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Hey Guys,

I'm looking to increase the visual quality of my work by upgrading glass. Right now, I'm primarily working with Canon stills glass (24mm, 50mm, 85mm, 70-200mm), but i want to get a new lens set to take me to the next level. Just for discussions sake, my budget for each lens would be anywhere from $2-5,000. Do you guys have any suggestions? I'm open to either primes or zooms.

Thanks,

Sam

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What do you feel is missing with the lens selection you have now? Focal length, fast aperture, sharpness and contrast, maybe better manual focusing mechanics? What is your total budget for the whole lens set?

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Hey Satsuki,

All of my lenses are pretty fast (f1.4-2). Also, I have a good focal range (24mm; 30mm; 50mm; 85mm; 70-200mm). I guess I'm really just looking for an upgrade in mechanics/build quality, less lens breathing, and definitely more sharpness and natural contrast. I'm pitching the new purchase to my boss; however, I don't see us spending more than $4,000 per lens.

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I'm thinking it would be nice to have upgraded primes in a wide and medium (normal) focal length, while reserving a high quality zoom for the telephoto range. Any thoughts between cine and still lenses? I'm currently exploring Zeiss CP.2s, Canon CN-Es and Schneider Xenons.

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The reason I asked about the total lens budget is because if you were looking to get a set of 4-5 primes, then you might be able to instead get one nice zoom that covers the same range for the same price. Other factors would be the type of lens mount you need and which cameras you are going to use them on (larger sensors with no cropping features will limit your options).

 

Mainly though, the most important consideration is the kind of shoots will you be doing. If you're primarily doing run and gun and interviews, you'll probably be better served with a zoom (or two). If you're doing gimbal work, then you'll definitely want primes. If you'll be shooting often in existing light with a less sensitive camera, you'll definitely want fast apertures. If you're doing narrative with a 1st AC then you definitely want cinema lenses with gears and accurate focus marks. So it all depends.

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Aren't the Schneider Xenon FFs about that sort of price?

 

I just had the Veydra mini-primes, too. Not as much as our correspondent wants to spend, but mechanically nice.

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Aren't the Schneider Xenon FFs about that sort of price?

 

Yes, they are just about $4k US each. They have a noticeable amount of chromatic aberration and distortion with a medium amount of contrast, but are consistent in look across the set. Comes as either EF or PL, not switchable.

 

The Zeiss Compact Primes are have more contrast due to the modern Zeiss coatings but vary in stop and performance across the range. Large housings but very lightweight. Don't know if I would refer to them as a 'set' as they're kinda all over the place. The Xenon mechanics feel better to me. EF/PL user switchable, though really best done by a lens technician.

 

There are also the Sony Cinealta primes - I've only used the Mk1's which are have horrible mechanics and plastic-rubber feel but I've heard the current Mk 3's are actually very good, both optically and mechanically. From what I recall of the Mk1, the look was kinda meh - sharp but without much personality. Looks like B&H is selling a 6 lens PL set for $13k US.

 

I wouldn't use primes for primarily run and gun shooting or interviews though, but that's just me. There's a guy selling a pair of used Optimo DPs (16-42, 30-80) in the classifieds here for $25k. If you're ok with PL mount and Super35 sensor coverage, that would be my recommendation. Lots of big films shot on these lenses, so they're quite versatile. And they will likely hold decent resale value because they are well known and respected lenses.

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Do you want one zoom for $4000 (which will be difficult) or one zoom instead of a lens set of six, so you may have $20-30k to play with?

 

P

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Hey Phil,

I was thinking one zoom for $4,000... or the best option within a few thousand dollars of that mark.

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That's kind of a hole in current availability. The only zooms that exist for that money are stills types of the sort you aren't that interested in.

 

P

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Were you only planning on getting one prime? $4k cine zooms don't really exist yet. You could look into rehoused stills zooms done by Chinese companies like GL Optics. I've only played with them at trade shows, but as far as I know the only thing avail in that price range.

 

The other thing you could do if you are really set on an A7S MkII is to go with Sony's E-Mount autofocus stills zooms. I've seen some impressive gimbal work done with that combination. You won't be able to use them on any other cameras, but the autofocus in video mode seems to work decently well. Have not used it myself, but I have to say I'm intrigued.

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For run & gun, loosely shot, grab whatever you can style work, I really agree with Satsuki and Adrian, cine zooms are really the only way to go. But they aren't cheap. The Fujinon 19-90mm and Canon 17-120mm really seem like the most appropriate options for that style of work on S35mm sensors, but I doubt they fall within your budget.

 

Prime-wise, at the moment we're really spoilt for choice (for the first time in history) in the affordable end of the cine-lens market. Zeiss CP.2s, Canon CN-Es, Schneider Xenons, Sony Cinealtas, Rokinon Xeens all seem to offer solid optics in proper mechanical housings. None really stand out from the others as they all have their own little quirks and weaknesses here and there. But a set of any of them will offer nice images and the kind of mechanics you need to work smoothly and efficiently on a professional set.

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cine zooms are really the only way to go

 

Obvious as it is to most, I think it's worth pointing out the difference between cine and broadcast zooms in this sort of context. Cinema-oriented lenses tend to have excessive focus rotation and may be too big and heavy for running around with, making even quite heavy cameras rather nose-heavy (they showed Amira with a Fuji 19-90 on it, which was very front heavy, and that's not a light camera). Put it on an FS7 and it's a case of "nice camera you've got dangling from that lens."

 

Broadcast zooms intended for 2/3" video cameras, in B4 mount, tend to be smaller, lighter, faster, cheaper, and with a greater zoom range, especially with optical extenders. 19-90 is only 4.7:1. Broadcast zooms go up to 18-20:1. They also tend to have considerably poorer optical characteristics, but then again, those're the breaks. You can get adaptors to put them on modern big-chip cameras. The adaptors themselves can be expensive and you usually have to operate with the extender in, meaning you don't get the speed, but it can be cheaper than a Fuji or Canon CN and usable for some sorts of work. A decent B4 broadcast zoom, even used, will be US$10k plus, but that's a lot less than a 19-90.

 

There's not so much a gap in the market here as there is a yawning void. With the B4 zoom you're paying a lot of money for optics that you don't need and which sap a lot of light. The world needs a reasonable 8:1-or-so zoom intended for single-chip cameras. It wouldn't need to be the best lens Fuji or Canon had ever made, it doesn't need to be blindingly fast, and it doesn't need an epically long long end, but it does need to be about US$10k.

 

Currently it does not exist.

 

P

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Obvious as it is to most, I think it's worth pointing out the difference between cine and broadcast zooms in this sort of context. Cinema-oriented lenses tend to have excessive focus rotation and may be too big and heavy for running around with,

 

Heh heh! I like this! :)

 

Phil you are totally into the shoulder mount TV News camera workflow of old but your outlook on all this is refreshing!

 

Freya

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There are also the Sony Cinealta primes - I've only used the Mk1's which are have horrible mechanics and plastic-rubber feel but I've heard the current Mk 3's are actually very good, both optically and mechanically. From what I recall of the Mk1, the look was kinda meh - sharp but without much personality. Looks like B&H is selling a 6 lens PL set for $13k US.

 

YES! I know what you mean about the look and actually the latest versions still have that kind of look. I actually really like them because I think there is something oddly really pastel-y about them in an strange way. Especially anything even slightly out of focus. Normally I hate bland lenses with no personality but these seem to take it so far that it kind of IS their personality. Only trouble is that I wouldn't want to live with them as my only set of lenses. It would be like only being able to do watercolour paintings. However I'd much rather shoot with the Cine Alta lenses than the Zeiss CP2's which seem to make almost everything look a bit horrible.

 

Freya

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There are the old cooke zooms which'll sometimes go for around that price

 

:)

I'm all about this, but the size of those Zooms is something else!

They are the Elephant Zooms!

Definitely not run and gun!

Unless we are talking Blunderbuss style elephant gun.

 

Freya

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Run and gun I think you need a zoom for sure.. no two ways about it.. and basically you have to shell out the folding green or go with stills lenses.. B4 ENG will never cut it..

 

I have the Canon CN7.. yes its heavy and thats the price you pay.. but its great for R & G.. the focus is only 180 degrees unlike the Cabrio..and the focus,zoom iris are better placed for hand held.. the next thing you have to buy is an easy rig to save your back !!

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Phil you are totally into the shoulder mount TV News camera workflow of old

 

If I was that into it, I'd still be doing it!

 

The point is that a lot of people seem to buy low cost big chip cameras "because that's what big movies use", then run around with it and shoot run-and-gun because that's the sort of work that's actually available to them. Watching people trying to shoot what's basically ENG with a 5D on a shoulder rig with stills lenses is just horribly painful to behold. ENG-style setups are simply appropriate for that situation. There's no rose-tinted nostalgia at work here.

 

That said, things like the Canon CN series are simply never going to be realistic for the majority of people. I know a couple of people who own Cabrios, and they're all doing things like behind-the-scenes work on huge movies and that sort of stuff where it can be paid for. Certainly in London nobody is looking to pay documentary or news people the equivalent of a second personal day rate for the lens. It's not about my personal decision, here - could I get a £25,800 (at CVP) loan to buy a CN7, probably, but that would just be a completely asinine thing to do in the market that exists in London and, most of the time, in most other parts of the world. If that's your world, Robyn, great, more power to you, but that is not the planet on which most of us live.

 

I propose the adapted B4 solution because there are so few alternatives, not because it's particularly good. It isn't particularly good - I know, I've done it, and it isn't even that cheap. But if it's that or some utterly revolting non-parfocal Tamron EF lens with eight degrees of focus rotation and a long end at f/5.6, which in reality is sometimes the choice that's available, I'll take the B4 and the adaptor.

 

On the upside, some B4 lenses react far better than others, presumably based on tiny implementation details of how their relay groups work. It's necessary to try various lenses, adaptors and cameras together to find a set of parts that works nicely. It isn't always the best, most expensive B4 lenses that work best, and it is entirely possible that some older, standard-def zooms work better than the ultra-expensive HD stuff. It's not a completely stupid idea. Yes, it does cost you some (well, quite some) corner sharpness, but that may be the least of your concerns if you can't get the thing pointed in the right direction without the use of triple-jointed wrists.

 

P

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:)

I'm all about this, but the size of those Zooms is something else!

They are the Elephant Zooms!

Definitely not run and gun!

Unless we are talking Blunderbuss style elephant gun.

 

Freya

Yeah forget 'run and gun', I like 'cuss and blunderbuss'!

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Actually I was less implying nostalgia and more experience and I very much liked your take on it Phil. Living in the UK I totally got where you were coming from. I mean what's the point of long focus throws if there is no-one to pull focus!

 

I have 2 or 3 b4 lenses that I intend to test myself on the varicam at some point.

 

Thought your take on it all was refreshing.

 

Freya

Edited by Freya Black

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