Glass Candy

With high-end digital motion-picture cameras being cycled far more frequently, the window on getting a good return on your big investment is becoming increasingly short for cinematographers and filmmakers. With this in mind, having a good set of prime lenses or an all-purpose cine zoom might be a better bet. And now with 4K becoming the dominant capture format, you’re going to need high-quality glass that can resolve 4K or even 6K resolution.

Although it’s possible to use DSLR lenses for your movie (especially for shoestring budgets), it’s definitely not advisable to use them on a feature film, especially when working with a full camera crew. Cine lenses are constructed much differently than still lenses in regard to body style, markings and internal mechanisms for focus and iris changes. (Trying to hit focus marks with consistency on a still lens with a small lens barrel is a very difficult skill set to master.) And although cine lenses cost significantly more than still lenses, in the long run, they will give you a much bigger window to recoup your investment if you rent your gear.

Here are some of the latest prime and zoom lenses specifically designed for cinema production for both professional and indie filmmakers.

THE PRIMES

As you know, Canon (www.usa.canon.com) has jumped into the professional cinematography market with the release of professional large-sensor cameras like the C300 and C500. And one of the big reasons behind the Cinema EOS push is its high-quality optics. I recently had the chance to visit Canon’s largest optical manufacturing plant in Utsunomiya, Japan. It was amazing to see up close how lenses are cut, ground, polished and coated.

Canon’s Cinema EOS Prime lenses have become popular with indie shooters.

With over 80 million EF lenses in the world, Canon has a significant advantage over other lens manufacturers regarding volume. And although they have a number of cinema zoom lenses, including a 14.5-60mm, a 30-300mm, a compact 15.5-47mm and a 30-105mm, it’s their cinema prime lenses that many indie filmmakers are gravitating to. The Cinema EOS Prime lenses can resolve 4K resolution and are offered in six models, including 14mm T3.1, 24mm T1.5, 35mm T1.5, 50mm T1.3, 85mm T1.3 and 135mm T2.2. The lenses contain an 11-blade aperture diaphragm, and unlike their EF still lenses, the Cinema EOS primes have consistent form factors and markings so film crews can easily adapt to them. Speaking of the EF mount, unlike the Cinema EOS zooms, which are offered in either EF or PL mount, the Cinema EOS primes are only offered as an EF mount. This was certainly a risky move for Canon to take, but with a price point of approximately $4,970 (with a $250 Canon rebate), these are perhaps the most affordable high-end glass on the market. It’s no wonder why DSLR users are graduating to Cinema EOS in large numbers.

For over 60 years, Panavision (www.panavision.com) has been producing some of the finest cameras and lenses in the production industry. Although their camera division has been hit hard as a result of 35mm film’s decline, their Primo lenses remain the "gold standard" for cinematographers, who love the look of their rich contrast range and even field illumination, as well as the lack of glare, ghosting and distortion.

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