Cine lenses are specifically designed to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding niche: video shooters determined to take their filmmaking to a higher level. Savvy lens manufacturers have expanded their customer base by responding to the demand for affordable cine lens and releasing a barrage of new glass.
Whether shooting video with a DSLR, a mirrorless camera or a high-end video camcorder, true cine lenses provide a great way to upgrade videos and achieve pro-caliber results. That’s because true cine lenses offer much greater control and precision, provide a more seamless shooting experience, and ultimately deliver superior overall video performance.
Why should anyone opt for a cine lens that may cost thousands of dollars when regular still-picture lenses have been doing a creditable job capturing video? The checklist here provides some cogent answers.
Six things that make a true cine lens the best choice for shooting high-end video:
1. Cine lenses always have smooth operating (de-clicked) mechanical aperture rings, extremely fluid zoom controls and ultra-smooth, long-throw manual focusing controls. They almost always have standardized external gears that mate with integral or modular servo-control mechanisms for smoother, more predictable operation in the field.
2. Cine lenses are typically parfocal. This means they maintain focus at the set value as shooters zoom or change apertures, instead of “breathing” (shifting focus when other settings are altered), which often happens with lenses designed primarily for general-purpose or still-picture shooting.
3. Cine lenses feature a very high build quality, rugged, weatherproof construction and internal zoom and focus controls to maintain constant length and balance at all settings.
4. Cine lenses are usually precision calibrated in T stops, ensuring uniform light transmission. Their calibrated scales are totally reliable and their balance is typically uniform over the lens line. Also, they don’t have parts that protrude during focusing or zooming.
5. Cine lenses generally have matching imaging characteristics, such as color balance and contrast, within a brand. They’re designed to be easy to service and typically deliver optical performance of the highest caliber.
6. Cine lens manufacturers strive to keep the most common focal lengths at roughly the same weight—with similarly configured controls to assure uniform balance and handling.
The Cost Factor. Cine lenses incorporate precision-engineered mechanical components. They’re made using the highest quality metallurgy and optical glass, and they’re meticulously calibrated individually by hand. That’s why they’re produced in relatively limited quantities and are usually more expensive than comparable “general purpose” lenses. However, there are some sub-$1,000 exceptions included here.
The Performance Factor. Camera and lens manufacturers know that more people than ever are shooting video with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. That’s why they’ve recently upgraded the video performance of their cameras and “regular” lenses with improved video options. These include support for 4K, Full HD 1080p/60 fps, enhanced AF and tracking systems, nearly silent AF stepping motors and Log Gamma modes for enhanced contrast control in postproduction. Nevertheless, true cine lenses still deliver a decisive edge when it comes to seamless manual control.
The Bottom Line. If your customers are really serious about capturing pro-caliber video with a DSLR rig or they shoot with a full-fledged pro video rig, take a look at the cine lens here—all aimed at accomplished and emerging videographers.
Fujifilm MKX18–55mm T2.9
Just announced, this high-performance Fujifilm X-mount lens with electrical contacts was released in conjunction with the premium X-A5 mirrorless camera optimized for 4K video. It covers the Super 35 format in the 16:9 aspect ratio and provides a constant T2.9 aperture over its zoom range. It also incorporates three rings with standard 0.8 MOD gears for motorized control.
Moreover, it has a click-less, 9-bladed diaphragm for smooth, quiet aperture settings and artistic bokeh. Other features include: a shim-less flange focal distance adjustment system; long-throw 200º focus rotation; macro mode; and a 28.5mm diameter image circle. It’s color matched to Fujinon HK/ZK/XK series lenses and weighs in at a portable 2.16 pounds. It ships late spring. $3,999.95. fujifilmusa.com
Sigma 135mm T2 FF
This outstanding new high-speed telephoto prime covers full-frame sensors. It is suitable for capturing ultrahigh-resolution 8K video in low light. The lens provides apertures from T2 to T16 and has standard 0.8-pitch gears on its 180º long-throw focusing ring. Also featured is a click-less iris control ring. Moreover, a 9-bladed aperture enhances its inherently beautiful bokeh, and its distance scale is calibrated in feet. It boasts dust- and water-resistant construction and weighs 3 pounds. $4,999.
Note: A matching Sigma 14mm T2 FF High-Speed Prime with similar specs is available for those requiring a high-performance, high-speed ultrawide prime. In Canon EF, Sony E or PL (Arri Positive Lock) mount. $4,999. sigmaphoto.com
Sony E PZ 18–110mm f/4 G OSS
This versatile, lightweight cine zoom has separate, smooth-action control rings for focus, zoom and aperture. It integrates Optical SteadyShot image stabilization (OSS) to minimize the effects of camera shake. It also incorporates one aspheric and two ED elements to maximize image quality. Providing manual and servo zoom options, it is parfocal, maintaining precise focus over its entire zoom range.
Beautifully finished in satin black, it also employs internal focusing and apertures of f/4–22. And it comes with a removable tripod foot. In APS-C/Super 35 Sony E mount, $3,399.99. sony.com
Canon CN-E 135mm T2.2 L F
This impressive telephoto cine prime covers the full-frame format. Geared for 4K resolution, it has an 11-bladed diaphragm for smooth out-of-focus-area effects. Comprehensive scales on both sides of the barrel can be switched from footage to metric distances. It also features unified front lens diameters and gear positioning on the focus and iris rings, making lens switching quick and convenient.
In addition, the focus ring features 300º of smooth rotation to help facilitate consistent focusing, especially when pulling focus during a shot. Furthermore, its all-glass optical construction is optimized to minimize variants in temperature. In Canon EF mount, $3,950. usa.canon.com
Fujifilm MKX 50–135mm T2.9
An impressive new constant-aperture telephoto zoom, it will also be released along with the new cine-priority Fujifilm X-A5 mirrorless camera in late spring. Its features, size, weight and balance closely match those of the new Fujifilm MKX18–55mm T2.9 manual cinema lens detailed above.
Even its 28.5mm image circle, 85mm front outside diameter and 2.16-pound weight are identical, so handling is virtually the same when switching lenses. $4,299.95. fujifilmusa.com
Zeiss CP.3 100mm T2.1
This superb, newly upgraded, fast telephoto prime from Zeiss covers the full-frame format. The compact lens has standard geared iris and focus controls as well as a click-less aperture ring with a 14-bladed diaphragm for artistic bokeh. It also offers improved ergonomics plus new lens coatings for increased light transmission and enhanced contrast.
Moreover, it employs metric distance scales. Its compact design is optimized for even weight distribution and improved balance. The lens is said to deliver “classic Zeiss image rendering” with smooth, natural transitions. In supports the Canon EF mount. $5,299. zeiss.com
Angenieux EZ-1 30–90mm S35
This brilliant high-spec lens by the iconic French maker of cinematography lenses is a 3x medium-range zoom with a wide f/1.9, T2 constant aperture that’s ideal for low-light shooting. It comes in PL (Arri Positive Lock) mount with optional mounts available. The lens covers the Super 35 3-Perf sensor size and has a wide 114mm front diameter. It focuses down to just two feet, has standard 0.8 gear teeth on the iris and focusing rings and weighs 4.7 pounds.
Other features include a removable support foot and optional rear optical assemblies for covering different formats, such as full frame and VistaVision, or adapting it to mounts such as Canon EF and Sony E. $10,500. angenieux.com
SLR Magic HyperPrime Cine 50mm T0.95
This audacious super-speed prime lens provides a 100mm-equivalent focal length on a Micro Four Thirds format camera, which is ideal for low-light work and reportage. It has geared focus and aperture rings and a click-less iris for smooth aperture pulls.
The lens front does not rotate as you focus, making it compatible with optional accessories that include matte boxes as well as the SLR Magic Anamotphot 1.33x – 50 anamorphic adapter ($849). In MFT mount, $999. slrmagic.com
Rokinon Xeen 16mm T2.6
This fast, compact, ultrawide prime cinema lens covers full-frame sensors. It features dual right- and left-side focus and T-stop scales so camera operators can pull from either side without having to reposition the mount. It also shares common focus and iris gear ring positions to speed up lens changes. And it has a click-less aperture ring. Moreover, it focuses down to 12 inches from infinity in a smooth 200º turn.
Other features include: an 11-bladed iris for natural-looking highlights and bokeh; internal focusing; full multicoating; and a common 114mm front diameter for easy mounting of matte boxes, etc. While it’s a manual focus and iris lens, it doesn’t have autofocus or auto-iris capability. In Canon EF, PL, MFT, Nikon F or Sony E mount, $1,699. rokinon.com
Sony FE PZ 28–135mm f/4 G OSS
This high-performance E-mount, full-frame format cine zoom employs Smooth Motion Optics technology and uses five aspheric and three ED lens elements to enhance image quality. It is parfocal, maintaining focus without “breathing” as it zooms. It also features a linear autofocus motor, internal focus to maintain length and balance and built-in OSS image stabilization for smooth shake-free video.
Furthermore, its power zoom system employs a sonic wave motor for smooth operation. In addition, its separate iris, focus and zoom rings have standard gears, ensuring compatibility with accessories. It comes with a removable tripod collar. $2,399.99. sony.com
Canon CN-E 24mm T1.5 L F
This outstanding wide-angle prime covers full-frame and Super 35 sensors. It has separate geared iris and focus controls, the latter with a smooth, long-throw 300º rotation. With dust- and water-resistant construction, its dual focusing scales are visible from almost any angle. Moreover, the lens employs an 11-bladed diaphragm for enhanced bokeh, and focus is maintained at all settings with virtually no “breathing.”
Innovative glass construction minimizes barrel expansion and contraction to ensure the accuracy of all scales. It also has the same gear positions as other CN-E lenses. Plus, threading on the front of the lens accommodates 105mm screw-on filters so camera operators can add filters over the lens without the need for a matte box. In Canon EF mount, $4,229. usa.canon.com
Sigma 50mm T1.5
This exceptional new high-speed prime lens covers full-frame sensors. It is engineered for capturing ultrahigh-res 8K video in low light. The lens provides apertures from T1.5 to T16 and has standard 0.8-pitch gears on its long-throw 180º focusing ring as well as a click-less iris control ring. Its 9-bladed aperture enhances bokeh, and its distance scale is calibrated in feet. It also features dust- and water-resistant construction. $3,499.
Note: A new Sigma 35mm T1.5 High-Speed Prime with matching specs is also offered for those requiring a wider coverage high-performance, high-speed prime. In Canon EF, Sony E or PL (Arri Positive Lock) mount, $3,499. sigmaphoto.com