Going wide with the UWZ

Shooting with really wide lenses has always involved a trade-off between the focal length and image performance. The wider the lens, the more edge softness and distortion you tend to get. This can be very evident when shooting architecture -- straight lines no longer appear straight and if you have people in the corners of the frame they often look distorted and unnatural.

ARRI Ultra Wide Zoom at the Ribbon Chapel in Japan

Matthew Allard ACS uses the ARRI Ultra Wide Zoom UWZ 9.5-18/T2.9 on an architectural shoot at the Ribbon Chapel in Hiroshima, Japan.

On a recent shoot in Japan I was lucky enough to use the ARRI UWZ 9.5-18/T2.9, loaned to me by ARRI's distributor in Japan, NAC Image Technology. The project involved capturing the Ribbon Chapel in Hiroshima, designed by Hiroshi Nakamura and named as a finalist at the 2015 World Architecture Festival awards in Singapore. By entwining two freestanding spiral stairways, the building itself is a metaphor for the act of marriage.


Trying to convey a sense of space and show how wide the human eye can see is a difficult task. You can try and shoot with a fisheye lens but that ends up leaving you with badly distorted visuals and a very unnatural-looking image. The ARRI UWZ was the perfect lens for this assignment and allowed me to capture images that would have been virtually impossible using standard optics. The interior space of the chapel is not that big, but when you are standing inside it feels bigger than it actually is. The UWZ allowed me to replicate what my eye was able to see.

I used the UWZ for a lot of the shots, as well as a TLS 80-200 mm T2.8. For a couple of the moving shots I used the Wally Dolly, which worked well even when I had to set it up on uneven terrain. Everything was shot on the ARRI AMIRA in 3.2K in ProRes 4444 12 bit and then edited in FCPX. 

The UWZ is a remarkable piece of glass for those looking for an ultra-wide zoom that doesn't compromise on image quality.

The UWZ is a big piece of glass and weighs in at 4.8 kg (10.6 lbs.). To use it on my AMIRA I had to use 19 mm rods, a lens support and an ARRI dovetail plate attached to my Sachtler 18 P tripod. The UWZ uses cutting-edge optical technology and for ARRI to design a lens this wide that didn't compromise on image quality they had to do a few things differently. The UWZ doesn't optically flip the image like most other lenses, it keeps it upside down. It is strange to bring the material into an edit and see everything you shot upside down, but it is very quick and easy to flip the image in most NLE systems.

The main thing you notice when using the UWZ is that it produces a rectilinear image -- straight lines remain straight -- and stunning quality no matter what focal length you are at. On most wide-angle lenses the corners become very soft and straight lines end up warping and becoming curved.

I found the UWZ an absolute pleasure to use. The lens is amazingly sharp even wide open, produces just the right amount of flare and shows almost no signs of softness, even in the far corners of the image. The lens is built like a tank and as you would expect the focus, iris and zoom operations are first class. The other amazing thing is the lens has almost no visible breathing at all.

The UWZ is a remarkable piece of glass for those looking for an ultra-wide zoom that doesn't compromise on image quality. The lens covers an image circle of 34.5 mm and not only comes in an ARRI LDS PL mount but also a Canon EF mount. I can't see too many people using this lens in EF mount, but it's nice to know there is an option.

First published at newsshooter.com