Rokinon just released their new Cine-DS line of cinema prime lenses with color matched optics and uniform focus and iris gears – but what’s the difference between these new lenses and the older lenses in the lineup and which ones will work well for you? Wether you’re just getting into cinematography or you’re tired of wrestling with your L Series or or crummy kit lens, there’s a better solution available. In this post we’ll take a look at the new DS line of lenses from Rokinon and how they’ll work with a range of different cameras.
Let’s start with the basics. The Rokinon Cine Primes are an excellent option for budget cinematographers and those just getting into motion picture work that need a fast, high quality solution. Originally these primes were designed as manual focus photography lenses by a company called Samyang, then released under different brands in different markets, Rokinon being the primary US brand. While you’ll still find Samyang, Bower, Vivitar, and others in the US they are all essentially the same lens. Rokinon remains the most popular US brand of these South Korean prime lenses.
Because of their image quality and low cost, many people adapted them for cinema use. Eventually Samyang/Rokinon caught on and redesigned the lenses to incorporate focus and iris gears as well as a click-less aperture movement. Rokinon released the 24mm, 35mm, and 85mm in the original cinema housing. Additional focal lengths followed such as the 16mm the 14mm and 8mm. This offered a decent set of prime lenses but there was no 50mm in the set at that time. Fast forward to last month and Rokinon finally released a 50mm. There are several other focal lengths, and even variations of some focal lengths, designed for different formats and camera mounts. So now that there’s a good range of primes from 8mm to 85mm, let’s look at a few details when paired with a specific sensor.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet indicating lens format coverage and available mount options.
Rokinon Cine Primes
*In addition to the existing 12mm there’s a new 12mm f/2.8 35mm Full Frame lens that was announced recently that I intentionally left out of this chart because the specs aren’t certain yet and Rokinon hasn’t confirmed that this new 12mm will make it’s way to their Cine line of lenses. Subscribe for updates.
There are only a few 35mm Full Frame (FF) cameras that are popular right now for cinematography. Such as the Sony A7R and A7S, the Canon 5D MkII and MkIII, and the Nikon D810. Luckily, most of the desirable, fast Rokinon Cine Primes will cover the full frame without any problem but there are a few that will not. Several of the Rokinon Cine Primes are only designed to cover a Super 35 format sensor or smaller. Coverage usually becomes an issue in the wider lenses. However, the 14mm does cover a 35mm FF camera so you do still have an ultra wide angle option. I wouldn’t be too bummed about not having that 8mm available since 35mm FF offers a wider field of view than traditional Super 35 and the image quality and practicality of the 8mm isn’t that great anyway. The other primes in the line-up, the 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm will work without any hard vignetting. So coverage isn’t too much of an issue there.
Something else to keep in mind is the camera mount you’re using. There are three primary camera mounts that offer 35mm FF: Nikon F, Canon EF, and as of late, Sony E. The Rokinon Cine Primes are conveniently available in all three of these mounts which means there’s no need for an adapter. If you already have these lenses in a Canon EF mount or Nikon F mount, an adapter can still be used to attach them to a Sony E Mount. If you have the Nikon F mount version, you can adapt them to Canon EF or Sony E. Sadly, if you have the Sony E mount primes, that’s it… You can only use these with on Sony E mount cameras.
While we’re on the topic of adapters, don’t bother pairing the Canon EF mount Rokinons with a Speedbooster if you’re shooting 35mm FF. You’ll be increasing your field of view but you’d have to crop down to APS-C mode which is simply treading water. Don’t bother doing the math, just forget the entire concept unless you’re using an APS-C, Super 35 format sensor.
APS-C or Super 35
The traditional cinema format known as Super 35 is extremely similar to APS-C, depending on which manufacturer you ask. In general, Super 35 (4-perf) is 24.89mm by 18.66mm which is gives a crop factor anywhere between 1.3 and 1.6 (depending on specific camera) when compared to 35mm FF. I really don’t want to get into the whole crop factor debate in this article so I’ll just leave this here. The number of Super 35 cinema camera options currently available is simply staggering. Everything from a Blackmagic Production Camera, to a Canon 7D, to a Sony F55, to an Arri Alexa – all Super 35 format. This has been the most popular motion picture format for over 100 years. So don’t feel bad if you’re not shooting on a massive 35mm Full Frame sensor. You’re using a time-tested format that has worked for every cinematographer except for James Neihouse.
Back to the Rokinons. Almost all of the Rokinon Cine Primes will cover Super 35 sensors without any problems. If you’re shooting strictly Super 35 or smaller formats you have almost the entire range of Rokinon Cine Primes at your disposal including the 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 14mm, 16mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. That’s a pretty complete set of cine primes. The only focal length in the Cine Lens line up that will not cover a Super 35 sensor is the 7.5mm which is designed only for Micro 4/3 sensors. If you feel like you’re missing something by not having the field of view associated with a 35mm FF sensor, you can reach for a speed booster from someone like Metabones to achieve a similar field of view and depth of field as a 35mm FF lens/camera setup. You’ll really only see this option when going from a full frame classic DSLR mount such as Nikon F or canon EF to a mirrorless mount such as the Sony E (NEX) mount. There are several options for the Speed Booster:
The Rokinon Cine Primes really do shine when used on a Super 35 format sensor due to the range of available focal lengths and mount options. Also, considering the lenses that are designed for 35mm FF will really only be using the “sweet spot” of the produced image, shooting on a Super 35 format camera with these lenses makes so much sense. If you’re a Red owner and you’re under the impression that there’s some giant sensor under the scales of your Dragon, you’re mistaken. Even Red’s Dragon 6K sensor is just a tad larger than Super 35. So just about all of the Rokinon Cine Primes will work fine on a Red Dragon at full 6K.
Growing more and more in popularity, the Micro 4/3 mount has become the modern day 16mm film – in a way. The size of the Micro 4/3 sensor is still much larger than old-school 16mm film, but it’s smaller than Super 35 and substantially smaller than 35mm FF. In fact, Micro 4/3 is approximately half the size of 35mm FF. Micro 4/3 isn’t just a sensor size – it’s also a mount standard which can be found on Olympus, Panasonic, and Blackmagic, and other cameras. Because of it’s smaller size and very shallow flange depth, the Micro 4/3 sensor has a distinct advantage over other cameras. When it comes to the Rokinon Cine Primes, just about any mount can be easily and cheaply adapted to Micro 4/3. So if you want to buy the lenses in Canon EF mount but maybe you want to run a Micro 4/3 B Camera, no problem. A simple Canon EF to Micro 4/3 adapter will get the job done.
Notice in the table above that every single Rokinon Cine Prime is available in a native Micro 4/3 mount. While I wouldn’t recommend purchasing the lens in this mount, it’s still an option. If you plan to use these lenses on a Micro 4/3 mount camera, go with the Nikon F or Canon EF mount and use an adapter. Or better yet, like the Sony E mount cameras, the Rokinon lenses can be paired with a Speed Booster to obtain some excellent images with a Micro 4/3 camera:
Photo, Cine, Cine-DS – Which Version?
I’ve been referring to these lenses as the Cine Primes for most of this post. There are several versions of each lens to consider. Originally, these were available as a simple manual focus photo lens. They had a nice clean rubber focus grip and a clicky, plasticy aperture ring. Next came the Cine version which simply exchanged the rubber grip on the focus ring for a nice 32-pitch gear – same for the aperture which lost it’s click-stops for more cinematic operation. So now you have a compact, lightweight cinema prime, focus and iris gears with smooth, click-less manual operation. And finally, as of last month, the Rokinon Cine-DS line. The “DS” in the new version stands for “Dual Scale” which means there is a smart and dumb side scale for operating the lens from either side of the camera, instead of the top side position that the other versions offered. The focus and iris gear positions have been moved along the axis in order to maintain a consistent position from lens to lens making swapping a breeze when using a follow focus or motors. Additionally, each of the Cine-DS lenses is carefully color matched to a certain degree in order to sustain a specific cinematic look throughout the set.
The optics remain the same throughout all of the different versions so don’t expect any sort of increase in image quality from one option to the other. Do expect a price difference between the three series with the plain photo version being the lowest, and the new Cine-DS line being the highest. Rokinon will phase out the middle class Cine line (non-DS) in favor of the new Cine-DS over the course of 2015
Well, here’s the thing… There aren’t really any other options out there that will provide this much bang-for-the-buck. You can achieve much better results with the Zeiss ZF.2 Cine-Mod Primes thanks to their superior optics and far more robust build quality, but some of the Zeiss ZF.2 primes can be up to 4x the cost of a Rokinon Cine Prime. Even the ZF.2 primes have a weak link here an there. The ZF.2 50mm f/1.4 is a bit of a dog compared to the new Rokinon 50mm. But that’s really the only leg-up Rokinon has on Zeiss. There are some other Micro 4/3 options available such as the Voigtlander Nokton Cine-Mod Primes. Better materials and superior build quality in the Noktons – and still more expensive than the Rokinons. There are thousands of used lenses that can be Cine-Moded, but then you get into the hassle of searching for decent lenses, trying to avoid scams and pitfalls associated with such endeavors. The Rokinon Cine Primes really do have a special place in the world of cinema optics. At such affordable prices, pick one up and give it a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.