Whether you’re shooting video with a DSLR, mirrorless camera, or upgrading to a high-end video camera, true cine lenses provide a great way to enhance your video shooting experience and achieve professional results. So why go for a cine lens that may cost thousands of dollars when your regular stills lenses is doing a creditable job capturing video? Because true cine lenses offer much greater control and precision, provide a more seamless shooting experience, and can deliver even better overall video performance.
What makes a cine lens different from a stills lens?
1. Cine lenses always have (de-clicked) mechanical aperture rings, extremely smooth zoom controls, and smooth, long-throw manual focusing controls. These controls always have external gears ( (teeth) that mean you can use follow focus units and powered zoom motors giving even smoother, more predictable operation in the field.
2. Cine lenses are typically parfocal. Parfocal means that it stays in focus when magnification/focal length is changed. There is inevitably some amount of focus error, but small enough to be considered insignificant.
3. Cine lenses feature 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 markings are totally reliable, their filter threads and front diameters are usually uniform, and 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 given brand, they’re 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, and with similarly configured controls to assure uniform balance and handling characteristics.
7. Stills lenses suffer from “breathing.” Breathing refers to the shifting of angle of view of a lens when changing the focus. The image will appear to zoom in and out very slightly, but enough to distract a viewer. High quality lenses are designed to lessen the degree of this effect. Lens breathing does not stop you from racking focus, but it can make focus pulls less desirable since it noticeably changes the composition of the shot.
8. Still lenses can be vari-focal which means you will have to re-focus after zooming.
Are cine lenses for you?
Cine lenses are highly precision-engineered mechanical components, made using the highest quality metallurgy and optical glass, and are meticulously calibrated individually by hand. They are produced in much smaller quantities, and are typically more expensive than comparable “general purpose” or stills lenses. There are some sub-$1000 cine lenses, but generally there are lots of cinema lenses ranging from four-figure price tags to six-figure prices. The most common cinema lenses of high quality costs five-figure amounts in US dollars. Cinema lenses below $5,000 is deemed “affordable.”
The bottom line, If you are serious about capturing pro-caliber video, or if you’re moving up from shooting with a DSLR rig to a full-fledged pro video system, take a close look at cine lenses. However, in most cases, if you don’t rack focus and do not zoom, still lenses can look great in a lot of situations. Once you see the image quality of a cinema glass in difficult light situations you will know why it costs more.
New Fujinon cine zooms (under $4000)
Fujinon have announced two new compact, fast, and most importantly, affordable cinema zooms aimed at the owner/operator. The first is the MK18-55mm T2.9 , and the second is the MK50-135mm T2.9. Both lenses weigh in at 980g, both are parfocal, and both have no focus breathing and limited image axis shift when zooming. If you’re a Sony (E Mount) shooter, be prepared to want one.
Both lenses have a common 85mm outside diameter and a common 82mm filter diameter. The are also identical in length at 206.3mm and their 0.8 pitch focus, iris and zoom gear rings are all in the same place which makes changing between the two lenses very easy. Having the exact same weight and physical dimensions means you don’t have to adjust the camera’s balance when going handheld, and if you’re using a matte box or follow focus they can stay in the same position. Its a very smart of Fujinon to add these small touches which make the usability of the lenses so much more valuable.
These lenses feature a macro function and a back focus adjustment, which are features usually only found on much more expensive lenses. The focus throw is 200 degrees which is considerably more than most still lenses.
Fujinon have done a fantastic job making affordable and lightweight cinema zooms. The only real competition to these lenses when it comes to the weight and size are Canon’s 18-80mm T4.4 lens and Sony’s own FE 28-135mm f4 G OSS and FE 18-105mm F4 G OSS lenses. In my opinion the Fujinons are superior cinema zoom lenses.