Sony F3 Lens Options

Sony is just starting to roll out their anticipated F3 camera. A Super 35 sized sensor in a mall, lightweight package. I try to stick to knowing a lot about lenses so you can hear more about the camera from Jason Wingrove’s real world take. But I will tell you all about your lens options when shooting with an F3. I’ll start with the most logical…
The camera comes with a PL mount. PL mount is the standard mount used by just about every non-panavision camera in the motion picture industry. This means that you have a slew of premium cinema lenses at your disposal and that’s how it should be. However, if you are on a budget and can’t afford an Angenieux 24-290mm Optimo then there are a few other options available. I know there are quite a few people making the jump to an F3 from a DSLR like a 5D MkII or a 7D and probably have some Nikon lenses or Leica lenses that you adapted to use on your Canon. Those are still great lenses and will perform just fine on an F3. Of course this is all under the assumption that real cine lenses aren’t an option. I want to make sure that is very clear from the beginning. There is no replacement for cine lenses like Zeiss, Angenieux, Cooke, etc. But there are many options out there for alternative lenses. A favorite of the DSLR revolution has been the Zeiss ZF lenses. They use great glass with advanced coatings and fully manual mechanics. If you don’t know why these still lenses are well suited for motion picture, read through Still Vs. Cine. Your set of Zeiss ZF lenses is sitting around gathering dust because you purchased a PL mount camera. No worries. There is a company called MTF Services that is making a kit to change your F3 to Nikon mount. I haven’t dealt with them personally but the mount looks decent. Now you can use your Zeiss ZF lenses as well as any other Nikon mount lens in your arsenal. The other common route the DSLR community has chosen is Leica’s R series lenses. The selection of prime lenses is great and the glass is simply stunning. Unfortunately there isn’t a Leica mount available for the F3 as far as I know. But there is a Leica to Nikon adaptor for Leica lenses that would solve the problem with the same kit from MTF Services. Yes, you’re converting your Leica mount to Nikon and your Sony mount to Nikon but everything is solid and as long as you take care of your equipment and have it checked frequently, you should be able to maintain the proper flange depth. The benefit to using still photo lenses with a camera like the Sony F3 is their size and weight. There are usually two major components on a hand held rig; the camera and the lens… The Sony F3 is already light enough for what it is. Choosing an appropriate lens makes all the difference in portability and ease of use. If you want to ditch the stills lenses and go for the more professional application, take a look at other sets of prime lenses.

Cooke Panchro

Cooke recently released their Cooke Panchros, a throwback to their original Cooke Speed Panchros that were very common back in the 1930’s and are still well known today. Cooke went on to make other great lenses like the S-4s and now the 5is. These were top notch cinema lenses. But they left behind all of the smaller productions that couldn’t afford a set of premium lenses. They filled the gap with their new Panchro lenses. A bit slow in the aperture at T2.8 but acceptable to say the least. The whole set is matched in speed and color reproduction. Small and compact compared to todays standards, the Panchros should do just fine for almost any application other than low-light. If you’re thinking about using Cooke Panchros but think they will be too slow because of low light, then your grip dept. isn’t doing their job.

Sony PL mount primes. 35, 50, 85mm

You might be asking “What about the PL mount primes that Canon is offering with the camera?”… Sony is offering three PL mount prime lenses (35,50,85mm) for an additional $6,500 (I think) that would work just fine on the F3. I haven’t had a chance to formally test these Sony primes but I’ve handled and used the 35mm on an F3 and I believe they will leave a lot to be desired for professionals. Think of it as the kit lens that comes with a DSRL. It gets the job done… But you can do better. I’ll reserve my final judgment for when I can put the Sony PL lenses through their paces and see what they can really do in a proper test environment as well as real work application. Who knows, they may surprise me. I can go on and on about all the cool PL mount primes you can now use with a Sony F3 but that would take several pages of writing that I simply don’t have the will to write. I’ll finish by going over one other option that I think suits the Sony F3 very well.

Angenieux Rouge zoom lens.


Angenieux makes an excellent line of lenses they call Optimo. This line includes their amazing 24-290mm, 17-80mm, 28-76mm, and 15-40mm. All of these lenses set the standard for cinema zooms over the past decade and truly are works of art. Angenieux set the bar so high they left the little guys at the bottom and needed to do something to put their glass in the hands of the creative newcomers. Along came their Rouge series. Originally aimed at those using a RED camera since they were digital only lenses. This meant they can’t be used on a reflex mirror camera since the rear element sticks too far into the camera body. The Rouge series consists of two lenses that are direct descendants of their Optimo parents, the 30-80mm and the 16-42mm. Distinguished by their protruding rear element and signature red rubber grips, the Rouge lenses perform just as well as their pricier counterparts, at a fraction of the cost. A good option, maybe one of the best options for a lightweight, professional cinema zoom lens… In the world.

44 thoughts on “Sony F3 Lens Options

  1. Hello Matthew, I purchased some lenses from you a while back, 3-Zeiss Zf.2 lenses, 85mm, 50mm f1.4 and a 21mm all with Duclos conversions. I also purchased a Nikor 17-35mm also with the Duclos conversion. I have since sold my 5D mark II camera and waiting on a new Sony F3 with Arri MMB-1 matt box and accessories along with an Arri MFF Follow Focus.
    I’m going to need an adaptor for the F3 so I can use my lenses, everyone seems to be in agreement that the MTF adaptor is the one to go with; I read that the adaptor will increase magnification by a factor of 1.5, I assume the adaptor is cropping the 35mm sensor some, is that true?
    I also read that you are now selling front adaptor rings for the 21mm Zeiss, what is the OS diameter of the ring and how much does it cost.

    Thanking you in advance

    Steve Cocklin

  2. Great article, but I would never buy the Angenieux Rouge lenses. On a recent commercial shoot with the Red Epic, the chromatic aberration and distortion were painfully visible–one model had a full on purple halo.

    I believe it was the 16-42 that was the worst, but all three were just unflattering, barely decent. If these lenses were $10,000 it might make sense, but at $20,000, it just doesn’t make much sense to buy.

    Has anyone used the Zeiss 15-45? At T2.6, color-matched, lightweight but still very much a professional size, plus interchangable PL, EF and F mounts, it seems a lot more attractive.

    1. Sounds like you had a poorly adjusted lens. These lenses, while professional and robust, do require meticulous maintenance.

  3. I read that Angenieux makes an excellent range of extenders for the bigger brothers – Optimo 24-290mm, 17-80mm, 28-76mm, and 15-40mm.
    Do you know if they intend producing extenders for the rouge lens?

    1. Not likely since the rear glass on the Rouge lenses protrudes so far. The glass in an extender would surely interfere with the glass of the Rouge lenses.

  4. Hi im making a documentary about surf now… and we need a big lenses like 300mm or 400mm or more to use with SONY F3k.. to

    Wich “low” cust lenses in market do you recommed to use with this camera…. Is possible use a Cannon 100-400 ? I need adaptors and it exists?


    1. A good option for a telephoto lens on the F3 would be one of the older Nikkor prime lenses like the 200mm or 300mm. They are fully manual and make great images. They can be a bit tricky to find and a re a bit heavy, but are fast and built like tanks. We have a few for sale in our used lens section at already PL mounted.

  5. Hi Matthew,

    I shoot mostly docs, and I’m thinking of pairing an F3 with a Cooke 18 – 100 for interviews. But I’m thinking of getting a few Leica R lens for hand held work–and sending them to Duclos for modification. Are there any R lens that you recommend in particular for conversion? Do the ROM lenses work, or would I need to go with an older series?

    1. Depends on your needs. The Leica R family of lenses have different series like Summilux, Summicron, Elmarit, Etc… These generally refer to the speed of the lens and the quality. If you need fast lenses then get the Summilux. If you’re looking for quality, go for the Elmarit. Or mix and match as needed. 🙂

  6. Matthew, I assume that the old Canon 8-64 would not have enough coverage for the Sony PMW F-3? I always liked the quality of this lens.

    1. Nope. The 8-64mm covers a S16mm image circle. The F3 is a S35mm image circle. Much too small to work on an F3. Too small even to work on an AF100.

  7. Hi Mark,
    how will RED Pro 17-50mm T2.9 compare to A.. Rouge 14-40?
    Thanks Mark.


  8. hey if im using the 24-290 angenieux 17-80mm …i need the extender 1.4 to cover the super 35 sensor…right?????

  9. I am looking to get into the F3, and I suppose my Canon HJ9x5.5 is out? This is an eng zoom for 2/3rds inch video sensor. What lens would I need to best mimic the flexibility of documenting verite? Im assuming that I would require a follow focus and after market shoulder mounts to be able to operate comperably to my ENG zoom? Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

    1. Hmm. Not sure there. To mimic ENG lenses I would go with some sort of Nikon lens with an adapter. You can get something like the 18-200mm Nikon which certainly isn’t the best quality, but will give you that great range of an ENG lens.

  10. I am considering selling my Sony PmW 350 and purchasing twp f3’s instead for in the field tv work I have about 12 old nikon ftn lenses from the 60’s that are in excellent working condition. All manual. would these work well and could they use the zoom rocker like ENG.

    Does this makes sense or do I need real cine lenses.


    1. did you find this possible? My experience is that the only way to work with the Nikons is with the MTF adaptor (clumsy but decent enough) and there is only a FIZ for zoom control. Find any other solutions?

      1. Well, I may convert a few of the primes for use on the F3 until I could get Panchros. But, overall I am considering a set of Zeiss Compact Primes instead. If they were available a few Cooke Panchros would be preferred, but the Zeiss look excellent.

        So, no… I don’t yet have a solution chosen.

        1. Hi Rick, Where are you located? I need to get a PMW 350 camera to match the other two people that I shoot with. I have an EX-3 but it is about a stop less sensitive. I don’t need a PMW 400 which is the replacement for the 350. I have an F3 which is nice but not suitable for the type of work that I still do: event recording and run n gun shooting.

          I’m in Toronto. Where are you? Peter

          1. Hi Rick, The 350 is probably the most sensitive camera that Sony made for ENG work. Is there no demand for that type of work where you are?

            Most people want DSLR images now but t’s too hard to keep things things in focus.

            Would you consider a trade of some sort for my F-3. It has a PL adapter for Nikon lenses which I use. Rokinon makes very nice cine lenses but you could use any glass.

            Let me know what you think. We each could get more suitable tools for our work. Peter Mykusz

          2. Thanks. Good luck. I’ll still be looking but I’m in no hurry. Peter

          3. No, I’m willing to buy one. I need to match to the other cameramen that I work with. I tried other cameras like a PDM 500 but it was not perfect.

            My friend bought one from a dealer and that model is OK for my work as I don’t need 4:2:2 or 50 Mbps. It’s a discontinued model but in my opinion, one of the best cameras that Sony made.

            I also have a PDW 530 which is SD that I will be selling for $2,000.00. Let me know what you would be OK with in terms of price. Peter

          4. OK, will check out what they are selling for and let you know. And, I agree with your assessment on the cameras. Dynamite low light and sharp as a razor. I even backed it off a little so it was softer.

  11. HI Matthew
    I own an F3 and want a wide zoom for documentary work.
    How you would rate the optical performance of the Red Pro 17-50 mm zoom.
    How would you compare it to the Nikon AF-S 24-70mm 2.8G ED?
    Basically am wondering whether to send the latter in to you for a conversion or to buy the Red? I know the red works better mechanically because it is geared and has a full focus circle, but how do you rate it optically?
    Thanks alot

    1. Sorry for the late reply…. The RED 17-50mm lens will work better for cinema since it has all manual controls. The 24-70mm Nikon will certainly provide better image quality but with it’s lack of expanded focus control and aperture ring, it’s not very usable for cinema.

  12. Matthew,

    Have you had a chance to put the F3K kits lenses through their paces yet? The price sure seems right. Are they good enough for general commercial work? The I can simply rent lenses when desired.


    1. Sorry for the delayed reply… Stephen, The F3 Kit lenses are really just starter lenses. They will easily get the job done and there’s no reason not to try them out. But eventually they will have their limitations and you’ll find yourself wanting the next lens up.

  13. I know the ZF2 lenses are optically identical to the CP2 – they are also both full frame lenses – so both crop on the F3 – but i dont get why the ZF2s are faster lenses (F1.4 as apposed to T2 for CP2) – the difference between F and T stops would only be small like T0.3 difference

    The ZF2 seems like a better choice with the F3 – 1/4 of the cost – u can still put focus gears on them – only benefit of CP2 is front element doesnt move and has proper cine housing with gears – Im wondering if the CP2s breath better than the ZF2? Does anyone know? The ZF2 lenses seem to breath quite a bit

    It seems everyone uses CP2s or ZF2s for primes and an 80-200 Nikon DSLR lens for the tight end but there doesnt seem to be anything good choice for the 20-90mm range that would work well – Cant find any DSLR that has that range, constant F stop, Internal Focus, proper fluid manual focus and an external iris ring – seems u kind of need to get a proper super 35mm cine PL lens

    Does anyone know anything about the Red 18-85mm?
    Is there a better choice?
    I cant afford anything more than 5k or 6k USD

    1. Hi Tony,

      I have both the CP.1 set and the ZF lenses in the same focal lengths.
      While I have not used the ZFs with a converter on my F3, the CPs are amazing lenses for the money and performed spectacularly when I tested them on a high end projection setup as well as in my use of them on dozens of jobs.

      To answer your question about which to go with, bear in mind that both contain the same line of optics, however with the CPs you are paying for rehousing, and a very well designed housing at that – although I’ve got no complaints on the ZFs build quality. Both models are tight on the focus so it’s gonna result in some torquing of the lens for racks and long pulls so be sure to have a steady tripod.

      Frankly if you are not committed to PL lenses for the long run or want lenses for run & gun vs. cinema production, go with the ZFs and let Duclos mod them for you. The CPs have some weight to them and they’re barrel is much wider than most primes so it’s not great for unsupported hand holding for more than a minute or two.

      The ZFs have similar weight to older Zeiss MK Cine lenses which were quite dainty.

      The only two drawbacks for the ZFs are that the focus will be reversed when using a FF without a reversing gear and they will have dissimilar barrel lengths so readjustment of your mattebox may be necessary.

    2. The CP.2 lenses are the exact same optical design as the ZF.2 lenses with the exception of the aperture blades. The aperture in the CP.2 is a more round, cinematic style aperture. They also limited the maximum aperture throughout the CP.2 range in order to keep the lens set constant which meant taking the lowest common denominator, except for the 18mm. The other reason they did this was to make room for their Zeiss CP.2 Super Speeds which do not have a limited diaphragm and will open all the way to T1.5. As for zoom lenses, take a look here:

    1. Take a look at an adapter from OptiTek. It’s well made and allows direct control of the apatite even if a ring is nit available. Plus they are going to Harv an electronic version.

      OptiTek Inc.
      596 Westminster Street
      Thousand Oaks‎ California‎ 91360

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