Keep it small and light – Shooting in the Nepalese Jungle
In April/May 2016 I was part of a film-team shooting a wildlife documentary about the red panda for German television. When ZEISS offered me the Loxia lenses and one ZEISS Batis I was really excited. I also liked the aspect that the meaning of “loxia” is a bird, a crossbill belonging to the finch family, so these lenses are already in the right mind for a nature documentary.
So I ended up taking the ZEISS Batis 1.8/85, the ZEISS Loxia 2/50, the ZEISS Loxia 2/35 and – what I was especially looking forward to – the ZEISS Loxia 2.8/21 lenses. Unboxing the lenses always feels like Christmas.
Our small team traveled to southeastern Nepal close to the indian border. To get into the territory of the panda’s habitat we had to walk four kilometers in the jungle in the field in the morning. At the evening we walked out of the field again – not to mention the climbs, crosses and hikes in-between. In these surroundings it is necessary to save every gram on the way since you notice it in every step you take. The compact and lightweight lenses definitely suit that purpose and still give you the possibilty of taking more lenses, fixed lenses with the best image quality. The craftmanship and the haptic feel to the lenses are quite superb. To me the haptic feel of my gear – not to mention the image quality, of course – is also quite important because it adds just that little extra comfort to shooting. This is a real plus when you work all day with your hands. The Loxias are built completely of glass and metal, which is incredible when you consider their small size.
My colleague filmed with a RED Epic and I shot with a Sony α7S II and an Atomos Shogun recorder all in 4K UHD. So we needed the most brilliant image quality we could get and the ZEISS lenses are known for. The Batis and the Loxia cover full frame in which one is shooting when shooting 4K with A7SII. I exclusively shot the video with the lenses on this trip.
The lenses fit natively on the e-mount. The Loxias have a sealing which is marked blue on the lens. In the bamboo forest we often had mist and fog; the surroundings were quite damp and on the road to the mountains it was dusty. Knowing that your camera is sealed and dry gives you a good feeling and you think less about your gear and more about your image.
Nowadays in times of ever-changing cameras I think it is becoming more and more meaningful to invest in good lenses. They are much more lasting and can help you to create either the look you need or to achieve the best, brilliant image quality you want.
Filming video especially with that high native ISO of the cameras with 1600 in Slog, for example with the Sony α7S II you are often faced with the problem that – especially outdoor – the scenery is too bright. All Loxias have the same diameter of 52 mm. As always, it goes without saying that every gram counts. After all, you have to carry everything with you up the mountains. I used the lenses with a Tiffen vario ND filter and step up rings from 77 to 52 mm to make full use of the lens speed starting from 2.0 F (35, 50mm) and 2.8 aperture by keeping our shutter speed of 1/50.
In nature I shot lots of landscapes, so I soon fell in love with the Loxia 21 mm. Its wide angle on full frame without any recognizable distortion makes it one of my favorite lenses. It kept its quality whether with the aperture either open or closed.
I also took some making-of shots and I really liked the Loxia 35 mm. For that, I also used the new focusing ring which gives you a slightly longer way to focus. All ZEISS Loxias have a manual focus ring and are hard stop lenses. This makes focusing really easy and precise. The large aperture helped in the dark huts of the villages. The color reproduction is very natural.
My favorite lens is the Loxia 21 mm for impressive landscape shots and the Loxia 35mm for documentaries, for example for the making-of shots. My expectations were high and I have to say we were satisfied with the first shots. The ZEISS Loxia keep their promise of being small, versatile and brilliant.
About Luana Knipfer
Documentary maker and wildlife cinematographer Luana Knipfer has worked all over the world for the likes of ZDF, ARD and National Geographic. She has also shot several productions with artist-collaborators such as Petra Fantozzi and Studio Sabine Kacunko.