Are cine lenses worth the cost in film and video production?
Cinema lenses cost significantly more than SLR lenses traditionally used for photography but why invest in the more costly option for film and video production?
Whether you are a client or filmmaker you want to achieve the best possible film, commercial, corporate video, music video etc. within the budget available. Saving on lenses does not necessarily guarantee savings on overall cost as time and quality may be compromised.
There are two key advantages of choosing cine lenses: Consistency and mechanics, which together generate a more precise, characteristic and better image.
SLR lenses are very fiddly and rigid when pulling focus, particularly when the camera or subject moves.
On the other hand, cine lenses have a longer focus rotation and more distance between numbers on the focus scale, which makes pulling focus easier and more precise.
We filmmakers are always relying on different focal length lenses to tell the story visually the best way possible. To do so, we need to change lenses all the time.
There is no guarantee of keeping the same look when changing SLR lenses because they are made for photography where pictures are captured independently. SLRs are not designed to maintain colour cast when changing lenses. Colour inconsistency will result in extra cost and time wasted on colour matching in post-production.
This issue doesn’t happen when working with a good set of cine lenses by the same manufacturer (e.g. Arri, Schneider, Cooke, Panavision etc.). Also, a good set of prime lenses gives you the exact same colour cast each time lenses are swapped.
Each lens in a set of cine lenses has almost the same maximum aperture. For example, a set of Schneider lenses have maximum T-stops of 2.0 and 2.1, which makes it easier to control the exposure, and thereby not having to fiddle with lighting too much when working with different lenses.
On the other hand, using mismatched SLR lenses with different apertures such as Canon EF lenses with various maximum F-stops (1.4, 2.8, 4, 5.6 etc.) will lead to demand for continuous lighting adjustment.
Having said that, SLRs do a good job when it comes to photography projects because they are light, affordable and capture great still images. But when it comes to moving images and working on film sets, lenses need to provide excellent images and be sturdy to manage the heavy handling we filmmakers put them through to balance the camera consistently and accurately.
At the end of the day, we want to achieve the best visual result and cine lenses are in a different league to SLRs in terms of workflow and the quality of the moving images they capture.
This is why we prefer working with a good set of prime, ultra, or master prime cine lenses to SLR lenses.
Which set of lenses do you prefer and why?
by Mehyar Abou Matouk, Director
*photos of Cella‘s in-house lenses.