Zeiss announced a new family of cinema primes geared toward 'low budget' productions at the NAB 2017 show in Las Vegas. The CP.3 XD Cine line includes a total of ten lenses that cover full frame. Meant to replace the CP.2 line, these new lenses are more compact than their predecessors.

The 'XD' in the name stands for 'eXtended Data', which refers to the lenses' ability to store metadata like distortion and shading info when shooting – info that can greatly aide a visual effects artist in post. You can read more about it here. According to Zeiss production manager Christophe Casenave:

"Cine lenses that provide metadata are relatively expensive and, up until now, distortion and shading had to be manually measured – a time-consuming and expensive process. With ZEISS eXtended Data, we are offering Hollywood technology for everyone, providing small film teams with new creative opportunities."

While this lens line is aimed toward the cost-conscience filmmaker, to the average consumer, prices will likely still seem expensive – each XD lens will likely cost between $5000 and $8000. However Zeiss is also offering non-XD versions of the CP.3 line for slightly less cash.

Several of the non-XD lenses will be available as soon as June and July, while the eXtended Data versions will ship in the fall.

Press release:

New ZEISS CP.3 XD Cine Lens Family: "Hollywood Technology for Everyone"

The ten compact prime lenses provide metadata and enable the correction of distortion and shading. For the first time, even low-budget productions can employ visual effects.

OBERKOCHEN/Germany, 24/04/2017.

No matter if it is Star Wars, Harry Potter or Avatar: these days, just about every film features special effects. For many small film productions, having visual effects in their movie would be a dream come true. Unfortunately, making the image fit the look of the footage has required expensive tools – until now. At the NAB Show in Las Vegas, ZEISS presented new metadata technology that makes this possible: the company has equipped its new ZEISS CP.3 XD compact lens family with ZEISS eXtended Data.

ZEISS eXtended Data supports and enhances /i-Technology

What exactly is this? "ZEISS eXtended Data is the first metadata technology which stores the lens distortion and shading – for every single frame," explains Christophe Casenave, Product Manager at ZEISS. "Moreover, all /i-Technology metadata are recorded, including the focus distance, aperture value and depth of field, which is supported by most cameras." This makes the technology ideal for working with visual effects: by using the metadata, it just takes a few clicks to modify the image generated on the computer to fit the lens characteristics, and to then splice it together with the footage to create a realistic image. Distortion and shading can be corrected or even amplified in post-production.

"It used to be that only big blockbusters could take this approach," says Casenave. "Cine lenses that provide metadata are relatively expensive and, up until now, distortion and shading had to be manually measured – a time-consuming and expensive process." However, since ZEISS has incorporated the technology into its compact CP.3 XD cine lens family, low-budget productions can now take the same approach to creating their own special effects. "With ZEISS eXtended Data, we are offering Hollywood technology for everyone, providing small film teams with new creative opportunities."

An end-to-end solution: cooperation with Ambient and Pomfort

With the ZEISS CP.3 XD, ZEISS not only offers the lenses with metadata, but has also given thought to storage and processing. It has teamed up with partners in the industry: the company Ambient has developed the MasterLockit Plus system together with ZEISS. It records all metadata along with a time code in case the technology is not supported by the camera. "This way truly everyone can work with ZEISS eXtended Data, no matter what equipment they use," says Casenave.

Thanks to the cooperation with the software developer Pomfort, distortion and shading can be modified on the set in real-time using the Pomfort tool LiveGrade Pro. The film crew already gets a sense of what the final look will be during the shoot. The film clips and lens data can be consolidated and organized with Silverstack, Pomfort's file manager.

ZEISS plans to further expand the new metadata technology in the future. "Our customers will then be able to upgrade to the new version, making the CP.3 XD a long-term investment," says Casenave.

Compact and light-weight

In addition to the metadata, filmmakers have even more reasons to get excited about the new lens family: the ten prime lenses between 15 and 135 millimeters cover full-frame. As is typical for ZEISS, the image has a clean, crisp look, and ZEISS says the image quality is excellent. "These lenses deliver outstanding results, even in light situations with a large dynamic range, i.e. highlights and shadows within the same scene," says Casenave. The maximum speed of the seven focal lengths between 25 and 135 millimeters is T2.1, the 15, 18 and 21 millimeter lenses have a speed of T2.9. With a front diameter of 95 millimeters, the lenses are light-weight and compact. They are particularly well-suited for hand-held filming or shooting with gimbals, Steadicam or drones. ZEISS has also improved focusing: the manual focus is now noticeably smoother. According to ZEISS, it is comparable with the ZEISS Master Primes and can also be operated with a small motor. The focus rotation angle is 300°. The lenses are equipped with an interchangeable mount so that they can be used on almost any camera. In addition to the ZEISS CP.3 XD, there is also a version available without metadata: the ZEISS CP.3.

Price and availability

Initially, a limited number of ZEISS CP.3 XD and CP.3 lenses will be available at dealers.

ZEISS CP.3 XD

Focal length Recommended retail price (EUR/USD) Available from
15mm/T2.9 XD 6,400 Euro / 7,490 USD September
18mm/T2.9 XD 5,800 Euro / 6,690 USD September
21mm/T2.9 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD September
25mm/T2.1 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD September
28mm/T2.1 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD October
35mm/T2.1 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD September
50mm/T2.1 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD September
85mm/T2.1 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD September
100mm/T2.1 XD 5,800 Euro / 6,690 USD September
135mm/T2.1 XD 6,400 Euro / 7,490 USD September

ZEISS CP.3

Focal length Recommended retail price (EUR/USD) Available from
15mm/T2.9 4,900 Euro / 6,090 USD September
18mm/T2.9 4,300 Euro / 5,290 USD July
21mm/T2.9 3,500 Euro / 4,390 USD June
25mm/T2,1 3,500 Euro / 4,390 USD June
28mm/T2.1 3,500 Euro / 4,390 USD October
35mm/T2.1 3,500 Euro / 4,390 USD June
50mm/T2.1 3,500 Euro / 4,390 USD June
85mm/T2.1 3.500 Euro / 4.390 USD June
100mm/T2.1 4,300 Euro / 5,290 USD September
135mm/T2.1 4,900 Euro / 6,090 USD September