Still Lenses That Can Grace The Big Screen

On the still lens front, you have a variety of options. I am addressing this topic from a 40 foot screen digital projection perspective, not a still photography one.





Zeiss ZE primes rock. Their resolution is spectacular and they are lightweight. Their focus is a little more cinematic than a Canon or a Nikon, so it gives your focus puller a chance.



The lenses do breathe, which means they zoom in or zoom out when you rack focus. This aesthetic bothers some people so you should see if you like it and or can deal with it.




EF 35mm

Canon L Series 35mm

EF 85mm

Canon L Series 85mm

Canon L Series Primes deliver very beautiful, sharp images. They do not resolve as well as the Zeiss primes, so you will lose a little detail and color gradation choices in post. If you are fine with that, then the Canon primes are a great choice. Their zooms are not as sharp as the primes and they don’t hold contrast as well.


Canon L Lenses

Canon L Series Lenses

The Canon EF lenses cannot hold up on the big screen. I used them on the first two shooting days of the Navy SEAL movie, Act of Valor, and they were just plain soft. When I went into color correction, I was not able to have the full range of detail of the 8 BIT compressed color space that I had with the L series or the Nikons. Canon lenses also have one tricky issue: the endless focus wheel. It is amazing for a still photographer but not a trained focus puller. Companies like Zacuto have put lens stops on their zip gears to try and correct the problem but it is still something to contend with.



Nikkor 28mm

Nikon AI Series 28 mm


Nikon AI Series 50 mm

Nikon glass delivers well with the AI series. They were the cream of the crop back in the late 1970s and early 1980s and still are in my book. They deliver images just like the Zeiss in contrast but the glass has a warmer tone. However, their focus range is short like the Canons.




Leica 1:2.8

Leica 35 mm R Series

I tested Leica and found that they delivered beautiful contrast and color throughout.  They felt the closest to the Panavision Primo Primes and had more of a cinema focus throw, even more than the Zeiss ZE primes. These lenses resolve so well on the big screen.




50 mm Hasselblad Medium Format

150 mm Hasselblad Medium Format

Hasselblad medium format lenses were very interesting on the 5D. It had the same contrast and color of the Zeiss ZE Primes. You need to check it out. They have an amazing cinema focus throw, but  breathe like the Zeiss. I like the large focus markings and the weight. They felt really nice on my Red Rock Micro shoulder rig.  As long as you feel comfortable shooting above a 4.0, these lenses are a great choice.


With all of the lens options out there, these are still just tools. The story and the characters are KING! These players all have a back story that never makes it to the screen, but it is the thread, the tapestry that binds the film.  Find that thread, follow it to dream and create your next work of art!!!!

  1. Damon Roger 3 years ago


    Your blog is awesome and thank you so much for generously sharing your experience and information here.

    I have been collecting some nice primes for my kit and need a zoom on occasion. Given an option between the canon 70-200mm F/2.8 IS I or IS II which one would you choose? I noticed the comment about the second IS stabilization being not as organic looking so hence my question.


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Damon Roger, thank you so much for your kind words. Stay with the older, cheaper version. That is what I roll out with.

  2. Tuomas Sebastien 3 years ago

    Hi again Shane,

    I’m coming more back with more questions, but I hope others will also learn something about choosing the set of primes when these questions get answered. I promise after this I’ll let you in peace for long while

    So I have Zeiss ZEs 21, 35, 50, 85, and 15mm will be now on the wait list to see if that can be cinemoded.. but i’d love to have that 15mm as a wide angle, since 21mm on S35 sensor is really not that wide in my opinion.

    Would buying 25mm lens between 21mm and 35mm make any sense? Jump from 21 to 35 is kinda long and the question is, if having 25 or 28 in between are too marginal in difference? If 25mm, the difference would be small with 21mm. With 28mm, the difference to 35mm would be even tad smaller. I’d get bit better differences in field of views if i rather went 21mm -25mm -35mm than 21mm -28mm -35mm. So in this point 25mm is winner.

    I’ve seen 25/2 to beat 28/2 on resolution charts amazingly, 25 is sharp, 28 was soft and had some CA sort of blurry looking color abbreviation in the test sheet. 25 won on this category on very clear margin.

    So it is 2-0 in favour of 25mm lens agains the 28mm. 25mm would reduce a bit that perspective distortion that I can get when shooting faces in tight spaces. So I come back to my question is there any point of having 21, 25, 35 instead of only having 21, 35? Is this perspective distortion difference (especially in close-up of people) between 21 and 25 be big enough and give me so much more realistic shaped heads that it would would justify having the both lenses? Generally speaking Is jump from 21 to 35 too big without anything between? Vincent Laforet said in his blog that CP.2 25mm is the lens he has on the most, so i guess the lens is good alrounder to have.

    Would you say 21, 35, 50, 85 is already a good all-round set that would cover most of the situations without much troubles? Should I add 15mm to get the really wide in cropped sensor? Should I add 25mm just to have a wide option with little less perspective distortion and cap the large difference between current 21 and 35?

    Sorry for making it so long, but I hope it helped me to be clearer.

    Thanks for helping us n00bies :)

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Tuomas Sebastien, it is never a problem for you to go into depth about a lens decision. We are all here to learn, right? I have read everything that you have posted. Here is the deal. If there was one lens that I never use it would be the 25mm. It distorts, yes it is sharp but this is a lens that never is in my kit. I use a Panavision 27mm, a Cooke 32mm, and Zeiss Ultra Prime 29mm to bridge that gab between the 21mm. I know the 28mm ZE and CP2 are not that great, but the 28mm Leica R is stellar. There is my 2 cents. I welcome all of your questions and thanks for your support

      • Tuomas Sebastien 3 years ago

        Thanks Shane for very very quickly reply. Amazing! I’m still little not sure should I bridge the cap or not? You have luxury of having many lenses to cap it with. Unfortunately I don’t. I’m sure Leica is stellar but I’d really want to keep the kit all Zeiss so that then I can cinemod them to “poor man’s CP.2 with superspeeds” ( to see how they look like: ) . I’d also would like to have the kit with same brand lenses to get similar looks from them all.

        So if you suddenly wouldn’t have your Panavision 27mm, Cooke 32mm, Zeiss Ultra 29mm to go with… would ZE 25mm in this situation become useful to you when you already have 21mm and 35mm? Or would you say 28mm would be more useful and why? Or would you just say 21mm and 35mm is enough and the situations where something in the between is needed would be very uncommon?

        • Author
          Shane 3 years ago

          Tuomas Sebastien, I would not use a 25mm, I would go for the 28mm

          • Tuomas Sebastien 3 years ago

            Thank you

      • Tuomas Sebastien 3 years ago

        Just want to add few questions.. from Zeiss ZE lenses your dream set of lenses would include what? ZE 50 Macro & ZE 100 Macro lenses are excluded from these sets because I can’t get the cinemodded.

        1) Your 4-lenses set would include which ZE lenses?
        2) Your 5-lenses set would include which ZE lenses?
        3) Your 6-lenses set would include which ZE lenses?


        • Author
          Shane 3 years ago

          Tuomas Sebastien, these are for a 5D correct?
          4 Lens set: 21, 35, 50,85
          5 Lens Set: 18, 21, 35, 50, 85
          6 Lens Set: 18, 21, 28, 35, 50, 85

          • Tuomas Sebastien 3 years ago

            Thank you. What about with cropped sensor 7D, FS100 etc?

          • Tuomas Sebastien 3 years ago

            Hi Shane, I’d still like to know how these sets should be with 1.5-1.6 cropped sensor?

      • Paris Holmes 3 years ago

        I have money aside for a shoulder rig and Canon 50mm 1.2 lens but now I’m afraid to buy it since you said it won’t hold up on the big screen. I am working on a feature and I want it to hold up well on screen. So which lens 50mm do I buy? For a second lens, which lens do I buy?

    • Ruben Fernandez 3 years ago

      My two cents, I just read your post Tuomas and I am currently have your exact same range in Zeiss ZF.2s. I really don’t have a problem going from 21 to 35mm. I would personally save the money on the 25mm or 28mm for other stuff, maybe a 135mm f2???;)

      Best Regards,


  3. Viktor 3 years ago

    Thanks for this insanely nice post, Shane!
    Really some great reading… Still a bit confused though. So unsure whether to go with Canons L series, or the Carl Zeiss – I mainly do films, but occasionally have a still photography assignment!
    Is the difference between the L series and Zeiss really that big in sharpness and over all pleasing image?

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Viktor, you are very welcome, the difference is in color saturation and contrast. I feel the Zeiss look a little more video looking than the Canon, but the Leica R’s to me look the most filmic of the still glass.

      • Nelson 3 years ago

        What about adding a black promist filter to crush some of the video look? Has anyone tried this with success?

  4. Ignacio Sanchez 3 years ago

    Mr Hurlbut, thanks for unique way to teach the things. Thanks for a blog that not review every new camera in the market, thanks for staying away from consume talk.
    I should not do this but I am going to try to recomend you a LENS. Sorry master. Lately I have been working with FUJINON´s EBC M42 and I got very surprised. I own Leica´s R, Zeiss, Nikkors and many more and Fujinon´s got something special in the way they render the colors and a very pleasant OOF. If you can give them a try I would be very happy.
    Thanks master.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Ignacio Sanchez, thanks so much for your kind words and support and thanks for sharing your lens. I will look into it. Peace

  5. Ryan Bradshaw 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,
    First, thank you for taking the time to educate us on these and other topics. I find your blog very helpful and entertaining. I have a few questions. 1) You mentioned some books to read for aspiring cinematographers in another post that I can’t seem to find. What were those books? 2) You mentioned sticking to only prime lenses…and the 24-70 wouldn’t hold up…is this true for cameras with higher resolutions such as the 1DC or the C300? My third question is how do I get on your elite team?! I would love a chance to work and learn from you!


  6. Manuel 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,
    ever had a chance to film with a Samyang? Do they hold up on the big screen?

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Manuel, no I haven’t. Very sorry

  7. Manuel 3 years ago

    Thanks for your answer, Shane. This post made me think a lot. I believe you should soon publish a book with all your experience, I’m sure it would be a best seller!
    By the way…I have noticed some iris jitter with my Zeiss 35mm ZE 2.0 on my 1D mark IV…So I’m brought to get some manual ZF objectives plus EF mount to avoid any electronic interferences…Have you ever noticed any iris jitter during your work? And another question…Do you suggest declicking the Zeiss lenses or you think it might hurt the lenses?
    Thanks and keep up the good work! Manuel

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Manuel, thank you so much for your kind words and support. I like the Zeiss ZF and then de-click is absolutely essential and doesn’t hurt the lens. Never had that iris jitter

  8. Josh 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,
    thank you for sharing your experience, I’m really enjoying this blog.

    After much deliberation I recently invested in a Nikon D800 for photography and narrative film making.
    Along with the camera I bought the Nikkor 50mm 1.4g, and Nikkor 70-200VR11 2.8, both of which I am happy with, although I have not yet had the opportunity to see any of my footage on a cinema screen yet.

    My question is, as technology is evolving and lenses at the same time, is it likely that the current batch of Nikkor’s best glass be able to stand the rigors of a digital cinema projection?

    Also as I am on the market for a reasonably priced wide angle lens, would you recommend Nikkor’s 20mm AI 2.8 or Nikkor’s AIS 2.8? Or is there another lens within the same price bracket that would prove fruitful on the silver screen?

    Thank you again for sharing your experience and your time.



    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Josh, thank you so much for your kind words. I like the 20mm AI myself. All of the AI and AIS lenses are kick ass. Love the golden tones that come from that glass.

  9. Hunter 3 years ago

    Hello there,

    So interestingly I ended up on this blog after watching Act of Valor and thinking to myself “what camera shot this? how can I get this look? This cinematography is killer I must know more” So props to you because i immediately got online and lead myself to this blog. On to my question…

    I am in a situation where i have a decent budget to build a great camera/lense set up entirely from scratch. I currently own a 60d but I soon plan to get the 5D Mark III or the Black Magic Cinema Camera (After seeing Act of Valor I dont feel the need to spend the money on a C300 or Red or FS700). I need to get some lenses to go with this that are going to make my footage big screen ready and last a life time but not completely break the bank… so lenses like those shown above seem right. I’m kinda a noob to the lense game so bear with me.

    In my situation… Would you go with Zeiss ZE or Canon L series? Or something else? Or would you mix/match?

    After that, which lenses if you had to compose a go-to 4 lense kit from scratch? and what if you could throw in a 5th?

    Additionally, I currently own a Tokina 11-16 mm… any experience with this? Do you think I could get away with this as my superwide? or does this not match up to the quality of the lenses mentioned above?

    And finally, how do you feel about the upcoming Black Magic Cinema Camera? any ideas? vs the 5d?

    Thanks for your time! I appreciate your responsiveness and your artist work!! :)


    • Hunter 3 years ago

      To add to my last post… I’ve been doing further research into your posts. I see that you like the Panavision Primos… I can’t find the cost on those but I assume they are much higher than the Zeiss ZE’s or Canon L’s?? I definitely cant spend 3-4K per lense. Are there leica lenses that are comparable in price/quality to the aforementioned lenses? and do u think its worth it to have lenses cinemodded? or should i just go for an affordable gear to throw on the lenses?

      Additionally, I notice among posts that there may be certain times when it is best to use a 7D over a 5D? do u have a post on this? if not.. how did you go about choosing to use 5d or 7d for a shot when on act of valor?

      Thanks so much!!

  10. Sean M 3 years ago

    Dear Shane,

    superb post!..

    Agree with you totally on the Leica R lenses, they are super beautiful, I slowly over time and when money allowed put together a set then leitax modded each one, I liked them that much I ask a tech to hardfront my IIC with an EOS Mount.


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Sean M, thank you so much for your kind words. They are amazing. I love the lower contrast but sharp. Secret sauce.

  11. Juan B 3 years ago

    Hello! First of all I want to really thank you for all the work you put into the dslr world and the inspiration that cause us, been watching all your behind the scenes!

    Since you’ve tested all and more I wanted to ask you what brand of Nikon to EOS adapter do you recommend the most? I’m asking because the one I got has a little play between the lens and the camera body… and when using it with a follow focus the image moves a little every time I pull focus… it’s a shame since the 105mm 2.5 is a superb lens!

    I’ll be really glad if yu could tell me THE adapte.. haha!

    Thanks so much again and good luck!!!!

    Cheers from Argentina!

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Juan B, thank you for all of your kind words. Hello from Argentina, my favorite country. I love it there. You can not go cheap on the adapter. Fotodiox has the best one but it will cost you around 140.00. All the others have serious play and wreck your shot.

      • Juan B 3 years ago

        Thank you VERY much for your reply Shane!!! Glad to hear it’s your favourite country haha!!! Will invest on the adapter.. goodbye!!!

  12. Menno Mennes 3 years ago

    Take also a look at Cine-mod Zeiss ZF lenses.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Menno Mennes, thank you so much I will check them out.

  13. RAGHU IRIKKUR 3 years ago

    Hi shane, good evening. You helped me a lot giving precious information through your Cinematography education programme. Thanks.
    Seeing your blog I have purchased Nikon AI lenses (24mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.8 and 135mm f/2.8)and they perform well. I have drafted myself a design and customised them for voideo. It worked wonders. Now it is very convenient to focus precisely, as I increased the focus gear ring diameter to 13cm!. And also it perfectly match with my mattebox. Please see the link below.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      RAGHU IRIKKUR, they look very cool. I am so glad you like them. I love that glass. Looks so cinematic. Thanks for all the kind words

  14. Gareth 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    Where can the Leica R lenses be purchased? And how do they compare to the M series?

    Great tests otherwise.

  15. Daniel Correia 3 years ago

    Hi Shane, thanks for your great blog. Have you ever tryed Zeiss C/Y (contax / yashica)? How they compare to the newer Zeiss models and old Nikon Ai? Bests!

    • Daniel Correia 3 years ago

      And Leica R as well.

  16. Ho Zhen Jie 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    love the great amount of information that you share with the rest of the world!

    One question I have is how did you mount the medium format lenses to the 5D?

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Ho Zhen Jie, Thank you so much for you kind words and support. We mounted the Mamiya and the Hasselblad with Fotodiox adapters.

  17. Scott 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    I’m a big fan of your work. It’s great to see how A list DPs have embraced digital. My question is, what should an underground filmmaker do if they are using a 60d which only has an EFS fitting. Won’t convertors from EFS to alternate fittings compromise the metering & in camera aperture? I know that in Stop Motion when you switch over to a manual Nikon lens it does, which complicates things slightly but can be overcome as the camera and lighting setups are stationary. But if I am shooting live subjects in an evolving environment I would think that the disadvantages on the fly of using an adapter would outweigh the gains.

    Is it possible to sharpen the image in post? With the 60D’s sensor even the stock lens over realizes the image for 1920×1080. It’s meant for a much larger image. So if we’re already maximizing the pixel spread by shooting an image much smaller than the sensor is built to handle, how does the breakup occur due to glass? Could the EFS issue you ran into be because the 5D Mark III is meant for L fitting glass (though I am not entirely sure what camera you tested the EFS glass on)? You would have to use an adapter to use EFS on a 5D, right?

    Ideally I would like to avoid adapters if at all possible. Thank you for taking the time to read my question.


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Scott. Thanks for the kind words and support. That is true, when you use a lens adapter you can no longer meter in camera. I never use histograms or in camera metering. I expose by eye and use a light meter. You can sharpen a little bit in post, but it doesn’t work great. When shooting with DSLR’s I always bake in my look, and get the image where I want it on the day of shooting. Not in post. The quality of the lenses you use are what give you a sharp image. EF lenses are great for shooting stills, but not for filmmaking. Hope that helps.

  18. George 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,
    Great blog!! I’ve learnt so much from your site. Thank you.

    I noticed in your ACT OF VALOR blogs that you used a few different lens makes, such as Panavision, Canon and Zeiss. Did you find any issues mixing lenses in scenes, such as different temperatures and contrasts and if so, how did you overcome the differences and ultimately match your shots?


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      George. Thanks so much for the kind words and support. Yes we used all different types of glass with all different qualities of color temperature. In our grading sessions we we’re easily able to balance all the different lens types and have the visuals feel seamless.

      • Mano 1 year ago

        You completely disregarded the takumars the smc’s the super taks and the helios,
        Which in my humble opinion could even blow a CZ deadclear out of the water.
        Or am I wrong here. E.g. super tak 50mm 1:1.4 is a gem imho and a hidden one at that as well…

  19. Ryan Bradshaw 3 years ago

    First, I am a HUGE fan! If you are ever in need of a PA please keep me in mind. Second, I am looking for some lenses with a manual iris controls, but when I contacted Duclos they said there weren’t any adapters that they would recommend. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?


    Ryan Bradshaw

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Ryan Bradshaw, what lenses do you want to adapt? Fotodiox have the best adapters I think.

      • Ryan Bradshaw 3 years ago

        I have a few Canon FD lenses that I’d like to use. I’ll look into Fotodiox. Thanks Shane!

        • Ryan Bradshaw 3 years ago

          To clarify, I’m trying to go FD to EF.

  20. Mendel 3 years ago

    Hi Shane, Love your work. I’m looking to invest in manual nikkor lenses and would like to know if there is any real dif. In image quality between the non-ai version compared to the ai versions? Thanks!

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Mendel, not really, I like both and have both types and love them

  21. beefthemovie 3 years ago


    fantastic advise!

    I’m shooting what will be my second feature and aiming for the big screen

    I have a canon d650 and upon reading about cinema friendly lens have opted for either one of the Nikon A1 series primes (budget dictating)

    will these bad boys be compatible with my camera?



    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      beefthemovie, thank you for your kind words. Yes as long as you have a Nikon to Canon adapter from fotodiox you are good to go.

      • beefthemovie 3 years ago

        thanks for the reply!

        just bagged a Nikon AI 50mm as above f1.8 for a decent price.
        seems ok, aperture feels a bit gritty on certain f stops, glass looks good and no signs of fungus however, on closer inspection I noticed what looks like a small hair inside the lens (center) can this cause a problem as I intend to use this for video? if not panic over otherwize can I open this puppy and clean it myself? regards, Kenny

  22. Geoff 3 years ago

    Have you used Zeiss Contax Yashica Lenses before? What are your thoughts?


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Geoff, no I haven’t, sorry

  23. RobG 3 years ago

    Hi, Shane

    Does it matter the Zeiss ZE lenses do not have a manual aperture ring or does it make more sense to use the Zeiss ZF.2’s with an adapter? Also, do the improvements in the Mark III justify the price or is the Mark II still a viable investment even with the aliasing and more issues?



    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      RobG. I prefer the ZF lenses to have manual control over the Aperture and have all my manual lenses cine moded from Duclos to to be able to dial in the aperture in 1/10th of a stop increments. With this you have more control over the exposure and be able to do Iris pulls. I still use and love the image of the 5DMkII, but the 5DMkIII has some nice features over the MkII. Longer record time, ability to save your settings on an SD card, More audio control, and better light sensitivity. Thanks for the comment and support.

      • RobG 3 years ago

        Hi, Shane

        Thank you for your response. I have one other question. I have pretty much decided on my 5D cinema package. I know there isn’t one magic pill that does everything but, I have decided to go with the Zeiss ZF.2’s (21, 35, 50, 85) and will go through the cine mod. I read you like these lenses but they have more contrast than others. Are there ways to tone down the contrast and would that be a reason not to buy these lenses? My head is spinning from all the research. :)

        Thanks again for all you do.


        • Author
          Shane 3 years ago

          RobG. I do like the ZF’s but if you have the budget for them Leica R’s with the leitax mount is the best hands down. Lower contrast and sharper. The Zeiss glass is sharp, but too contrasty at times.

  24. Rafel 3 years ago

    Mr. Hurlbut,
    Thank you for taking your time to do this blog. It has helped me a lot.

    I am about to buy my first DSLR (Canon T3i) and I was wondering what two or three lenses I should buy. I heard that you should start off with a zoom and a 50mm. Is this what you would reccomend?


  25. Hari 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    Really love the work that you do. I’m just getting into DSLR video and don’t necessarily have the means to afford the newer Zeiss glass yet being a broke college grad and all :p .. What are your thoughts on some of the older Contax Zeiss lenses? Do they hold up as well?

    Thanks again for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us,


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Hari, thank you for the kind words and I have not used those lenses but many bloggers say they rock and look very cinematic.

  26. MK 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    Thank you again for your awesome posts. I think we both agree that Primos are the best cine lenses ever made. However, since we can’t own em, what would you say is the best cine lens set money could buy?

  27. Dominik Belancic 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    I was wondering what adapter do you use for getting Nikon AI lenses on Canon mounts?
    By the way, keep up the good work.


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Dominik Belancic. I use Fotodiox adapters. Thanks for the comment and support.

  28. Randy Rubin 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    I was curious if you have any experience with Contax Zeiss lenses. I’ve read they lend a more organic look to video.


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Randy Rubin, I have not tried those, I am sorry to say. Will try to check them out.

      • Randy Rubin 3 years ago

        Cool thanks.

  29. Tuomas 3 years ago

    Shane, thank you for your work on this blog. I’m about to buy set of leicas 19 2.8 (36xxxxxx), 35 1.4 (32xxxxxx), 50 1.4 (36xxxxxx), 80 1.4 (32xxxxxx). I noticed on wide apertures (except the 19mm) they have bit ninja star like aperture. 85 has more blades and it is bit irregular when stopped down. I checked many of these lenses and they all seem to exhibit this ninja star and irregularity. Is this a problem? Were these lenses like this when they were new or is this just a wear from use? Is this a reason not buy them and try to find better copies?

    Other question is that do these lenses produce similar images with each other? The serial difference is quite big in manufacturing years. 50mm is ROM version, but it is still E55, not E60. This 50mm lens is also quite expensive, would it be better to go with older version for achieving the same look?

    I was also considering 90 2.0 but I was told 80 1.4 produces more dreamy images and is more flattering to the skin for women.

    Does the image quality stay good if i use Leica’s 2x APO-EXTENDER? Is it worth buying to get more focal length options for the listed lenses?

    • Tuomas 3 years ago

      I’ll withdraw my questions as I already bought a set of them… inspired by this blog I’m now happy part of the Leica filmmaking family. I went with:

      19 2.8 (2nd gen), 24 2.8, 35 1.4, 50 1.4 (E55), 60 2.8, 80 1.4 and 80-200 4.0

      I know 24 is no where near as good as the new 28, but new 28 costs at least three times the old 28’s price and new 24 was just bit more expensive than old 28. So I went with 24 cause I felt 28 was too close to 35 and too far from 19. It also seemed that 24 had been bashed around the internet just because it was originally Minolta design, but the word is that Leica improved the design over the time and for minolta components they had rejection rate of 85% when Leica assembled them. Time will tell was this a smart move. Now need to think if I should cinemod or rehouse them. I’m still thinking if I will need the 15mm but for that I could only afford the old f3.5 version

      • Author
        Shane 2 years ago

        Tuomas, yeah baby!!!!

  30. wmease 2 years ago

    I recently went ALL-IN into the HDSLR world from more traditional videography cameras. I got the rail system, matte box, 5DIII and external monitor. I have a set of 28mm, 50mm, 100mm, 70-300mm Nikkor lenses old E series. I was surprised you mentioned them in your post. Very surprised. Are these legit? They say the lenses should be the most expensive part of your setup. In other words, can I do video on them with confidence?

    I’d like to use my matte box for ND filters. Any you recommend?

  31. Olivia 2 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    I just purchased a Canon 5D mk III body for filmmaking and am looking for lenses. I have the tiniest of budgets. I’ve always wanted Zeiss, as my friends have and use, but I have a budget of about $1000 for lenses all together.

    It looks like Nikon is my best bet. However, searching for an AI series has been problematic. Most places have AF. This post is from two years back, what’s an updated way to find lenses that fit my 5D and are good quality?


    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Olivia, you can find the adapter for Nikon to Canon at Then go on e-bay for the AI and AI-s lenses, they are very affordable and you can get a nice kit for 1000, it just takes patience and you have to be like a treasure hunter, this is how I found all of mine. I hope this helps

  32. Sam 2 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    Your blog is fantastic, You have taught me so much over the few months I have been reading it… Amazing work!!

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Sam, thank you for your kind words and support.

  33. Vince 2 years ago

    Hello Shane, thanks for this article, it’s really interesting. Have you try the Rokinon lenses? I read goog reviews about the 35mm and 85mm, but I don’t know how they response in big screen. Cheers, and congrats for your work.

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Vince,I have on the new BMPC camera, not very happy with their sharpness and their field of focus fell off to the point where the lens never felt in focus

      • Vince 2 years ago

        Thank you Shane!

        I’m looking for a set of lenses for the BMPC4K. I would like a wide lens, something close to 28mm in FF35. I suppose that one of this could be a good option:

        -Contax Zeiss F-Distagon T* 16mm F2.8
        -Carl Zeiss Rollei Distagon HFT 16mm F2.8
        -Leica Leitz Fisheye Elmarit R 16mm F2.8

        Thank you again for your answer.

        • Author
          Shane 2 years ago

          The Contax 16mm is excellent and the Leica 15mm will be better but that baby cost a fortune. I say go with the Contax

          • Konstantin "Costa" Konstantinou 2 years ago

            Hi Shane, love your work, love your ideas and enthusiasmn in finding easier ways to achieve high goals. You absolutely rock the business!!!

            I use a set of vintage Canon FD S.S.C. glass together with a LensTurbo on the FS100, and am – so far very happy with the results. Only thing bothering me is the clicky aputure – do you know anyone who has selfdeclicked the aputurering of a FD lense and can give advice on how to do it?

            Best regards Costa

          • Author
            Shane 2 years ago

            Konstantin “Costa” Konstantinou, yes send it to Duclos lenses in Chatsworth, CA. They will de click you lens for you, they call it the Cine Mod

          • Vicente Gil Ginestar 2 years ago

            Thanks Shane, Yes, I saw that the Leica 15mm is really expensive, but the Leica 16mm has a good price, so for this reason I was considering it. In the other hand, I think would be better to have all the lenses with the same brand, same glass, same coating, same color… right? Thank you again for your reply.

          • Author
            Shane 2 years ago

            Vicente Gil Ginestar, yes keep the same glass. Try that 16mm out. Not sure

  34. Shai 2 years ago

    Hi shane, thank you for your helpful posts. You wrote that the nikon ai are good lenses but that sounds weird to me because they are so cheap.. You can get one around 400$. How can a lens that cheap compare to the zeiss? Or even grace the big screen?

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Shai, because it did, on Act of Valor I shot many scenes with the Nikon AI, love the color and the antique quality. Nikon makes great glass

  35. mathenge 2 years ago

    Hi shane
    i always appreciate the amount of knowledge you share wit us n am sure we are all thankful for that.
    Let me ask ,
    *whats the real difference between a photo zoom and a cinema zoom?

    thanks in advance all the way from Nairobi|Kenya.

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      mathenge, a photo zoom lens is one that will breathe huge when you focus it will actually zoom in or zoom out, it also has a very short range of focus, much slower in f-stops, do not hold focus when you zoom in. Cinema zooms are tailored for filmmaking. They hold focus when you zoom all the way in, they do not breathe that much, their focus range is vast

  36. David 2 years ago

    Hello Shane, I always look forward to reading your amazing insights into filming because of the straight forward approach to describing the often complex nuances of your work. You share great technical info and inspiration in equal parts. My question is related to your comment about using instinct and a hand held meter to judge and “bake” the look of your films. When I first started to shoot video content for still clients two years ago I was pretty intimidated by the learning curve one needs to master to get to where I wanted to go. I also used to use a handheld meter but that was way back in the film era. Instead I rely on the histogram exposing to the left without loosing to much highlight detail because I thought that was a pretty good way to interpret a digital sensor. So, could you expand a bit on your approach to exposure? Do you go for a “feel” obviously based on lots of experience with film and the particular digital camera used and just ignore the histogram?

    Thank you, David

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      David, I have never been a histogram fan, you cannot tell where you are with your image. Try false color, this shows you every value on the screen and you can decide whether you want to hold that highlight or let it go. Perfect example I was lighting a scene the other day on Fathers and Daughters, If I had gone off the histogram or a waveform you would have seen a clip over 100 and you would have brought that down so that it would hold it, problem was it was a highlight on the desk from a backlight, that looked perfect on the back of Amanda’s head but hot on the desk, I will let that go, because that is a nice blowing highlight I would never want to hold. I hope this helps

      • David Edwards 2 years ago

        Thank you, that certainly makes sense. Sorry for diverging from the subject of lenses. More on point, I have been using a few older single coated Nikkor lenses which can be used for a nice vintage look. To my eye they have an even warmer, glowing quality especially in contra light yet still retain plenty of sharpness otherwise.

  37. Julian 2 years ago

    Someone has experience with the sigma 35 mm art? Any ideas how strong the breathing performs?

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Julian, so sorry cannot help with that, ANYONE???

  38. Jesse 2 years ago

    Hey Shane,

    I only have one question. i’m completely new to all of this but i just pre-ordered the new GH4.. i dont have a big budget and i was just wondering whats a good all around lens to buy for it? People have told me to start off with the Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 O.I.S. lens but i’m still having trouble. if you could please give me your quick opinion on it that’d be great. Thank YOU

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Jesse, I wish I could but I am not a big fan of that camera so I have not done much research on it. You really need prime lenses to start to train your eye and to learn how to compose. Zoom lenses make lazy filmmakers and I know you are not that. So grab a 24mm,50mm and 100mm and kick some ass.

      • Jesse 2 years ago

        Hey Shane thank you so much. i have one more question. What camera would you recommend? i’ve saved up a lot of money on my deployment and i still am, and just figured id go ahead and buy the newest Camera out there. I understand i won’t need the 4k but i thought if i had the cash then why not.

    • TH 2 years ago

      I’m not familiar with the MFT lens choices so I can’t make actual recommendation but if you start of with that lens you are going to have a big trouble on tight spaces and generally on getting wide shots anywhere… it’s like having 5D with only 70-200 zoom. I’m sure that in that case most of the people would pick up 24-70 instead, but to be honest I think for most shoots need the range of both of them.

  39. rashad 2 years ago

    Hi Shane

    Can not thank you enough for your amazing info to help me get my learn on! I was just wondering what you mean when you say that certain lenses don’t resolve well?

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      rashad, Resolution is a big deal. If you are taking a highly compressed image like the Canon 5D and projecting with Still lenses that cost you about 200 bucks, the resolution will not be enough to cut through all that digital compression. SO using a very sharp, lower contrast lens like an Leica R or Zeiss ZE will deliver a shaper look and resolve better.

  40. Mark Williams 2 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    I’ve been told you cant use the witness marks on the Canon CN-E Primes as the EF mount is usually out. I can see you have used them in your films. Have you had trouble with these lenses? Or using witness marks with EF lenses?



    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Mark Williams, We use all of these lenses with Bartech Remote follow focus systems so that we can set in and out points, because of the EF endless ring of the Canon L series Primes

  41. Alan 2 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    Thanks for all the great advise. I would just like to know what lens (or lenses) you would recommend. I’m looking at picking up a canon 5d mark 2. My budget is in the hundreds and not the thousands for the lenses so that is something to be considered. I would mainly be using them for documentary film making but want to have lenses that would also be good all round. I do a lot of photography as well so if there is a good lens for both that would help me a lot.


    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Alan, you are very welcome and thank you for your support. I would look at the Nikon AI and AI-S lenses of the 70’s or the Zeiss Jena series, which all of these would be found on E bay

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Hi Alan,
      If you can save up the cash, I’d get yourself some Canon L Series glass. If you’re going to be doing a lot of “run-n-gun” style shooting the L series zooms will give you more speed and you can save some money. Canon makes three lenses that run at an f2.8 constant, a 16mm-35mm, a 24mm-70mm and a 70mm-200mm. There is also the option of the L series 24mm-105mm that is an f4 constant. Keep in mind that if you choose the route of mixing and matching lenses, it will make things more difficult to match the footage, especially if you are strapped for cash and can’t get yourself a good color chart. Plus, those L series lenses are still lenses to begin with, they’re great lenses.

  42. David 2 years ago

    hey shane,
    i’m a big fan, and been following you for some time now. I appreciate all of your insight. You really are a big help for us younger cinematographers that are looking for some guidance. I have a question for ya.

    Im about to shoot a feature and i am going to use a set of Leica summicron-c glass. they open to a t2. The have been housed by vanDeiman in the uk. These will be my primary lenses.

    I also own a set of leica R glass that are still photography lenses, cine-modded. I would like to use these sets of lenses interchangeably. Now there is a big difference in functionality of the 2 lens sets, but i was wondering if i should expect a huge difference of quality in the actual glass? Think i’ll be able to use both sets and they will intercut just fine?

    my leica r glass range from summicron to elmerit most open to a 2.8

    I am doing a test on matching these 2 sets in about a week, in the meantime i just wanted to get your opinion on mixing such slr lenses vs true cinema lenses.

    any information about mixing glass would be a big help.

    we will be shooting on 2 c300. 2 cams all the time…….. Thanks:)

    • Tuomas H 2 years ago

      Your rehoused VanDeiman lenses are originally Leica R still photography lenses. The glass is the same, it is just rehoused… of course there are natural differences between each lens depending on the original model, design, age and the wear but this has nothing to do with the mod. This is same as asking can you combine a random Leica R lens with any other random Leica R lens. Some designs are better than others.

      • Tuomas H 1 year ago

        Ok, I have to post correction.. I check Van Diemen website again and the photos of the lenses. From the placement of the aperture ring and the selection of focal lengths they have, I think it is possible that some of the lenses are made from Leica M mount lenses. Hard to say, as far as I know there’s no 19mm on M mount, but then again there’s no 75mm on R mount. You better contact them directly and ask.

  43. William Chandler Goodrich 2 years ago

    Hey Shane, I was looking into the nikon ais glass for my next 50mm. I managed to find this lens in different maximum apertures, the 2, 1.8, 1.4, and 1.2, which was surprising to me. I will be using the lens on short films, web series’, and maybe my first feature, who knows. I never shoot below a 2. Would it affect my image overall if I went with a 1.8 instead of a 1.4 or 1.2? Thank you so much for taking the time to read this question.

  44. patrick rebstock 1 year ago

    i have both the 300mm and 800mm century pl converted
    What shutter speeds are you running on the long glass for normal speed 24p, you stick to 1/50th for 180deg or do you have a higher shutter because of the long glass?
    Same question for highspeed shooting you running 180deg shutter or faster? i have always run 1/500th so i can shoot stills and motion but i wonder if im sacrificing the moving image?
    been asking all around and no one seems to know,
    any advice is much appreciated

    • Jim Edgar 1 year ago

      Patrick, the general rule for capturing ‘natural’ looking movement on moving images is double the frame rate. So at 24 fps your shutter speed should be 1/48th of a second (or close to it – 1/50th is ok), or if working in angles, 180 degrees (172.8 degrees equivalent to 1/50th).
      But of course you can change this for creative effect. A slower speed (or wider angle) will render movement more blurred (for a ghost effect), a faster speed (or narrower angle) renders sharper, jerkier movement (for example the battle scenes in Saving Private Ryan or Gladiator). Also bear in mind the effect this will have on your exposure. Narrow angles require more light/wider aperture than wider angles.

      • Author
        Shane 1 year ago

        Thanks Jim for offering this advice.

  45. Tue 1 year ago

    Hey Shane

    Thank you so much for all the info you share! It is truly amazing and inspiring. I am looking to put together my own little film camera package. Possible the Black Magic 4k and I have some old Carl Zeiss Hasselblad lenses 2.8s and 4 from when I shot on medium format. How does the glass in them compare to Carl Zeiss Distagon cinelenses like the MKII? In other words do we as filmmakers “only” gain the better possibility of focuspull buying a lense specifically made for film or do we also pay the extra dinero for some heavenly glass that no still lense will ever get close to? Thank You so much!

  46. JP Gabriel 1 year ago


    JP from Bozeman, Montana (Filmlites) your gaffer on the Marines spot shot in Livingston. I read your posts everywhere. Thanks for your continued sharing of your comprehensive experience with young upstarts and older upstarts…
    Shane I have just purchased an Alexa and wondered if there was any way you have heard that I could use my cinemod Duclos Leica R set on it without removing the PL mount. I have pl lenses as well and cannot change the camera. Any adapters? I think I am out of luck because of the distance to the sensor.

    thank you

    • Author
      Shane 1 year ago

      JP! Glad to hear you are doing well my friend. Are your Leica Rs built to EF with the duclos mod or did they stay in the Leica mount?

  47. Robert Sharpe 1 year ago

    Shane, I am blown away by your willingness to share your very valuable research with the online community – many Kudos to you!
    We have been researching new camera gear and your tests have helped us immensely. I was leaning toward the Sony FS7, but am now looking more seriously at the C500. The Canon doesn’t look as good to me on paper, but the actual footage and look in your tests are remarkable.
    On another note, you recommend the still Leica R lens, and I have been watching them on ebay, but have a quick question. I am finding the 24, 35 and 50mm lenses in the $1K area and was thinking of getting some and using a Fotodiox adapter. Am I looking at the correct lens??? This pricing seems too good to be true if they are anywhere close to as good as you say. Thanks again for sharing with the learners!

  48. Jamie 3 weeks ago

    Hi Shane love all your work and the blog is well done as always.
    I was wondering if you might be able to recommend a 4 lens Nikon ai/ai-s for use on a bmcc with speedbooster?
    As of now I’m looking at the 24mm f/2, 50mm 1.2, and 105mm 1.8. Main concerns are fast aperture and focus throw for cine mod.

    • Author
      Shane 2 weeks ago

      You are very welcome. Thank you for all of your support. I feel you will need a wider lens like the 18mm.

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