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Optar Elite-Illumina S16 Lenses

Published : 21st December 2003


I can't seem to find much information about the Optar S16 lenses on the web. Slow Motion Inc. Cinematechnic in Miami sells the Optar Illumina's (and they have a fair bit of info) and Slow Motion Inc. in California sells lenses called Optar Elites.


What are the differences between the two (older vs. newer version?), and is one better than the other? Also, how do these lenses compare with Zeiss S16 super speeds?

The Optar series go much wider, so how do the wide lenses compare with the Optex S16 lenses?

Mathew Molitor
Ann Arbor, MI



The Illumina’s are a little older technology, about a decade old. The Elites are about five years old. These are not two product lines from the same company but in fact separate products from separate outfits.

I own a set of Illumina’s and they are terrific. They have a slightly warmer, smoother contrast look than the Zeiss glass, similar to the difference between Cooke and Zeiss. I think the lenses are top notch and I'd put my 12mm up against a Zeiss 12mm any day. The lenses have excellent color and contrast, are very flare resistant and corner to corner resolution is very high. Early Optars had mechanical housing issues (as did some of the Elites) but these are all cleared up now.

One of the major benefits from both Illumina’s and Elites is that they were designed from the beginning for Super-16 coverage. The Zeiss lenses so happened to cover S-16, but that doesn't mean they'd do so particularly well. Some Zeiss 9.5mm lenses cover, some don't. And many 9.5mm and 12mm Zeiss’s distort and suffer poor corner resolution and chromatic aberration in the S-16 areas. And of course the Illumina 8mm is designed for S-16 and the Zeiss cannot cover this.

I have only briefly tested the Elite and Optex lenses, so I cannot fairly compare them to the Illumina’s. They all appeared to be excellent glass. A real test would include putting them up side by side on lens projectors and comparing color, contrast and resolution. But I can say that I'm very happy with my Illumina’s and would recommend them to anyone.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP



Matthew Molitor wrote :

>What are the differences between the two (older vs. newer version?), >and is one better than the other?

From my understanding the Elites are the latest version. I like them *alot* and my feeling is that they are better than the Zeiss counterparts. The 7 mm is a really sweet, near rectilinear wide angle.

The elites I have used, which were rented from slow motion, were very sharp and had few flare issues even in some tough circumstances.

Don't work for Slow motion but I like their lenses.

Mark Smith



I love my Optar lenses.

I have the Elite 7mm and an earlier set of the Optar Super 16 lenses. One of my lenses is an 9.5 Illumina and they all match perfectly. I did own a set of Zeiss MK II super speeds and I am very happy that I sold them and replaced them with the Optars.

The Optars were designed to cover the Super 16 format and their edge to edge sharpness is fantastic. I also love the coatings, they are very flare resistant since I use alot of backlight and work in practical locations without a lot of room to hide stuff.

I also like to shoot into hot sources like windows etc., and if you are looking for a used set do your self a favor and send them to a really good optical guy and let him set them up properly. Image shift has always been a problem and it is easily corrected.

The Illumina lenses are the best for price and would recommend them over the Elite's as far as price comparison. The Elites are more expensive and offer more modern design. My 7mm is my most favourite and has very little distortion for a fast wide lens.

I hope this helps.

Mitchell Lipsiner / DP/ Atlanta