Cinematographer Jeremy Benning credits the detail and clarity of the Zeiss DigiPrime and DigiZoom lenses with helping him win the 2009 Canadian Society of Cinematographers Award for Best Docu-drama photography for The Great Sperm Race (Channel 4/Discovery Canada) and to capture the dramatic journey back into the world of the “Manson Family Murders” (History Channel).
“I’ve really come to love the Zeiss DigiPrime and DigiZoom lenses,” he says. “I love shooting wide open. They render beautiful softly blurred backgrounds and focus racks have virtually no breathing or shifting. They are about as transparent a lens as I have ever used. Not to mention the rugged Zeiss built quality, smooth action and great focus scale markings that make them a pleasure to work with. They really add a whole level of depth to any HD camera they are mounted to.”
For his award-winning Discovery project that explores the journey that human sperm undertakes, Benning matched the Zeiss lenses with the Sony F900R, taking the package through water slides, farmer’s fields, studios, the Canadian Rockies and the UK. “Knowing that we would be in some harsh daylight environments with extreme contrast (full sun, mountains, lens flares and extras all dressed in white) it became evident that choosing the best lenses for flares and contrast for the Sony F900R was important. With all of the CGI work being done in post, we needed super-sharp imagery. I knew that the Zeiss DigiPrimes and DigiZoom were the way to go. We carried a full set of the primes as well as the 6-24mm zoom.”
For the story of the “Manson Family Murders”, which aired on the History Channel in September to coincide with the 40th anniversary of this shocking story, Benning needed to be able to create images that would play on big screens in festivals. “We paired the Sony F900R with Zeiss DigiPrime lenses and got mercilessly sharp images, which I diffused a little with a 1/8 Black Pro-Mist or an occasional ¼ to let the hot desert backgrounds blow out a tiny bit and take some of the detail out of our actors’ faces, so we could get that period 1960s feeling. This combination worked really well to smooth out the hyper crispness of the DigiPrimes without degrading them. We shot everything wide-open on these lenses to keep our backgrounds as soft as possible, which really gave the HD look so much more depth and romance. The DigiPrimes are as sharp wide open as they are stopped down!”