When it’s time to step up the look of your digital film production and you are upgrading to a full-frame or Super35 cinema camera, shooting with a new mirrorless full-frame camera, or just seeking that film look, buying or renting the right digital cinema lens requires research, patience, and, most importantly, visual meditation. Whether you’re shooting 8K large format, full frame, anamorphic, or Super35, there’s a cine lens out there that’s just right for recreating your visualizations.
Ultimately, price, mount, and focal length will be at the core of your decision, but there are many other factors to weigh when seeking a solid digital cinema lens.
Designed for your digital camera sensor
Common look within the same lens line
0.8 MOD cine-standard gearing for follow focus/iris motors
Optical coating to protect the lens from scratches, fingerprints, water, or dust
Common front diameter throughout same lens line (making it easy to change lenses without changing your rigging)
Low chromatic aberration and low distortion
Fast aperture for low-light capture
Clear markings in preferred measurement on the barrel
Minimal focus breathing
High degree of focus ring rotation for fine adjustments
Appropriate number of iris blades to create your preferred bokeh, the blur aesthetic in the out-of-focus parts of your image
Many impressive new digital cinema lenses have been released in 2023, and there are more mount options and price ranges than ever. Categorized into different usage types, here are a few cine lenses that are worth your consideration.
NiSi, Canon, Rokinon, Cooke
DZOFilm, Sirui, Sony, Canon
Venus Optics, Viltrox, DZOFilm
Great on Gimbals and Drones
Rokinon/Samyang, DJI, SLR Magic, Dulens
Outliers and Attachments
Atlas Lens Co., Venus Optics, Mitakon, Meike, Module 8
When you have decided on the focal lengths that you need to capture your scenes, Cine primes are the solid choice. They can be purchased alone for a single look or they can be purchased in sets, which make it easier to change your focal length while maintaining a uniform look in your images. Cine primes tend to run a bit steeper in price for higher-end glass, which are the go-to lenses for professional productions, so let’s start with the most accessible cine primes that are great for indie filmmakers and documentarians.
If you haven’t heard, NiSi doesn’t just make filters. Released this year for Sony E-mount cameras at a lower price point, the NiSi ATHENA PRIME line was released for E-mount, PL-mount, and RF-mount cameras with full-frame sensors, and they come in 14, 25, 35, 50, and 85mm models with T1.9 (T2.4 for the 14mm model) to T22 aperture range. With a consistent look and size, the ATHENA prime lenses are great starter primes individually or in a full kit.
If you’re planning on shooting with your new RF-mount camera, Canon has announced its new CN-R line of cinema primes that cover full-frame sensors, support up to 8K resolutions, and are designed to suit HDR image capture. The high-quality glass captures a warm color balance and its 11-blade iris creates soft, smooth bokeh. For select cameras such as the C70 or R5 C, it also provides distortion correction, a dual-pixel focus guide, and captures and passes metadata. The full line comes in 14, 20, 24, 35, 50, 85, and 135mm models.
Just released by Rokinon is the XEEN Meister line of cinema primes, also for full-frame sensors with support for up to 8K images, and they are available in 14, 24, 35, 50, and 85mm models, as well as a 50mm anamorphic model. These metal lenses feature a 13-blade iris for intense, buttery bokeh, and its X-coating is designed to control flare and ghosting. These lenses are designed with Sony E, ARRI PL, and Canon EF mounts for wide camera compatibility.
Cooke glass has primarily been a high-budget choice, out of reach for low-budget filmmakers, but the new SP3 full-frame cine prime line makes Cooke optics accessible for mirrorless cameras. Matching the characteristics of Cooke’s Panchro line, SP3 lenses feature the classic “Cooke look” with flare control, optimal skin tones, and the smooth fall-off you’re used to in Hollywood films. Also, they’re compact enough to work on a gimbal, ideally to capture B or C camera footage. Currently, they have been released in 25, 32, 50, 75, and 100mm models for Sony E mounts, and will later expand with RF and Leica L/M models.
Cinema zooms are the best bang for your buck and are a great addition to your live broadcast, documentary, or online production that requires quick frame changes without requiring a lens change. However, be sure to note that cine zooms tend to be hefty, so they will require supportive rigging.
DZOFilm previously released quality full-frame cine zoom with its 70-135mm, and in 2023 the brand released two new Catta Ace cine zoom lenses to complement the original. The new 35-80mm T2.9 and 18-35mm T2.9 lenses fit perfectly with the 70-135mm to cover just about every focal length you’ll ever need. These monster zooms maintain focus throughout the zoom range, and they provide natural color rendering, a soft bokeh, and an interchangeable PL/EF mount for multi-camera compatibility.
To add macro capability to your shots, the Sirui Jupiter 28-85mm T3.2 Full Frame Macro Cine Zoom lens in PL mount can create sharp close-up macro shots while covering full-frame sensors. It features all the standard cine lens characteristics, such as an industry-standard 114mm front diameter, 0.8 MOD gears, and an 11-blade iris for a smooth, cinema-like bokeh.
For professional productions that require matching with Canon Cinema EOS lenses, the Canon CN-E Flex Zoom 31.5-95mm T1.7 Lens Super35 Cinema EOS lens was released this year to complement the CN-E zoom line. These high-end zooms support up to 8K HDR capture on full-frame cinema cameras, the interchangeable lens mount fits EF- and PL-mount cameras, and they can pass metadata back to the camera, which is essential for effects production.
Although they were already released, the Sony FE C 16-35mm T3.1 G E-Mount lens and the Fujinon MK-R 18-55mm T2.9 Cine Zoom lens (in RF, MFT, or Sony E mounts) are worth a mention for their affordability, portability, and color-matching with other lenses in their respective lens lines.
For classic 35mm film frame format in 2.39:1 or 2.35:1 with wide fields of view when shooting landscapes and panoramic views, you may want to opt for an anamorphic lens for your full-frame or Super35 format camera.
The DZOFilm PAVO anamorphic prime line is designed to cover Super35 format sensors, and comes in 28, 32, 40, 55, 75, and 100mm models, as well as in multiple lens sets. Not only do the lenses feature a wide maximum aperture, common front diameter, and stunning bokeh, they feature an interchangeable EF/PL mount and 2x magnification to achieve a true 2.39:1 anamorphic aspect ratio. There is also a neutral model and a blue-coated model that creates blue flares and a dramatic “waterfall”-style bokeh.
Speaking of colored flares, Venus Optics has two Laowa anamorphic Cine lens lines for Super35 sensors that feature three different models that can create amber, blue, or silver color flares for a splash of style in your story. The new, advanced Proteus line released this year include 35, 45, 60, and 85mm models with interchangeable PL/EF mounts, and they feature a 2x anamorphic squeeze and a common T2 aperture. They complement the Nanomorph starter line that features 27, 35, and 50mm models with a 1.5x squeeze and T2.4/T2.8 apertures for just about every lens mount out there.
Viltrox also released its EPIC anamorphic cine lens line this year, providing a 1.33x squeezed 2.35:1 aspect ratio with oval bokeh and blue streaking for a retro film look, if that’s your style. These pretty, moon-white lenses come in Leica L, Sony E, and ARRI PL mounts in 35, 50, and 75mm focal lengths.
Great on Gimbals and Drones
Drones and gimbal stabilizers are now standard on film sets, but the heavier glass of a standard cine lens isn’t compatible with gimbal motors or drone rotors, no matter how powerful they are. Luckily, several manufacturers considered this conundrum and have created compact, lightweight cinema lenses, perfect for use on gimbals and drones.
DJI developed its own DL mount to support ultra-lightweight lenses for DJI cameras, such as the Ronin 4D gimbal cinema camera. The brand’s new DL-mount 17-28mm T3.0 ASPH PZ aspherical lens supports capture up to 8K. Aspherical lenses don’t have a spherical surface shape, so they feature less glass and fewer internal elements, resulting in lighter designs, which are ideal for gimbals and drones. This “flatter” design covers all areas of the frame, thus supporting wider apertures and reducing imperfections at the edges of the frame.
The MicroPrime Cine lens line from SLR Magic has an equally tiny form factor with a cinema profile, and the company has recently released lenses for full-frame and APS-C/Super35 cameras for wide compatibility. The MicroPrime Cine 50mm T1.4 lens in Sony E or FUJIFILM X mounts covers APS-C/S35 sensors, there’s also an MFT mount covering MFT sensors―and it weighs only 1.3 lb. This lens now also comes in a full-frame format with the MicroPrime Cine 50mm T1.4 lens for Sony E, so these affordable cinema lenses can be used with numerous cinema camera models.
Another entry into the compact cine lens field this year is the Dulens APO Mini Prime line, with lenses weighing just over 1 lb. These compact PL-mount cinema lenses come in 31, 43, 58, and 85mm T2.4 models, the PL mount can be swapped out for an EF mount, and they are designed to cover full-frame sensors and provide a vintage film look with added halation (light halo around subjects). Their apochromatic design is optimized with an open aperture, providing sharp edges and natural color, ideal for blue/green screen keying.
Outliers and Attachments
There are also some outlier lens brands and attachments with a non-standard form factor worth mentioning, separate from mainstream brands. These lenses and the numerous lens attachments and adapters, available to swap filters, mounts, and looks, are a must when doing your cine lens research.
Venus Optics has a full line of LAOWA Probes, and its new 24mm 90°, 35°, and direct view Pro2be models cover full-frame sensors for periscope-style shots and feature T8-40 apertures. They come with an interchangeable ARRI PL mount that can be changed for Canon EF, Canon RF, Leica L, Nikon F, Nikon Z, and Sony E. These long, tubular lenses provide a close-up perspective in hard-to-reach places to create unique shots.
Recently, I captured footage of a friend with my mirrorless full-frame camera and new cine lens, and I wish I had one of the new Module 8 Tuner Variable Look Lens Attachments to soften her face and capture a vintage film look. The Module 8 Tuners come in three models for different looks with PL and EF lens mounts for RF- or E-Mount cameras, with more options to come. They allow you to “tune” the look right on the camera rather than re-shimming or changing your lens, while saving you the price of a vintage cinema lens.
A relatively new brand, aimed for low-light capture, Mitakon now carries the Zhongyi Speedmaster cinema lenses for Super35 cameras and comes in 20, 35, and 50mm T1 lenses that come in FUJIFILM X, Nikon Z, Canon RF, and Sony E models. They’re designed to shoot in ultra-low light situations, while maintaining clarity, color, and contrast in 4K productions.
To add a cool look to your rig, as well as an anamorphic look to your production, Atlas Lens Co. has released its Mercury T2.2 1.5x Anamorphic Prime lenses with a PL mount. These chunky lenses cover full-frame sensors and come in 36, 42, and 72mm models that provide a 1.5x anamorphic vintage cinema look with buttery, oval bokeh, a fast aperture, and golden flares that match their Orion primes.
Meike introduced 18mm and 100mm T2.1 Super35 Primes to complement its existing Cinema Prime line, and these lenses are an affordable alternative to add telephoto and wide-angle options to your existing kit. They come in EF or PL-mount models and cover Super 35 sensors.
For more information about all these 2023 cinema lenses and more, including additional features, specs, and highlights, be sure to check out the detailed product pages. Or drop us a line below, and we’ll do our best to reply to your comments and questions.