An ENG lens for a new generation. Fujifilm's new B4 broadcast lens promises to deliver both performance and light weight to suit the latest generation of 4K camcorders.
In the notation of broadcast lenses, Fujifilm's new 24x7.8 lens goes all the way from 7.8 to 187mm. If that sounds like a lot, you're right, it is a lot, especially taking into account the doubler which extends things to 374mm. This is why people still like to shoot small-chip cameras: because we can have fast lenses which cover an enormous range of focal lengths without being the size and weight of a section of trans-continental oil pipeline.
That's the case with most lenses built for 2/3” cameras, at least in comparison with lenses of similar layout for super-35mm cameras. However, it's particularly true of the new Fujinon UA24x7.8 which is only a hair over eight and a half inches long and weighs just under two kilos. This matters not only in terms of traditional ENG cameras, but also on things like an Ursa Mini Pro or FS7, both of which can be used with this type of lens via adaptation. In fact, even some modern ENG cameras are becoming very lightweight, lacking the tape decks of old, so a lens that's either heavy, long, or both will tend to make them very nose heavy. A nose heavy camera requires the operator to constantly push his or her right hand upward, which is far from ideal over a long day. OK, you can stack batteries on the back, but it's far better to have a lens that's lightweight and compact.
With these specifications, the 24x7.8 competes fairly directly with something like the Canon HJ24ex7.5, which was introduced in 2015, but for that preceding U. The UA series is promoted as being suitable for 4K production and includes both handheld broadcast lenses and big-box types for studio cameras. It's difficult to make lenses of this capability at this size and weight to begin with, so making lenses to land a genuinely UHD-worthy image on the tiny sensor of a 2/3” UHD camera, with its incredibly tight pixel pitch, is a huge engineering challenge. Fujifilm themselves divide the top end of the UA range into their Premier series, for higher-end work; the UA24x7.8 is not a member of this higher-end range, but is nonetheless described as being suitable for 4K work. What this really means can only be determined by hands-on testing, and it's normal for ENG zooms to show changes in performance between moderate and the most extreme settings (maximum aperture, maximum focal length, extender engaged, etc.)
This isn't necessarily a choice for the dedicated ENG crowd-surfer. Fujifilm have shorter focal length options for that sort of thing. In almost any other scenario, it'll be great, and the push towards better glass is great; even on non-4K productions lenses like this help close the performance gap between cinema and broadcast options, which is great not only for ENG and documentary people but also for people shooting drama on lenses like this. As with many modern lenses there are proprietary coating techniques at play, and the electronics are advanced, with the option to output encoded zoom and focus settings for virtual set work. What we don't know is how much it'll cost when it's released in January next year, though we can safely assume that something this size, with these numbers attached to it, will not be priced to appeal to the entry level filmmaker.
Press release follows on the next page.