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Real Cinema Lenses You Can Afford

Johnathan Paul

Check out this list of affordable real cinema lenses for independent filmmakers and videographers!

Top Image Courtesy of ProKit.com

Last week we took a look at the world of real cinema lenses and their astronomical price range. While it’s fun to window-shop for top-level gear, most of us simply don’t have the budget to use such tools. But all is not lost — there are other options. While these options are not always cheap, they are manageable and will provide a professional glass to capture the “cinematic look” we want.

The lenses that we’ll discuss below can be bought for a much cheaper price than the pervious lenses we looked at. However, many times you’ll find that you might be able to save money by renting these lenses in a bundle package with a camera from places such as Borrow Lenses and Abelcine. Now, let’s get to the glass and check out the best affordable options for cine-style lenses.

Zeiss Compact Primes

First up is a hold over from the big budget cinema prime list, Zeiss. While the Master Prime series is an amazing lens set, it isn’t very cost effective for independent filmmakers. Knowing this, Zeiss created a line of primes called the Compact Primes. While these lenses won’t give you the exact same glass quality as the Master Primes, they’ll get you pretty darn close.

Cinema Lenses: Zeiss-Compact-Prime

Technical Specs

  • 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

Price Points

Here is Adorama TV’s review of the Zeiss Compact Prime lenses.

Schneider Cine-Xenar III

Next up is German manufacturer Schneider Optics, who, like Zeiss, got their start at the dawn of cinema. Since its inception in 1913, Schneider has been innovator in lens design for film professionals. They’ve sold well over 14 million lenses since the beginning of the 20th century and show no signs of stopping. While they usually deal in large format lenses, they offer independent filmmakers a cheaper cinema lens solution with the Cine-Xenar series of lenses.

Cinema Lenses: Schneider-Cine-Xenar

Technical Specs

  • Super 35mm frame coverage
  • Standard PL mount, EF mount available
  • Covers 2K/4K/5K Cinema
  • Aperture range: T2.0 – 2.2

Price Points

Here is a video demo of the Cine-Xenar III series lenses in action from Schneider.

Cooke Mini S4

Cooke Optics has the high-end S4 line, but they’ve also developed a more cost-effective choice for independent filmmakers. Taking the design of the S4, they have crafted the Mini S4, which offers the resolution and optical quality comparable to the standard S4.

Cinema Lenses: Cooke-Mini-S4

Technical Specs

  • Color matches Cooke S4
  • Covers 2K/4K/5K cinema
  • Cam-style focus
  • Aperture range: T2.8 (standard on all lenses)

Price Points

To give you an idea of what the Cooke Mini S4s look like, here is a video from writer and director Cassidy Bisher that does just that.

Canon CN-E Primes

Canon has been in the Hollywood scene for a long time, and they have to be considered the top camera manufacturer for independents around the world. Canon, like Zeiss and Cooke, have some lenses that reach upwards of $50,000 – $100,000, but they also have a line of cine lenses that are on the more affordable side. For these, we’ll look at the CN-E line of prime lenses.

Cinema Lenses: Canon-CN-E

Technical Specs

  • Ultra-wide angle EF mount
  • Intended for HD/2K/4K Cinema
  • Diameter matching with other Canon Primes
  • Aperture range: T1.3 – T3.1

Price Points

Cinematographer and Editor Erik Naso gives us a nice overview of the Canon CN-E line of Primes.

Rokinon Cine Lenses

Last on the list is a set of lenses that have been burning up the market for sometime now. Rokinon’s lens design and stats closely resemble that of Samyang and Bower, and that’s because they are essentially all one in the same. Rokinon will offer the cheapest option for top image quality, but where it excels in visual power, it lacks in overall build quality. Matthew Saville with SLR Lounge has a great article up regarding the long term quality of the Rokinon. Many filmmakers and professionals swear by them — they also swear you wont be using them three years down the road.

Cinema Lenses: Rokinon-Cine-Lenses

Technical Specs

  • Zoom lens of choice for most cinematographers
  • Weight range 4.2-16lbs
  • Close focus 1’9″
  • Aperture range: T1.5 – T22

Price Points

Want more content on lenses? Then check out these articles from PremiumBeat.

Do you use any of these Cine Lenses? What was your experience like? Sound off in the comments below.

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