The ARRI Ultra Wide Zoom UWZ 9.5-18/T2.9 is a uniquely distortion-free, extreme wide-angle zoom with an optical performance that surpasses most high-end cine prime lenses. Cinematographer, Steadicam operator, helicopter operator and CTO/founder of a Danish rental facility, Anders Holck recently purchased the UWZ and used it with an ALEXA M in a gyro-stabilized head to shoot spectacular aerial footage around Queenstown in New Zealand.
What got you interested in the UWZ?
We were looking to buy a Shotover F1 head for our rental company, which is called Red Rental although we rent out ARRI cameras almost exclusively at the moment. I saw the UWZ at NAB last year and we were immediately interested because we didn't have anything in that range. The widest lens we had was a 10 mm Ultra Prime, but its front diameter is too big to fit in the head. Also, when you are in a chopper you really need some focal length range, so a zoom lens is very useful.
We actually bought the UWZ before we got the F1 head -- we needed it for another assignment that involved shooting down a mine. That was done with an ARRI AMIRA on a Steadicam and the footage was stunning. We wanted a wide field of view in the mine but I could only take one lens down there and didn't know exactly what focal length would be right, so the UWZ was ideal.
How did the aerial shoot come about?
No-one had used the UWZ in an F1 head before, so there were no mounts for the lens. Our idea was to ship it to the Shotover guys in New Zealand so they could start making some bracket mounts, and then to go down there ourselves and shoot a test that would demonstrate what the lens can do. Of course New Zealand is prettier and has a few more mountains than Denmark, so it wasn't something we could have done around here!
Did the lens perform well?
Mostly I was on the wide end of the lens and the way it renders the image without any distortion is very impressive. We filmed over water and the flat horizon demonstrated that lack of distortion; when I tilted up the horizon line stayed straight. Panning just a little while the chopper was moving created a really nice effect because of the optical qualities of the lens. The accentuated speed of the pan makes people think I was zooming when in fact I wasn't; the movement is incredibly dynamic. We found that flaring is very subdued, like with the Master Primes, although if you actively try to flare the lens then the flares are organic and pleasing.
What do your rental clients make of the UWZ?
I've shown it to a few DPs and at first they comment on the size, but they quickly realize it's not limiting and the lens is great fun to use. I think it's perfect when combined with a small camera because the overall length of the package is really not that long. We are in the process of ordering two ALEXA Minis and they will work extremely well with this lens.
The dry hire assignments it has gone out on are those that would normally have used a wide-angle lens, like a 10 mm or 14 mm, but they're not certain of the focal length they need. Having the zoom gives them the flexibility to make compositional adjustments once they're in the situation, without having to change the lens on the camera, so it's a fantastic lens for vehicle shots and car work.