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The best cine lens for filmmakers: lenses designed specifically for videography

Best cine lens
(Image credit: Irix)

What do the best cine lenses have that regular lenses don't? If you’ve been brought up using modern photographic glass, then cine lenses might seem like a step back in time. No autofocus, no image stabilization and often no electronic communication with the camera, so you have to set the desired aperture on the lens itself.

• Read more: How are cine lenses different to regular lenses?

Indeed, the best cine lenses are typically much slower than their photographic cousins, by thanks to their "slower" (or, in some cases, simply "more honest") maximum apertures – more on that in a moment.

Although you can use modern AF lenses on many of the best cinema cameras, and other cameras for filmmaking, a properly designed cine lens offers major advantages for filmmakers, who more often than not use manual focus.

Far from photographic optics, with their short focus throw and electronic fly-by-wire systems, cine lenses have a large focus rotation angle – more than double most stills lenses – for better control and greater ease of achieving critical focus. All-mechanical lens rings control the focus and aperture, and zoom – although primes far outweigh zooms in popularity for the best cine lenses. 

The aperture (iris) ring is stepless and clickless, offering both greater precision and minimal vibration or noise as you alter settings. And instead of f-stops, cine lenses use the more accurate T-stops – which measure the actual light transmission as opposed to simply an equation (which means that some lenses labeled as, for example, f/1.4 don't actually transmit their billed amount of illumination to the sensor or film). 

Cine lenses are made to work with follow focus rigs, so most have a 0.8M standard-sized gear pitch on the focus, zoom, and iris rings. Manufacturers try to design their lenses so these rings are in the same position on all their optics, making swapping much faster and easier. The front of the lenses are usually a consistent size to ensure they work with most standard matte boxes.

Many stills optics exhibit "lens breathing", so when you change focus you also get a change in angle of view almost like you are zooming. The best cine lenses are designed to avoid this by using a different inner focus lens system. And most photographic lenses are not parfocal, meaning that the focal point shifts (and the image even skews) during zooming. Cine zooms are designed to suppress focus shifts and off-axis changes. So let's take a look at a range of the best cine lenses on offer today…

10 best cine lenses for filmmaking

Best cine lenses: Open mount

(Image credit: Zeiss)

1. Zeiss Compact Prime CP.3 19mm T/2.9

The even more compact version of the Compact Prime!

Specifications

Mount: Canon EF, Sony E, Nikon F, Arri PL, MFT
Elements/groups: N/A
Diaphragm blades: 14
Autofocus: No
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 0.3m
Focus rotation: 200 degrees
Filter thread: N/A
Dimensions (WxL): 95x83.7mm
Weight: 860g

Reasons to buy

+
Legendary quality
+
Now more compact

Reasons to avoid

-
Not inexpensive
-
No Fujifilm X-mount

Zeiss set the filmmaking world alight with the stunning quality and compact form of the Compact Prime CP.2 lenses more than a decade ago. But the newer CP.3 optics go one step further, with the same optical quality in most cases but in a far smaller body with improved mechanics and lens coatings. However the 18mm Compact Prime features an all-new optical design over the CP.2 and is an improved lens in every way. One feature handed down from the CP.2 lenses is the interchangeable mounts, allowing a user swap lens mounts for a different fit.

(Image credit: Irix)
The even more compact version of the Compact Prime!

Specifications

Mount: Arri PL, Canon EF, Canon RF, L mount, MFT, Nikon Z, Sony E
Elements/groups: 13 / 11
Diaphragm blades: 11
Autofocus: No
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 0.34m
Focus rotation: 180 degrees
Filter thread: 86mm
Dimensions (WxL): 99x97 - 135x97mm
Weight: 1130-1227g

Reasons to buy

+
Great cinematic rendering
+
Low price, high quality
+
Weather sealed

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be soft at T1.5

The Irix Cine 30mm T1.5 is a formidable cinema lens, both capable in performance and competitive in price. Offering great sharpness, weather sealing, well controlled distortion and breathing, and an enviable T1.5 aperture for low light shooting and background blur, it packs all the punch of a premium cine lens but without the associated cost. Our lab tests reveal that it's a little soft wide open, but it's still more than sharp enough for crisp, detailed footage – and with the kind of bokeh it produces, we'll happily take a little hit in the sharpness stakes. Yet another home run for Irix' fledgling Cine line.

(Image credit: Sigma)

3. Sigma 50mm T1.5 FF High-Speed Prime

A super-sharp lens using Sigma’s Art technology

Specifications

Mount: Sony E, Canon EF, Arri PL
Elements/groups: N/A
Diaphragm blades: 9
Autofocus: No
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 0.4m
Focus rotation: 180 degrees
Filter thread: 82mm
Dimensions (WxL): 95x102mm
Weight: 1295g

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning optical quality
+
Can change lens mounts

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricier than the Art version
-
Not particularly light

With 8K shooting here now, Sigma’s FF High-Speed Prime lenses are ready and capable of keeping up with the latest high-resolution cameras. This full-frame lens uses the optical design of Sigma’s fabled Art range of DSLR lenses, rehomed in a purpose-built cinema style body. That includes using electronic contacts in the mount of Canon and Sony fit versions to provide lens data communication to the camera. The nine-bladed iris produces smooth bokeh, there is a clickless iris, industry-standard gear pitch, and a support foot is built into the water-resistant metal lens body. And the Canon EF and Sony E mount versions can be converted from one to the other by a Sigma service centre.

(Image credit: Samyang)

4. Samyang/Rokinon Xeen 50mm T1.5

An affordable full-frame cinema lens in lots of fittings

Specifications

Mount: Sony E, Canon EF, Arri PL, Nikon F, MFT
Elements/groups: N/A
Diaphragm blades: 11
Autofocus: No
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 0.45m
Focus rotation: 200 degrees
Filter thread: No
Dimensions (WxL): 117.6x121.7mm
Weight: 1375g (in Canon fit)

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable cine lens
+
Full frame coverage

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the sharpest 50mm lens
-
Bigger than some rivals

Branded as Rokinon in some countries and Samyang in others, the Xeen 50mm T1.5 is built as a full-frame cinema lens rather than a modified stills lens. It has internal focus so that the lens does not change size while focusing. It may be at the budget end but is multi-coated for sharp, flare-free images with consistent colour. The lens features dual sided focus and iris scales. The 11-bladed iris provides a rounded aperture for smooth bokeh. The 114mm front diameter allows for quick lens changes when using a matte box and focus accessories, while the focus ring is smooth and precise with just the right amount of feel.

(Image credit: Irix)

5. Irix 150mm T3.0 Macro 1:1 Cine lens

A full-frame cine macro lens that won’t break the bank

Specifications

Mount: Sony E, Canon EF, Arri PL, MFT
Elements/groups: 12/4
Diaphragm blades: 11
Autofocus: No
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 0.35m
Focus rotation: 270 degrees
Filter thread: 86mm
Dimensions (WxL): 97x136mm
Weight: 1105g (in Canon fit)

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth focusing
+
Real 1:1 macro

Reasons to avoid

-
Not a well known cine brand
-
No lightweight

Irix is hitting the cine market with this 150mm T3.0 1:1 Macro which is based on its successful photo lens of the same focal length (the Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly). Designed in Europe but made in Korea, the build is top quality and there is a clever magnetically-attached lens hood. If you want to use a cinema-style matte box, the front of the lens is the standard 95mm size. It’s the focal length and 1:1 Macro capability that makes this lens stand out. At 150mm on a full-frame camera, it’s a medium telephoto but on a Super35 cinema camera it’s into the real telephoto end.

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

6. Fujinon MK50-135mm T2.9

An affordable cinema zoom lens for Sony, Fujifilm and MFT

Specifications

Mount: Sony E, Fujifilm X, MFT
Elements/groups: 22/ 17
Diaphragm blades: 9
Autofocus: No
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 1.2m
Focus rotation: 200 degrees
Filter thread: 86mm
Dimensions (WxL): 85 x 206.3mm
Weight: 980g

Reasons to buy

+
Great optical performer
+
Good value compared to rivals

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for full-frame cameras
-
Limited mount options

Fujifilm has taken its know-how from its very high-end Fujinon cine lenses that are used worldwide to shoot feature films, and reduced the weight, cost, and size to make them more suitable for smaller cameras. The MK50-135mm features a consistent and very fast T/2.9 speed right through the whole zoom range and comes in the Sony E mount, Fujifilm X-mount and MFT mounts, to fit Super35/ APS-C sized sensors only. The 50-135mm is a standout performer and offers a useful range, equivalent to 75-202mm. There is very low distortion and excellent optical performance right across the whole image through the zoom range. 

Best cine lenses: Canon-only

(Image credit: Canon)

7. Canon CN-E 14mm T3.1 L F

The widest full-frame prime to fit full-frame Canon fit cameras

Specifications

Mount: Canon EF
Elements/groups: N/A
Diaphragm blades: 11
Autofocus: No
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 0.2m
Focus rotation: N/A
Filter thread: No
Dimensions (WxL): 118x 94mm
Weight: 1200g

Reasons to buy

+
Incredibly wide angle
+
Fits all full frame Canons

Reasons to avoid

-
No filter thread
-
Canon fit only

Canon seems to have every base covered as far as cine lenses go. From servo-controlled AF optics for camcorders to Sumire primes for a vintage look that are surprisingly not available in Canon mount! But the CN-E range is the standard cine prime range that comes in EF mount for full-frame Canon DSLRs and cinema cameras. This 14mm lens is the widest cine prime you can buy, with stunning sharpness and flare control. Unlike the rest of the CN-E range which all have a 105mm front filter thread, there’s none on the 14mm, so you have to use an external matte box.

Best cine lenses: Sony-only

(Image credit: Schneider-Kreuznach)

8. Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon FF-Prime Cine-Tilt 50mm T2.1

A unique lens that allows you to alter the plane of focus

Specifications

Mount: Sony E
Elements/groups: N/A
Diaphragm blades: 14
Autofocus: No
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 0.5m
Focus rotation: 300 degrees
Filter thread: 95mm
Dimensions (WxL): 100x161.29mm
Weight: 1410g

Reasons to buy

+
Unique in cinema lenses
+
Incredible image quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Takes practice to perfect
-
Only Sony E mount

This top-quality German-made lens allows you to change the plane of focus of your image by tilting the lens plane by up to 4 degrees. Relatively common in tilt-and-shift lenses for stills cameras, it’s the first to bring tilt technology to relatively affordable cinema lenses. When used without tilt, the lens has the same optical quality as Schneider’s conventional Xenon full-frame primes, with virtually no focus breathing and a bokeh designed to be reminiscent of classic Hollywood style thanks to its 14-bladed iris. It’s available as part of a Cine-Tilt set comprising focal lengths of 25mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm and 100mm – all with T2.1 apertures.

(Image credit: Sony)

9. Sony E PZ 18-110mm F/4 G OSS

The modern AF lens that acts like a cine zoom

Specifications

Mount: Sony E
Elements/groups: 18/15
Diaphragm blades: 7
Autofocus: Yes
Stabilizer: Yes
Min focus distance: 0.4m
Focus rotation: N/A
Filter thread: 95mm
Dimensions (WxL): 109.2x168mm
Weight: 1100g

Reasons to buy

+
It has AF and IS
+
Powered zoom

Reasons to avoid

-
Not fully manual
-
Only in E mount

Proper cine lenses are all mechanical, with no autofocus, no image stabilisation and no powered zoom. But Sony’s E PZ 18-110mm F/4 G OSS breaks the mould as it has all those, yet is designed to work like an all-manual cine lens if you want it to. It’s designed for the Super35-sized sensor of Sony’s cinema cameras and APS-C mirrorless but can be used on A7 series mirrorless cameras with a crop. The lens has separate focus, zoom, and iris rings. And the focus has built-in cinema-standard gearing for follow-focus compatibility. Zooming is either manual or by servo on a compatible camera.

Best cine lenses: Micro Four Thirds-only

(Image credit: Veydra)

10. Veydra 25mm T2.2 Mini Prime

The compact cine lens ideal for MFT cameras

Specifications

Mount: MFT
Elements/groups: N/A
Diaphragm blades: N/A
Autofocus: No
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 0.25m
Focus rotation: 300 degrees
Filter thread: 77mm
Dimensions (WxL): 80x100mm
Weight: 498g

Reasons to buy

+
Smallest cine prime
+
Standard gear pitch

Reasons to avoid

-
Can flare
-
Only in MFT mount
-
Hard to find, but Meike 25mm T2.2 is a very similar

If you choose a Micro Four Thirds camera like an Olympus or Panasonic, you don’t want to put a huge lens on the front or else it’s all out of balance. Budget brand Veydra comes to the rescue with its range of MFT lenses like this Mini Prime 25mm T2.2 which is a standard focal length, equivalent to the field of view for a 50mm lens in full frame format. The optics are sharp but can flare when provoked, which can be used for creative effects. Veydra lenses are built to last, using all-metal construction and multi-coated elements. The lens is hard to find, but the remarkably similar Meike 25mm T2.2 is a good and even-more-affordable replacement.

(Image credit: SLR Magic)

11. SLR Magic Anamorphot CINE 352XMFT T2.4

A budget way of true anamorphic shooting for MFT cameras

Specifications

Mount: MFT
Elements/groups: 11/10
Diaphragm blades: 11
Autofocus: No
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 1.1m
Focus rotation: N/A
Filter thread: 82mm
Dimensions (WxL): 100x192.5mm
Weight: 1360g

Reasons to buy

+
Anamorphic for the people
+
an be fiddly to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the sharpest lens
-
Only in MFT mount

For a true widescreen cinematic effect, nothing comes close to the real 2.66:1 aspect ratio of CinemaScope. For this, you need an anamorphic rather than a regular spherical lens, and these have been astronomically expensive until now. SLR Magic offers its Anamorphot CINE 352XMFT T2.4 lens which is a 35mm 2x anamorphic cine lens to fit MFT cameras. This lens allows you record an image with a wider aspect ratio than your sensor's native aspect without cropping the image. It’s then ‘desqueezed’ using in-camera software or in post processing for the full widescreen look with a real 2.66:1 aspect ratio.

Read more filmmaking guides

Best cinema cameras
Best 4K camera for filmmaking
Best video tripods
Best camera sliders
Best on-camera monitors and recorders
Best video editing software

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.

With contributions from