Fujifilm/FUJINON: Experience the Next Phase in Lens Design

By Lars Pettersson FSF

To say that the COVID-19 crisis has put most things upside down in our everyday lives nowadays, would be an obvious understatement. But with the crisis come also new ways of doing things, and for me it was an interesting experience to be invited to an on-line press conference held by Fujifilm with the objective of presenting two new, exciting, 8K Zoom lenses.

It is a very ambitious press conference, with no fewer than 83 participants spread out all over the world, and it is held because, of course, this year's NAB Show has been canceled, and the lenses being presented here would have been shown to the world at the NAB, if 2020 would have started out as a normal year. Which, of course, it hasn’t. 

For me, in Western Europe, the press conference took place at a very comfortable six pm in the evening, but for the participants in Japan, it was one am in the morning.

From New York City in the U.S, Gordon Tubbs, Vice President for Broadcast and Cine products for North, Central and South America, opens up the conference by greeting us all welcome, and introduces Mr Toshihisa Iida, General Manager, Worldwide Optical Device & Electronic Imaging Products Division at Fujifilm/FUJINON in Japan, for whom it is indeed in the middle of the night. 

Mr Iida begins by commenting that it is truly an unusual year so far, the Olympic games which were to be held in Tokyo beginning in July, have been postponed a full year. ”The safety of our customers is a high priority for us at Fujifilm”,  Mr Iida continues, explaining that Fujifilm/FUJINON have a very broad portfolio of photographic products, ranging from consumer cameras through 15 models of 4K lenses.

Which brings us to the subject of today's conference: two brand new 8K broadcast Zoom lenses. The FUJINON HP66X15.2ESM box lens reaches the world’s longest 8K focal length of 1,000mm while also boasting a whopping zoom magnification of 66x. Its smaller cousin, the FUJINON HP12X7.6ERD is a portable lens covering a range of 7.6mm to 91mm, offering the world’s greatest wide angle setting in 8K cinematography at this time.

 ”The tolerances at which lens components for an 8K lens must be machined and polished are extreme”, Mr Iida informs us. "Only engineers with 15 - 20 years of experience are able to work on the development and construction of our 4K and 8K lenses. The tolerances on the lens surfaces are in fact so narrow, that you can compare them to the equivalent of 1 golf ball in an area the size of Los Angeles county!"

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Fujinon’s remarkable new remote Back Focus system.

Then it is again back to the U.S, where Thomas Fletcher in Chicago takes over, stressing that with the 8K format, focus becomes imperative, and because of this Fujinon have upped the ante regarding every such aspect of their two new flagship zooms. 

We stay in North America, and now Stosh Durbacz in Canada continues the presentation, explaining that Fujinon have developed a new, extremely advanced, autofocus technology based on phase shift in images. The system will keep, say a football player, in focus even when he is temporarily obscured by other players passing in front of him. ”Also", Mr Durbacz cautions, "when you're doing super-slo-mo shots in 4K or 8K, being out of focus is not an option."

"Covid19  temporarily shut down our ability to do tests”, he explains, "but the new zooms also feature a highly improved stabilization system, both hardware and software-wise”. 

Back focus is also critical at 4K or 8K, and here again, Fujinon can offer a brand new system, developed jointly with Sony, which can be adjusted remotely. Back focus used to be something which the operator had to adjust in the field, but now this can be adjusted remotely, making the life of an operator much easier, plus of course, also enabling the adjustment of back focus when the camera is mounted on a crane or in a helicopter.

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The advanced auto focus in action. The system ”understands” it should stick with the toy train, even though it passes behind a building.

Another ingenious aspect of these new zooms is a system called ARIA, which communicates between the zoom and the camera, automatically compensating for corner shading and exposure fall off at the tele end, by continuously adjusting the camera's gain. 

We now segue into the Q&A portion of the presentation. The representatives of the press are curious what applications there are for 8K at this time, and the panel of high ranking Fujifilm executives take turns in answering the questions.

Well, the 2020 Olympic games were mentioned earlier, and indeed a lot of Fujifilm 8K technology was scheduled to do ”heavy lifting” at these events. But initial applications in the U.S. have focused on extraction; the possibility of going into the frame for partial enlargement, much like was done with 4K when that first became available.

 ”It’ll be a mixture”, Thomas Fletcher predicts. "Focusing in 8k isn’t going be easy -autofocus is going to be a big help. And we’re very excited about this small new wide-angle zoom lens, the HP12X7.6”. 

And what about broadcasting in 8K? That apparently is still some time down the road,  traditional systems of today would have to compress the signal very aggressively if they were to tackle 8K, but there have been successful experiments in which 5G systems have been employed.

Since it’s now 2 am in Japan, Thomas Fletcher rounds off the conference by urging everyone to stay safe and healthy. 

But before he does, Toshihisa Iida gets the penultimate word. "More than anything", Mr. Iida muses, "material acquired in 8K is future-proof!” 

​And this is, of course, undeniably true. It will be quite some time into the future before 8K cinematography is deemed to be of insufficient quality.

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Camera Operator Dylan Kissel with the Fujinon UA107AF, a 4K box lens which also features Fujifilm’s new advanced auto focus system.

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