As with many lens manufacturers, Rokinon tapped into a market they may or may not have anticipated and as a result, their product line evolved along with user demand. The same thing happened with Zeiss when they realized that we were modifying their ZF line of lenses for cinema use. Back at headquarters in Germany, a quick visit to the engineering department and, BAM! Compact Primes. So what’s the difference between the Rokinon Cine, Cine DS, and Xeen primes? Is one better than the other? Why the big price difference? Should I sell my Cine lenses and get the DS lenses? Let’s take a more in-depth look at the line and try to answer these questions.Let’s get to it! First a bit of history on the Rokinon brand. Rokinon is the US brand under which it’s parent company, Elite Brands, sells these lenses. The manufacturer of the lenses is Samyang, based in South Korea. Let’s get something out of the way up front… Rokinon and Samyang products are the same, but with different badges. Think of it as Toyota and Lexus. In Japan, there is no Lexus, just Toyota. In the US, consumers were offered the same cars, but with a Lexus badge. Same great product – different name badge. All clear now? Good. Let’s move on.
Rokinon’s photo lenses were the foundation of their family. When cinematographers found these inexpensive, manual operation lenses – it was a perfect match for the hot new Canon 5D MkII (remember that camera?). These original photo lenses had pretty good specs, fully manual controls, a variety of lens mounts, and were readily available. At the time you could find these lenses branded with Samyang, Rokinon, Bower, Vivitar, and several other names – again, all the same product, with plastic housings and DSLR mounts, but different branding. If you don’t care about the proceeding cine versions and want to save a few bucks (and I do mean only a few…) then go ahead and reach for the regular photo versions, links here: 10mm F2.8 | 12mm F2.8 | 14mm F2.8 | 16mm f/2.0 | 24mm F/1.4 | 35mm f/1.4 | 50mm F1.4 | 85mm F1.4 | 100mm F2.8 | 135mm F2.0
Eventually the industry embraced the affordable primes as a viable tool for cinematography. Duclos Lenses began offering the Rokinon primes with their Cine-Mod which removed the click-stops in the aperture, added a seamless 32-pitch focus gear, and a standardized 80mm front ring with 77mm filter thread. With the success of these lenses combined with the Cine-Mod, Samyang and Rokinon took notice. The housing designs were revised to incorporate standard 32-pitch gears, and updated, click-less iris ring with measured T-stops in favor of f/ stops – both excellent upgrades that made them much more usable in a motion picture environment. The plastic body, chassis design and optics remained unchanged.
The Rokinon Cine primes became the most affordable cinema lenses on the market with a range of mounts including Canon EF, Nikon F, Micro 4/3, and eventually Sony E mount as well. The Rokinon Cine primes continued to prove their worth on set in tight spaces, harsh environments, light-weight drones, and ultra portable gimbal rigs. But users weren’t satisfied. After all, everyone’s a critic. Right? Rokinon took this feedback and ran with it, revising the Cine line once again. The Cine DS line was introduced which added a scale to the “dumb side” of the lens giving the Rokinon primes a Dual Scale (hence DS). The other primary upgrade was the position of the focus and iris gears. With the older Cine lens, the gear position was different on almost every lens. With the Cine DS line, the focus and iris gears are all the exact same distance from the lens mount. This was a great upgrade because it meant that you could swap a lens on set and not have to fiddle with your follow focus or motor position. All of the Cine DS lenses were interchangeable in terms of gear position. The coatings were revised to provide a cleaner, more controlled image and color matching was refined to provide a more consistent look across the line. You can find all the Rokinon Cine DS primes over at Duclos Lenses.
Now we’ve gone through the original photo lenses, the Cine primes, and the Cine DS primes. The Rokinon primes have maintained the same plastic housing construction, internal mechanical chassis and optical design up until now. But once again, cinematographers asked for more. Throughout the life of the Rokinon primes, I would constantly get asked the same question… “Can you convert the Rokinon primes to PL mount?”. After the millionth email asking us to perform this conversion, we began looking into what it would take to install a proper PL mount. We were cut short when we heard rumblings of a new product that Rokinon would be announcing – a prime lens with an aluminum alloy housing, proper PL mount, and a shockingly affordable price tag.
Just as the rumor mill reported, The Rokinon Xeen primes were announced to the delight of cinematographers looking for a more durable, professional solution while still respecting their budget. The Xeen primes still maintain the same optical design as the rest of the Rokinon primes, but the housings are vastly more robust and reliable. When I first heard about the potential of a proper housing from Rokinon, I’ll admit, I had concerns about the accuracy and consistency of products coming out of South Korea. But I was very wrong. I was very surprised by the quality of the machine work and the consistency of products that began arriving in our shop. Our usual inspections of incoming equipment showed that these new housings were well designed, machined, and assembled. The focus and iris movements were smooth and uniform. The flange depth was spot-on. Everything came together quite nicely. At the time of writing this, Rokinon has only released the 24mm T1.5, 50mm T1.5, and 85mm T1.5 Xeen prime. However, the 35mm T1.5 is due out very soon with additional focal lengths to follow.
To summarize, all of the Rokinon products, current or past, feature the same optical design with minor improvements to anti-reflective coatings and color matching, but continue to upgrade their body/housing throughout their evolution. Will you see a big difference in the image quality between any of the different Rokinon primes? Probably not. Will the Xeen primes be more useable on set than the Cine DS primes? Absolutely. But as it is with lenses, the right tool for the job may not always be the newest or most expensive option. For more information on the Rokinon primes, check out another post we did a while back > Are Rokinon Primes Right For You?