We tested the Following: (not in this order)
- Angénieux 24-290 Optimo
- Angénieux 17-80 Optimo
- Zeiss UltraPrime 100mm
- Arri 24mm Macro
- Arri 40mm Macro
- Zeiss 50mm Compact Prime Macro
- Zeiss Master Macro 100mm
- Schneider Achromats 138mm
- Tiffen Diopters 138mm
This is obviously just my opinion, but im picky and practical. Here are my thoughts:
The schnieder achromats are really amazing. they are super clean. but you need a good lens to start off with. Honestly any good 80mm+ prime lens with any of these achromats will get you through most work.
But there will come a situation when you need crazy close 1:1 ratio magnification nothing beats the 100mm master macro. This is just an amazing piece of optical engineering, Arri/Zeiss really did an amazing job. Is it worth $30k, absolutely !
Is it worth buying, not really. There are very few occasions in normal commercial situations where it is necessary. This is the reason we tested other options such as the achromats and the cheaper newer CP 50mm.
Its fascinating to see distortion though on some of these lenses and see how they fall apart. where chromatic aberration becomes unusable. This is why you do tests at prep.
Also to note we were shooting at an f11 and up which is by far the most optimal stop to shoot anything like this. If we were to open any of these lenses up to a 5.6 or a f.4 they would all look horrible at the distances we were making them focus to.
The 17-80 is a great lens , but useless with any magnifiers of any kind. But its naturally a very good close focus lens already. Is it a macro?, no. Will it get you that shot of the cell phone screen, probably what the director wants? yes. It is one of my favorite lenses. Is it an optically perfect lens? no, do all lenses need to be? no. more on this at another time.
The Ultra Primes are pretty sharp, but fail at close focus. But with the help of the achromats its a good alternative.
I was honestly surprised how well the 24-290 held up overall. a +1 achromat is about as extreme as i would ever go. but damn usefull i think. This makes the most sense for someone like myself and the work i currently do.
If you are not familiar with an Achromat and a Diopter, its fairly simple.
Diopter is a single element placed infront of the lens to increase its close focus ability, think magnifying glass.
An Achromat is a filter with 2 pieces of glass, not just one. This is used to correct some of the distortion and other effects created by the magnifying element. This is a cleaner filter, but much more expensive and heavy. Which also mean it doesn't just pop into a matte box will, a diopter will.
Arri also released a 50mm in the Compact Prime range. Its a very economical piece of glass. Great lens, and you get allot for what you pay for, but not my cup of tea.
I hope this helps you if you are suddenly asked to do a macro shot or close up insert and can use this as a starting point for your own test.
Still frames pulled from an Arri Alexa, converted from tiff format to jpeg with lens information imprinted.