Lenses are a bright spot in the broad imaging accessory sector. That’s because they offer an easy, effective way to enhance creative options and elevate the user’s shooting experience. What’s more, specialized cinema lenses are one of the hottest niches within the wide-ranging optical space.
They’re laser targeted at the increasing numbers of video shooters determined to take their filmmaking and video productions to a truly professional level.
However, designing and manufacturing cine lenses is especially demanding; it requires an exceptionally high level of mechanical and optical precision. Fortunately for dealers and consumers alike, a number of leading optical manufacturers have stepped up to the plate. They have unleashed a barrage of amazing new cine lenses, including the 12 outstanding examples covered here.
No matter what kind of cameras your customers are using to capture video, true purpose-built cine lenses provide a great way to achieve pro-caliber results. True cine lenses offer greater, more precise control of the recorded image; provide a more seamless shooting experience; and ultimately deliver superior overall video performance.
Cinema Lens Lowdown
Why are cine lenses best for capturing high-end video? Here are six great reasons.
- Cine lenses have smooth operating (de-clicked) mechanical aperture rings; extremely smooth zoom controls; as well as ultrasmooth, long-throw manual focusing controls. Moreover, these controls have standardized external gears that mate with integral or modular (Mod) servo-control mechanisms for smoother, more predictable field operation.
- Cine lenses are almost always parfocal. That means they maintain focus at the set value as you zoom or change apertures, instead of “breathing” (shifting focus when you alter other settings). Breathing happens with lenses designed primarily for general-purpose or still-picture shooting.
- Cine lenses typically feature high build quality. Most employ rugged, weatherproof construction. They also feature internal zoom and focus controls to maintain constant length and balance at all settings.
- Cine lenses are usually precision calibrated in T stops for uniform light transmission. In addition, their calibrated scales are totally reliable. The diameters of their front filter rings and their overall balance are typically uniform over a brand’s line. Furthermore, they usually don’t have parts that protrude during focusing or zooming.
- Cine lenses generally have matching imaging characteristics, such as color balance and contrast, within a brand. They’re also easy to service and typically deliver optical performance of the highest caliber.
- Cine lens manufacturers strive to keep the most common focal lengths at roughly the same weight and with similarly configured controls, to assure uniform handling characteristics.
The bottom line: Cine lenses represent a substantial investment. However, if your customers are really serious about capturing pro-caliber video, or they’re moving up from shooting with a DSLR or a typical mirrorless camera to a full-fledged pro video rig, make sure they consider the lenses here. All are great choices for accomplished and emerging videographers.
A Selection of Cinema Lenses
Canon CN-E 70–200mm T4.4 EF
This impressive Canon compact-servo cine lens is a pro-caliber long-range telephoto zoom. It covers the popular 70–200mm range with full-frame and Super 35-sensor cameras. Moreover, it features a constant maximum aperture of T4.4, and its click-less 9-blade iris is controllable via an optional servo-grip controller.
In addition, its outstanding image quality and smooth bokeh make it an excellent choice for 4K and HDR capture. Furthermore, its parfocal design maintains focus while zooming. It also provides rec start/stop, lens data transfer as well as autofocus with compatible Canon EOS cine cameras. Optional Canon EF 1.4x III and 2x extenders enhance its commendable versatility. In Canon EF mount, $5,000.
Sigma Cine 40mm T1.5 FF
In Sigma’s High Speed Prime 2 cine lineup, this exceptional midrange semi-wide-angle prime uses the same superior quality optics and mechanics as Sigma’s acclaimed FF High Speed Prime lenses. Moreover, it now adds Cooke i/Technology compatibility; this allows it to transfer metadata swiftly and seamlessly to facilitate postproduction and visual effects creation.
The lens covers full-frame sensors and is suitable for capturing ultrahigh-res 6K–8K video in low light. It also provides apertures from T1.5 to T16. In addition, it has standard 0.8-pitch gears on its smooth-action, long-throw 180º focusing ring. It also features a click-less iris control ring and a 9-blade aperture to enhance its inherently artistic bokeh. The lens additionally offers dust- and water-resistant construction; luminous paint for enhanced visibility; and durable laser-engraved scales. It delivers superlative image quality with outstanding bokeh at all settings. In PL mount with footage or metric distance scale, $3,899.
Rokinon 24mm T1.5 Cine DS
This attractive wide-aperture, wide-angle Rokinon prime covers full-frame cameras with an 84.1° field of view (61.8°on Super 35). It employs multilayer coating for flare control and consistent color balance. Moreover, its standard-geared aperture and focusing rings have scales on both sides to help focus pullers and facilitate motorized control.
It incorporates hybrid aspheric elements to minimize distortion and chromatic aberration, as well as has an 8-blade diaphragm to enhance its artistic bokeh. It also features a close minimum focus distance of 9.8 inches; has a de-clicked aperture ring for silent adjustments on the fly; and a removable petal type lens hood that provides excellent flare protection when not using a matte box. Compact (3.84 inches) and lightweight (21.7 ounces), it’s available in Canon EF, Micro Four Thirds (MFT), Nikon F and Sony E and Alpha mounts, $899.
Tokina Cinema ATX 11–20mm T2.9
Tokina’s outstanding low-distortion 11–20mm superwide zoom covers Super 35mm sensors. It features an interchangeable Canon EF mount that’s swappable for LPL, PL, Sony E, MFT and Nikon F mounts for ultimate user flexibility.
The lens is parfocal to maintain focus while zooming and features a constant T2.9 maximum aperture. In addition, it provides cine standard 0.8 Mod FIZ lens gears for all functions. And its 9-blade aperture ring helps to enhance its bokeh. Moreover, a 12-inch minimum focus distance enables compelling close-ups. Other features include: 300º cinema focus rotation; an all-metal housing; and an 86mm filter thread. $2,399.
Sony E PZ 18–110mm f/4 G OSS
This lightweight Sony cine zoom has separate smooth-action control rings for focus, zoom and aperture. An advanced Super 35mm/APS-C-format power zoom lens, it incorporates Optical SteadyShot image stabilization (OSS) to minimize the effects of camera shake. It also employs six aspherical elements and three ED glass elements and features a 7-blade circular aperture design.
In addition, with a 6.1x high zoom ratio, even with inner focus, it maintains a constant f/4 maximum aperture throughout its range for beautiful depth-of-field effects. It also provides manual and servo zoom options and is parfocal, maintaining precise focus over its entire zoom range. Beautifully finished in satin black, it also features apertures of f/4–22 and comes with a removable tripod foot. In Sony APS-C/Super 35 E mount, $3,649.
SLR Magic MicroPrime Cine 25mm T1.5
This is a newly released, compact, super-speed wide-angle (on FF sensors) 25mm prime cine lens. SLR Magic’s cine lens delivers imaging performance suitable for 4K video capture at relatively modest cost. In addition to covering full-frame sensors, it provides standard lens gears that interface with a variety of accessories.
What’s more, it features an internal focus design to minimize breathing and prevent front rotation while focusing. Its inherently attractive bokeh is enhanced by its 13-blade iris diaphragm. With a wide 82mm filter thread, it’s available in Sony E and Fujifilm X mounts. $699.
Zeiss CP.3 21mm T2.9
This superbly upgraded, fast, compact prime lens covers the full-frame format. Offering a T2.9 to T22 aperture range, it has standard geared iris and focus controls as well as a click-less aperture ring with a 14-blade diaphragm for artistic bokeh.
Zeiss also added improved ergonomics and new lens coatings for increased light transmission as well as enhanced contrast. Its compact design is optimized for even weight distribution and improved balance. Moreover, the lens is said to deliver “classic Zeiss image rendering” with smooth natural transitions. It comes with a Canon EF mount installed; however, the mount can be swapped with another type. $4,390.
Samyang 35mm T1.5 VDSLR AS UMC II
Available in the Sony E mount, Samyang’s fast, high-value, manual focus lens covers the full-frame format. It provides standard gearing for focus and iris and also has convenient dual-side focus and T-stop scales. A good choice for low-light applications, it employs glass aspheric elements and two high refractive index lenses to enhance imaging performance.
In addition, its de-clicked aperture ring produces smooth iris pulls, and it focuses down to 12 inches for dramatic close-ups. The cine lens also boasts Ultra Multi-Coating (UMC) technology to reduce flare and ghosting. Other features include a floating lens system and an 8-blade aperture. It comes with a removable petal-type lens hood for shooting in high-flare environments. $499.
Sigma Cine 18–35mm T2
In Sigma’s Cine High Speed Zoom line, this lens provides a wide 28.4mm image circle that easily accommodates Super 35mm-format sensors. Also, a fast T2 maximum aperture allows for low-light shooting performance. The compact zoom delivers outstanding image quality and covers a popular focal length range. It also provides ultrasmooth, long-throw, 180º focusing for optimum control.
Moreover, its click-free, 60º-turn, 9-blade iris enhances bokeh, yielding smooth, natural out-of-focus image areas. In addition, its internal focus design maintains a constant length for consistent balance. Its zoom ring rotates in a smooth 180º turn for precise control, and all three lens-control rings incorporate standard 0.8 Mod gears compatible with optional servo systems. A removable lens support foot is included. In Canon EF, Sony E and PL mounts, $3,999.Venus Optics Laowa 12mm T2.9 Zero-D
This Venus cine lens provides an ultrawide 122º angle of view with impressive image quality and low distortion on full-frame sensors. In addition, it’s suitable for large-format cameras. It’s also ideal for capturing landscapes as well as shooting in tight interior spaces. Lightweight and compact, the lens’s relatively wide aperture facilitates creative depth-of-field effects, while its 7-blade diaphragm enhances its pleasing natural bokeh. In addition, it focuses down to 7 inches for compelling close-ups.
Further, its standard 0.8-pitch gearing on focus and aperture rings accommodates most motorized control units. Another feature is a wide 102mm diameter front ring that steps up to 114mm with the included adapter to fit standard matte boxes. The lens comes with a shim set and hard-shell, watertight, foam-lined Pelican case. In PL, EF and E mounts, $1,499.
Fujifilm Fujinon MKX18–55mm T2.9
This impressive Fujifilm X-mount lens with electrical contacts was released in conjunction with the advanced Fujifilm 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 entire zoom range.
The lens also incorporates three rings with standard 0.8 Mod gears for motorized control. A click-less 9-blade diaphragm offers smooth, quiet aperture settings and produces artistic bokeh. Other features include a shim-less flange focal distance adjustment system; long-throw 200º focus rotation; macro mode; and a large 28.5mm diameter image circle. It’s also color matched to Fujinon HK/ZK/XK lenses and weighs in at a portable 2.16 pounds. In X mount, $3,999.
Sigma Cine 50–100mm T2
This cine high-speed moderate-telephoto zoom is a high-performance lens. The Sigma lens boasts a constant T2 maximum aperture and a large 28.4mm image circle that covers full-frame and Super 35 sensors. It also features industry standard 0.8 gearing on its long-throw focus, aperture and zoom rings to facilitate rapid lens changes. In addition, it employs an internal focus system to maintain balance and assure outstanding image quality over its entire range.
What’s more, a 9-blade diaphragm enhances its beautiful, natural bokeh. Further, its 95mm front diameter is compatible with many matte boxes and incorporates an 82mm front filter thread. A removable 1/4-inch x 20 support foot mates with an optional rod-mounted lens support for added stability. This outstanding lens also sports dustproof, splashproof construction with seals on every ring as well as the lens mount. Its main markings are in luminous paint to enhance low-light visibility, and its all-metal body and laser-engraved scales ensure durability. In Canon EF, Sony E and PL mounts, $3,999.