Cinema lenses are specifically designed for video production and filmmaking. They are built to deliver high-quality images with exceptional sharpness, contrast, and color reproduction. A good cinema lens is also durable, with excellent mechanical controls for focus and aperture adjustments. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the top 10 cinema lenses for video production.
What is a Cinema Lens?
A cinema lens is a lens designed for use in motion picture production. Unlike still photography lenses, cinema lenses are optimized for use with digital or film cameras that capture moving images.
Cinema lenses typically have a focus mechanism that allows for smooth and precise focus pulling, which is important for maintaining sharpness and clarity when filming scenes with changing focus distances. They also often have wider aperture ranges to provide greater control over depth of field and low light performance.
Other features that are often found on cinema lenses include consistent T-stops (as opposed to f-stops), which provide more accurate exposure control, and geared rings for controlling focus, aperture, and zoom.
Cinema lenses are also typically designed to work with interchangeable lens mounts, allowing them to be used with a wide range of cameras. They may be available in prime or zoom versions, and in various focal lengths, depending on the specific needs of the production.
Differences between cinema lenses and regular camera lenses
Cinema lenses and regular camera lenses are designed for different purposes and have some key differences in their construction and features. Here are some of the main differences between the two:
- Build Quality: Cinema lenses are typically built with more durable materials, such as metal, and have a more robust construction than regular camera lenses. They are designed to withstand the rigors of professional filmmaking, including frequent use, extreme temperatures, and harsh environments.
- Focus and Iris Rings: Cinema lenses have wider and more precise focus and iris rings, allowing for smoother and more accurate adjustments. They are also geared to allow for easier and more precise focus pulls, which is important in filmmaking.
- Manual Focus: Cinema lenses typically have manual focus rings that allow for precise focusing, which is necessary for filmmaking. In contrast, many regular camera lenses have autofocus, which can be useful for still photography but can be a hindrance when shooting video.
- T-stop: Cinema lenses use T-stops instead of f-stops to measure aperture. T-stops take into account the actual amount of light transmitted through the lens, whereas f-stops only measure the aperture size. This makes it easier to set exposure and maintain consistent brightness between shots.
- Image Quality: Cinema lenses are designed to produce high-quality images with minimal distortion and aberrations. They typically have fewer lens elements and coatings optimized for video, which helps to reduce flare and ghosting.
- Cost: Cinema lenses are generally more expensive than regular camera lenses due to their higher build quality and advanced features.
Overall, cinema lenses are designed for professional filmmaking and offer features and capabilities that are not found in regular camera lenses. They are optimized for manual control, durability, and image quality, making them an essential tool for filmmakers who demand the highest quality footage.
Benefits of using cinema lenses for video production
There are several benefits to using cinema lenses for video production compared to regular camera lenses:
- Image Quality: Cinema lenses are designed to produce high-quality images, with better color accuracy, contrast, and sharpness than regular camera lenses. They are optimized for shooting at wider apertures, delivering a cinematic look with beautiful bokeh and a shallow depth of field.
- Smooth Focus Control: Cinema lenses have manual focus rings that allow for precise and smooth focus pulls. They also have long focus throws, which means that a small turn of the focus ring can result in a significant change in focus, making it easier to achieve accurate focus.
- Consistent Look: Cinema lenses are designed to produce a consistent look, making it easier to match shots when shooting different scenes or using different cameras. This helps to maintain visual continuity throughout the film.
- Robust Build Quality: Cinema lenses are built to withstand the rigors of professional filmmaking. They are made with high-quality materials and are designed to last for years of use.
- Compatibility: Cinema lenses are designed to work with a range of cameras, including cinema cameras and some high-end DSLRs. They can be used with various camera systems, allowing for flexibility in shooting.
Overall, cinema lenses provide greater control, precision, and consistency in image quality, making them an ideal choice for professional video production.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Cinema Lens
When selecting a cinema lens for video production, there are several important factors to consider. In this section, we will discuss some of the most critical factors to keep in mind when choosing a cinema lens.
- Focal Length and Aperture: Focal length and aperture are two essential factors that affect the look of your video. The focal length determines the angle of view, and the aperture controls the amount of light that enters the lens. A wide aperture allows more light to enter, making it easier to shoot in low light conditions, and it also allows for more shallow depth of field, which can create a more cinematic look. When choosing a cinema lens, consider the focal length and aperture you need for your particular project.
- Image Quality: Image quality is another important factor to consider when selecting a cinema lens. The quality of your lens will impact the sharpness, contrast, and color reproduction of your images. Look for a lens with superior optical quality, which will produce sharp, clear, and vibrant images with minimal distortion.
- Lens Mount Compatibility: Make sure that the lens you select is compatible with your camera’s lens mount. Some lenses are designed specifically for certain camera systems, while others may be compatible with multiple systems. Check the lens specifications to ensure that it will fit your camera.
- Lens Weight and Size: Cinema lenses can be quite heavy, so it’s essential to consider the weight and size of the lens you choose. A heavy lens can be difficult to manage, especially if you plan to shoot for long periods. Make sure you select a lens that is comfortable for you to handle and won’t cause fatigue.
- Mechanical Controls: Cinema lenses offer a range of mechanical controls that allow for more precise adjustments to focus, aperture, and other settings. Look for a lens that provides smooth and accurate focus and aperture adjustments, as these will be essential for creating high-quality videos.
- Image Stabilization: Finally, consider whether you need image stabilization in your lens. Image stabilization can be helpful for handheld shots or when shooting in low light conditions, as it can help to reduce camera shake and produce smoother footage. However, not all cinema lenses have image stabilization, so make sure to check the specifications before making a purchase.
Top 10 Cinema Lenses for Video Production
The top 10 cinema lenses for video production, which are widely used by professionals. These lenses have been chosen based on their features, build quality, and overall performance.
1: Zeiss CP.3 XD
Zeiss CP.3 XD – This lens is a versatile option that delivers exceptional image quality and has a consistent color match with other Zeiss lenses. It has a T-stop of T2.1 and covers a full-frame sensor.
The Zeiss CP.3 XD (eXtended Data) is a series of cinema lenses designed for professional filmmakers and cinematographers. They come in a range of focal lengths from 15mm to 135mm and feature a consistent T2.1 aperture across the set.
One of the standout features of the CP.3 XD lenses is their eXtended Data technology, which provides filmmakers with valuable metadata about the lens and the shot. This information includes distortion and vignetting data, as well as information on the lens’ aperture, focus distance, and depth of field. This data can be used to streamline post-production workflows and to ensure consistent image quality across different lenses and camera systems.
The CP.3 XD lenses also feature a compact and lightweight design, with a consistent front diameter of 95mm and a focus rotation angle of 300 degrees. They are available in a variety of mount options, including PL, EF, F, E, and MFT, making them compatible with a wide range of camera systems.
Overall, the Zeiss CP.3 XD lenses are a popular choice for professional filmmakers and cinematographers who demand high-quality optics and advanced metadata capabilities.
2: Canon CN-E Prime
Canon CN-E Prime – Canon has a strong reputation for producing high-quality cinema lenses, and this lens is no exception. It has a T-stop of T1.3 and is compatible with Canon’s EF mount cameras.
The Canon CN-E Prime lenses are a series of professional cinema lenses designed for use with Canon’s Cinema EOS line of digital cinema cameras. These lenses feature a wide aperture range, robust build quality, and excellent optical performance, making them a popular choice for filmmakers and cinematographers.
The CN-E Prime lenses are available in a range of focal lengths, including 14mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 135mm. They all have a maximum aperture of T1.3, which allows for excellent low-light performance and shallow depth of field.
The lenses are designed with a 11-blade iris for smooth and natural bokeh, and have a consistent color balance throughout the series for easy color grading in post-production. They also feature precise manual focus control, and a robust build quality that makes them ideal for use in demanding production environments.
Overall, the Canon CN-E Prime lenses are a highly regarded option for professional filmmakers and cinematographers looking for high-quality cinema lenses with excellent optical performance and build quality.
3: Sigma Cine FF High-Speed Primes
Sigma Cine FF High-Speed Primes – Sigma’s Cine lenses have become very popular in recent years, thanks to their impressive performance at a relatively affordable price point. The high-speed primes have a T-stop of T1.5 and are available in a variety of focal lengths.
The Sigma Cine FF High-Speed Primes are a set of full-frame cinema lenses designed for professional filmmakers. They feature a fast maximum aperture of T1.5 across the entire focal range, providing shallow depth of field and excellent low-light performance.
The lenses are available in a variety of focal lengths, including 20mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 135mm, allowing filmmakers to achieve a wide range of shots. They also feature a 9-blade iris for smooth bokeh and a high-precision, durable metal construction.
The Sigma Cine FF High-Speed Primes are compatible with a variety of camera systems, including Canon EF, Sony E-mount, and PL-mount, and they offer standard 0.8 pitch gears for easy integration with follow focus systems. Overall, they are a popular choice among professional cinematographers for their image quality, versatility, and affordability.
4: Cooke S4 Prime
Cooke S4 Prime – The Cooke S4 Prime lenses are known for their exceptional image quality and color rendition. They have a T-stop of T2 and cover a full-frame sensor.
The Cooke S4 Prime is a series of high-end cinema lenses designed for professional use in the film and television industries. These lenses offer superior image quality, color rendition, and contrast, making them a popular choice for cinematographers and directors of photography.
The Cooke S4 Prime lenses feature a consistent T-stop of T2 across the range, with focal lengths ranging from 12mm to 300mm. They also feature Cooke’s patented /i Technology, which provides lens metadata such as focus distance, aperture, and zoom position to compatible cameras.
The Cooke S4 Prime lenses are known for their unique “Cooke Look,” characterized by a warm, gentle glow, and a subtle softness that flatters skin tones and provides a pleasing overall image. This look has made them a favorite of many top cinematographers and is often used in high-end feature films and television shows.
Overall, the Cooke S4 Prime lenses are a top-of-the-line option for professional filmmakers who demand the very best in image quality and performance.
5: Leitz Cine Primes
Leitz Cine Primes – These lenses have been developed by Leitz in collaboration with CW Sonderoptic, the company behind the popular Leica lenses. The Leitz Cine Primes have a T-stop of T1.8 and are available in a variety of focal lengths.
Leitz Cine Primes are a series of high-end cinema lenses designed and manufactured by CW Sonderoptic, a subsidiary of Leica Camera AG. These lenses are known for their exceptional optical quality, compact size, and robust build. They are available in a range of focal lengths from 18mm to 135mm and have a maximum aperture of T1.8, providing excellent low-light performance and shallow depth of field.
Leitz Cine Primes use high-quality glass elements and coatings to deliver sharp, contrasty images with minimal distortion and color fringing. They feature a consistent 95mm front diameter and a 300-degree focus rotation, making them easy to use with follow focus systems and other cinema accessories. They also have a unique magnetic filter system that allows filmmakers to quickly and easily swap out ND filters and other types of filters without having to remove the lens from the camera.
Overall, Leitz Cine Primes are a popular choice among professional filmmakers who demand the highest level of image quality and performance from their lenses.
6: Angenieux EZ-1 and EZ-2
Angenieux EZ-1 and EZ-2 – The Angenieux EZ series is designed to be versatile, allowing filmmakers to switch between different focal lengths quickly and easily. The EZ-1 covers a range of 30-90mm with a T-stop of T2 and the EZ-2 covers a range of 15-40mm with a T-stop of T2.
The Angenieux EZ-1 and EZ-2 are lightweight zoom lenses designed for use in cinema and video productions. The EZ-1 is a standard zoom lens with a focal length range of 30-90mm, while the EZ-2 is a wide-angle to telephoto zoom lens with a focal length range of 15-40mm. Both lenses have a constant maximum aperture of T2.0 throughout their zoom range.
The EZ-1 and EZ-2 are designed to be versatile and adaptable, with interchangeable rear lens groups that allow the lenses to be used with different camera mounts and sensor sizes. The lenses also feature an interchangeable rear optical element, which allows users to switch between S35 and FF/VistaVision coverage.
The lenses are built to be durable and reliable, with weather sealing and a rugged design. They also feature a user-friendly interface with a focus scale marked in feet or meters, and a large, easy-to-read zoom scale. The lenses can be controlled remotely using optional zoom and focus motors, and they are compatible with a range of lens control systems.
Overall, the Angenieux EZ-1 and EZ-2 are high-quality zoom lenses that offer flexibility, versatility, and excellent image quality, making them a popular choice for a wide range of production applications.
7: Fujinon Cabrio Premier
Fujinon Cabrio Premier – The Fujinon Cabrio Premier lenses are known for their exceptional build quality and durability. They have a T-stop of T2.9 and cover a full-frame sensor.
The Fujinon Cabrio Premier is a series of cine zoom lenses designed for professional video and film production. The lenses feature a fast T-stop, consistent color reproduction, and minimal breathing throughout the zoom range. The Cabrio Premier lenses also have a detachable servo drive unit that allows for motorized zoom and focus control, making them well-suited for use on digital cinema cameras and remote operation.
The series includes the following lenses:
- Fujinon Cabrio Premier 20-120mm T3.5
- Fujinon Cabrio Premier 19-90mm T2.9
- Fujinon Cabrio Premier 14-35mm T2.9
The Cabrio Premier lenses are known for their high optical quality and versatility, making them a popular choice for a range of shooting situations, from documentary and reality TV to narrative feature films and commercials.
8: Arri Signature Primes
Arri Signature Primes – The Arri Signature Primes are the latest addition to Arri’s line of cinema lenses. They are designed to deliver exceptional image quality and have a consistent look across the range. They have a T-stop of T1.8 and cover a full-frame sensor.
Arri Signature Primes are a high-end line of cinema lenses designed and manufactured by the German company Arri. These lenses were first introduced in 2018 and are designed to provide exceptional image quality, with a focus on delivering a high degree of creative control to cinematographers.
The Arri Signature Primes are available in a range of focal lengths from 18mm to 125mm, with all lenses featuring a fast maximum aperture of T1.8. The lenses are built with a consistent 95mm front diameter, making it easy to switch between lenses without adjusting the position of accessories like matte boxes and follow focus units.
The Arri Signature Primes are designed to work with modern high-resolution digital cinema cameras, including those with sensors that are larger than traditional Super 35mm film. The lenses are also designed to minimize chromatic aberration, distortion, and breathing, ensuring that images remain sharp and free from distracting artifacts.
In addition to their exceptional image quality, the Arri Signature Primes are designed to be rugged and reliable. The lenses are built with a weather-resistant housing and are designed to withstand the demands of professional use on film sets.
9: Schneider Xenon FF-Prime
Schneider Xenon FF-Prime – The Schneider Xenon FF-Prime lenses are known for their sharpness and overall image quality. They have a T-stop of T2.1 and cover a full-frame sensor.
The Schneider Xenon FF-Prime is a set of full-frame cinema lenses designed for use with digital cinema cameras. These lenses are available in a range of focal lengths from 18mm to 100mm, with a consistent maximum aperture of T2.1 throughout the range.
The Xenon FF-Prime lenses feature a robust, all-metal housing with standard 95mm front diameter for easy use with matte boxes and other accessories. The lenses also feature focus scales with both metric and imperial measurements, and smooth focus and iris rings for precise control.
The optical design of the Xenon FF-Prime lenses incorporates aspherical lens elements to reduce distortion and enhance image sharpness and contrast. The lenses also feature a 14-blade iris for smooth bokeh and pleasing out-of-focus areas.
Overall, the Schneider Xenon FF-Prime lenses are a high-quality option for filmmakers looking for full-frame cinema lenses with consistent performance and precise control.
10: Tokina Cinema Vista
Tokina Cinema Vista – Tokina’s Cinema Vista lenses are designed to be affordable while still delivering impressive performance. They have a T-stop of T1.5 and are available in a variety of focal lengths.
The Tokina Cinema Vista is a series of cinema lenses designed for professional video and cinema productions. The lenses feature a large image circle to cover full-frame sensors, and are available in focal lengths ranging from 18mm to 105mm. The Cinema Vista lenses have a fast maximum aperture of T1.5, making them ideal for low light and shallow depth-of-field shots.
The lenses are built with high-quality materials, including all-metal construction, and are designed to be durable and reliable for use in demanding production environments. The focus and aperture rings are marked with easy-to-read and accurate markings, and the lenses feature a 300-degree focus rotation for precise focus pulling.
The Tokina Cinema Vista lenses are compatible with a range of camera systems, including PL, EF, Sony E, and MFT mounts, and offer a high level of optical performance with minimal distortion and chromatic aberration. They are a popular choice for filmmakers and videographers who require high-quality optics for their productions.
Comparison of Top 10 Cinema Lenses
|Lens Model||Focal Length Range||Maximum Aperture||Minimum Focus Distance||Image Quality||Lens Mount Compatibility||Weight and Size||Mechanical Controls||Image Stabilization||Unique Features|
|Zeiss CP.3 XD||15mm-135mm||T2.1||0.3m||Excellent||PL, EF, E, MFT||900g-2.2kg||Focus, iris, and zoom||No||XD lens coating for improved contrast|
|Canon CN-E Prime||14mm-135mm||T1.3-T2.2||0.2m-1m||Excellent||PL, EF||1.1kg-1.6kg||Focus and iris||No||Designed for 4K resolution|
|Sigma Cine FF High-Speed Primes||14mm-135mm||T1.5||0.3m-1m||Excellent||PL, EF, E, MFT||1kg-1.5kg||Focus and iris||No||95mm front diameter for easy filter swapping|
|Cooke S4 Prime||12mm-300mm||T2-T22||0.3m-0.5m||Excellent||PL, EF||1.5kg-3kg||Focus and iris||No||“Cooke Look” for a warm, natural image|
|Leitz Cine Primes||18mm-180mm||T1.8-T2.8||0.3m-0.6m||Excellent||PL, EF, LPL||1.2kg-2.2kg||Focus and iris||No||Compatible with Leitz cine accessories|
|Angenieux EZ-1 and EZ-2||EZ-1: 30mm-90mm, EZ-2: 15mm-40mm, 45mm-135mm||T2-T22||0.6m-1.2m||Excellent||PL, EF||1.75kg-2.2kg||Zoom and focus||Yes||Interchangeable rear optical groups|
|Fujinon Cabrio Premier||14mm-400mm||T2.9-T22||0.8m||Excellent||PL, EF||2.9kg-4.85kg||Zoom, focus, and iris||Yes||16-bit high-resolution encoders|
|Arri Signature Primes||12mm-280mm||T1.8||0.3m-1.5m||Excellent||LPL||2kg-3kg||Focus and iris||No||Designed for large-format sensors|
|Schneider Xenon FF-Prime||18mm-100mm||T2.1-T2.4||0.3m-0.6m||Excellent||PL, EF||0.9kg-1.6kg||Focus and iris||No||Robust and durable construction|
|Tokina Cinema Vista||18mm-105mm||T1.5-T22||0.5m-1m||Excellent||PL, EF, E||1.26kg-1.36kg||Focus and iris||No||114mm front diameter for easy filter swapping|
Tips for Maintaining Your Cinema Lenses
Maintaining cinema lenses is crucial to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Here are some tips for maintaining your cinema lenses:
- Handle with care: Cinema lenses are precision instruments and should be handled with care. Avoid dropping or bumping them, and always use lens caps and protective cases.
- Clean regularly: Clean your lenses regularly to remove any dust, dirt, or fingerprints that may have accumulated. Use a soft-bristled brush or air blower to remove any loose debris, and then use a microfiber cloth and lens cleaner to clean the lens surface. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that could scratch or damage the lens coatings.
- Check for damage: Regularly inspect your lenses for any signs of damage or wear, such as scratches, cracks, or loose parts. If you notice any issues, have your lenses serviced by a professional.
- Store properly: Store your lenses in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight, moisture, and extreme temperatures. Keep them in their protective cases when not in use.
- Use lens filters: Use lens filters to protect your lenses from scratches, dust, and other debris. UV filters can also help reduce haze and protect the lens from UV rays.
- Service regularly: Have your lenses serviced regularly by a professional to ensure they are in top condition. This can include cleaning, lubricating, and adjusting the lenses for optimal performance.
By following these tips, you can help ensure your cinema lenses perform at their best and last for years to come.
When choosing a cinema lens for video production, it’s important to consider factors such as focal length, aperture, image quality, and build quality. The right lens can greatly enhance the visual impact and overall quality of your video.
It’s also important to consider the specific needs of your production, such as the type of shots you’ll be capturing and the intended mood or atmosphere of the video. For example, if you’re shooting a documentary or a travel video, a wide-angle lens may be more appropriate, while a prime lens with a wide aperture can help create a shallow depth of field for a dramatic effect.
In conclusion, investing in a quality cinema lens can greatly improve the visual quality of your video production, but it’s important to choose the right lens for your specific needs. By considering factors such as focal length, aperture, image quality, and build quality, you can find the perfect lens to help bring your vision to life.