Are cinema lenses worth the extra buck? Caleb Wojcik and Greg Farnham think they are and they’ve made a YouTube video about why they think that. In their video, they discuss the reasons why you would want to rent or buy a cinema lens over a still photography lens.
If you have never used a cinema lens before and have only used still lenses, Wojcik says that the first thing you’ll probably notice when using a cinema lens, besides the size difference, is its gears. “It’s usually geared for both pulling focus and changing the aperture,” Wojcik explains. With still lenses, most of their apertures are controlled electronically by your camera, only being able to adjust it by increments of 1/3 an f-stop. With a cinema lens, you can be more precise, being able to change the aperture manually and more smoothly.
Cinema lens also typically have less focused breathing, which is essentially how much in in your field of view. “On a still lens, you’ll see more or less visible in the frame, which can be quite distracting while wracking focus between two objects,” says Wojcik. “On a cinema lens, you’ll get less or no focus breathing on the edges of your frame when changing focus.”
“The focus ring on a cine lens also has built-in hard stops at infinity and at the closest focus distance,” explains Farnham. “This makes it much easier to get that critical focus which is even more and more important when you’re filming in 4K, 8K and even beyond.”
In addition, cinema lenses also have more blades on their irises, ultimately making bokeh ends more rounder.
Another major difference between cinema and still lenses are T/stops and F/stops. T-stops are basically more accurate in determining how much light is actually being transmitted into your camera’s sensor. You can learn more about the difference between T/stops and F/stops from Tony & Chelsea Northrup.
Wojcik says that other benefits found with cinema lenses are usually “better controlled controlled chromatic aberration, which is that color fringing you may see on the edges during a bright scene, less barrel distortion at a wider angle, and more consistent edge to edge sharpness.”
One drawback of cinema lenses is that they are larger, meaning that they are heavier than typical still lenses. So they may be more difficult to travel with. Also, they are much more expensive; They typically cost four to five times more than a still.
Also, if you are a photographer/videographer, you may find that shooting on a still lens is much more effective than having to have carry around different lenses so you can switch between photography and video.
Ultimately, you have to decide what is best for your production. You have to take into consideration how much you have to spend and what is needed to complete your project the way you want it to be completed. Cinema lenses offer a lot to videographers, but shooting with a still lens may be completely fine with you and that may save you a good few thousands bucks.