Budget Cinema Lens Test

We recently took the opportunity to do some testing on a variety of budget cinema lens sets.  Budget is of course a relative term when it comes to lenses, as some of these lenses cost close to $6,000 a piece.  When compared to the price of the higher end cinema lenses which can cost upwards of $25,000 each, budget is an apt description.

Cinema lenses are lenses that all share certain characteristics.  They all have gears for follow focus and iris control, they have smooth or “declicked” apertures, they have uniform front diameters, and they are typically very fast.

We tested a full set of Canon CN-E lenses, a full set of Rokinon XEEN lenses, a selection of Zeiss CP.2 lenses, 6 Leica-R still lenses that have been converted into Cinema lenses by Duclos Lenses, and 3 Sony SLC lenses.


The Video


WHAT WE WANTED TO TEST

  • Contrast
  • Color
  • Rack Focus
  • Lens flare

The Results

For the most part, all of the lenses performed about the same in all categories.  The four modern cinema lenses all behaved similarly for contrast, with the Leica-R’s being a little bit more contrasty, which is not unexpected from vintage lenses.  We were slightly surprised at how little difference we saw in the color between the different brands.  We expected to see more of the “character” of each manufacturer in evidence, but saw little actual variation.  The focus rack tests yielded only one interesting difference between the lenses.  The Sony SLC lenses showed no breathing at all when focusing between the subject and the color chart, all the others had some amount of breathing, although it was very small compared to non-cinema lenses.  The lens flare test yielded the greatest variety of results from the lens, with each set having a different color cast to the flare and different artifacts and bleed amounts.

These tests were done mostly just to see the different lenses side by side in a controlled environment, not to rate or grade them against eachother to determine which is the best.  All of them produce excellent images at a reasonable price.


WHAT WE DID NOT TEST

  • Bokeh
  • Minimal focus
  • Maximum aperture

We felt that to perform these tests would have required too many additional setups with each lens and ballooned an already long test beyond what most people are willing to invest in.  We may come back in the future and run these tests on our selection of lenses.


You can find videos for each set of lenses, and a video for just the side by side comparisons by following the links below.


ABOUT EACH SET OF LENSES


Canon CN-Ecneclustr_2048x2048

Pretty standard as far as cinema lenses go.  The set includes; 14mm T3.1, 24mm T1.5, 35mm T1.5, 50mm T1.3, 85mm T1.3, and 135mm T2.2 lenses.  They range in price from $4,950-$5,220 each before any rebates or discounts.  Z Systems rental price is $65/day each or $325/day for the full set.

Pros:

  • Speed
  • Uniform gears
  • Color matched coatings
  • Minimal breathing
  • Full frame coverage

Cons:

  • EF-mount only
  • Price

Uniques:

  • Hyper accurate focus marks

Rokinon XEENrokinon-xeen-samyang-lens-family-group

Another standard set of cinema lenses.  The set includes; 14mm T3.1, 24mm T1.5, 35mm T1.5, 50mm T1.5, 85mm T1.5, and 135mm T2.2 lenses.  The lenses are all $2,495 each.  Z Systems rental price is $45/day each or $225/day for the full set.

Pros:

  • Speed
  • Uniform gears
  • Color matched coatings
  • Minimal Breathing
  • Full frame coverage
  • Uniform length (except 14mm)
  • Price
  • Available in a wide variety of mounts

Cons:

  • None

Uniques:

  • None

Zeiss CP.2Zeiss CP.2 Prime Lens Kit

Another fairly standard set of cinema lenses.  The set we tested includes; 21mm T2.9, 35mm T1.5, 50mm T1.5, 85mm T1.5, and 135mm T2.1 lenses.  The lenses range in price from $3,990-$5700 each.  Z Systems rental price is $65/day each or $300/day for the set of 5.

Pros:

  • Uniform gears
  • Color matched coatings
  • Minimal Breathing
  • Full frame coverage
  • Available in a wide variety of mounts

Cons:

  • Price
  • Not uniform length

Uniques:

  • Customer changeable lens mounts

Sony SLCSony-PL-Mount-Prime-Lenses-Complete-Line

These lenses were originally offered in a kit with the Sony PMW-F3 camera.  They have since been replaced by a more complete line of Sony Cine Alta lenses with improved housings.  The set we tested includes; 35mm T2, 50mm T2, 85mm T2.  The lenses we tested are no longer available for purchase, but the new Cine Alta lenses are available as a set of 6 for $12,499.  Z Systems rental price on the lenses we tested is $65/day each or $150/day for the set of 3.

Pros:

  • Uniform gears
  • Color matched coatings
  • No focus breathing
  • Uniform speed

Cons:

  • Super35 Coverage
  • Size
  • Only available as a set

Uniques:

  • None

Leica-R Duclos Conversionsleica-r

These lenses are a bit different than the others we tested.  They were originally still lenses for Leica cameras that have been converted for cinema use.  The conversion includes the addition of cinema gears to the focus rings of the declicking of the iris’.  The set we tested also has uniform filter thread adapters and has been permanently converted to EF mount.  We tested 6 of the 9 lenses in our set, the ones we tested were; 19mm f/2.8, 21mm f/4, 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.4, 80mm f/1.4, and 100mm f/2.8.  As these are custom converted lenses there is no purchase price available.  Z Systems rental price on the lenses is $30-$35/day each or $275/day for the set of 9 lenses.

Pros:

  • Large number of lenses
  • Vintage character
  • Full frame coverage
  • Size
  • Weight

Cons:

  • Little uniformity
  • Not color matched
  • Purchase/Conversion price

Uniques:

  • None

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