At Camerimage 2018 Arri announced their new DNA LF series of lenses, purpose-designed for the ALEXA LF format. Originally developed for the 65 mm format of ARRI Rental’s exclusive ALEXA 65 camera platform, DNA is a unique concept in lens creation. In essence, it is technology born of relationships: vintage optics rehoused and customized in partnership with filmmakers, to reflect their artistic sensibilities.
The new DNA LF lenses will initially be available in a series of nine focal lengths, ranging from 21 mm to 135 mm. Prototypes have already been put to use with ALEXA LF cameras on the TV dramas Killing Eve (season two) and Catherine the Great, and on the movie Ironbark.
After using DNA LF lenses on Catherine the Great, an upcoming HBO/Sky period drama, cinematographer Stuart Howell said: “I was looking for something to enhance the scale and majesty of Catherine’s world. We wanted to create texture, and an imperfect perfection of images, with a large-screen feel. The DNA LF/ALEXA LF combination is just amazing—each lens has its own characteristic and now I can’t imagine how we could have done this with anything else.”
Sean Bobbitt BSC, cinematographer on the Cold War film Ironbark, commented: “The DNA LF lenses have an individuality, when most lenses these days are going for uniformity and technical perfection. They remind me of older anamorphic lenses, in terms of the very subtle vignetting and focus drop off. What impressed me is that although each one is individual, they have common characteristics; I still use them as if they are a normal set of lenses, which they very much are not.”
Robert Richardson ASC on Breathe; Greig Fraser ASC, ACS on Mary Magdalene; Bradford Young ASC on Solo: A Star Wars Story; Dante Spinotti ASC, AIC on Ant-Man and the Wasp; Newton Thomas Sigel ASC on Bohemian Rhapsody; James Laxton on If Beale Street Could Talk; Ben Davis BSC on Dumbo; and Pedro Luque on The Girl in the Spider’s Web. All of these cinematographers have played a part in shaping the DNA concept and harnessing its creative possibilities. The DNA in the lenses is theirs.
The extensive detuning and personalization that was pioneered with the first generation of DNAs has informed the look of DNA LFs. It is a balanced and characterful look, full of life and gentler than many modern lenses. Focus fall-off is natural and pleasing, highlights are rendered in a mellow way, and the flare characteristics offer great scope for creativity, responding organically to direct light sources. New multi-blade irises have been built into every lens, providing consistent out-of-focus highlights and attractive bokeh.
While Prime DNA lenses for the larger ALEXA 65 format can be used on the ALEXA LF, doing so eliminates some of the interesting, imperfect elements at the edges and corners of the image, which are so revered by filmmakers. It therefore makes sense to offer DNA LF lenses purpose-made for the ALEXA LF, featuring a 49 mm image circle that is perfectly matched to the LF sensor.
DNA LF lenses will be available as part of ALEXA LF camera packages from ARRI Rental facilities worldwide, starting around the end of Q1, 2019.