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Sometimes I Miss Cine Lenses

​​I was reading the latest issue of American Cinematographer the other day. In particular, I was reading about Arrival. I always have a moment of geeking out over looking at the lenses and post-production applications used on such films. It's an extra bit of excitement when I discover a film I admire has used the same lenses I've gotten a chance to use on some projects of mine in the past. Turns out that Arrival shot on Zeiss Super Speeds for the memory sequences.

I got to use those same lenses for three projects early on in the first couple of years of creating projects for Stories by the River. The projects were two sci-fi shorts I directed ("A Silent Universe" and "Playing with Ice") and one drama I DPed ("Melt").

I miss real Cine lenses sometimes. But I stand by my choice to purchase the much more affordable Rokinon "Cine" lenses. I put "Cine" in quotes there because there are certain factors that make these entry-level lenses not quite what a pro cinematographer might want. In essence, they are still photo lenses reverse engineered to work more or less like traditional Cine lenses. But they lack sharpness wide open, they can be a little too contrasty, and the build quality is understandably not the same as Cine lenses that cost ten times as much.

Still, I do believe that the Rokinons have offered up great results. They're like any tool in the micro-budget filmmaker's toolkit: you have to know a given tool's limitations and then you can make the most of it. So I don't tend to shoot wide open on my Rokinons, for one thing.

For fun, here's a look back at two of the films I directed using the Zeiss Super Speeds.

"A Silent Universe." Cinematography by Teresa Rinehart.

"Playing with Ice." Cinematography by Bryant Naro.

And finally, here's two short films I directed using the Rokinon lenses.

"Parallel." Cinematography by Rajah Samaroo.

"Intrigue." Cinematography by Trevor C. Duke.

What are your thoughts on the quality difference (real or perceived)?

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