Filmmaker Tania Freimuth made her short film Change Of Heart using Canon's new Sumire Prime PL-mount cine lenses. © Ben Morse

Canon's new PL-mount Sumire Prime lenses have been crafted to bring a softer, warmer, cinematic feel to today's high-end cinema cameras. One cinematographer who was eager to try the new full-frame cinema prime lens range is British filmmaker Tania Freimuth, who always uses PL-mount cameras for her short films and documentaries.

To test out the Sumire Primes in a real-world scenario, she was tasked with shooting a cinematic short film in one the most challenging of environments – a dimly-lit restaurant at night.

The romance of the silver screen has always proved attractive for Tania. After many years of shooting everything in order to pay the bills – from news and documentaries to corporate films – she recently let some colleagues persuade her to follow her true passion and move into shooting fiction. "I fell back in love with filmmaking and the cinema," she says. And she's been successful at it, with a recent nomination for a short film at the BAFTA-recognised Underwire festival.

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Her love of cinematic storytelling and unique mix of technical camera skills make her ideally placed to try the Sumire Prime series, putting the lenses to a tough test, shooting a very modern love story in east London, near where she now lives.

The short film, titled Change Of Heart, is a boy-meets-girl tale with a twist. The couple in question bump into each other purely by chance, then meet several times. They are actually both on their way to meet their respective dates, who are sat near to each other in the same quiet restaurant. When the couple meet again outside the restaurant, they pair up and head off into the night, abandoning their original dates. But their dumped, star-crossed dates then hit it off with each other in a romantic conclusion to the story.

The short film was all shot around the vibrant east London area of Hackney. "It was useful to shoot there because I could get the diversity of locations to add to the story," Tania says. "We mainly needed a restaurant, so it would need to be closed so that we could shoot there, and restaurants in that area tend to close for only one day per week. We wanted to shoot at night, so we had to wait for it to get dark."
Filmmaker Tania Freimuth filming outside a window using a Canon EOS C700 FF camera and Sumire Prime cine lens.
Tania shot her film with a small crew on location in fashionable spots of east London, England. © Ben Morse

With a small crew and no time for reshoots, Tania had to get it right first time. She chose to shoot most of the short with what she knows best, an 85mm prime lens – in this case, the new Canon CN-E85mm T1.3 FP X lens mounted on a full-frame Canon EOS C700 FF body.

"I'm more of a long lens person," Tania says. "Lenses affect not only the people you're looking at but the places you're in too. And I found that the Canon CN-E85mm T1.3 FP X is a good, solid go-to lens for what I'm shooting."

Tania also used the CN-E35mm T1.5 FP X lens for some of the wider shots, and tried the CN-E14mm T3.1 FP X super-wide for one expansive scene-setter. "In drama I mostly use a mid-length telephoto," she says, "but I do use wide-angle lenses because you don't always want to be hefting the camera around to achieve a wide shot."

A Canon EOS C700 FF camera.

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The ideal lens for a cinematic look

Tania knew exactly how she wanted her final film to look, which guided her choice of lenses. "I wanted the film to look romantic, rich and polished. Bold, but not brassy," she says. "I wanted it to have a very strong cinematic aesthetic to it. I wanted there to be atmosphere within the lens.

"I wanted a softness, but also good resolution and contrast. I didn't want to flatten the colour tone out, or the highlights. And the lenses needed to retain their properties at wide apertures. There's no point having a T1.3 lens and everything just goes flat. Obviously I want lenses to be sharp, but I don't want them to be over-sharp. Many modern lenses tend to compress spaces and flatten everything out. Everything's just a bit squashed, to my eye. I don't really like that look terribly much."

Tania found what she was looking for with the new Sumire Primes. She continues, "They have a very soft look, akin to a vintage lens, which in everybody's minds emulates the film look. But these new lenses are designed to work with digital cameras, so there are certain attributes to them that are beneficial in modern filmmaking."
On a street at night, a cinematographer shoulders a Canon EOS C700 FF camera with Sumire Prime cine lens.
When shooting handheld, the cinematographer appreciated the light weight of the Canon Sumire Prime cine lenses on the Canon EOS C700 FF. © Ben Morse

These benefits include minimal focus breathing when doing large focus pulls, colour accuracy across the range, great control of flare, and smooth bokeh. On top of this, a consistent size and focus throw will make lens changes faster.

"It's fundamentally to do with how the light reacts when it comes down the lens. You don't want the light to be a sharp line; you want it to wrap around a subject," says Tania. "How the lens sees that is an important element in your choice of lenses."

Shooting on the Canon EOS C700 FF with the Sumire Prime lenses wide open most of the time, Tania says there wasn't really a lot of light around, but the sensor is so good that she still had to use ND filters, "much to my focus puller's annoyance!" she says.

The cast of Change Of Heart relax around a café table in the background, with a Canon EOS C700 FF camera in the foreground.
Tania emphasised the romantic feel of the strings of lights in the restaurant scenes by dangling lights in front of the Sumire Prime lens to produce a dreamy bokeh effect. © Ben Morse

"The biggest pull was the chap who walks from the grocer's shop to the foreground, to let the lady into the wine shop. That's quite a long pull, because he was a good 15 feet from her. My focus puller snapped it forward to her, and then threw it back to catch him as he comes to her. And that was actually shot with the Canon CN-E85mm T1.3 FP X wide open. It's a fast pull, but I didn't see any frame shift. All the outside shots were done handheld, too."

Nailing the focus is also crucial when the camera is shooting close-ups, such as a tight shot of a rose on a plate in Tania's film. With the camera on a tripod for all the interior scenes, the close-focusing ability of the CN-E85mm T1.3 FP X lens was ideal to avoid having to switch to a dedicated macro lens.

With soft lights being used in the restaurant scene and no bright, hard light sources, there was no natural flare at all. So Tania used a trick to introduce some dreamy flares: dangling some fairy lights in front of the lens. "For flare you need some harsh light pinging around," she says. "And sometimes you need a bit of foreground in things. I just needed to introduce something, so I used the lights and I was quite pleased with the results."

Camera crew pictured using a Canon EOS C700 FF with Sumire Prime lens on a stand.
Change Of Heart was shot using a Canon EOS C700 FF with Sumire Prime lenses, with some long focus pulls. © Ben Morse

Tania also admits she often uses filters and nets to give her films a distinct look, but the Sumire Prime lenses' unique characteristics meant she didn't have to resort to any other tricks to make her film look like she wanted it: a stunning cinematic look with a real big-screen movie feel, beautiful skin tones and lots of dynamic range.

For Tania, this looks like the start of a long and happy relationship – with the Sumire Prime lenses. "I would definitely choose to work with the Canon Sumire Primes again," she says. "I think they'd be really suited to the types of films I shoot."

Napisal Adam Duckworth


Tania Freimuth's kitbag

The key kit pros use to film their footage

A Canon EOS C700 FF camera with Sumire Prime cine lens.

Camera

Lenses

Canon CN-E85mm T1.3 FP X

One of the Sumire Prime cine lens range, with exceptionally beautiful bokeh and impressive low light performance. "A good, solid go-to lens for what I'm shooting," says Tania.

Lenses

Canon CN-E14mm T3.1 FP X

A super-wide lens in the Sumire Prime cine lens range, offering a specially designed cinematic look, subtly modifying textural renderings for pleasing bokeh with superb expressiveness.

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