
The 30-95 FF is almost the same size and weight as the 20-60 S35, with an even smaller front diameter. This is remarkable because common wisdom used to be that Full Frame lenses would be 1.4 times bigger and heavier than their Super35 counterparts.
More details coming up in the December 2021 FDTimes.
Cooke Varotal 30-95 mm
- Aperture range: T2.9 – T22
- Front Diameter: 114 mm
- Length from front to mount: 10″ / 255 mm (just 3 inches longer than an average S7/i)
- Weight: 8.8 lb / 4 kg (just slightly more than an average S7/i)
- Angular rotation of iris scale: 48 degrees
- Angular rotation of zoom scale: 112 degrees
- Angular rotation of focus scale: 280 degrees
- Lens gears are industry standard M0.8
- Cooke /i Technology lens data contacts in lens mount and 4-pin connector
- Maximum image coverage: 46.31 mm diagonal