Home Projects / FilmsFeature FilmsAct of Valor Zeiss: A Cinematic Journey on “Act of Valor”

Zeiss: A Cinematic Journey on “Act of Valor”

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

When I started to prep “Act of Valor” in April of 2009, we were using Canon glass on the first two days of shooting. The hot girls on deck and the interrogation scene were fine on 50, 85, 135mm primes. They held up well but the wide lenses would not resolve well. You had a 14mm that you could not use Neutral Density on so that lens was out, the next one was a 20mm EF, not L series. This lens was way too soft. Then onto the 24mm which was an L series but did not resolve the way I wanted. I needed wide lenses to be able to do the SEAL POV on the helmet cam. We were shooting 2:35 aspect ratio, so a 20mm was barely wide enough to grab hands in the foreground as well as over the gun sites and down the barrel. I was surfing Redrock Micro for a hand held set-up and I noticed these ZF Zeiss primes. I immediately wanted to test these lenses to see if this would be better for our film. The directors Scott Waugh and Mike McCoy wanted it to feel real without the Hollywood touch.

Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Act of Valor

I had met Richard Schleuning, Zeiss’s lead marketing representative, at Cinegear and asked him if he could loan me two sets for “AOV.” He was very accommodating and gracious with the lenses. I had two sets in  Stennis, Mississippi. They arrived and we immediately fitted them with Fotodiox adapters, p-touched the side of them with footage marks for our focus pullers and fitted them with zip gears. They were now ready for combat. I remember one of my favorite shots that I ever did on the film was to follow our lead Navy SEAL down a hallway that was soon to erupt with gun fire. The 25mm Zeiss ZF looked so good;  it was engaging, intimate and stunning. It captured all the natural light that was coming through the windows as well as the subtle morning sunlight I had blowing through the window at the end of the hallway.

Lead Navy SEAL takes the Helmet cam on its maiden journey in Stennis

Lead Navy SEAL takes the Helmet cam on its maiden journey in Stennis

We then put the 18mm Zeiss ZF to use with all the helmet cam footage. This was the perfect SEAL POV. It captured everything in the frame that the directors were hoping for. We set the helmet cam up with all the bells and whistles. When that rig moved into rooms, it was something that I had never seen before. It was intimate, visceral and smooth. I wanted this film to have a GAMER feel to it. That first person shooter perspective that has been so powerful in all the video games like Call of Duty. This felt like that but with real Navy SEALs on the gun. Zeiss helped me take this movie up four notches with this unique perspective. The 18mm did not bend too much and delivered sharp, realistic footage. We used this lens for all of our gun fights. When the SEALS would shoot people at night, you would see the laser coming from the barrel with shells flying out of the chamber; the gunsight and the bad guy that the SEAL was shooting in the heart. It was now done with cinematic quality. Not helmet cams where everything is in focus. This 5D helmet cam had a beautiful focus fall off. We could rack from the gunsight to the bad guy, or to the shells flying out to the bad guy. The possibilities were endless with the 5D’s shallow focus and the Zeiss ZF primes. My package included 18, 25, 35, 50, 85 and 100mm macro. This worked so well.

Rudy Harbon lines up the Zeiss Stake Cam for a truck driveover shot

Rudy Harbon lines up the Zeiss Stake Cam for a truck driveover shot

We used the 21mm ZF which is one of their best lenses in Zeiss’s arsenal. We used it for a stake cam so that the truck could drive right over it. We rolled out with Panavision Primos and Zeiss ZF’s for the entire movie.

New Zeiss ZE and ZF Distagon T 1.4, 35mm

The newest addition to the ZF and ZE  Zeiss prime set will be a Distagon T 1.4, 35mm. This will add a wide lens to their Planar T 1.4 50 and 85mm lenses which is a huge development. You will now be able to lens wide natural light settings at night that were not possible before at a 2.0.

Set of Zeiss CP 2's

Set of Zeiss CP 2’s

CP 2 35mm on the Canon 5D

CP 2 35mm on the Canon 5D

When Zeiss came out with the new CP 2s with the Canon mount, I was into the idea. We now had an incredibly lightweight lens to go on the 5D in a cinema wrapper. A cinema wrapper is a housing that surrounds the glass which turns it from a still lens to a cinema lens. It moves all the focus marks from the top of the lens to both sides so that your focus puller can see his or her distances and it also has 32 pitch focus and iris gears. This is huge. We have all done the zip gears but the CP2’s are permanently attached to the lens which is what we have been using on features for years.  Additionally, there was a Canon mount, so no more adapters, no more zip gears. Yeah BABY!!! The CP2’s are the same glass as the Zeiss ZF and ZE still primes. They are adding more focal lengths as well as two zooms to their inventory soon

Zeiss CP2 28mm with a Canon mount

Why is it important to have cinema primes? We are turning the Canon 5D from a still camera to a movie making machine. This shift requires many more demands placed on the camera, a central one being focus. A focus puller becomes the most important crew member with this platform. With the footage markings on both sides of the lens barrel, it is essential for that individual to get focus bearings without trying to look on the top of the lens. The other is the gears on the iris. I do so many iris pulls with this Canon 5D format. You have to constantly balance inside with outside and if you do not have a large lighting budget, the iris pull is your only ammo. I mount two Bartech motors to the camera. One for focus and the other on the iris. This gives me the ability to hold both the interior and exterior.

What lenses do you use to bring your story to life?

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Tim A. February 26, 2011 at 1:08 AM

Hi Shane, thanks for the article as usual. Are the new Zeiss zooms you speak of CP.2 style or ZE/ZF’s. cheers! Tim.

Shane February 26, 2011 at 2:24 PM

Tim A., thank so much for the kind words. Yes they will be CP-2 style.

Noel February 26, 2011 at 2:41 AM

Great write up Shane! I’v also had the joy of owning and shooting with Zeiss lens and its been a pleasure.

Shane February 26, 2011 at 2:23 PM

Noel, thanks so much for your kind words and support.

Joe Movick February 26, 2011 at 2:47 AM

Thanks Shane for the post. I love my Zeiss lenses.

The Zeiss ZF 21,35,50, and 85 are my essential kit.
We just added the 100 macro and are very pleased as well. Like you said, nothing resolves like these lenses do in a canon mount. But aside from resolution I think zeiss really shines in the contrast, color and build quality.
I don’t know what the engineering is but the dispersion glass elements in the zeiss wide angles work much better with filters than the canon wide angles.

The other thing I love about these lenses that I didn’t see above is that they flare absolutely beautifully!

Not bad for these affordable pieces of glass! http://www.glimpsemultimedia.com/SILT91030H_B1.jpg

Shane February 26, 2011 at 2:22 PM

Joe Movick, you are welcome. Yes the older Jena Zeiss flare even nicer.

Daniel Blanco February 26, 2011 at 8:09 AM

Hi Shane!

You write:
“We were shooting 2:35 aspect ratio, so a 20mm was barely wide enough to grab hands in the foreground as well as over the gun sites and down the barrel”

How did you manage to get a 2:35 aspect ratio with Zeiss lenses? I don’t see any Anamorphic adapter on the lenses in the pictures. Did you just crop it in post?


Shane February 26, 2011 at 2:20 PM

Daniel Blanco, yes we just cropped the top and bottom of the 16:9 frame to give us that aspect ratio.

Blake Peterson January 13, 2012 at 11:03 PM

Hi Shane,

First off, as a hdslr user myself i am a huge fan of the stuff you have produced with the canons. I especially loved your input on zacuto’s shootout 2010.

I am chomping at the bit to see “act of valor”, Can’t wait to see how the 5d holds up on screen.

My question is simply just to clarify that you cropped the dslr footage to 1920 x 800?, then printed to 35mm?

Shane January 15, 2012 at 12:47 PM

Blake Peterson, thank you so much for your kind words. Yes we cropped to 1920 x 800. No external recorders, all to CF cards with all of their compression.

Blake Peterson January 15, 2012 at 3:04 PM

Well i find that some of the dslr icons out there are so coy, ha, ha…..i love when you explain a certain area, its very frank.

Gonna just bug you with a couple things:

Firstly, there’s all the talk about using avchd footage natively, but isn’t it still better to use an intermediate (cineform/prores 10 bit 422)?


I think you printed to film?…….is that because of mixing hd footage with 35mm? or would you go that route anyway.

I just thought since so many theatres have hd projection that the footage would hold up better than with a film transfer……or is that inaccurate.

Shane January 15, 2012 at 8:54 PM

Blake Peterson, natively is the way to go. All the others infuse their own compression to the footage. We made film prints as well as DCP (Digital Cinema Prints). I think out of the 3000 theaters that AOV will be in 800 were still on film projectors. Once we figured out the Cinnafilm grain texture cocktail the DCP looks just like the film print.

Philippe Kiener February 26, 2011 at 12:51 PM

I’ve just sold my entire Canon L lenses kit (24, 50, 85, 100 and 135) to buy Zeiss lenses. I really like the image quality and bokeh. I have the ZE 35 and 50mm and I’m in the process of getting either the 28 or the 21 and the 100mm macro. It is easier to pull focus with the zeiss when you have a follow focus system.

Shane February 26, 2011 at 2:17 PM

Philippe Kiener, yes and gears put on the focus ring. The rack is more cinematic than the L series.

Philippe Kiener February 26, 2011 at 6:06 PM

yeap, with the money I got a redrock micro field cinema with a follow focus, it makes a world of difference.

Thanks for all the articles and tips you’re sharing. Can’t wait to watch your stuff on hdslrhub!

I wonder what you will think about the new version of FCP, maybe you were part of the secret crew how get to see it? 😉

Shane February 27, 2011 at 9:36 PM

Philippe Kiener, You are very welcome and I hope you enjoy the hdslrhub.com. Tomorrow is the day. I hope they can find a way to do something that actually works.

Richard Allen Crook February 26, 2011 at 1:02 PM

Great article Shane. You continue to inspire! How about an article on the Leica lenses? Would love to hear more on your past comments that they Canon sensor seems to be “made” for Leica lenses and that they are closer to Panny Primos than any other lenses. I found Leicas to be a better and less contrasty image compared to the Zeiss yet maintain a fantastic sharpness.

Shane February 26, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Richard Allen Crook, you betcha. That will be coming soon, so much to talk about, so little time. Thanks for the kind words.

Alan Dang February 26, 2011 at 6:22 PM

Looking forward to that next write up!

Philippe St-Gelais February 26, 2011 at 5:21 PM

Hi Shane,

great post as always. Reading about the helmet cam again makes me wanna ask; how do you deal with jelloying? To get sharp footage out a camera mounted to someone’s head, I’m guessing your shutter speed is at of at least 50… I find myself struggling with jello when I go handheld at any focal length over 20, even at a shutter speed as low as 30. Do you use a software to correct the distortions?

Steve M. February 27, 2011 at 12:30 AM

Hey Shane,

Always a pleasure reading your post! May I ask why you opt for the ZF over the ZE Zeiss lens for your 5DM2? Also, isn’t adapting that ZF lens with the Fotodiox adding a crop factor to that equation? Appreciate your reply!

Steve M.

Shane February 27, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Steve M., we used the ZF, one because the ZE were not invented yet and two we needed to do iris pulls. Thanks for your kind words.

Ali February 21, 2012 at 11:20 PM

Hi Shane,

I was wondering the same as Steve. Thanks for the answer, but what about crop factor that Steve mentioined? is there any? I’m looking to buy the zeiss lenses for my 5D and i really love the aperture control on the ZF which is not available on the ZE. I’m still divided between the ZE & ZF.

Many thanks,


Shane March 5, 2012 at 10:58 PM

There is no crop when using the Fotodiox adapter for ZF lenses.

Daniel Blanco February 27, 2011 at 7:08 AM

Hi again Shane,
I’ve been reading through the IMDb info, and found that in the tech specs page it says:

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Panavision Primo Lenses
Canon EOS 7D, Panavision Primo Lenses
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, Panavision Primo Lenses

Film negative format (mm/video inches)
Video (HDTV)

Aspect ratio
2.35 : 1”

No word about Zeiss lenses. Why is that? Have they used in just a few shots?

And, I would love to know wether this film is gonna be released in theaters in Spain. I think we all should go and see it on the big screen.

Can’t wait for tomorrow’s fitst episode of http://www.hdslrhub.com/ !


Shane February 27, 2011 at 9:25 PM

Daniel Blanco, The tech specs are never quite right on IMDB.com. We used Zeiss a lot on that movie.

Shane March 3, 2012 at 12:35 PM

The Spain release date is April 27.

Matt Short February 27, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Shane, once again – great post! Every time I read your blog a flood of ideas fill my head and I can’t wait to go out and shoot.

I have Canon L zooms 24-70, 16-35, 70-200 plus a 500 & a 50 macro. I’m looking to buy some CP2s but can only get budget for 2 right now. My style of shooting is similar to what you’ve done on AOV and the Navy spots. I realize that’s pretty vague but, given the lenses I already have, which 2 CP2s would you recommend I get first?

Ryan Prouty February 28, 2011 at 1:23 PM

Hi Matt,

Any reason you wouldn’t get the lens that you would get the most use out of?

Just look at your last five things you shot – whats the two most frequent focal lengths you’re using? Buy those two lenses!

Hope that helps!

Matt Short March 1, 2011 at 10:39 AM

Thanks for the dose of common sense, Ryan. I do tend to over think things sometimes.

Ariel February 27, 2011 at 12:26 PM

I thought the Zeiss were aliasing on Canons due to their extreme sharpness….

santoro February 27, 2011 at 6:51 PM

When we will see some excerpts or trailer to this movie? 🙂

Shane February 27, 2011 at 9:16 PM

santoro, I am asking the same thing. If you are in LA I can arrange a screening for you.

Matt Short February 28, 2011 at 8:40 AM

How much are the tickets? I’d love to see it too.

Shane March 1, 2011 at 8:53 AM

Matt Short, free of course. I will arrange a screening once I get back.

Matt Short March 1, 2011 at 10:40 AM

That would be awesome. I’m looking forward to it.

Derek Van Gorder February 27, 2011 at 10:24 PM

Thanks as always for these extremely informative posts! Seeing the 5D strapped to a helmet, rigged with remote focus/iris is pretty inspiring– I’m struck again by the extreme versatility allowed by the size of the camera. Can’t wait to see some of the images from this shoot.

I shoot with a set of Nikon prime lenses– the same ones my grandfather used when traveling abroad, shooting stills on 35mm film. It’s a funny thing, how equipment from the stills world has transitioned into video. Recently I have shot with Zeiss & Canon kits on client shoots as well, but one day I’d like to have the Nikons customized for proper cinema use, they have a really unique look– though I admit maybe it’s a personal attachment!

Shane March 1, 2011 at 8:52 AM

Derek Van Gorder, you are so welcome and thank you for your support. I love the old Nikon glass as well. I have two sets of AI and AI-S glass. Beautiful feel.

wilfred March 3, 2011 at 4:44 AM

Hi Shane,

may i ask why you chose to use ZF with nikon mounts and not ZE which have a straight EF mount.. is there downside to using the ones with EF mount? Have a 5D trying to decide on what primes to buy


Scott J. March 3, 2011 at 11:38 PM

You used the term “p-touched” the lens. Explain?

Shane March 7, 2011 at 12:06 AM

Scott J., p-touching the lenses is a term which means taking a p-touch and printing out focus marks, 12″, 18″, 2′, 30″, etc. and then making a new focus witness mark on the side of the lens. This now becomes your mark and then you p-touch the side so that your focus puller can look at your still lenses from the side and not the top for focus marks.

ivan marasco March 4, 2011 at 4:04 AM

hi shane,
i’m in preproduction of a film that i have to shoot with canon 7d/5d.
the film is a lot handle with the use of remote focus and i have to use -during the shooting- the zoom ring.
wich zoom lens you can suggest me(not pl mount)?
the range i need is from 24mm to 100mm or more.
canon 24-105 or canon 24-70 could be ok but the zoom ring is stiff and the focus range of focus ring is small.
do you know same good manual focus lens?
or do you think the canon zoom are the best option in my case?

Shane March 7, 2011 at 12:04 AM

van marasco, I do not like any of the Canon zooms. They do not resolve well. If I had to pick one it would be the 70-200mm Canon zoom.

~D March 7, 2011 at 11:39 PM

I have to say I followed you and loved your blog even before I checked out your imdb… wow, gratz to you sir. Question: Would you say the Distagon set would be a great entry level set for that filmic look… or is there another you would recommend, Canon primes perhaps?

Shane March 9, 2011 at 9:50 PM

~D, go right for the Leica’s, check out my Leica blog, they give you the most latitude of any of the still lenses.

KJ March 10, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Dear Shane,

I love your efforts in educating filmmakers and have learned a great deal from you.

I was wondering about the CP2 lenses, I don’t know if I dreamt this but, did you ever say you used the Tiffen screw on 77mm filters on the CP2s with a step-up adapter. I think you mentioned you use the step-up/down adapters for the 77mm tiffen screw on filters, but not sure if it was for the CP2s.

I know that most people use matte boxes for the CP2s but it would be great if the 77mm filters fit on the CP2s.


Shane March 10, 2011 at 9:45 PM

KJ, thank you so much for your kind words and support. No, that was the Zeiss ZE or ZF still lenses not the CP2’s that take the screw ons. With the CP2’s I use Tiffen 4 x 5 WW ND.

Earl March 28, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Hi Shane,
I know you’re not a big fan of Canon zooms but was wondering if you’ve done anything with their tilt-shift primes. I use the 24,45 and 90 for stills and it would seem that they would look great in video. I appreciate your thoughts.


Shane March 28, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Earl, I used them on the Rat Pack with the Panavision Frazier lens system for Sammy Davis jr. dance and drum sequence.I love those lenses. They rock http://www.panavision.com/node/291?l=1&c=0&p=13

Ade Adetayo April 3, 2011 at 2:19 AM

Love your work, thanks for sharing,

I have the stills Sony Zeiss (A Mount) 85 1.4 and 135 1.8,
Will moving to cp.2 give an improvement in the optical performance (resolution, Bokeh etc)
or is it more about the ease of focus pulling?

In general do “cinematic lenses” perform better optically than professional grade still lenses?


Shane April 4, 2011 at 1:29 AM

Ade Adetayo, thank you so much for those wonderful words, the CP 2 glass is exactly the same as the ZE and the ZF still primes. So all these lenses give you are the ease of pulling an iris and a focus. When making a commercial or feature this is a big deal. for your focus puller to see his marks and feel comfortable with what he knows.

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Cameron Downing June 16, 2011 at 10:10 AM

Hi Shane,

Great article, thanks for all the cool information. I’m excited to see the movie!

I had a quick question though. I was just wondering how you shot for 2.35…did you have a field monitor that gave you crop marks or was it Magic Lantern or something? I’ve used painter’s tape on the screen before but I was wondering about a better alternative.

Shane June 16, 2011 at 10:56 AM

Cameron Downing, Thank you so much for your kind words. Tape is the best way. I am not a big Magic Lantern supporter. You have to re-boot with the firmware every time you power down. With the new EVF’s coming out, Cineroid will generate frame lines as well as Zacuto.

Erik A. July 18, 2011 at 2:13 AM

Shane (Or anyone:)-

I have a set of cine-modded ZF primes and overall am loving them…That being said, as we know, they are SHARP. Great for some things, not quite for others. For those “Other” times, failing the option of getting Lecia’s or softer lenses, are there any diffusion filters you have found to work well with the Zeiss’? I realize that is a very subjective question, but basically I am looking into diffusion filters and trying to find the right combination of taking just enough edge off the contrast without being wedding-photo hazy/foggy soft.

In general, I prefer more subtle diffusion filter effects and have never been a big Promist guy. Just wanting to know if you’ve got a go-to set of diffusion filters for Zeiss primes. Thanks!

Samuel Harding August 30, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Tiffen ultra con filters are a great combination with zf glass it’s a winning combo. 1/4 is a good starting place

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Brian Jackson October 13, 2011 at 6:22 PM

Shane all my buddies and I can’t stop watching the Act of Valor trailer, amazing work man, it looks incredible, keep it up!

Shane October 14, 2011 at 2:34 AM

Brian Jackson, thank you so much for your support and wonderful words. This was spring of 2009, auto exposure and 30fps, along with not knowing anything about this camera other than it was the right tool to tell the story.

Brian Jackson October 14, 2011 at 3:14 PM

I don’t know if you remember her but Amanda Kraus is my editing teacher, and she speaks highly of you, and recalls you being the first pioneer of DSLR’s sending her emails and calling her to try to convince her they were the way to go, right after Canon launched them. Just wanted to thank you for paving the way and showing the world what can be done with these little amazing cameras.

Ron October 15, 2011 at 1:56 PM

Shane, AMAZING! All the naysayers, will watch closely and will have their eyes “over exposed” so to be speak! You have pushed positive change within the world film community. It is wonderful and gracious that you have taken this lead. I appreciate all your efforts and anxiously await to see Act Of Valor.

I’d suspect, you’ll do some updates with respect to the movie before the release?

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robert render harrison February 22, 2012 at 3:06 PM

Awesome website, as always. I can easily get so absorbed I get lost in it!
I’m off to see ‘Act of Valor’ in Novato, CA, Friday am – first screening in Marin County.
I’m reviewing ‘Act’ for Insync Publications, and a local newspaper.

I’m going to enthuse about the website, and I’m 100% certain that lots of ‘regular’ movie-goers will be fascinated to get a peak behind the scenes.


Robert Render Harrison

Blake February 24, 2012 at 12:54 AM

Hi once again Shane,

You have provided such interesting and helpful posts about primes for the 5d (leica, nikon ais, zeiss, etc)

You’ve made my purchase decision very difficult…lol. Wondering two things:

First if you would expect the older contax to rival zf/ze glass for quality and sharpness?
Second and most important, if you could give me an idea for what scenes or parts to look for in “Act of Valor” that was shot with Zeiss ZF.

Going to see the movie tomorrow when it opens!….so excited man, saw the BTS when you talked about the “Live Fire”, ha, ha, you can actually see the concern in your eyes.

Cheers, great work as always and thanks again.

Shane March 5, 2012 at 10:33 PM

Thanks for the kind words and support. All the helmet cam shots were done with ZF glass.

Darren Sim February 25, 2012 at 3:42 AM

Having watched the movie after reading this, I’m even more impressed. I could hardly tell it was shot mostly on a dSLR, even as a SLR user myself. The “FPS shooter feel” was brilliant, cinematic quality was there, and it just came off so well.

Brilliantly done.

Blake February 26, 2012 at 1:05 AM

Have to agree. I am assuming that mostly the static/tripod like shots were using the primo’s and the mobile, hand held/pov stuff is the zf’s. But really even after analyzing the “likely” zf scenes, it looked amazing.

Not sure on the screen size, but it was a very big screen…..lol. It takes a real industry professional to sit there and think “dslr movie”.

On a pure movie standpoint, may have been the best combat scenes i’ve witnessed. The difference between gunfire sfx and real live fire was jarring.

My fiance looked at me after and said “that was shot on your camera?” in disbelief, then i told her the cost for renting Primo’s and she smiled….lol

Shane March 5, 2012 at 1:06 AM

Blake, Thank you so much for your kind words and all of your support on this. I think all the lenses held up well. The Primo’s definitely rose to the top, but they are 40K a lens. It was so much fun making this movie and I glad that you saw it on a big screen, because when I embarked on this mission everyone told me that this was impossible

Shane March 5, 2012 at 1:07 AM

Darren Sim, thank you so much for the kind words and I am so glad you like the film.

Santiago March 10, 2012 at 4:56 AM

Hey Shane,

First of all I want to thank you infinitely for all the precious information you give out to us aspiring filmmakers. This website is a true gem for anyone who has been captivated by the magic of film.

I have just recently acquired the money for me to buy a good set of primes and the struggle of comparing both Zeiss and Canon (L Lenses) is killing me. Personally, I would chose the Canon as they offer the nice AF for photography which is something that I also enjoy. However, my main worry is that I am not sure that the Canon hold up as well as the Zeiss in term of video. Of Course, I am no professional cinematographer as I am just starting a career in filmmaking, but I do value the long lasting qualities of these lenses and I know they will last me an eternity (Thank goodness!). Therefore I have to make sure that what I purchase is of utmost high quality. All in all, I am writing this so that you could tell me a bit as to how the Canon L Primes compare to the Zeiss? Is it wise to purchase a set of these instead of the Zeiss? Will I be losing more with video than what I gain with photography?

Thank you so much for your help and once again congratulations on this amazing site!

Shane March 13, 2012 at 12:58 AM

Santiago, You will not be disappointed with the Canon L series. As long as you stick to the primes and understand the limitations of pulling focus on a still lens that was manufactured for AF. Which means short focus throws that are great for still photography but not for movie making. Zeiss have all the same issues as well, so I say go with Canon unless you want to walk on the wild side and go Leica R.

Santiago April 11, 2012 at 7:31 PM

Hi Shane,

I actually went the Zeiss road. I am not regretting this decision at all! These lenses are amazing. However, I do have an issue choosing my wide angles. Right now the widest I have is the 35mm 1.4 and I want to get two more lenses in this area. My two options would be:

Zeiss 21mm and 28mm


Zeiss 18mm and 25mm

Which combination would you recommend?

Thank you for all your help!

Shane April 13, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Santiago, I love Zeiss glass as well. Whatever helps you tell your story. I would recommend the 21mm and the 28mm. The 21 I feel is Zeiss best lens and the most sharpest.

Ali April 16, 2012 at 9:45 PM

Hey Shane, I have been reading back on all your blogs and seen all your educational series, I am so grateful for a person on your level to share their experience with everyone else in the world. Thank you so much!

I was also curious to know how you made the stake cam – Is it really as simple as getting a fluid head and a stake and putting them together? Is there more to it and where can you find the stake for this setup?

Thanks again!

Shane April 17, 2012 at 7:20 AM

Ali, thank you so much for your wonderful kind words and support. I am glad you enjoyed the educational series. The stake cam is very simple. 1-C-stand grip head, 1- 1/4 20″ bolt to Baby pin and one 12′ 15mm rod.

Angel July 10, 2012 at 10:34 PM

Thanks for sharing all your knowledge Shane. Im in film school right know, and let me tell you that your experience and advices have helped me out so much. Amazing filmmaker!

Shane July 11, 2012 at 1:32 PM

Angel. Thanks so much for kind words and support.

Brandon July 12, 2012 at 9:40 PM

Shane, purchasing a set of ZF2 to go with 5D3. 5 or 6 lens set. recommended Focal Lengths? I think i’m going to skip the 18mm and maybe get 15mm in future. A lot of sets come with the 2.8/21, 2/25, 1.4/35, 1.4/50, 1.4/85… what are your thoughts on the 2/25 vs 2/28.. individually or as part of a set. I want versatility and a decent range, but if one lens is better than another.. that helps too.. as well… is the 2/100mm Macro worth adding to the set?


Shane July 25, 2012 at 8:14 PM

Brandon, go with the 28mm I love that size. Not a big 25mm fan, EVER.

Paul Abrahams August 30, 2012 at 1:29 AM

Hi Shane, I shoot video with the Canon 60D with 17-55mm EFS, 10-22mm EFS & 85mm 1.8 and though its a far cry from shooting for the big screen I’m learning a ton from your blog. Thanks.

Shane August 30, 2012 at 7:37 PM

Paul Abrahams, you have to start and you are knocking it out. Keep it up, I have been doing this for over 20 years and I never stop learning. I think that is what excites me and inspires me to create. You never conquer.

McKay September 8, 2012 at 11:24 AM

Hey Shane, big fan. Act of Valor was an incredible visual experience, and the fact that it was done mostly on a camera less than $3,000 blows my mind. My question is if you can only have three of the Zeiss ZE primes, what would they be and why? I hope to eventually afford all the set you have, but for now, what would you recommend? Thanks!

Shane September 8, 2012 at 12:56 PM

McKay, thank you so much for your wonderful kind words and support. 21,35,50mm

RobG April 17, 2013 at 1:56 PM


There is so much great info on your site, I feel I am back at film school. I am wondering if the CP.2 T2.1 series of lenses will suffice for HDSLR filmmaking or are the Super Speeds the better option if given the choice.

Thanks again for all you do.


Shane April 20, 2013 at 7:34 AM

RobG. If given the choice I would use Super Speeds. They are faster and a smaller barreled lens as well. I shot so many music videos with those. Thanks for the comment and support.

Patrick November 20, 2013 at 3:54 AM

Hey Shane! This was yet another fantastic article from a fantastic website! I think it’s safe to say that because of You i’m learning cinematography twice as fast.

As for me, i first got myself a bunch of soviet manual photography lenses all in Nikon mount, i built up a 4 lens collection for the price of one new autofocusing lens. They did the job and i was pleased, but as time went on i realised tons subtleties of cinematography; after i got myself a Nikkor 35mm 1.8G i truly realised what SHARPNESS means. I am truly adapting Your philosophy of getting it right in-camera, and just a few hours i tested out all my lenses in the 35mm lenght. From now on, i prioritize lenses in such order: contrast, edge perfomance, ease of pulling focus, sharpness, tint, build quality, weight.

Thanks for all that You are!

Shane November 22, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Patrick, WOW!!!, these are the comments that keep me going. Thank you for these wonderful words of support. I am so glad that I could help in your educational process. My love for my craft and passion to share is what defines me. Pay it forward is a term I do not use lightly, many say it, few actually practice it.


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