Perrault Pictures' short film Return of the Golden Girl was shot with Sumire Prime cine lenses. The movie features plenty of action sequences as it tells the story of world bantamweight kickboxing champion Jemyma Betrian learning to kickbox. © Ben Morse

When daring Dutch filmmakers collective Perrault Pictures was tasked with making a short movie that captured fast action on the new Canon Sumire Prime Series cine lenses, cinematographer Freek Zonderland challenged himself. So he shot many of the scenes in dimly-lit locations with the lenses wide open, and instead of using trained actors he used 'real' people.

"I think I'm best when working with actors," Freek says. "I love the interaction with them and trying to give them the space they need to do what they do, then trying to capture that in a beautiful way. I try to go with the motion of the scene. And I love filming actors close up, really in their face, like almost touching them."

So when it came to shooting a short film about Jemyma Betrian's rise from troubled teenage tearaway to world bantamweight kickboxing champion, he got very close-up to some fast-paced and potentially dangerous action. On top of this, producer Chiel Christiaans got Jemyma to play herself as an adult and persuaded her family and friends to act in the movie, so the filmmakers had to help all the cast act naturally.

Having flexibility to move around is how Freek likes to work. Since he started his career a decade ago using Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLRs, he's been a fan of shooting handheld and the opportunities it gives him to explore new angles from up close. Shooting this short film, named Return of the Golden Girl, was no different.

"I used these tiny, lightweight PL-mount Sumire Primes and I could run around all day," says Freek, who shot handheld for virtually the whole production. "The lenses are so compact. It would be impossible to use larger cine lenses like this – dancing around so close with this tiny, light package. Now shooting like this is possible, and it's super cool."

Beautiful lens flare

So the lightweight, compact size and ergonomics are crucial to the way Freek works, but so is how the lens handles the unpredictability of flare.

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"With some lenses, the flares are so ugly," says Freek. "It's unbearable to watch, so you have to be really particular about having light sources in frame. But these lenses flare beautifully. It's a nice, soft flare – not harsh. In some lenses you can have these really annoying colours, but the Sumire Prime flares are subtle."

Many of the shots in the film show off the beautiful flare of the lenses – especially the Canon CN-E35mm T1.5 FP X lens, which Freek used for much of the film. With the bright highlights around the boxing ring, outside in the bright sunshine of a dream sequence and also when Jemyma was jogging, the flare gave a real atmosphere to the shots, says Freek. And when he set up a large light outside a door to replicate sunshine streaming in, the softness and flare worked wonderfully well.

"We had envisioned this shot at the door as a sunset shot where it would be bright outside and she would be a silhouette entering the door," says Freek. "But we were running out of time and it was getting dark. So we set the 35mm lens at T1.3, opened the door and the street lights outside were just coming on for the night. We just added one little light at the top of the door, and it was more beautiful than we imagined it. It was perfect."

A video camera fitted with a Canon Sumire Prime lens films a girl in action, kickboxing.
"I used these tiny, lightweight PL-mount Sumire Primes and I could run around all day... It's super cool," says Freek, who filmed a lot of the scenes in Return of the Golden Girl handheld to capture the action and convey a feeling of movement. © Ben Morse
A Canon Sumire Prime cine lens in use on a cine camera on location.

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Dreamy bokeh

The cinematic feel of the flares meshes perfectly with the sharpness and bokeh of the Canon Sumire Prime cine lenses, especially when shot wide open, which Freek did in virtually every shot in the film.

"Wide open, the image is so nice and soft," he says. "And that really helps if you do not have a lot of control over the location because everything just turns into this beautiful blur. It helps to focus on the actors and avoid distractions, and it saves you time in post, removing everything you don't like in the background.

"Almost every modern lens has nice bokeh in the background, but the foreground is also very important. And that's what I really like with these lenses. In some of the shots – especially in the shots where Jemyma is covered in gold – you can see how beautiful that first plane of bokeh is."

The dreamy bokeh also shows through perfectly in the film's dream sequence in woodland. There, both the background and foreground clearly show the soft feeling Freek loves.

A video camera fitted with a Canon Sumire Prime lens films kickboxer Jemyma Betrian running through a woodland.
"The Sumire Prime lenses flare beautifully. It's a nice, soft flare – not harsh," says Freek, who also liked the lenses' cinematic bokeh. He used the Canon CN-E35mm T1.5 FP X lens to capture a tracking shot of Jemyma running through woodland. © Ben Morse

"The lenses produce a special look because the footage is soft, but at the same time there is an edge of sharpness. With older lenses, sometimes the entire image is not sharp," Freek says.

"I'm not looking for a perfect lens at this point. But the Sumire Primes have an interesting look – a sort of bridge between softness but if something is in focus, it's in focus. And then everything else is turned into this pool of unsharpness. That's until the moment you stop them down – then the contrast comes back and everything gets sharper. I feel that they do stay sharp all the way open, but there is a softer quality to it.

"So with these lenses, you can use them for normal subjects and not only for an extreme dream or a fantasy world."

A filmmaker fits a video camera with a Canon Sumire Prime cine lens.
Freek switched between the Canon CN-E35mm T1.5 FP X, the Canon CN-E85mm T1.3 FP X and the super-wide Canon CN-E14mm T3.1 FP X for different parts of the film, and found that the consistent colours between each Sumire Prime lens made grading footage easy. © Ben Morse

Switching lenses

On the shoot, Freek was impressed at how the consistent sizing of the lenses made changing focal lengths fast and easy, helped by the consistent gear spacing on each lens, which saved lots of time in rigging. "If you change lenses and they have different sizes or different weights, then the balance changes every time," he says. "The Sumire Primes are not exactly the same, but they're close enough that within 30 seconds, you're ready."

The balance to aid speedy lens changes really mattered when Freek used a five-axis motorised gimbal for the tracking shot of Jemyma running through the woods – the only time he used a gimbal. He used the Canon CN-E35mm T1.5 FP X and super-wide CN-E14mm T3.1 FP X for different angles and was able to swap between the two quickly.

He used the Canon CN-E85mm T1.3 FP X lens for many of the close-ups, and the consistent colours between the different lenses helped speed up post-production. "That's important, so you don't need a different grade for every lens."

With minimal grading, the final film has the sort of cinematic look Freek wanted to help tell Jemyma's impressive success story. "The colours really pop – not in a cheap way, but in a wonderful rich way," he says. "There's a lot of detail in the colours and in skin tones, and it feels like it heightens reality a little bit.

"Because it's Jemyma's real story, [because] she's re-enacting herself, these lenses bring a touch of magic to the moments that are, of course, an emotional interpretation of what really happened."

Skrivet av Adam Duckworth


Freek Zonderland's kitbag

The key kit for pro action filmmaking

Filmmaker Freek Wonderland holds up a Canon CN-E14mm T3.1 FP X Sumire Prime lens.

Lenses

Canon CN-E35mm T1.5 FP X

One of the Sumire Prime cine lens range, offering fast aperture and precise manual control with a crafted focus bokeh aimed at careful creative expression.

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.

Lenses

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