Just in Time for Tightening Budgets, Fujinon Unveils Affordable HD Lens
By Carolyn Braff
For many university athletic departments looking to transition to HD, lenses are often an afterthought, the icing on the proverbial hi-def control-room cake. Luckily, just as many AD budgets are being tightened nationwide, Fujinon is offering a way to increase image quality without burning through the budget on one lens. Working in conjunction with its partners in the camera business, Fujinon is shipping three cost-effective HD ENG lenses, the ZA series, which rival the quality of the company’s top-tier lenses but at a 30-percent price cut.
“The reason for coming out with this product line was to address the mid-priced HD cameras that are coming out,” explains Dave Waddell, marketing manager for Fujinon.
Two-thirds-inch–format imagers like the Sony 700 and Panasonic 500 are becoming more popular, especially on the HD college circuit, and Fujinon is using its ZA series as a complement to those cameras.
“We make most of the prisms that these camera manufacturers use, and a prism is basically the heart of the camera,” says Thomas Calabro, national sales manager of the Broadcast & Communications Product Division at Fujinon. “Between the lens and the prism, we are working hand in hand with all the manufacturers not only on the optics but on the design as well.”
To keep the price down on the ZA series, Fujinon worked in conjunction with the camera manufacturers once again. Partner camera companies — including Panasonic and Sony — communicated to Fujinon what they anticipated for the number of cameras they would produce this year. Fujinon, in turn, bought a large quantity of raw lens materials in bulk, enough to create lenses to support those camera orders, at a discount that could be passed along to consumers.
“Since most of the cost of these products is labor — it’s very labor-intensive to assemble a lens, especially an HD lens, and can’t be done by automation — we can reduce our costs by buying more parts from our suppliers,” Waddell explains. “By anticipating that there are going to be a lot of these sold, we can purchase parts in larger quantities.”
Fujinon’s cost-effective ZA line has been in the works for several years, as the company began to speculate that television stations purchasing 30-40 lenses at a time would not indefinitely be able to spend top dollar for each of those lenses.
“For colleges and universities that are looking to go HD, this is a very, very good way to go,” Waddell says of the ZA lenses. “These lenses utilize the same electronics, the same zoom and focus, the same accessories as the high-end lenses.”
So what is the difference between the ZA series and Fujinon’s top-of-the-line lenses?
“We don’t put as much time in alignment as we would our premier-series lenses,” Waddell explains. “But the lenses are not something that was an SD product that we’ve tweaked and made to work for HD; these are true HD products.”
ZA series lenses are not designed to have their images blown up to a 30-foot screen, as Fujinon’s best products are, so the minor loss in image quality should not be visible on the scale of playback for which the lenses are designed.
“The difference is in how critically we align everything in the lens,” Calabro says. “If you look at the lenses side by side, the only difference you’re going to see is the label. I would venture to say that most people would be hard-pressed to see the difference, but they will see the 30-percent difference in price.”
To bring the price down even further, two of the ZA lenses will ship without an extender, which works perfectly for studio or university applications, where interviews make up the bulk of the work.
“For colleges who are more concerned about the economics and the ability to get the shot,” Waddell says, “this is a great option.”