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Affordable set of 'cine' primes

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Hey guys,

I want to build a affordable set of 'cine lenses'. I don't mind if they are not actual cine lenses, but I would like it if they are at least of similar size and have similar color reproduction. They do have to cover a full frame sensor though as I am using a Panasonic S1.

I have a few old nikkor AI lenses, which actually fit the bill. The individual lenses are going for between € 150 and €350 on ebay and they have a similar look to them. Also, they all have a filter thread of 52mm and a fairly long focus throw. And they are optically pretty good!

The only thing I don't like about them is that they are very small and fiddly. I like larger lenses. It's not comfortable to focus with your hands just 5-10 cm from the camera's mount.

At the moment I have the 28mm f2.8 / 35mm f2 / 50mm f1.8 / 105mm f2.5. I'm contemplating adding the 20mm f2.8 and the 85mm f2 to make the set 'complete'. But I would like to know if there are any alternatives

What other options are there or what can you recommend? I would like to keep the total sum under € 2000,-  to 2500,- for 5-6 lenses.

Thanks!

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Sounds like you should look into Rokinon/Samyang lenses. 

The Nikon 20mm 2.8 and 85mm f/2 are both fantastic lenses, but are also both small, which you say you don't like.

The samyang/rokinon lenses are all faster aperture and bigger in size.

They're widely available in a ton of mounts, cover full frame, and are cheap/easily replacable.

 

 

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6 hours ago, FranciscoB said:

You'll probably have to choose less lenses but have you wondered zeiss milvus? Or sigma art. They can get quite big.

Thanks. 

I find the Sigma's very sharp and clinical. They are nice for many applications, but dont really have a 'cinematic' look to me. 

The zeiss milvus could fit the bill. Do they posess the classic zeiss look? 

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12 hours ago, homestar_kevin said:

Sounds like you should look into Rokinon/Samyang lenses. 

The Nikon 20mm 2.8 and 85mm f/2 are both fantastic lenses, but are also both small, which you say you don't like.

The samyang/rokinon lenses are all faster aperture and bigger in size.

They're widely available in a ton of mounts, cover full frame, and are cheap/easily replacable.

 

 

I had the Samyang 35 and 85 before, not the cine versions. They werent bad at all, but also didnt really blow me away. 

And then there is the 'label' that comes with it if you come on set with the cheapest modern primes on the market. 

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I'm a bit confused about your use of the phrase 'cine'....

The things that separate cine lenses from other lenses are that cine lenses have things like:

  • same weight across whole set (so that you don't need to re-balance rigs when changing lenses)
  • same size front filter size across whole set (so that you don't need to adjust filter setups when changing lenses)
  • aperture / focus gears so these can be connected to a follow-focus
  • same location of manual control rings across whole set (so that you don't need to adjust follow-focus controls when changing lenses)
  • de-clicked apertures
  • parfocal
  • same coatings across whole set (so that shots and flares aren't visually very different when changing lenses)
  • same resolution across whole set (so that shots aren't visually very different when changing lenses)
  • etc

Which of these are you interested in?  You don't seem to be interested in all of them.

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6 hours ago, Stab said:

I had the Samyang 35 and 85 before, not the cine versions. They werent bad at all, but also didnt really blow me away. 

And then there is the 'label' that comes with it if you come on set with the cheapest modern primes on the market. 

That's totally fair. I have a few of them and they're very solid options for the money. 

If that's the case, I think you may need to adjust your parameters a bit, true cine lenses are more than 2500 each, let alone for a set.

Kye is also right. Are you worried about declicked apertures? Focus gears on the lenses? Uniform front filter size?

If Rokinons/Samyangs are too cheap for your blood and would be an embarrassment, definitely don't get them.

Take a look at the Zeiss Z series lenses. They were replaced by the Milvus line and as a result are pretty cheap now.

I've been building a set of these out and have gone with the ZF.2's for Nikon mount. 

These are the classic zeiss designs in modern, all metal, super solid format. They have that zeiss look and are very cool.

That said, they're not a uniform size, the 50mm 1.4 is small like a Nikon or vintage prime.

But you can find them cinemodded by duclos. Now I think it'd be too expensive to send them in to be cinemodded by duclos on your budget, but if you look for them preowned,  they've gotten pretty cheap on ebay. You could definitely get a 3-4, possibly 5 lens kit put together for your stated budget.

The problem there will be obtaining longer focal lengths, they're all generally still pretty expensive. (135/2, 85/1.4, 100/2 macro)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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15 hours ago, Stab said:

Thanks. 

I find the Sigma's very sharp and clinical. They are nice for many applications, but dont really have a 'cinematic' look to me. 

The zeiss milvus could fit the bill. Do they posess the classic zeiss look? 

I never used them but heard good things. My impression is that they have the classic formula with newer coatings that improve resolution and sharpness.

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For the money, I like Nikkors but there is such a range of designs and model years and coatings that consistency can be an issue.

Contax is a bit more substantial but priced to match. Bigger focus rings and more precision, but also stiffer focus.

ZE prices are low now but less vintage look.

Difficult to beat the Nikkor price/performance.

The faster more expensive Nikkors might have bigger focus rings, I don't have particularly big hands so for me Nikkors are okay but smaller might be a problem yeah. Focus gears increase the diameter. Look at follow focus sean's gears. Although seems a bit strange to use if you don't have a follow focus.

 

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16 hours ago, Stab said:

I find the Sigma's very sharp and clinical. They are nice for many applications, but dont really have a 'cinematic' look to me. 

Lenses have resolution and contrast, which can always be degraded by filters on set or by processing in post.  Things like barrel distortion (which some love and says it gives a very cinematic look) can also be added in post.

There is always an argument to be made for having the lenses with the most resolution and contrast and then using filters to degrade them, because you can always take those filters off and get a cleaner more modern look, whereas with vintage lenses you can't put a 'modern' filter on to increase resolution and contrast.
Building the look with filters instead of with the lenses themselves also allows a more consistent overall look if you want to shoot at different apertures, as lenses are often softer wide-open and then have radically increased resolution when stopped down, and can also have significant differences between the centre of the frame and the edges.  If this is the case then putting on a filter acts like a unifying force to make the whole frame more uniform.  Of course, if you're shooting the whole film at a given f-stop then this doesn't matter as much, but then you have to contend with radically different DoF from shot to shot as the subject distance varies giving different amounts of background defocus.

Apart from the look of a Black Pro Mist filter to reduce contrast and a Black Soft FX to reduce resolution, what are the parts of the cinematic look that you're chasing?

You mentioned vintage Nikkor AI lenses would fit the bill, but then said that Samyang wouldn't as they're not expensive enough.  If you're concerned about being judged on set wouldn't the Nikkor lenses also be perceived as cheap?  After all, they are.

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Will respond to some posts here.

I cannot afford real 'cine lenses', except for maybe the Rokinons, so kind of looking for the 'next best thing'. Most importantly, I would like to have a set of primes which all have the same filter size, have a fairly long focus throw, similar optics and similar looking, both in terms of how the lenses look themselves as the image that they provide.

The Nikkor Ai lenses actually fit the bill. They all have the same filter size (52mm), are made of metal and look similar, the images out of them are very similar and they are cheap. Basically, the only thing I don't like about them is their fiddly size. Focussing them isn't pleasant because of that. I find larger lenses more pleasant to work with and frankly, they look better and kind of 'inspire' me to go out and shoot. Another smaller issue is that nobody takes you seriously when you show up with a bunch of small Nikkors. Might be a non issue for some, but when you don't have a name in the 'industry' then those little details make a difference.

So, at the moment I am quite intrigued by the Zeiss Contax primes. They are a tad too expensive for my taste (the fast versions), but I could get over that. But most of those lenses are still small, like the 50mm f1.4. It has a bigger focus ring but that's about it. I also doubt if they will be much of a difference in optical quality and rendering between the Nikkors and the Contax and if it's all worth it. Just for the slightly larger focus grip and the 'Zeiss' tag which of course, turns me into an instant pro.

I'm open to other options but I think the budget is, naturally, the limiting factor. I could maybe start with just 3 lenses, an 28  - 50 - 85 or so to start with and that would broaden the horizons. I have a Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art. The image is nice, albeit a bit too 'clinical' for me, the weight is good, but I don't like the focus ring. It doesn't feel precise. 

Zeiss Milvus looks interesting. Will have a look at those. More ideas? Keep em coming :)

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Just the fact that you're on full frame means any bespoke cinema lenses are going to be pretty obscenely expensive. Established DPs will shoot with Rokinon or Nikon but there is a bias against Rokinon being cheap, I think. They're not even bad, but it's no one's top choice. Whereas Top Gun 2 is Sigma Art, which is kind of crazy. And Joker has some Nikkor. But no one's top choice is Rokinon. I'd try to avoid that kind of client in the first place but that's not always an option.

Not all of this is personal experience:

The Nikkors offer the best price/performance I think. They've been used for years for Vistavision and Joker had at least one Nikkor used pretty extensively I've read. Focus direction is backward, if it matters to you. The f2 versions of 28 f2, 50 f2, 85 f2 are all 52mm fronts. Make sure to match vintages approximately if consistency is your goal, coatings changed over time, likely not too much in recent years.

The Contax lenses do feel bigger and the mechanics are really high end, they feel a lot nicer than many "true" cinema lenses. But focus rings are a bit stiff in some cases. The 28mm and 50mm f1.4 have 55mm fronts, I suspect the 85mm f2.8 does, too. Again, I never had issues with Nikon focus rings being too small but these are bigger. More room for fingers. Better grip. Again you could just get follow focus gears.

https://followfocusgears.com/

And have wider diameters and a better grip and look more "pro" but a bit silly to get those without a follow focus?

Canon SSC Aspherical is rumored to share the same designs with K35s, the most desirable set of vintage super speed lenses you can get. The 24mm and 85mm are 72mm fronts, 55mm is a 58mm front, but is still enormous and the build quality is outstanding. A set has recently gone from like $2000 on eBay to $8500 or something ridiculous so good luck. This is sort of the ultimate, though. 

The next generation (nFD L) has the same designs but different coatings and the 55mm has been replaced with a 50mm f1.2 with a different design. By all accounts that one is tiny and has 52mm front threads but the others remain large. I think these correlate with second generation K35s, a bit less desirable. Build quality and mechanics have been downgraded a bit. Coatings are updated and a bit less vintage but a tenth of a t-stop faster. You could probably still get a set for $2500 or less. The 50mm might be a little small and you'd want to buy a 72mm step up ring I guess. I've also read the bearings in these can degrade over time and will eventually need repair.

If you don't need hard stops, Sigma Art is an option. If that's too clinical, first generation Canon EF L are the basis of the CN-Es, I think, at least some of them, and you get the pro red ring. I think Blue Ruin was shot on these, looked good to me. Mix of 77mm and 72mm fronts, easy to add some step up rings. If you don't need hard stops this might be the best option with that Sigma to L adapter. Never tried it.

Some of the ZEs I think are updated Contax designs and less desirable. I think the 25mm f2, 50mm Makro Planar, and 35mm f2 I think are new and excellent but the line was recently discontinued so not too expensive. Milvus is pretty high end, never used it, but excellent performance and big. Maybe a bit clinical. Sort of a Sigma Art/Otus type deal. Rent one?

 Can't speak for the build quality, but the image from SLR Magic MicroPrimes is stunning. Apo designs so bokeh is smooth with pure colors. You could get a 25, 50, 85 for 3500 euro I think. 82mm threads and 2 pounds each despite being "micro." I think these are bespoke "cinema" designs but miniaturized, but it remains to be seen how the construction holds up. Optically from what I understand they are excellent. Not so sure about the mechanics.

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I love the aspheric FD L lenses and have the 24 1.4L, 85 1.2L and had the 50 1.2L     One thing to look out for with Canon FD lenses is that some of the L primes get an issue with dissolving bearings (more accurately I think it is rubber coatings on brass bearings/rollers disintegrates and only happens on some of the more expensive L lenses that use brass and rubber in the rollers).

My 24 1.4 is fine but my 85 1.2 L has it and that means I hardly use the lens now as much as I love it (it works ok but is very annoying to have such a loose focus throw where the focus does not move until it takes up the slack).      Some people get them rehoused as cine lenses though that adds a lot more expense but might mean you can buy lenses with the problem a lot cheaper if doing that.

The 24 and 85 do have the same size filter thread but the 24 is actually not a huge lens for a 24 1.4 and is I think the smallest and lightest of the type.

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44 minutes ago, noone said:

I love the aspheric FD L lenses and have the 24 1.4L, 85 1.2L and had the 50 1.2L     One thing to look out for with Canon FD lenses is that some of the L primes get an issue with dissolving bearings (more accurately I think it is rubber coatings on brass bearings/rollers disintegrates and only happens on some of the more expensive L lenses that use brass and rubber in the rollers).

My 24 1.4 is fine but my 85 1.2 L has it and that means I hardly use the lens now as much as I love it (it works ok but is very annoying to have such a loose focus throw where the focus does not move until it takes up the slack).      Some people get them rehoused as cine lenses though that adds a lot more expense but might mean you can buy lenses with the problem a lot cheaper if doing that.

The 24 and 85 do have the same size filter thread but the 24 is actually not a huge lens for a 24 1.4 and is I think the smallest and lightest of the type.

Do you know if it's possible to repair the roller bearings? I'd heard about that issue but that's worse than I realized. I imagine there must be nylon or brass bearings that are close enough even if factor parts aren't?

Any way to prevent wear?

How'd you find the 50mm f1.2 matched the other two? It's the newer design and odd duck but I suppose not by much.

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I'm currently putting together a set of the smaller, more uniform Contax Zeiss Lenses, I'm going for the 28mm 2.8, 35mm 2.8, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 2.8. (all MM)

You could add the 135mm 2.8 if you want something longer, its really cheap... Although It can get expensive if you need the wider lenses. 

They might not be a fit for you as you like larger lenses. 

Part of my reasoning for choosing these models is that they are all really well built, fully metal and have long focus throws. They all have a 55mm filter thread, Similar in weight (+-30g) and they are very similar in size. They also all have the same speed. (I'm treating the 50mm as a 2.8, as i've read its slightly soft wide open and the others are quite sharp, so it'll match better.)

So far i've got the 35mm with the 28mm on the way to me and found them under £200 each, I've seen the 50mm go for a similar price and the 85mm go for slightly more but Ill need to get some more work in before I pick those 2 up haha. 

Include Leitax conversion mounts into your budget though as those cheap adapters are as good as useless. Mine are on the way now.

Tilta sell seamless follow focus gears in all sizes for £2.50 each! Haven't tried them yet but can't go wrong at that price.

You could convert them all to 77mm but my plan is to keep them all at 55mm and take advantage of the small size and really cheap filters.

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34 minutes ago, HockeyFan12 said:

Do you know if it's possible to repair the roller bearings? I'd heard about that issue but that's worse than I realized. I imagine there must be nylon or brass bearings that are close enough even if factor parts aren't?

Any way to prevent wear?

How'd you find the 50mm f1.2 matched the other two? It's the newer design and odd duck but I suppose not by much.

I have seen some posts around the internet on fixing the problem though forget where (maybe DP Review?, there is also a long thread on Red User too I think...maybe there?).     There are some lens repair places that will do it too (have not found any here in Australia yet though have not looked much lately).     Probably be too expensive for me and I am not going to try myself.

I have not used any of them for video other than mucking around with using clear zoom to use them as 2x zooms on my A7s.

I loved the 50 1.2 and to me, it was the best by far legacy normal lens I have had out of quite a lot though none of the others was anything special (Pentax K 50 1.2 and Nikon 50 1.8 non D AF lenses were nice though).

I had to sell the 50 and when i could afford it thought about another FD 50 L but went instead with the Sony Zeiss 55 1.8 (which is even better than the 50 L for me).

If I was using them for video more, then i WOULD have got another 50 L instead of the Zony 55. 

I do think they make a lovely set (24, 50 and 85 FD Ls) but I would check the focus throw before buying..    

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Hmm, I just read a review of the Rokinon / Samyang 50mm t1.5 cine and it is actually a very, very good lens.

The whole set can be had for about € 2500,- and the specs, looks, weight and size are actually pretty damn good. Maybe the 50mm is the best of the bunch, so I will do some more research but it's actually looking pretty good at the moment.

Ok, and it doesn't have the 'pro-vibe' that other brands might have, but maybe I should let that go. It's not that I'm working on big feature films anyway.

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My advice is to stay away from the samyangs if you can. The bokeh isn't that great and most of them aren't very good wide open. They're capable lenses but if you can, go for something else. Zeiss ZF are quite cheap now but unfortunately not all of the lenses are great wide open. The milvus line seems to correct that a bit.

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1 hour ago, noone said:

I have seen some posts around the internet on fixing the problem though forget where (maybe DP Review?, there is also a long thread on Red User too I think...maybe there?).     There are some lens repair places that will do it too (have not found any here in Australia yet though have not looked much lately).     Probably be too expensive for me and I am not going to try myself.

I have not used any of them for video other than mucking around with using clear zoom to use them as 2x zooms on my A7s.

I loved the 50 1.2 and to me, it was the best by far legacy normal lens I have had out of quite a lot though none of the others was anything special (Pentax K 50 1.2 and Nikon 50 1.8 non D AF lenses were nice though).

I had to sell the 50 and when i could afford it thought about another FD 50 L but went instead with the Sony Zeiss 55 1.8 (which is even better than the 50 L for me).

If I was using them for video more, then i WOULD have got another 50 L instead of the Zony 55. 

I do think they make a lovely set (24, 50 and 85 FD Ls) but I would check the focus throw before buying..    

I'll ask about that next chance I get. I have a 24mm f2 with a bit of play in the focus ring that I'm probably going to sell for cheap rather than repairing. I wonder if the SSC Aspherical generation has the same problems. Those look even nicer (a bit more vintage I'm told and better build quality) but the price tags are absurd. I wonder if there's a way to prevent wear. Is it from excess use or from neglect?

A shame the 35mm f1.2 is only available with the K35s. From the sound of things the other three are if not identical to very close to K35s. Good to hear the 50mm matches the others, I know the 55mm Aspherical is the classic K35 but 50mm is a better focal length to me.

 

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If you need the lenses to be physically large and have cinema ergonomics, then Rokinon is the only option in that budget range.

However, in my personal experience, Nikon AI primes produce the more traditionally cinematic image compared to Rokinon. Rokinon has strange colors. I have a harder time color correcting Rokinon shots than Nikon ones. I remember watching Duclos tear down the 35mm and his bafflement at finding an orange lens element inside. Doesn't surprise me. It's not that they're terrible, but every time I used them it's an uncanny valley, something is off feeling about the colors. I never had issues with sharpness even wide open, especially not compared to vintage Nikons.

In my opinion, follow focus gears and a step up rings make the Nikons look aesthetically like cinema lenses. If you really wanted to you could even add lens hoods or something like that. My recommendation is to stick with Nikon, save the money, and enjoy beautifully imperfect images, the best build quality out there and the ultimate adaptability.

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