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The 4 Most Popular Cinema Lenses for Filmmakers

These classic optics will help you shoot high-quality footage
Photo of popular cinema lens

Having a high-end camera can go a long way to helping you shoot quality footage, but the lens you attach to the camera has a much bigger impact on cinematic aesthetics. A new video from In Depth Cine, which we have embedded below, takes a comprehensive look at four of the most popular lenses used by cinematographers and shows you what they can do and why this premium glass is so beloved by filmmakers and video pros.

Panavision G-Series

Photo of Panavision G series lenses

These lightweight anamorphic lenses cover a 35mm frame and hit the market in 2007. They’re an updated modern version of the classic Panavision C lenses released at the end of the ‘60s. The G-Series lenses have streamlined ergonomics, standardized T-stops and front diameters, all while maintaining the vintage aesthetic that the C-Series lenses delivered. These upgrades make working with the Panavision G lenses much more simplified for camera assistants, since the apertures no longer need to be individually tweaked depending on what lens focal length you are using. DP Matthias Koeningswieser used the Panavision G lenses in conjunction with the Panavision C lenses while shooting the 2018 film, Christopher Robin, to create a more uniform look between the footage that was shot on film and the digital high-resolution footage.

Tokina Vista

Photo of Tokina Vista lenses

Tokina Vista lenses are large format spherical lenses that have a massive 46.7mm image circle, making them a great option for shooting with a wide variety of cinema cameras. They have an incredibly fast aperture of T/1.5; when this lens is paired with a large format cinema camera the depth of field in your shots will be extremely narrow. They have pretty consistent lengths across the range, meaning a 105mm lens will essentially be the same size as a 25mm lens with iris and focus gears being the same distance from the lens mount. The lens barrel has a number of distance measurements, which makes focus pulling much easier. These lenses are super sharp but have less of a vintage look than other cinema lenses. Ultimately this is a great choice for a filmmaker who is looking for a super modern look for their footage. 

Atlas Orion

Photo of Atlas Orion lenses

These anamorphic lenses were released in 2017 and are available in seven focal lengths. They were designed to be an affordable option compared to the more expensive Arri Master Anamorphic lenses. These lenses have a robust build, well-spaced distance markings on the barrell and buttery smooth focus gears. They have an aperture of T/2, and while they aren’t particularly lightweight, they are much faster than most anamorphic lenses and have a solid close focusing range. They were the lens of choice to shoot 2021’s Don’t Look Up on Netflix.

Canon S16 8-64mm

Photo of Canon S16 8-64mm lens

This Canon lens was designed to be used with 16mm film and won’t cover a lot of the sensors found on modern-day cameras, but it’s zoom capabilities still make it a popular choice for a certain style of filmmaker. The Canon S16 8-64mm can close focus at 22 inches and is what’s known as a workhorse lens and was often used when shooting documentaries shot on film. It’s focus rotation is relatively short, only 180 degrees, but that makes it a great tool for camera operators who are working without a focus puller or assistant camera person. It has a T/2.4 aperture and gives a dreamy quality when shot wide open. If you are shooting on 16mm film, this lens is an excellent choice.

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