Cine lenses represent the evolution of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Lens manufacturers are converting lenses designed to capture high-end still images into cine lenses. And, digital filmmakers are benefiting from the superior optics and more compact sizes to take on location.
Here’s the best part:
Cine allows you to get really sharp still images and 4K movie clips for a very reasonable price.
I recently had the Sigma 50mm T1.5 ($3,499.00 on Amazon) with me on an assignment for Digital Photo Pro in London. The purchase price of this lens is remarkable. Previously, this type of lens would typically be a rental for an independent or freelance photographer. But with the Sigma 50mm T1.5, the price makes it attainable for purchase and now you have the freedom to run and gun with it when it’s attached to a body like the popular a7S II ($2,598.00 on Amazon)…it’ll all fit in a backpack.
So, I did just that. With the compact size, I was able to shoot b-roll at a bike shop, a race, and all around London.
Here’s the backstory: mirrorless disruption in the DSLR market is shaking up the digital cinema market too. I wanted to test this out and— I’m one to push myself. Therein lies my self-assigned challenge for the article: shoot with a cine lens.
The assignment was not without its hurdles. A cine lens, like the Sigma 50, is entirely manual with rings for focus and aperture. Attaching a Sigma EF lens to a Sony has been an effective pairing for many shooters. Sigma’s MC-11 EF to E mount adapter isn’t limited to Sony, however. It also works seamlessly with Canons.
I’ve previously written about shooting with a Leica and in black and white. That combination demands attention. If I’m working with a monopod, I’ll need excellent body stabilization or I’ll use a tripod—there’s so much data being throughput. Disclosure: I may have run-and-gunned this story, but did not point and shoot.
Designed to record continuous motion, a cine lens allows you to change the aperture, focal length, or focus while recording, without a clicked ring vibrating the body. Image quality is paramount with a cine lens and the Sigma 50 supports 8k (wow, I know) and was perfectly matched to the a7S. The MC-11 probably requires a firmware update, it argued a bit with the Sony, but still performed well enough to get the job done.
Of the self-assigned shoots to date, using cine lenses was the most challenging. I found it best to start shooting and figure it out along the way. I’m very pleased with the results. You can see for yourself in the stills and short video edit I uploaded.
Cinema is the most daunting of the creative outlets I’ve worked with and I’m already versed in adding motion to stills and creating movies full-time. For the photographer who typically shoots street, there is no incognito mode with cine lenses. People take note when they see a cine lens. They’re big. Huge actually.
I certainly haven’t figured out all the cinema mysteries yet, like color grading or the various formats and standards, but that’s next on the list. Using a prime with an eye towards cinematic expression was step one.
As more cine lenses are coming to meet the demand of the mirrorless market, they all make your images, still or moving, significantly better. They include a full line from Sigma, our content partner.
For some perspectives on the cost of a cine system, out for dinner in the theater district of London, I met a retired documentary filmmaker. We got to talking. I told her about the camera tech story I was working on and showed her the 50 attached to the a7s II. She was amazed at what choices creatives have now. In her time that lens alone would’ve cost $100k. Her crew would’ve rented it and treated it like the crown jewels.
My takeaway from that convo was this: it’s really a great time to shoot stills Cine lenses represent the evolution of the capable DSLRs…and motion with many choices at, as I learned, previously unheard of prices.…