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Uli Meyer

Difference between Arri LWZ and Arri Alura

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If you were offered an Arri/Fujinon Alura 15.5-45/T2.8 and the Arri LWZ1, 15.5-45/T2.6, both in very good condition, for nearly the same price, which one would you go for? This is for analog filming only.

 

 

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One piece of advice I've heard - the more similar two choices are, the less it matters which you choose, since the results will be similar in the end.  I think that applies here, since the two lenses are incredibly similar in almost every way - practically zero breathing, with negligible distortion or other aberrations.  It's like they were designed to meet the same specification...  On paper, the only notable difference between them is that the LWZ has an interchangeable mount option. 

While I generally have a slight preference for Zeiss, sometimes I prefer a different look for a project.  Is there any way you could get both lenses together in the same room with your film camera?  Personally, I've found it much easier to determine my feelings and preference between two lenses when looking at each of them through a ground glass. 

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Posted (edited)

I would try both out if you can before buying either. 

I was on a job that was shot on standard speeds primarily and the zoom was an Alura or Fujinon I believe. Anyway, it had a good image and intercut but also some pincushion distortion that I didn't care for.

Might have been another zoom entirely, but it bothered me enough for me to notice.

Edited by M Joel W

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I had the Alura at the weekend and shot some footage to test it. The LWZ is in another country and I can’t test it before buying. If there’s no noticeable difference, thats all I need to know. Thank you guys!

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I have a LWZ.2, and beyond it being insanely sharp (its good for super 16, rivals the U16s in 4k scans) it has the same coatings that will match the Ultra Primes, which I personally love. Some footage I've seen of the Alura's, which are in theory designed to match the ultra primes, always seem just a tad warmer and a smidge more contrasty (I was contemplating getting an Alura 30-80 a while ago and wanted to see how it might match with my LWZ.2, but all my observations are from tests on vimeo and youtube). 

If it matters to you, the LWZ and LWZ.2 both have to be serviced at Zeiss HQ. I dont know of any shop in the USA that will service them, even for lubrication. My understanding is this is due to the complexity of the lens, which may or may not be one of the reasons Arri collaborated with Fuji on future zooms (maybe someone else here knows?). 

Now if I was asked if I wanted to keep my LWZ.2 or trade it for an Alura of the same range, I'd keep my LWZ.2. But thats just me and my 2 cents

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I haven’t had a Zeiss LWZ come my way, so I’m just speculating here, but it’s an interesting history.

The first Arri/Zeiss LWZ 15.5-45 zoom came out in the mid 2000s when film was still king and it was priced I believe at over $50,000. It only came in PL mount. The second gen LWZ-2 (no longer branded Arri since they had switched optical partners to Fujinon) was released in 2010 and had a rather short production span before being discontinued. (The Arri/Fujinon Alura 15.5-45 was announced in Sep 2011.) The LWZ-2 was the first zoom to have an interchangeable mount, including the option of EF, so it was clearly aimed at a lower-end market and priced accordingly at around half the price of the first. I don’t know how different the two versions are, since the specs are basically identical (and LWZ-2 owners seem happy) but even assuming the first was over-priced at a time when there were no low budget S35 zoom options, there must have been some lowering of standards or compromise to achieve such a price drop. At any rate it’s interesting that Zeiss discontinued it so quickly to make way for the Compact Zoom range. (I have read that the LWZ-2 didn’t match well with the Compact Primes and Zooms so maybe it was too good!) The latest LWZ-3 is under $10K.

It reminds me a little of Angenieux’s trajectory from the classic Optimo range during the film days to their first “Optimo Rouge” digital zooms (clearly aimed at Red owners) which were half the price but with similar specs. In that case I know the quality dropped, and it has largely remained below the high point of the Optimo days, even with marketing designed to convince people of the superiority of optics “designed for 4K” (now 8K). 

Anyway, my point is that the first generation LWZ may well be superior to zooms made after the digital transition around 2009/10. In any case, I think the Aluras are still very good zooms, and either would be a good choice. The point Robin brings up about servicing Zeiss zooms is a good one though. I’ve run into this a few times, where a normally straight forward service (say a clean and relube of the focus mechanics) required sending the lens back to Oberkochen. 

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Dom, would you happen to know what the image circle coverage is for the LWZ and Alura? If the LWZ is older, then I would guess it’s smaller, though presumably still covers S35? 

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1 hour ago, Dom Jaeger said:

Anyway, my point is that the first generation LWZ may well be superior to zooms made after the digital transition

The LWZ1 is the one I am contemplating and since I would only use it in connection with film, I am curious to learn more. If it is superior would that involve mechanics, glass and/or coating? The seller is in Germany but I might try and find one here in London to rent for a day.

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2 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

Dom, would you happen to know what the image circle coverage is for the LWZ and Alura? If the LWZ is older, then I would guess it’s smaller, though presumably still covers S35? 

Hi Sat, 

I've never tested or worked on an LWZ (1 or 2) to check, but the LWZ-2 specs say it covers ANSI S35, which is technically about 31.1mm, but a few extra mm of leeway is likely, so at least 31.3mm is a reasonable guess. 

Aluras are 31.5mm. 

I very much doubt the first version LWZ would have smaller coverage, since any lens made in the 2000s would be made to at least cover S35.

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2 hours ago, Uli Meyer said:

The LWZ1 is the one I am contemplating and since I would only use it in connection with film, I am curious to learn more. If it is superior would that involve mechanics, glass and/or coating? The seller is in Germany but I might try and find one here in London to rent for a day.

Hi Uli,

I'm really just speculating based on the price drop, so I have no idea what might be different, if anything.

With Angenieux, they used slightly cheaper materials, slightly lower tolerances, and possibly more automation when they moved to cheaper digital zooms. Initially they also placed the rear optical group much closer to the sensor plane, which presumably made for a cheaper design, but it ruled out use on film cameras and Angenieux eventually went back to making lenses that were film friendly. With those "Rouge" or DP zooms you could feel a slight difference in build quality from the earlier Optimos, but optically they were pretty similar. The difference probably becomes more apparent after several years, when wear and tear begins to affect the  lower quality build more. Many rental houses are still renting Optimos like the 24-290 or 15-40, which is a testament to their enduring quality.

I'd love to get an original LWZ and a LWZ-2 together to test them.

Let us know how your test goes if you find a LWZ to rent.

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8 minutes ago, Dom Jaeger said:

Let us know how your test goes if you find a LWZ to rent.

Thanks Dom!

Arri Rental in London have got one and I will post the results once I have them.

 

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11 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

I haven’t had a Zeiss LWZ come my way, so I’m just speculating here, but it’s an interesting history.

The first Arri/Zeiss LWZ 15.5-45 zoom came out in the mid 2000s when film was still king and it was priced I believe at over $50,000. It only came in PL mount. The second gen LWZ-2 (no longer branded Arri since they had switched optical partners to Fujinon) was released in 2010 and had a rather short production span before being discontinued. (The Arri/Fujinon Alura 15.5-45 was announced in Sep 2011.) The LWZ-2 was the first zoom to have an interchangeable mount, including the option of EF, so it was clearly aimed at a lower-end market and priced accordingly at around half the price of the first. I don’t know how different the two versions are, since the specs are basically identical (and LWZ-2 owners seem happy) but even assuming the first was over-priced at a time when there were no low budget S35 zoom options, there must have been some lowering of standards or compromise to achieve such a price drop. At any rate it’s interesting that Zeiss discontinued it so quickly to make way for the Compact Zoom range. (I have read that the LWZ-2 didn’t match well with the Compact Primes and Zooms so maybe it was too good!) The latest LWZ-3 is under $10K.

It reminds me a little of Angenieux’s trajectory from the classic Optimo range during the film days to their first “Optimo Rouge” digital zooms (clearly aimed at Red owners) which were half the price but with similar specs. In that case I know the quality dropped, and it has largely remained below the high point of the Optimo days, even with marketing designed to convince people of the superiority of optics “designed for 4K” (now 8K). 

Anyway, my point is that the first generation LWZ may well be superior to zooms made after the digital transition around 2009/10. In any case, I think the Aluras are still very good zooms, and either would be a good choice. The point Robin brings up about servicing Zeiss zooms is a good one though. I’ve run into this a few times, where a normally straight forward service (say a clean and relube of the focus mechanics) required sending the lens back to Oberkochen. 

My understanding about the price cut for the LWZ.2 + the EF mount was an attempt to reach the new DSLR market, its unclear if any compromises were actually made or if the LWZ.1 was just super heavily marked up and originally targeted at rental houses not individuals. When discussing the differences between the two lenses once, I was told by one service center that if you send in a LWZ.1 thats broken, Zeiss will try to just replace it with a LWZ.2. 

The story behind the line suddenly ending on Zeiss's end that I heard was that the two specialists who lead building them both went on leave around the same time, and due to a combination of the lens's complexity, lack of training given to anyone to replace them, and the overall cost of the lens being so high vs the forthcoming Compact Zoom line that they simply opted to transition away from it. 

Mind you, these are the stories I have heard 2nd hand, so its best to talk to ziess directly if there are any servicing concerns. 

The only quality thing I'd just re-iterate is that I regularly use my LWZ2 for super 16 use with great results. I'd expect the LWZ.1 to be roughly if not exactly the same glass, so test results should be quite excellent. 

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I spoke to a technician at Zeiss in Germany yesterday. The LWZ.1 was developed in partnership with Arri and only Arri was selling the lens. That might explain the price difference since two companies had to profit from the sale of the LWZ.1. When the Zeiss/Arri partnership ended, Zeiss brought out the LWZ.2 on their own, with the only difference being a redesigned back of the lens to allow for different mounts. Everything else is identical.

He also mentioned that servicing those lenses will eventually stop at Zeiss. When that will be, I don't know.

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One big consideration would be - do you plan to use other zooms? 
 

If so, the Aluras have a comprehensive line-up of matching zooms, covering pretty much any range you could want. They’re also easy to find at rental houses just about everywhere.

The Zeiss is a rarer beast, and outside of Zeiss primes, isn’t an easy match for other glass.

If you’re not fussed about the compatibility  issues though, I personally prefer the Zeiss coatings, they just yield such pretty contrast and colours.

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I have an LWZ2 to go with my 28-80 and 70-200 CZs

You can tell if you pixel peep that they are of slightly different design schools at Zeiss, but they all match just fine.

I’d sell mine to complete my CZ set on the wide end with a 15-30, but s35-only lenses have taken such a value drop this year it would be hard to stomach the price I’d likely get. It’s a fantastic lens, thoroughly modern in all the best ways, I’ll just baby it and prob hang onto it. 

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2 hours ago, Nate Weaver said:

I have an LWZ2 to go with my 28-80 and 70-200 CZs

You can tell if you pixel peep that they are of slightly different design schools at Zeiss, but they all match just fine.

I’d sell mine to complete my CZ set on the wide end with a 15-30, but s35-only lenses have taken such a value drop this year it would be hard to stomach the price I’d likely get. It’s a fantastic lens, thoroughly modern in all the best ways, I’ll just baby it and prob hang onto it. 

In the meantime I did buy a LWZ.2 and am really happy with it. Also, I got it for a very good price. There are value drops with many used S35 lenses, even some of the wider Master Primes are dropping in price.

 

On 6/25/2020 at 4:21 AM, Mark Kenfield said:

If you’re not fussed about the compatibility  issues though, I personally prefer the Zeiss coatings, they just yield such pretty contrast and colours.

Agreed. The colours and contrast of the LWZ.2 really are beautiful and I much prefer it to the Alura. I am thinking of adding a couple of longer Zeiss primes.

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