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Cine VS Still lens on HDSLRs? Indie Films


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#1 Deji Joseph

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 02:50 PM

I currently have a Canon 7d and was checking out some RED one 5k footage on vimeo , I also checked out his 7d footage , from my personal experiences I came up with a theory. A GOOD still lens is nearly as good Visually on a HDSLR as any Cine lens will be ( maybe even half as good as red epic, as long as the end product isn’t full HD) if you use the cameras auto-focus to focus your shot because still lenses weren’t designed to be focus pulled. By good I mean on par with the Canon L series or nearly as good. i have seen many .videos online, and most of them are not in focus or the user has no idea about depth of field. the only reason I can see people using cine-lens is focus pulling. So for low budget filmmaking where most of the time the talent is a constant distance from the camera, I believe people should use stills instead of cine-lens, besides if you could afford using Cines why use a HDSLR as an A-camera in the first place? I think people have forgotten the importance of lighting, set e.t.c and jumped on the pixel mongering bandwagon.

Do you think its worth to use Cine-lens on HDSLRs?
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 03:11 PM

It's extremely limited film making if the talent is always the same distance from the camera. It's called the movies and using camera movement and the actor movement is what it's about. Unfortunately, the problems with a shallow DOF and focus may be a retrograde step if film makers can't allow movement because they want to use stills equipment. Sorry, I much rather see a film made on 1/3" cameras that makes full use of cinematic grammar than something which is basically a pretty talking slide show. Low budget isn't a reason to not use these, you should fight to make full use of the movement.

Basically I'm saying you should use gear that allows movement. You could use manual focus stills lenses, unless you got a control method in place for the L lenses, which I believe were used on "House".

BTW You need to use your full real name, it's one of the forum rules.

Edited by Brian Drysdale, 09 July 2010 - 03:12 PM.

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#3 Chris Durham

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 04:03 PM

A GOOD still lens is nearly as good Visually on a HDSLR as any Cine lens will be


Well, umm, yeah.

You're talking about sensors that generally use line skipping to shoot video, so as long as a lens lets light through well it should resolve a decent image. So if you want to use cine lenses on a DSLR you need to think about why you would put a tens-of-thousands-of-dollars lens on a $2000 camera. The best answer is because it's the glass you have. If you don't already have it then you go to the next best answer which is precision. I'm not saying that L series glass is lacking, not by any stretch, but you talk about focus pulling yourself. In a cine lens you want to be able to measure focus accurately, mark the lens for focus pulling, you want the lens not to breathe when you zoom. A cine lens may have a better iris so that you have more attractive bokeh.

There's not much point in modding a 7D to use PL lenses unless you have PL lenses at your disposal. Or unless you're wanting to start your collection - the Zeiss CP lenses make a pretty compelling argument, but those are really glorified stills lenses too. Which brings me to what I think is your main point. For a lot of applications, stills lenses are fine. I've shot with Zeiss Nikon lenses on a Red and I liked it a whole lot better than Red lenses or even Digiprimes. Some modern digital cine lenses are too sharp for my taste.
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#4 Deji Joseph

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 04:07 PM

It's extremely limited film making if the talent is always the same distance from the camera. It's called the movies and using camera movement and the actor movement is what it's about. Unfortunately, the problems with a shallow DOF and focus may be a retrograde step if film makers can't allow movement because they want to use stills equipment. Sorry, I much rather see a film made on 1/3" cameras that makes full use of cinematic grammar than something which is basically a pretty talking slide show. Low budget isn't a reason to not use these, you should fight to make full use of the movement.

Basically I'm saying you should use gear that allows movement. You could use manual focus stills lenses, unless you got a control method in place for the L lenses, which I believe were used on "House".

BTW You need to use your full real name, it's one of the forum rules.


I agree, static scenes tend to be not as exciting as movement, i was making a comparison based on using a HDSLR only, in a perfect world we may use different cameras for different shots to compensate pros and cons .the talk and walk has been used extensively, I think if you could affort a decent dedicated focus puller, you might as well be able to rent a RED one. you would use a smaller aperture with a larger depth of field IF you you wanted movement while shooting on a HDSLR. I am just saying if you must use a HDSLR dont drool over using Panavison or Cookes or Zeiss CPs, a still lens will do the job, is easier to get, wont break your budget and u dont have to worry about compatibility issues

bdw it think low budget might be to vague, how about $4000 for a 15 minutes short
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#5 Deji Joseph

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 04:11 PM

It's extremely limited film making if the talent is always the same distance from the camera. It's called the movies and using camera movement and the actor movement is what it's about. Unfortunately, the problems with a shallow DOF and focus may be a retrograde step if film makers can't allow movement because they want to use stills equipment. Sorry, I much rather see a film made on 1/3" cameras that makes full use of cinematic grammar than something which is basically a pretty talking slide show. Low budget isn't a reason to not use these, you should fight to make full use of the movement.

Basically I'm saying you should use gear that allows movement. You could use manual focus stills lenses, unless you got a control method in place for the L lenses, which I believe were used on "House".

BTW You need to use your full real name, it's one of the forum rules.


I agree, static scenes tend to be not as exciting as movement, i was making a comparison based on using a HDSLR only, in a perfect world we may use different cameras for different shots to compensate pros and cons .the talk and walk has been used extensively, I think if you could affort a decent dedicated focus puller, you might as well be able to rent a RED one. you would use a smaller aperture with a larger depth of field IF you you wanted movement while shooting on a HDSLR. I am just saying if you must use a HDSLR dont drool over using Panavison or Cookes or Zeiss CPs, a still lens will do the job, is easier to get, wont break your budget and u dont have to worry about compatibility issues

bdw it think low budget might be to vague, how about $4000 for a 15 minutes short
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#6 Chris Durham

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 04:24 PM

bdw it think low budget might be to vague, how about $4000 for a 15 minutes short


If that's low budget, that's no excuse not to move the camera around. You can get a Fisher dolly for $200 for a weekend, $300 or so with track (assuming no big moves). couple hundred more for a jib. There you go. Better looking movement than half the cats out there for 13% of your budget (25% if you shoot on two weekends, but still, with that budget what are you using money for if not gear?)
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#7 Deji Joseph

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 04:46 PM

If that's low budget, that's no excuse not to move the camera around. You can get a Fisher dolly for $200 for a weekend, $300 or so with track (assuming no big moves). couple hundred more for a jib. There you go. Better looking movement than half the cats out there for 13% of your budget (25% if you shoot on two weekends, but still, with that budget what are you using money for if not gear?)


Technically most of the things i shoot, i have no budget. Im a student at University in the UK so if i get a £250 'grant' about $200 i would be happy. For me sliders and cranes are had to come by, I have never actually seen one in person. we have a proper dolly and track but its too large to use in anything other than a large. I would realy love to use a steadicam tough but the whole issue of keeping focus comes up everytime, and the only solution is a constant distance from the talent or marking positions on floor and lens and using a whip to focus.
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#8 Chris Keth

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 02:58 AM

If you want to allow interesting blocking and have the movie be in focus, rent cine lenses. If you're satisfied with either interesting blocking or being in focus, then still lenses will do fine.
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#9 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 03:27 AM

Some people have been using manual focus stills lenses on their DSLRs and the RED, these may be a good half way house. You can find used examples for sale at various places. However, fitting them out with a follow focus to make life easier adds to the costs bearing in mind the stills lens focus scales are rather compressed. http://www.redrockmi...rock_dslr.html.

On the transport front, you could use a focus dolly or similar: http://www.egripment...tInfo.asp?ID=28 or even a Doorway Dolly.
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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 07:30 AM

There are a couple of problems with some of the advice being given in this thread, mainly - as so often - because the advice that's being given is US-centric.

First off, reduce your expectations: film schools in the UK are generally a much lower-end experience than anything in the US. Sorry, not nice I know, but I challenge anyone to realistically argue that. As such the availability of gear, money, and people are all significantly reduced.

Shooting with cinema glass inevitably requires a focus puller, and this is one of a few jobs on set that can't realistically be done by someone who isn't experienced (many others can be, it just takes a lot of extra time and perhaps modified ambitions). Also it's a question of equipment, specifically a follow-focus and the sackfull of bits and pieces required to make one work. I have shot operator-focussed 35mm a couple of times a Konvas with Lomo primes and, given the surprisingly-decent optical viewfinder, I didn't really feel like it was a problem of being able to tell when things were in focus. I could tell when it was soft. What I couldn't do was actually achieve focus fast enough on a lens that spins around twice, end to end. The additional mechanism is important.

Further complexities then arise: you likely won't have a geared head, and it is somewhat more difficult to operate a fluid head with someone pulling focus on it, but if you're trying to operate a fluid head, with someone pulling focus, on a dolly where you're trying to match the back-pan rate to the dolly movement which is tricky anyway, then you have really created a losing situation that's probably best avoided.

If you are shooting low budget stuff on which you will not have a focus puller, or not a good focus puller (which may mean it's better to do it yourself), and if you won't have a box full of extremely expensive lens accessories, I think there's a very compelling case for using stills lenses which are actually designed to be operator-focussed from the barrel.

P
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#11 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 01:01 PM

There's no big problem working with a focus puller when using a good fluid head, it's done all the time. However, life's a lot easier if you do have a follow focus rather than someone pulling on the lens barrel. To make full use of the camera you do need someone who is prepared to take on focus pulling and will be a pain in preparing marks and telling you when they're not happy, then you being ready for the retakes because of inexperience.

Film school is about trying things and is the place to learn by your mistakes. However, DSLR cameras with their shallow DoF, do put a big strain on skills that may be pushed even by 2/3".
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#12 Hal Smith

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 08:45 PM

Shane Hurlbut is not impressed with Canon glass for serious work with Canon's cameras. He found that when projecting his work on a large screen Canon glass is soft compared to lenses designed for motion picture work. I thought the images in the "Help Me" episode of "House" also shot on 5D's with Canon glass looked pretty soft compared to other episodes which are for the most part shot on 35mm film. The images were good enough not to distract from the story and as Greg Yaitanes and Gale Tattersall have said, the 5D's enabled them to use very realistic and claustrophobic sets.
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#13 Sean Hegarty

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Posted 19 November 2010 - 07:08 PM

Hi Guys
I'm not a regular here but I would like you opinions about this subject. I think that you have gotten a little lost in the details of this question and have not really answered it. I have a 7D that I use in low light shots and when I don't wish to put the Redrock on my XH-A1. Now I have seen used PL mount lenses for as low as $1000 a piece. I could afford a couple of these and an adapter. The question is will the quality gained by using these type lenses be noticable in the finished product. Simple as that. Not "why would you put a $10000 lens on a $2000 camera". Well, as I said you can find a used $1000-1500 ARRI if you already have the $2000 camera, but is it going to give you a noticable difference in the clarity of your shots or not? Simple as the question can be asked.
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#14 Chris Keth

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Posted 19 November 2010 - 09:05 PM

This actually has been talked about at quite great length, especially by the assistants on the forum. The greatest difference isn't in image quality.

If you did the same static shot on both types of lenses, the difference in image would be very small under most circumstances.

If you shot a walkup into a close-up at a T2 with both types of lenses with a good focus puller, the difference in the shot would be massive.

The difference lies is in the mechanics of the lens. A still lens is built to be focused by eye (or by auto-focus) so the focus scale on the ring is very compressed and the ring may turn infinitely. This makes pulling focus difficult or impossible. A lens built for motion pictures is the exact opposite: the focus scale is stretched out and calibrated so the first assistant doesn't even have to see the image to keep it in focus.
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#15 Sean Hegarty

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Posted 19 November 2010 - 10:14 PM

This actually has been talked about at quite great length, especially by the assistants on the forum. The greatest difference isn't in image quality.

If you did the same static shot on both types of lenses, the difference in image would be very small under most circumstances.

If you shot a walkup into a close-up at a T2 with both types of lenses with a good focus puller, the difference in the shot would be massive.

The difference lies is in the mechanics of the lens. A still lens is built to be focused by eye (or by auto-focus) so the focus scale on the ring is very compressed and the ring may turn infinitely. This makes pulling focus difficult or impossible. A lens built for motion pictures is the exact opposite: the focus scale is stretched out and calibrated so the first assistant doesn't even have to see the image to keep it in focus.


Hey Chris, thanks for clearing that up. I don't come here often and when I searched this question it brought me here and I remembered my password and logged in. So unless the shot calls for a moving field of focus there is no visible difference between a $150 and a $1500 lens.
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#16 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 20 November 2010 - 05:15 AM

Hey Chris, thanks for clearing that up. I don't come here often and when I searched this question it brought me here and I remembered my password and logged in. So unless the shot calls for a moving field of focus there is no visible difference between a $150 and a $1500 lens.


Oh, there could be in optical terms at that price range, because film cine lenses are much more expensive than £1500 and $150 isn't that high end in stills terms. A high end professional quality stills lens would be more the comparison to make with the professional cine lenses. Although, you may still notice a difference if the lens aperture wide open and depending on the lenses you're comparing.

In pure film making terms it's the mechanics (plus being hand built) that make the difference and add to the cost of cine lenses.
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#17 Brian Kaufman

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 11:28 AM

While we all dream of big fast, long focus draw cinema lenses (Panny primes, etc.), you can get away with using still lenses if you use the right ones and mate it with a decent follow focus and some focus whips (for example, from Redrock Micro, but there are many other options). I'm currently using old Nikon AI-s primes from the 80s. They have the advantages of rugged build and long (pre-autofocus, 270 degrees+) focus pulls. Now, you still don't get the super accurate distance marks, and that where I find the follow focus gets to be invaluable. If you work with actors who can hit marks, you can mark off your points of focus as needed and get very clean rack focuses. It's not ideal, but you can BUY many of these lenses for under 300$ (and some under 100$) and get great quality from them. I'm not an expert, but this has worked for me on a budget, and it might be worth trying with a rental from borrowlenses.com.

In terms of sharpness, I would be surprised if the L lens was the issue with the house episode. These lenses resolve cleanly for 25 megapixel stills, I don't see how they would fail to resolve to a binned 1080p image. I would expect any issue with sharpness was either due to intentional softening (to avoid moire and aliasing) or due to the codec the 5D spits out (it's not bad, but it's not great either). That's just my .02, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong :-)

Hope I was helpful.
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#18 Ian Blewitt

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:01 PM

I have to say this was a very interesting and informative read.

Lately I have had the privilege of working with some nice Zeiss ZE Primes on a 5D and I will have to agree that going to that from a basic photography lens made a drastic difference in my image quality.


Also, I have heard that there are places you can get your still Zeiss lenses modified to mimic the internals of the CP lenses for a fraction of the price? Has anyone else heard of this process?
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#19 Eric Weindel

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 03:52 AM

Also, I have heard that there are places you can get your still Zeiss lenses modified to mimic the internals of the CP lenses for a fraction of the price? Has anyone else heard of this process?


Yes SLR lenes can be modified to be a bit more like a cine lens. The mods which are typically done however are to the iris ring. This simply involves taking the "clicks" out of the ring and dampening it so that you can smoothly adjust the iris while shooting. Often a standardized collar is added to the front of the lens to fit clamp on matteboxes as well. I've never seen anyone claim to modify the focus throw, which was the main point of contention in this thread.

Check out http://rplens.com/
These guys do the mod I was talking about... I've seen other sites but forgot their URL's.

-ERIC
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#20 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 04:29 AM

I really don't get this thing about putting PL mounts on DSLRs. There was a thread here recently about a modification that would let people mount Arri baseplates and follow focus gear.

The whole point of these things is that they're cheap, or more precisely that they have an enormously high price to performance ratio. Immediately we start adding very expensive accessories we defeat the high price to performance ratio and it merely becomes a mediocre camera system of middling price and probably somewhat less than middling performance.

Just throw a Tamron zoom on it and design your shots around what it will and will not do - just like you do with any other camera system.

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