Real Cinema Lenses You Can Afford
Find your new glass on this list of affordable real cinema lenses for independent filmmakers and videographers.
After sharing a roundup of our favorite affordable Prime lenses, I was inspired to take it a step further with a look at a few affordable cinema lenses currently available to filmmakers.
Most of us simply don’t have the means to move top-tier gear over from our Wish List to our kit. And while the lenses on this list are not always cheap, they’re certainly not prohibitively expensive, and they’re all a solid investment for anyone who recognizes how professional glass can help them tell their story at a higher level. Let’s look at what’s out there, and what’s actually worth your hard earned money.
Zeiss Compact Primes
- Cine-style housing, based on Master Primes
- Longer focus rotation & manual focus
- Interchangeable mounts (PL, EF, F, E & MFT)
- Aperture range: T2.1 – 3.6
While the Master Prime series from Zeiss is an amazing lens set, it isn’t very cost effective for independent filmmakers. Knowing this, Zeiss created the Compact Primes. So, while these lenses won’t give you the exact same quality as the Master Primes, they’ll get you pretty darn close. Here’s what Adorama TV has to say.
Atlas Orion Anamorphic Series
- Weight – Around 3.4 kg
- Front Diameter – 114mm
- Image Circle – 31mm
- T-Stop Range – T2-T16
The Orion series from Atlas Lens Co. might be the best deal on this list. When we tested these lenses in 2018, they were already a solid bargain, and the results were nothing less than stunning — and they’ve only dropped in price since then. The Orion series truly rivals classic anamorphic lenses like the coveted ARRI Master Anamorphic Prime except for one notable difference: This Orion glass is about $30,000 cheaper.
- Color matches Cooke S4
- Covers 2K/4K/5K cinema
- Cam-style focus
- Aperture range: T2.8 (standard on all lenses)
Cooke Optics has been a leading name in cinema-quality glass for decades. While most of the company’s products are meant for high-end productions like feature films and major studio projects, they’ve got options for budget-minded independent filmmakers as well. Take the miniS4/i for example. It offers the same resolution, optical quality, and reliability as the S4/i, just in a smaller package at a lower price.
To give you an idea of what the Cooke miniS4/i looks like in action, check out this video from Shane Hurlbut where he puts the Cooke miniS4/i up against the Leica Summicron-Cs.
Canon CN-E Primes
- Ultra-wide angle EF mount
- Intended for HD/2K/4K Cinema
- Diameter matching with other Canon Primes
- Aperture range: T1.3 – T3.1
You know Canon. You’ve probably used a Canon — like the Rebel DSLR — at some point. Maybe you got your hands on one of their Cinema Cameras like the C300, C200 or the new C500. Just like Zeiss and Cooke, the company offers a few lenses in the $50,000-$100,000 price range. And just like Zeiss and Cooke, they have a line of cine lenses that’s much more affordable — the CN-E Primes. Check out this hands-on review from cinematographer and editor Erik Naso to get an idea of what to expect from Canon’s CN-E line.
- Full Frame Coverage
- Unified 40° Iris Rotation
- Unified 200° Focus Throw
- Durable All Metal Body
- Unified 114mm Non-Rotating Front Diameters
- Weight – around 1,180g
- Length – around 121.7mm
- Aperture range: T1.5 – T22
An offshoot of Rokinon, XEEN Cinema Lenses are as accessible as they are affordable. Which is to say, very. If you want that true cinema-size build from your lenses, the XEEN lineup is a winner. They’re inexpensive. They’re light. And I can’t help but feel that, in addition to being very durable, sharp lenses, they also, you know, look the part. So, not only will they help you bring your vision to life, they’ll make you like a pro doing it.
Rokinon Cine DS Lenses
- Zoom lens of choice for most cinematographers
- Weight range 4.2-16lbs
- Close focus 1’9″
- Aperture range: T1.5 – T22
Last on the list is a set of lenses I’ve shot with many times. Rokinon’s lens design and specs resemble those of Samyang and Bower, and that’s because they’re essentially the same lens build. However, while Rokinon will always hit the sweet spot between visual power and low cost, the lenses do lack in overall build quality. I once dropped the 85mm onto soft dirt from roughly a foot off the ground. It was a goner. One man’s story. Do with it what you will.
Nonetheless, you can’t argue with Rokinon’s image quality. Many filmmakers and professionals swear by them, and they’re certainly not wrong for recommending them. Just know what you’re buying — and if you plan to use them for a while, well, just be careful. Yes, I’ll take my own advice.
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