Shooting car chases, rocket tests, and flying action hero scenes from thousands of feet in the air requires a camera/lens combination that’s sturdy, flexible and sharp.
For one of the world’s top aerial cinematography companies, Hawthorne, CA-based Gyron Systems International, a division of Wolfe Air Aviation, Ltd., those requirements led them to pair the 25-300mm Cabrio zoom from FUJIFILM/FUJINON with the RED Helium 8K camera.
“There are no second takes, no actors’ marks or posh trailers with aerial cinematography,” said Jesse Brunt, Director of Photography/Gyron Operator, Wolfe Air and Gyron. “We make adjustments as they happen. Focus buzzing, blurry images and bad composition are unacceptable when you’re burning fuel and spinning rotor blades.”
The rugged design of the 25-300mm Cabrio makes it ideal for aerial cinematography, according to Brunt: “Everything with aerial conditions is subject to extremes – weather, temperature, abusive conditions in general along with extra wear and tear. The 25-300 has been engineered to take the beating flying through the sky dishes out.”
All lenses in the Cabrio series feature exclusive detachable servo drive units for electric zooming, focusing and iris. Mounting the unit enables remote control of zoom, focus, and iris adjustment. The 25-300 servo is optional making it suitable as a standard PL lens or as an ENG-style lens.
“Lens making is a discipline and a calling,” added Brunt. “Fujifilm has made themselves the leader in this craft. There’s no perfect circle in mathematics, and there’s no perfect lens in filmmaking. However, Fujifilm builds and designs lenses with the intention of making the perfect circle.”
With the conditions surrounding aviation – moving targets, time constraints, physical risk – zooms tend to be the lens of choice for this type of shooting. The focal length range of the lens and its ability to maintain sharpness and focus provides Gyron with the biggest bang for the buck.
According to Brunt: “We get the maximum range of focal length along with incredible sharpness and a constant T-stop [to 273mm]. The optics in the Cabrio preserve color and sharpness like nothing we’ve seen before in a zoom. *Modulation transfer function (MTF) is the main improvement, with less chromatic aberration and improved coatings on the 25-300.”
The Cabrio’s crystal clear image capture is also a plus when shooting for clients such as Boeing, NASA, SpaceX, etc. who are most interested in pixel count, resolution, and clarity. “When those are the top must-haves for a client, RED/FUJINON is the immediate answer.”
The zoom’s ability to maintain sharpness when shooting fast-moving objects also makes it ideal for shooting high-speed car chases from the air. Brunt reports the 25-300 is on heavy rotation when Wolfe Air and Gyron shoot for shows like “Top Gear” (U.K and U.S. versions); “Jay’s Garage” (NBC); and was recently used for a feature film called “American Dresser” with actor Tom Berenger that includes a great deal of aerial shots.
Shooting a moonless night in Los Angeles recently showcased the 25-300’s clarity in a unique way. “Thanks to its sharpness, we were able to push the ISO much further with this lens. The look we captured was simply stunning.”
Wolfe Air is renowned for its prowess capturing action on the ground and in the air. The company’s fleet includes a Learjet, Twin-Cessna and an A-Star helicopter, which have been used for airborne cinematography on feature films (including Iron Man, Transformers, Sully, Interstellar); sports productions (for X-Games, ESPN, Nascar, Fox Sports); military/government promotional and training films (all branches of the U.S. armed forces, the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, NASA); footage for large commercial manufacturers (Boeing, Cessna, Cirrus Aircraft, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, NASA, etc.); and all major airlines.
FUJINON lenses by Fujifilm are known for high quality eloquent images and have been used in various production sites including movies, TV commercials, and live sports broadcasts around the world. Fujifilm will continue to tap into its optical, high precision forming and assembling technologies that have been nurtured over many years in the field of video expression, to further expand and enhance its 4K lens lineup, thereby addressing the diversifying needs of production sites.
*Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) is an optical bench measurement to evaluate the performance and describe the contrast sensitivity of a lens. MTF determines the ability of a lens to transfer various levels of detail from object to image. Performance is measured in terms of contrast (degrees of gray), or of modulation, produced for a perfect source of that detail level.