With a growing number of "priced-to-own" digital motion-picture cameras being released, such as Blackmagic Design’s URSA and AJA’s CION, shooters who like to own their gear are living it up. But the reality is that these shooters usually expend all of their resources on a camera body when they should be spending it on lenses. After all, high-quality glass can last you years—sometimes decades—if cared for correctly. With a shrinking release window, your new "high-tech" camera will become "obsolete" within a few short years.
But for low-budget shooters who want to own their own lenses, they usually come with a price tag way out of reach for most indie filmmakers. Recently, a number of affordable, high-quality prime lenses have hit the market, including the Canon Cinema EOS, Schneider Cine FF, and most notably, the Zeiss CP.2 series, which roughly retails for $4,000 to $6,000 per lens. Rokinon released a budget line of cine lenses that are a fraction of the cost, but still provide essential features you need in a cine-style lens, including manual focus, lens gears and a de-clicked aperture ring.
Price-wise, cinema zoom lenses are another matter. The entry-level Angénieux Optimo DP 16-42mm or Zeiss CZ.2 zoom lenses are priced at around $20K, so unless you’re a busy DP or a rental house, the lenses are out of reach for most people.
So why do you need a cinema lens? It mainly has to do with focus, in particular, manual focus or focus throw. (Focus throw is typically defined as how much you have to turn the focus ring to get from your closest focusing distance to infinity.) In cinema production, focus is done manually in order to selectively keep certain parts of the frame or subjects in sharp focus. A lot of low-budget shooters are working with autofocus DSLR lenses, which isn’t advisable for features, especially when working with a full camera crew since a good 1st AC has years of experience in developing muscle memory on how to pull focus and hit marks by hand. Cine lenses are also constructed much differently than still lenses in regard to body style, mechanics, markings, etc. Trying to hit focus marks with consistency by hand on an autofocus DSLR lens is a very difficult skill to master since the lens has a much shorter focus throw because it has to make super-quick adjustments.
Cine-style lenses have larger lens barrels, making the focus throw much longer, so you do adjustments in inches rather than feet. Another feature on a cinema lens that a DSLR lens doesn’t contain is a click-less aperture. If you’re a Canon DSLR shooter, you change your aperture setting on the camera, but on any digital motion-picture camera, it’s done on your lens. If you’re moving from indoors to outdoors on a moving shot, a de-clicked aperture will give you smoother iris pulls when moving from a bright location to a dark one, or vice versa.
Tokina is the first company to take advantage of a new category of budget-friendly cinema zoom lenses. Part of Kenko Tokina USA, the exclusive U.S. importer and distributor of Hoya filters, Slik tripods, Kenko photo/video accessories and Daiwa broadcast camera supports, Tokina has released their Cinema ATX line of zoom lenses, which will target the indie filmmaker. They’re offering a 16-28mm T3 wide-angle zoom lens and a soon-to-be-released 50-135mm T3 telephoto zoom lens with cinema-style lens housings, as well as an 11-16mm T3 wide-angle zoom lens.
Tokina’s 16-28mm T3 wide-angle zoom lens ($4,500 MSRP) and 50-135mm T3 telephoto zoom lens (price not finalized as of this writing, but less than $6,000 MSRP) are true cinema lenses that are engineered to meet the demands of 4K, 2K and HD optical performance. Because of the professional cine-style lens body, camera assistants can make more precise focus adjustments. Both lenses have professional markings, a de-clicked aperture ring, and geared focus, aperture and zoom rings film crews will be familiar with.