Home Cinematography Still Lenses That Can Grace The Big Screen

Still Lenses That Can Grace The Big Screen

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

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!!!!

Related Articles


Jon Carr February 6, 2010 at 7:26 PM

Thanks for posting this info. Since mentioning the Ziess in your last post, I have been checking them out. I am prepping for a round the world trip that I will film on the Mark 2 and need to build out my current lens selection. I am also looking to shoot a lot of stills and want the best of both worlds. The Ziess are a little more affordable than the L glass from Canon but I believe I lose my auto focus for stills? Is this correct?

Any suggestions/recommendations. I will more than likely not be projecting on a 40 foot screen but would like the best overall imagery and would say the focus is more on video than stills.

Thanks Shane.

Shane February 6, 2010 at 8:37 PM

Jon Carr, The Zeiss ZE will not auto focus, they just talk to the camera regarding exposure. If not projecting on a big screen, then I would go for L Series Canon. That way it will work for your stills also. The best overall image would be Zeiss.

Sam Phibbs February 7, 2010 at 2:27 AM

Hey Shane under Leica R Glass you have a photo of Carl Zeiss Jena lenses I am presuming this is a mistake. However have you tested any Carl Zeiss Jena lenses like the 35 2.4 in your photo and what was your opinion of them? I like the idea of Zeiss but I cant afford the ZE series but how did you find the Zeiss Jena in comparison(if you tested these lenses).

Thanks once again for sharing all this info

Shane February 7, 2010 at 4:39 PM

Sam Phibbs, yes that was a picture error, sorry about that. I have corrected the picture. I have not tested the Jena glass. Another one on the list, another set of tests. I am glad you are enjoying the blog and thanks for all of your comments.

Sam Phibbs February 7, 2010 at 3:16 AM

One other question Shane is how did the Nikon AI glass hold up on the big screen compared to the others?

Shane February 7, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Sam Phibbs, Much better than the Canon. They seem to have the same contrast as the Zeiss but a little warmer in the color tone. They feel really nice.

Andreas February 7, 2010 at 6:25 AM

Hi Shane,
I like to hear your thoughts about the, horrible in my opinion considering the price you pay, vignetting of 28mm Zeiss ZE wider then f4.


Shane February 7, 2010 at 4:43 PM

Andreas, I have not come across the problem because I do not shoot any of these lenses lower than a 4.0. The focus is too extreme with the 5D’s vista-vision sensor. These lenses are 1/2 the cost of a Canon L series, and if cost is an issue I would go with a great set of Nikon AI seires. I was able to get a complete set off of ebay for 500.00, a 24,28,35,50,85,105,180,200mm.

ivan marasco February 7, 2010 at 6:57 AM

i would like to know if there will be another post about “filtration”.
about the filter’s set to use with stills camera for optimizing the performance:
antimoirè filter,
nd filter(wich one is the best in terms of color rendition and full spectrum),
diffusion filter,
anti IR pollution.

Shane February 7, 2010 at 4:32 PM

ivan marasco, there is a filtration blog coming out mid week. Stay tuned

Alvaro February 7, 2010 at 11:48 AM

Shane, thx for the comment related DP role on post. If you have the oportunity check it out the Canon 135mm f/2.0L this lens is a gem, don’t have zeiss color, but in my opinion, gives the best 3D effect and organic look of all L lenses and btw is a nice focal lenght for film tele work on 5D, much better than any 70-200 zoom at this range.

Jon, as Shane says, the zeiss dont have autofocus, but with the ZE mount, you get focus confirmation (when you pulse the trigger the focus point stand still if the focus is precise) I test on the 50mm and works fine.

alternatively, you can get a Eg-S preciosion matte focus screen that are optimized for manual focusing, or attach a loupe to lcd as a viewfinder.

anyway this solutions are intended for planified shootings, for run&gun situations is always better an AF.

sorry about my english guys.

Shane February 7, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Alvaro, you are welcome, I like the Canon 135mm. I used it on the first week of the Navy SEAL movie, after that not so much. We made the switch to Panavision Primos.

anders February 7, 2010 at 8:02 PM

Wauw…nice testing :-). Wondering if you have anamorphic shooting experience on 5D? If so, what lenses did you use Panavision, Lomo, iscorama?

Shane February 8, 2010 at 2:32 AM

anders, Thank you so much, I haven’t found a reason to shoot anamorphic on the 5D. Talking with Panavision we found that the anamorphic lens would just use a much smaller portion of the CMOS chip and degrade your image overall, so I never went for it. We are already up against it with our 8 BIT compressed color space.

Alan Dang February 7, 2010 at 10:02 PM

Agree with the Leica comments. The 180/3.4 APO-Telyt-R is particularly impressive.

Shane February 8, 2010 at 2:28 AM

Alan Dang, we did not test those just the Summicrons. So many lenses, so little time. I will take a look at that one in particular.

Mike February 8, 2010 at 12:46 AM

If the Leica R-series are the most similar to Panavision Primos when projected on the big screen doesn’t that make them the best (second best being the Zeiss ZEs)?

Also, are all Rs created equal (I’m seeing different ones available, e.g. summicron, elmarit, etc.)?

Shane February 8, 2010 at 2:27 AM

Mike, Yes, finding enough of the Leica’s to rent or buy is another story. I am in direct contact with Leica and talking with them about a set of primes for motion picture. All R series are not created equal, I found the Summicron’s to be the best overall. There coating and contrast far surpass the others.

keidrych wasley February 9, 2010 at 6:26 PM

Hi Shane,

I’d be very interested to know how the canon 50mm EF 1.4 specifically stands up against the leica summicron R 2.0 50mm and zeiss ze 50mm. I’ve read several tests where the canon 1.4 has been found to be very good with great sharpness at 2.8 onwards but i’m considering looking for a summicron instead following your comments. Problem is I’m on a budget and wonder if it would be best to get another size leica lens instead and keep the canon 1.4, because either way i would keep the canon 1.4 for stills because of the AF. Or is the leica 50mm that much better than the canon for video that i should get it (in terms of big screen projection). Is it the contrast that really sets the leica apart? How about the bokeh in comparison?

You previously mentioned in an earlier thread ‘We are converting our mov. files in cineform which unlocks all the detail in the blacks and the highlights, and then putting them into the Avid’. Could you explain a little about what you are doing in cineform that gives you this added detail? I currently convert my files to prores (LT).

Also, are you using twixtor to convert to 24p when you refer to it as helping the image or some other process in twixtor which helps the image?

Sorry for so many questions!

thanks again for the time and work you are putting into this blog. It’s great

Clayton February 9, 2010 at 7:29 PM

I am very curious to know how the new Zeiss match up with their older counterparts: the C/Y Zeiss T*’s. I have a 35/1.4, 50/1.4 and 85/1.4. I like their consistency, coatings and sharpness. I also like that they are faster than the new versions, but how do they really compare?

Shane February 10, 2010 at 3:56 AM

Clayton, I have not tested those, but the speed is not an issue unless you want a lot of out of focus photography. Everyone is gravitating towards the fast lenses. That is the wrong direction. Shooting the 5D under a 5.6 is a recipe for disaster. Been there done that.

ken glasssing February 11, 2010 at 2:16 AM

Hey Shane…been away from computer for a while…what is the buzz I hear on FB and blogs about not being able to use Panavision lenses on the 5/7d any more…is Panaviosn recalling their pv to eos mounts???
Heard any news?
Ken Glassing

Shane February 11, 2010 at 2:24 AM

ken glassing, yes they are taking all the mounts back. Because of this lawsuit they are not renting any mounts or the lenses to go on any Canon camera.

Justin Cerato February 11, 2010 at 11:23 PM

I would love to know how far you push the ISO on the 5D when shooting for the big screen? And also if you go any higher when shooting for TV or Web? Do you ever use any noise reduction in post? I remember you mentioning something about adding film grain to cover up the video noise? Thanks in advance.

Shane February 12, 2010 at 2:54 AM

Justin Cerato, I take the 5D up to 1600 ISO. I feel that is the edge for the noise level on the big screen. For the TV or the Web 1600. ISO I don’t like the noise reduction tool on the camera. It is much cleaner to do so in the post process than having a $2700.00 still camera do it for your preform you music alldations

keidrych wasley February 12, 2010 at 7:12 AM

Shane, do you disable the camera’s noise reduction in the menus then? I presumed this was for stills only but i take it it also puts the noise reduction onto the video?


Andre February 12, 2010 at 12:25 PM

Hi Shane,

great post! thanks for all those infos. Could you please explain a bit more why you said …shooting under 5,6 with a 5D is looking for disaster,

thanks in advance


Shane February 12, 2010 at 12:37 PM

Andre, everyone is shooting this camera wide open on their lenses at a 1.4, or a 2.0, 2.8. Because of the sensor size being the size of a vista-vision camera the depth of field is very shallow at those t-stops. At a 1.4 you have 1/32 of an inch of depth of field. That will be impossible for you to focus on anything that moves. At a 2.0 you have about a 1/4″ of depth and then when you get up to a 5.6 you will have an 1″ to 1.5″ of depth. This will keep the eyes and the nose on a face in focus. I am running a focus blog this weekend it will go into more depth.

Andre February 13, 2010 at 1:14 AM

thanks Shane,

focus blog here? I’ll read it for sure,



Shane February 17, 2010 at 2:13 PM

Andre, your focus blog is up.

Sho1 February 13, 2010 at 3:43 PM

I agree very much- fast lenses(1.4 or even .95…) might be awesome when shooting in the woods at night, but the prices are upthere and need to be aware that the focus is near impossible and will go in and out, if all out, even for the most experienced and talented focus pullers… even on 7D, 2.8 or below is horrifyingly tough…!
Indeed Leica primes are stellar(and my favorites) but Zeiss ZE, as well as C/Y mount Zeiss(in fact, if pay close attention, even Ultra Primes do breathe but those lenses have photographed so many of the movies, along with Super Speeds or now Master Primes, we enjoy at movie theaters, and those movies shots may very possibly be breathing…!), Canon L(those nice little Canon S16 zooms we’ve all used on Aaton or Arris have similar characteristics… most recently “The Hurt Locker”…), Nikon(many of us have mounted PL mount Nikon super telephotos on big guns, or the same still lenses on Eyemos on super stunt sequences), etc etc… all good lenses!

Shane February 14, 2010 at 1:52 PM

Sho1, I agree, I am very happy with my Zeiss ZE and there will be a big announcement on 2/18 that will change the cinema lens capture on the Canon cameras. It will be very exciting times once this news hits the press on Thursday. Stay tuned!!!!

anders February 14, 2010 at 9:43 AM


Hi Shane..it seems this guy claims 2x anamorphic lenses is using the full chip size of the 5d. I dont understand how anamorphic lenses will degrade your image…can you elaborate on that?..

Shane February 17, 2010 at 1:45 PM

anders, But, here goes an explanation that will hopefully shed some light for you (I apologize for all the #’s and %’s) …..
Everyone that has rented the Panavision Anamorphics were all extremely pleased with the images they received.

The 5D MKII’s 1.5:1 aspect ratio sensor is 1.417″ x .945″ (36MM x 24MM) 21.1 meg pixels for stills, and 7 meg pixels when shooting video(it only uses 1/3 of it’s pixels when shooting video).
The 35MM Motion Picture Anamorphic 1.2:1 aspect ratio frame is .840″ x .700″ (21.3MM x 17.8MM).

The traditional 35MM Anamorphic Motion Picture frame can easily be extracted from the 5D’s sensor. If you extract the .840″ x .700″ Anamorphic frame from the 5D MKII’s 1.417″ x .945″, you are only utilizing 44% of the sensor. This means you only get 3.1 meg pixels of the 7 meg pixels it has to offer when shooting video.

You can however go as tall as the 5D MKII’s sensor will let you, providing the lenses cover. Up to 50MM seems to work just fine on the C, E and Primo. The G physically would not fit, as it hit the mirror of the camera.
If you take advantage of the taller Vista-Vision format, your traditional Anamorphic frame goes form .846″ x .700″ to .955″ x .796″, which is 12% larger the traditional 35MM frame.
That would then render you 57% usage of the 5D MKII sensor (4 meg pixels) as opposed to the 44% (3 meg pixels) when using the traditional frame.

In short what this means is if you use the full height of the 5D MKII sensor with an Anamorphic 2x compression lens, you effectively get a negative 12% larger. This means your 50MM Anamorphic lens is really a 44MM Anamorphic lens yielding you the field of view of a 22MM Spherical lens.

One more thing, the LOMO Anamorphics have a very nostalgic look to them. We’ve had a few sets pass through here over the years. I wish I had a set here, their “dated” look can be very appealing for certain situations. They are relatively sharp, but are not in the league with the Panavision Anamorphics.

Richard Brown February 15, 2010 at 5:39 PM

Hi Shane. Thanks for all your helpful info. Could you please tell me how you mount the Hasselblad H series lenses onto a Canon 5D. Many thanks.

Shane February 15, 2010 at 9:03 PM

Richard Brown, I would check novoflex http://www.novoflex.com/en/home/ and or fotodiox https://www.fotodiox.com/catalog/home.php to see if a mount exists. They seem to be the leader with all the adapters.

Richard Brown February 15, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Sorry I see that you weren’t using H series Hasselblad lenses in your tests. Any idea if this can be done though? Thanks.

Richard Brown February 17, 2010 at 1:45 PM

Thanks Shane. Have been in touch with Neither Novoflex and Fotodiox and neither make an adaptor for Hasselblad H lenses to Canon EOS bodies. I suspect it’s all to do with the aperture and shutter being controlled only by the camera body.

Shane February 17, 2010 at 2:12 PM

Richard Brown, I bet you are right. There is so many variables to putting some of these mounts together. It might have to do with the flange depth also, maybe hitting the mirror, etc. like what is happening with the PL mount disaster with the Canon cameras.

Vincent Follézou February 18, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Hello Shane,

I discover your site/blog in the last episode of redcenter. Thank to make me discovers there is Hasselblad to Eos adapter. I live in Japan and there is a hudge market in 2nd hand lense, there are always in very good condition with small price. I will follow your blog more often it’s a real gold mine of feedback and experience.

Shane February 19, 2010 at 3:29 AM

Vincent Folle’zou, thank you so much for your kind words. I loved the focus range, and image quality on the Hasselblad.

Greg Walker February 18, 2010 at 2:46 PM

Shane, you mentioned an announcement today, Thu Feb 18. Can you point me to the information you hinted at?

Shane February 19, 2010 at 3:21 AM Reply
Joseantonio W. Danner February 18, 2010 at 2:55 PM

Just read the news about the new DSLR Zeiss Cine Lens at http://photocinenews.com/2010/02/18/zeiss-unveils-new-dslr-cine-lens/

Amazing news! Thanks again for leading the charge. Right behind you.

Shane February 19, 2010 at 3:20 AM

Joseantonio W. Danner, you are welcome. It is great news, testing them out next week in the DR.

anders February 23, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Thanks Shane….it’s a very helpful explanation of how shooting anamorphic works on the 5D…really appreciate it.

Bart February 25, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Hello Shane,
I’m a newbie to the whole DSLR cinematography thing, but I’ve been reading lots of forums lately and decided to go with a 5DM2 camera.
The only thing is that I don’t know which lens would suit me best for starters. A good all-arounder that is. Wanted to shoot short movies which would be shown on a big (not 40 foot though) screen.
Would be also nice if I could send some of my footage to festivals.

Pete Stone February 25, 2010 at 6:36 PM

Hi Shane,
I think your calculations are a little off on the image size.
The Canon 5D-II has a 21 meg sensor ( stills ) that gives a 60.2 meg RGB still image,
as well as an effective 2 meg sensor ( video ) that gives a 5.93 RGB video image.
I do wonder about your tests showing the Canon lenses as being relatively poor performers
against the Zeiss, Nikon’s, etc….since in most published tests ( done at higher still sensor resolutions
generally ) they seem to hold their own.
So I guess the question I am asking is……were you testing the lenses at STILL resolution, or
at VIDEO HD resolution, since just about any of the current Canon lenses ( except for possibly the very
cheapest consumer budget grade lens! ) can out resolve a 2 meg video HD 1920×1080 sensor.
I do appreciate all the other lens issues, such as breathing, flare levels, contrast, functionality, etc.
I’m just having a hard time understanding how Canon lenses can produce reasonably sharp images
for stills on a 5D-II, but look soft for HD video, given the much lower resolution requirements….
Thanks, and thanks for putting up this blog…..it’s great!

Shane February 25, 2010 at 11:59 PM

Peter Stone, it is your creative choice on what you want to use. If you are a Canon guy you use Canon. I fit the lens to the project. I’ve shot Primos, Zeiss Ultra Primes,Cookes, Zeiss super speeds, and Master Primes. They all work, it comes down to what assists you in telling the story. But they are also all Cinema style lenses, not still lenses. Still lenses have major problems in every way shape and form when it comes to motion. There is a reason for still lenses and a reason that cinema style lenses were designed, they both have two totally different applications. One needs to rack focus quickly and have its focus range short so that the still photographer can capture the moment. Cinema lenses have longer focus throw to help the focus puller and add finesse.

wei February 26, 2010 at 8:59 PM

still macro lenses typically have long focus throw. heard people complaining leica 100 mm elmarit macro too heavy and too long focus throw.

shane, have you tried zeiss ze 50mm and 100mm macro? they may match the resolution of cine lenses. if zeiss lens are too much contrasty, leica 60mm and l00mm macro lenses may be comparable to primo lenses. just a quick guess.

Shane February 27, 2010 at 8:20 PM

wei, I think you might be right. The only thing I am put off by the Leica’s are their coating and flaring issues. Great for some things though.

C&Y February 26, 2010 at 11:39 PM

HI, Shane.

This information is very much appreciated. We are currently researching lenses for a feature film DSLR production. and have pretty much narrowed it down to the Zeiss ZEs or the Leica R lenses. I’ve seen some Zeiss videos on vimeo and the footage/quality looks great. We really haven’t seen anything with the Leicas though. The Leicas seem to be your best reviewed lenses and based on some ebay browsing, they also seem to be really fairly priced. $400-$700ish. The Zeiss lenses are over $1000. Can you elaborate at all on the differences/benefits of shooting with either or? We’re just obviously a little cautious about investing in a prime set when we haven’t seen a ton of footage. Really appreciate any further info about this. Thank you kindly. -C&Y

Shane February 27, 2010 at 8:13 PM

C&Y, I would go for the Zeiss ZE, for two reasons, they talk with the camera, and are a little more user friendly than the Leica’s. You will have to buy mounts for all of those lenses, because taking the mount on and off is not the best thing to do. They run $150-$250 a piece. Leica have a little lower contrast range, flare very easy, which milks your image out quickly, but a nicer focus throw. Zeiss ZE are sharper, have more contrast, don’t flare out easily, talk with the camera, and have a canon mount, but doesn’t have as nice as a focus throw, it also breathes a bunch. I hope this helps.

wei March 2, 2010 at 2:50 AM

Shane: A quick search suggests that Leica lenses rarelly flare (I don’t remember I came across such complaint on leica lenses before, maybe I am not into leica that much.)

If flare occurs, I guess that either leica lenses are old versions (1970-80s) or lens filters are added in front of the lenses, which is a normal practice in cinematography. The air distance between the filter and the lens may cause flare. If the latest version of leica lenses flare much, the basic instinct is to call leica customer support to get a new copy, or at lease get the old copy recalibrated.

Shane March 6, 2010 at 2:04 AM

wei, I have been talking about the 70-80’s Leica glass, and the flaring I am talking about is not cool, it milks out the contrast. The new glass performs very well.

wei March 2, 2010 at 3:05 AM

Another angle of view (may well deserve a debate): Will flare help a 3-D feeling? Three major helpers to generate 3-D view in 2-D photography/cinematography: perspective, front placement, and air reflection including flare, etc. The first two are about composition and framing. The last one is about lenses. A lot of still photographers like old Germane lenses because these lenses can reflect the air distance between the shooter and candid. Citizen Kane used a lot of air reflection techniques. I still remember the take that the guy walked into the library room, with the sun shining from the top windows into the dark room, reflecting a lot of dust in the room, gave a nice feeling of 3-D effects.

Alvise March 3, 2010 at 7:44 PM

Thanks Shane for all those usefull infos.
Don’t know personally (I use Nikkors for video and Canon L for stills), but It looklike many Leica R can hit the 5DmkII mirror (http://www.pebbleplace.com/Personal/Leica_db.html

wei March 5, 2010 at 10:54 PM

less than 25mm that is the case for 5d2. on 7d, even 19mm is ok, according to some experimenters.

Shane March 6, 2010 at 12:33 AM

wei, what are you describing here?

marcoabu March 6, 2010 at 2:06 PM

great post. there’s a new upcoming zeiss compact 2, look on vincent laforet’s blog

Luke March 9, 2010 at 11:42 PM

Shane, thanks for this great resource! I was wondering what Nikon mount adapter would you recommend for the 7D?

Shane March 20, 2010 at 7:34 PM

Luke, I would recommend the Novoflex or the Fotodiox, both will run you around 140.00 to 250.00 for one that comes up true to the focus marks on the lens.

Jorn March 11, 2010 at 8:07 AM

Hi Shane,

you mentioned the Hasselblad medium format lenses, will the focal lengths stay the same on a 5D ?

charles lim March 15, 2010 at 12:04 AM

anybody messed around with the lomo anamorphic 75mm roundhead? Are they any good?

Arvel March 17, 2010 at 12:31 PM


Thanks so much for your blog. Lots of interesting information here that you don’t have to share, so I appreciate it. I just wanted to get your opinion on PL mounts on DSLRs. I recently found a site that offers (non adapter) mods on the 7D. Just wondering if you had any experience with this.


Shane March 19, 2010 at 8:43 PM

Arvel, thank you for your kind words. I have not used the PL mounts yet, waiting for the Compact Zeiss Primes.

Frank Glencairn March 17, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Shane, have you ever tried the famous medium format Zebra Zeiss Jena primes of the 1960s/early 1970s?
Best glass Zeiss ever made in my book. Amazing cinema focus throw, no breathing at all and a extremely cinematic look and bokeh.
I use them religiously on the HVX200/Letus Adapter combo and on the 5D now.

Best of all, they are dirt cheap (at least here in Germany) you can score them in mint condition between 100 and 170 Euros on German Ebay. Look for “PENTACON SIX Zeiss”

best, Frank

Shane March 19, 2010 at 8:38 PM

Frank Glencairn, wow they sound incredible. I will try them out. Thank you for your comments.

Tony Reale March 22, 2010 at 5:38 PM

Thanks for all your advice, Shane! Question for you: Do you think the Zeiss Compact Prime 2 Cine Lenses will be worth the extra money over a set of RPLenses converted Zeiss ZF lenses?

Shane March 23, 2010 at 12:32 AM

Tony Reale, I have not tested the compact primes, I get my set in a week. I will try to give you some feedback soon.

Frank Glencairn March 22, 2010 at 7:36 PM

Shane, if you want to try out some of the vintage Zebra Zeiss glass, send me an e-mail. There are sertain points to take care of when you buy that lenses (I learned the hard way), and I would be glad to give you some hints if you want me to.


Shane March 23, 2010 at 12:27 AM

Frank Glencairn, I would love anything that you can pass on to me. Thank you so much.

Toby Birney March 23, 2010 at 6:12 AM

Hi Shane, thank you for the reviews. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the new Zeiss Compact Primes 2. I am thinking of putting together a 7D package for myself for use as an extra camera on features, tv docs, music videos, low budget commercials, etc. I’m just wondering- is there is a zoom lens that you like or have tested with these cameras? I’m prone to think a zoom would be great for a lot of situations I’ll be getting into…

Shane March 23, 2010 at 8:51 PM

Toby Birney, I am looking to buy two of the 7D EVO PL-54 mount cameras by Denz so that I can use the ANGENIEUX 17-80mm OPTIMA ZOOM and the ANGENIEUX 24-290 mm OPTIMA ZOOM.
What I find is that in the Zoom department they do not hold up very well. They do not resolve well and many have stop changes when you zoom. The 24-70mm T2.8 is not bad but I just haven’t found any I like.

Toby Birney March 27, 2010 at 6:28 AM

Shane, I am also contemplating a PL modified 7D. I hadn’t heard of Denz doing mods, I only knew of Hot Rod. Have you compared the work of the 2 different companies and any reason you are going with Denz?

Shane March 27, 2010 at 3:45 PM

Toby Birney, I love the Denz mod. It seems tight and excepts all PL lenses and zooms. Hot Rods is very good too. I want to see a 5D modified, screw the 7D. Let’s move to the best image capture possible in this compressed format. Let’s move forward not backwards.

Toby Birney March 28, 2010 at 5:09 AM

Thank you Shane- I will have to do some more research on the Denz modified cameras. I wish there were an easy way for me to compare the different mods with my own eyes- I’m far away in Eastern Europe, having to depend on word of mouth and the opinions of other professionals. And, yes I agree- a 5D mod would be fabulous…

Frank Glencairn April 1, 2010 at 6:19 AM

O.K. Shane, I wrote an article on vintage Zeiss glass on modern cameras.
If you have any further question, feel free to ask.

best, Frank


C&Y April 1, 2010 at 8:27 PM

Thank you so much for your response, Shane. Still doing some research. It looks like we’ll be picking up the Zeiss ZE 50mm 1.4 for sure. Just a quick question about Zeiss C/Y lenses. Any experience. As far as the longer lenses go, they seem to have some nice options. (180mm 2.8 for example). Any experience? We know an adapter (C/Y to EOS) is necessary and are attracted to their cheaper prices on ebay. Resolution and image wise, are they solid? If they’re a little lower contrasty and vintage looking the better! Thanks so much.

Shane April 1, 2010 at 11:24 PM

C&Y, you are so welcome, I have not tried the Zeiss C/Y lenses. Do not go with cheap adapters. They will screw you. You should pay at least $140.00 to $250.00 an adapter. The cheap ones will be loose and move the whole image around while focusing. Also the focus will not be true with the lens and your marks will be all off. Fotodiox and Novoflex are the leaders in this category.
I am getting a set of the Compact 2 Zeiss Primes tomorrow to test and I am very excited. Will give you my thoughts once I put them to the test.

C&Y April 2, 2010 at 12:04 PM

Thanks again. Novoflex doesn’t seem to make a CY-EOS adapter, but Fotodiox makes a very reasonable Pro one for $89.00


RJ April 2, 2010 at 1:34 PM

Hi Shane,

Do you typically lose anything with zoom lenses over primes? Zoom lenses offer some real flexibility in the field when perhaps constant lens swapping is trickier.


Shane April 3, 2010 at 3:37 AM

RJ, Zoom lenses do not resolve as well as primes. The more glass that the light has to pass through the more the image is softened. You have to go with what works for you in the field. If you need the zoom then have at it. Function follows format.

Kennon Fleisher April 2, 2010 at 2:36 PM

Hey Shane,

I have to ask; How does a sharper lens drastically change the overall image of video on the Canon DSLRS? I shot this video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIi8q0mKvR4 ) that even at full res on a Sharp Aquos 1080p tv looks identical… and it’s a kit Canon 18-135 at F/5 vs a Zeiss ZE 35mm also set to F/5.

Also, Barry Green says that it does NOTHING to change video resolution. Bokeh, moire, and slight changes in the focal length and depth of field (SLIGHT) are the most difference you will notice, maybe some color difference too. These cameras stream video and down sample to 1080p which is just over 2 megapixels in size… the actual resolution isn’t 1080p, nor is it 480p… just somewhere in between, closer to 720p than anything… and changing to a faster lens isn’t going to make that any better, period.

I agree that for photography, it helps a lot and changes a lot – for video, it’s nice to have faster lenses if you want to stop up to a wider maximum aperture and obtain a more shallow depth of field… but it will barely change the sharpness.

To be honest, if you shoot with a Zeiss lens, it’s going to cause a lot MORE aliasing than anything. I’ll work on shooting some tests.

With all this said, I still would want to own nice glass just to shoot better photos on, for the build of the lenses, and the usability of them. I’m simply not sold on the fact that FOR VIDEO, better lenses make the image sharper. I guess I should clarify and say it can make the slight differences I mentioned above, but it really comes down to the question: Is it worth paying $1500 for something like the Canon F/1.4L, or just paying something like $300 for the Canon EF 30mm F/2?

Again – Even on a nicely sized 42″, full 1080p Sharp Aquos (which is a good TV at that) the image I showed you above looks identical (FOR VIDEO, NOT PHOTOS)

Shane April 3, 2010 at 3:34 AM

Kennon Flesiher, I can only tell you that on a 60 foot screen your $300.00 30mm EF looks soft and does not resolve well, which then effects your color space. You have to roll out the way that you do. So if these lenses make your work sing then I am in full support. To each his own.

Frank Glencairn April 7, 2010 at 2:51 AM

O.K. I fixed the missing picture links for the vintage Zeiss glass. Should work fine now. Sorry for the muddle.



Robert Anthony April 11, 2010 at 4:15 AM

Shane, wonderful blog.

I’m switching to Zeiss ZE Lenses for shooting short films, commercials & music videos on my 5D Mark II.

The first two lenses are the Zeiss 50mm F/2 Makro-Planar ZE & 100mm F/2 Makro-Planar ZE.

I need help selecting the best Zeiss ZE wide angle for video.

The Zeiss 21mm F/2.8 is one of the best lenses in existence for still photos on a Canon body, but the distortion (sides curving inward) worries me for video, especially with people in the shot.

The 28mm & 35mm ZE’s have less distortion and are faster at F/2 than the 21mm, but they don’t have the same amazing 3D quality of the 21mm.

What do you think would be the best choice if I can only afford one of them?

Thanks. Robert

Shane April 11, 2010 at 5:17 AM

Robert Anthony, I am so glad that you like the blog, The ZE’s are pretty kick ass. I feel the 21mm bends even more than the 18mm ZE, but for wide angle lenses I feel the 28mm is plenty wide for HD. That is equal to a 18mm on a 35mm Motion Picture camera. That Vista Vision sensor gives you a pretty wide view. I say 28mm unless you want wider, then I would go 18mm. It does not resolve as well as the 21mm but I feel it is flatter. You are welcome.

Alan April 17, 2010 at 5:05 PM

@wei. The APO-Summicron-R 90 ASPH is a great lens, but I agree that the flaring with Leica lenses is still a problem. I was initially a big fan of the Summicron-R 35/2.0 which is flare resistant even into direct sunlight, but with more experience it’s pretty clear that it has a lot of veiling when the light is just outside the frame and hits the lens at the correct angle. In the right conditions, I still like the Leica lenses very much given their contrast/color character, but the Zeiss lenses are much more resistant.

I think part of what gives Leica it’s unique look is the low number of elements but possibly less impressive coatings. Also important to consider is the barrel design. I suspect Leica’s passion for making lenses *tiny* hurts them here because of the greater impact of reflections off the barrel. Mechanically, the focus throw on the Leica is a lot better than the Zeiss and you can also easily modify them to have clickless aperture rings.

The 35/50/90 setup makes for a nice set of lenses though. Add the 100 macro and you have a versatile setup that can easily travel. If you need wider, the 1994+ era 28/2.8 fits on the 5D2.

I don’t know if Leica’s flaring is “cool” or not, but it’s certainly beautiful when used judiciously. The loss of contrast is counteracted by reduced aperture flaring (from fewer lens elements). I think it gives the viewer the feeling of squinting to deal with the bright sun as opposed to something that is too technically perfect. You can use this as its own special effect the same way Daniel Mindel shot the new Star Trek.
@C&Y. Zeiss has gone on record to say that the 50 and 85mm ZF lenses are very similar to the Contax versions. The ZF is supposed to have more circular aperture blades and improved flare resistance. Probably changes to the internal baffling and barrel rather than just coating alone. They definitely have similar resolving power and contrast.

The problem with Contax lenses is the difficulty with adapting the lens. Even though there’s no glass in the way, variations in the thickness of the adapter have significant consequences:

(not my test).

If you have an existing set of Contax lenses, it’s cheap and easy to go with them. If budget was a non-issue, I’d go with the new ones. The 21mm is supposed to be very similar but I haven’t tested it. Very sharp lens although there is moustache distortion which people don’t like in both the new and old versions. The 18mm is a brand new design; also the 18 f/4 doesn’t fit reliability on Canon cameras.

@Shane: Which Leica lenses did you test? The 24mm that you have a picture of is actually a Minolta design which Leica licensed and then manufactured to their tolerances. 😉

In your world, do you still think there’s a role for adapting still lenses to the 5D when you now have true cinema housed lenses for the EF mount?

Also, have you tried the IB/E Cine-Xenars? Those cover the full 5D frame and seem to be better and cheaper than the CP.2’s.

Shane April 20, 2010 at 2:35 PM

Alan, wow, I have to say I am overwhelmed with all this amazing information. Thank you so much for your wealth of data. I am not very happy with the CP2’s. All they are is ZE glass with a big barrel. Period, the end, not worth paying another 2000.00 a lens for the same glass. The Schneider Optics lenses I have not tested, but seem in all of the online data to be better. I will do some more research and get back to you when I have more time to digest this info. Thanks again for everything and your support of this platform.

Richard Andrews April 27, 2010 at 10:21 AM

Hi Shane

Over the years I have built up quite a large collection of prime lenses from my work as a photographer:

Olympus Zuiko
24mm 2.8 | 28mm 3.5 | 35mm 2.0 | 50mm 1.4 | 50mm 1.8 | 85mm 2.0

Pentax Super-Takumar
35mm 2.0 | 50mm 1.4 | 85mm 1.9

Pentax SMC
35mm 2.0 | 50mm 1.4 | 85mm 1.8

Carl Zeiss (Contax Mount)
28mm 2.8 | 50mm 1.4 | 85mm 1.4 | 135mm 2.8 £227

In your opinion will none of these sets work with the Mk2 for footage other than that for the web?!

Regards from England, Richard

Andrew Howe May 3, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Very interested in your comments on the CP2s. I had been giving the Zeiss lenses some consideration after struggling with my Canon photo lenses. One thing that had been worrying me about the ZE’s was that the loss of the aperture ring meant you might get locked in to Canon. I have 2 Canon DSLRs already (5D2&550D) but everything is evolving so fast it makes me a little nervous. Although, they are more expensive (and as an amateur, thats not insignificant) I was wondering if they were perhaps still a better long term investment?

How do the CP2s handle when not on rods, are they usable handheld or for stills?

Regards Andy, UK

Shane May 4, 2010 at 12:32 AM

Andrew Howe, I was not impressed with them. They are the exact same glass as the ZE’s but when I put them up on the projector at Panavision the ZE’s blew away the CP2’s. So why spend the money. What you are paying for is the housing. So I would either have a permanent 32 pitch gear ring put on or buy the Red Rocks’s that increase the diameter of the lens. Move you focus witness mark to the side and then P-touch your footage marks on the side of the lens so that your focus puller can see and you are batting a 1000. I would wait to the dust settles. I am loving my new set of Canon L series I just bought. After “The Last 3 Minutes” where I had to use them for the joint venture with Canon, I found the 50,85, and 100mm Macro rocked.

Frank Glencairn May 4, 2010 at 10:40 AM

If anybody wants to see more examples, I updated my article on “Vintage Zeiss glass on modern cameras” with some screengrabs of a feature film I shot recently (Indiana Jones and the Spear of Destiny). Thou I used “only” an HVX200 and an LEX 35mm adapter, the images look great in the theater.



Shane May 4, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Frank Glencairn, thank yo so much for sharing. I love the stills from the Indiana Jones motorcycle leap. Love the de-saturated, lower contrast look.

John David Wynne May 4, 2010 at 9:54 PM

I’m looking for a decent still lens zoom that doesn’t change stop as you go up the barrel. Any recommendations? I Have an old 2.8 16mm 12-120mm Angeniux that I shot my first film with and I’ve been toying with the idea of getting PL mount adapter for my camera because I love that thing.


Shane May 6, 2010 at 11:59 AM

John David Wynne, all the still zoom lenses suck. My advice is to get a PL mount 7D and rock out the cinema zooms, those are the only ones that resolve.

Andrew Howe May 7, 2010 at 9:06 AM

Thanks for the reply. I was hoping that someone would bring a CP.2 to Converge.2 in London but there were none to be seen. Quite a few ZE’s to try though – such a nice, precision feel takes me back to a bygone age. Canon did have most of their range there to try. Most of my lenses were bought originally for stills and my only L’s are zooms. I have the 50f1.4 and the 85f1.8 so was looking to upgrade those last. I was looking to get something at the wide end and the 28mm Zeiss now looks favorite (despite having lustful thoughts for the 21mm). I had a play with the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro and liked it. I’ve heard lots of nice things about it from numerous sources now.


Shane May 7, 2010 at 11:51 AM

Andrew Howe, The CP2’s are not anything to write home about. It is the exact same glass as the ZE’s. For 3 times the price. Just to be housed in a large barreled lens that is giving soft centers and edges on the 18,21,25mm lenses. Sorry I am not buying. Keeping my 4 sets of ZE’s and loving it, then I go to Duclos lenses in Chatsworth, CA and they put a precision 32 pitch gear ring on the lens and a 77mm ring on the front for one standard diameter for your filtration.

Frank Glencairn May 14, 2010 at 9:49 AM

Here is some more “character lens” food from a commercial shot I did yesterday.

Vintage (1960s) Zeiss medium format primes.
80/2.8 and 200/2.8 Camera, HVX200/LEX

I call that “lens character” Zeiss-Buttersharp, thou the JPEG compression and the LEX is softing them. On a 5D MKII they would look even better.



Emmanuel Plak May 15, 2010 at 12:52 PM

I have recently purchased a number of Contax mount zeiss primes. They were made in Germany 20 years ago, so they might be better than the new ZF/ZE breed which is out scorched in Japan. Apart of Duclos which is in LA, do you know any European house to do cine conversions for this particular lenses?

Shane May 17, 2010 at 1:12 AM

Emmanuel Plak, I have hired Julien as the Hurlbut Visuals lens researcher, please feel free to email him all your select lenses that you like at [email protected] and we will check them out. Those Contax seem very cool. No I have not heard of any. Thanks for your support.

John Said May 21, 2010 at 12:49 PM


If you were putting togther a dream set of prime and zoom EF-mount lenses, what whould your choices be out the current Zeiss ZE and the Canon L-series offerings?

Thanks for your advise

Shane May 21, 2010 at 10:27 PM

John Said, I would go for the 24,35,50,85,100 macro,135, 200, 300mm L Series Canon lenses. All the most current glass being the USM II and the lowest f-stop, 1.2,1.4, etc. On the zoom front the 70-200 IS USM II, is probably their best. ALl the wide ones are not that good. You are welcome

Ivar Edding May 26, 2010 at 1:39 PM

Hello Shane!

Thank you for having this blog! I’ve been here a lot lately, and ever since you appeared on the Red Centre podcast, I’ve been a fan.
Actually that very podcast convinced me to take the plunge into dslr film making, and since I’m not on the highest budget, I wonder if you could give me some comments on the kit I’m thinking of getting:
– 7D body
– Zeiss ZE 85mm
– Canon 50/1.4 (I’d love the 1.2, but it’s pricey)
– Leica Elmarit 24/2.8

If you have the time, I’d love to hear your comments on this starter kit of mine.

Best wishes from Sweden!

NormanBates May 27, 2010 at 7:00 PM

I’d love to have someone else’s opinion on those vintage zeiss jena lenses that frank mentioned

with all the photo guys getting rid of them because of their lack of autofocus, they seem like a really good deal… if they are any good

at a minimum, they should be better than anything you can get for under $500, but still, I’d like to hear more about them

NormanBates May 28, 2010 at 3:34 AM

(in particular, I worry about flare, which seems to be really horrible, and corner sharpness, which is also quite bad in some of the sample pictures I’ve seen)

Max May 31, 2010 at 9:52 AM

Hi Shane,

okay here is the deal. So I am a student and I saved a lot of money for my Canon 5D, but it was 100% worth it. For now I am borrowing lenses. Still not sure what lens to get, the Zeiss ZE sound awesome, but they are really expensive compared the Nikon AI ones. So would you recommend saving 3-4k euros to buy a stock of Zeiss ZE primes or would you recommend spending about 1,5k for good old Nikons AI? Greets from Germany

Shane June 1, 2010 at 2:08 AM

Max, go with the Nikon AI, they never disappoint, as long as you spend $140.00-$200.00 on your Nikon to Canon adapter. Novoflex or Fotodiox on the mount.

Alex D. May 31, 2010 at 12:38 PM

Hi Shane, thanks again for your great blog. I’ve been searching and can’t seem to find an answer to this question – you say that the 7D and 5D mark II footage holds up well on a large movie screen, but I’m curious if you’ve seen it projected while intercut with footage from the RED camera. I’ll be shooting a feature film in about a month, and the director would like to use the 7D on select scenes (we have free access to the 7D, which is why we would go with that over the 5D) while shooting the rest of the film on the RED camera. I think its a great idea, but I am nervous to give the okay because if they end up projecting the film on a large screen, I want the 7D footage to hold up well and be indistinguishable from the RED footage. I know they can cut together well in a smaller format (I have done it myself on some music videos), but I’m worried that the differences in resolution/compression will be more pronounced once we see it on a large screen.

Unfortunately we don’t have the money or resources to test, and so I’m reaching out to the experts!!!

Thanks for all your help,

Alex Disenhof
(Emerson Alum!)

Shane June 1, 2010 at 2:15 AM

Alex D., I have never cross cut the two because I am not a big fan of the RED. So if you are worried about the 7D looking better then the RED footage, that will be your issue not the other way around. The compression is your friend. Do not look for clean, crisp, uncompressed HD, because that looks like video, which looks bad. The 5D and 7D look like “Digital Film.” The compression softens the edge of the hyper sharp HD and makes skin tones and faces look amazing, unlike all the other HD platforms. I have seen “The Last 3 Minutes on a 40′ screen and it will blow you away. I probably did not answer your question.

Didier Clermont May 31, 2010 at 7:37 PM

Thank you for providing such an informative blog to all of us DSLR Users Shane, you really really inspired me to express my ideas visually you the reason I picked-up a camera. Your last piece “The Last 3 Minutes” is so cinematic and at the same time organic, blew me away that it was achieved it on the 5D. Got couple questions for you Shane would appreciate it if you reply back, should I buy Zeiss ZE 21mm, or 18mm? How do you keep your images so in focus with the 5D? cause I know how hard it is to focus and finally I read that the Zeiss ZF mounts are better for shoot with than the ZE ones what’s your input on that? Thank you once again hoping on hearing back from you.

Didier Clermont

Shane June 1, 2010 at 2:04 AM

Didier Clermont, first I want to thank you so much for those kind words. I really think I have cracked this egg and want to share everything that I have learned with you. The 21mm ZE is the best lens Zeiss makes. ZF vs. ZE, I can tell you that every time that you use an adapter to affix a lens to a camera you are compromising, unless you spend upwards around $140.00-200.00 a mount. So I feel that the ZE are very good. The reason I am able to keep it in focus is because of my amazing Elite Team focus pullers, Darin Necessary, Derek Edwards and Marc Margulies. These guys make me shine everyday. They have Zen focus abilities. I also use a Bartech remote follow focus to help in their quest.

Didier Clermont June 1, 2010 at 3:19 AM

Thank you for replying back so promptly Shane appreciate it your answers really helped, I’m getting the 21mm Zeiss next week. My goal now is to learn more about lighting, and the Coloring process any tips? example like software ect… cause your colors are vibrant and pops. I’m sorry if I’m asking so many question Shane I’m so eager the learn the little bit I can get from you, cause you pioneered this revolution. Lastly if possible can you critic my first video ever and it’s a music video, shot entirely on a T2i I know!!! bad choice of camera (http://www.vimeo.com/11958909) Just got my 5D it’s been a week now, all my new shoots will be shot on it. Hope to hear from you again shane take care.

Didier Clermont

NormanBates June 1, 2010 at 9:59 AM

I have also seen a lot of awful RED footage that looks freakishly wrong, but, very, very modestly (my eyes are not as well trained as yours, by far) I also think there’s some RED stuff out there that looks great

like Vincent Laforet’s suggestion from a couple of weeks back, “the secret in their eyes” (great story, great movie; shot on RED with a very modest budget; I think it also looks great)

Shane June 2, 2010 at 1:57 AM

NormanBates, It is not the tool, but the person behind it that makes it look amazing. RED, F-35, Canon 5D, Kodak, etc., if the story transports you and the performances engage you, then it really doesn’t matter what platform they were captured on.

Ivar Edding June 2, 2010 at 4:33 AM

Hello again Shane!
I’m still looking forward to hearing your thoughts on my previous post, but I thought I’d be more specific and rephrasing my questions.
Would I do better in getting the 85mm Zeiss ZE and a Leica Elmarit 24mm, or a 21mm ZE and maybe a Leica 85mm?
Also, as you mention above the importance of getting a high quality adapter for non EF lenses, is this as crucial for the Leica R lenses as well? If so, what adapters would you recommend?
Thank you for you time Shane, best wishes.

Ivar Edding

Shane June 3, 2010 at 2:31 PM

Ivar Edding, I would go all Leica, or all Zeiss ZE. The mix will be a little funky because they are very different in color tone, and contrast. The best Leica adapter would be Novoflex. You are welcome.

Didier Clermont June 2, 2010 at 2:19 PM

Shane do you still Shoot 30fps on the 5D even with the 24fps update & Twixtor it back to 24fps by frame blending, I was just listening to all your podcast great info I felt your passion keep it up.

Didier Clermont

Shane June 3, 2010 at 1:44 AM

Didier Clermont, I am shooting 24p now because of the post time limitations. Everyone wants the edit yesterday and the rendering time for twixtor is debilitating.

Didier Clermont June 3, 2010 at 5:24 PM

Thank you so much Shane you the man, I forgot to mention that if you ever needed music composition, or music soundtracks for your videos my music production team is at your service free of charge. Lastly if you need an extra hand on your set, a water boy whatever it maybe Shane I’m there just wanna learn from the best there is. thank you once again for your time and for replying.

Didier Clermont

Shane June 4, 2010 at 12:33 AM

Didier Clermont, wow!!!, thank you so much for all of that. I will take you up on that when I have my next project. Thank you for those kind words, they mean a lot to someone who works everyday about 15 hours and then comes back to my hotel room and talks with all of you and then gets back up at 6am and does it all over again. I am in Oklahoma directing a Case Tractor commercial and loving it.

Didier Clermont June 4, 2010 at 1:14 AM

No Shane thank you!!! after all your achievements & accolades you still put the time in to help the little guys that shows your character. You can take me up on what I said about the music composition/soundtracks & also being the water boy on set here are all my info: (203) 570-0774 [email protected] just in case if you ever needed me lol… take care.

Didier Clermont

Ivar Edding June 4, 2010 at 9:47 AM

I agree with Didier, I’m awestruck by your generosity and commitment the put your knowledge out to the public, to us little guys.
Thank you, and keep it up!
Ivar Edding

Shane June 6, 2010 at 11:32 AM

Ivar Edding, thank you for your kind words and support, first of you are not little, you are all fueling this revolution and I will always be there for you, keep pushin’.

Paul Harrill June 10, 2010 at 4:22 PM

Hi Shane –

Thank you for the tremendous resource that you provide to all of us filmmakers sorting the facts from the fiction with the DSLR filmmaking revolution. I have a question:

You write that “The Canon EF lenses cannot hold up on the big screen. I used them on the first 2 shooting days of the Navy SEAL movie and they were just plain soft.”

Can you be a little more specific? I’ve heard that the 50mm 1.4 EF prime is actually very, very sharp. (Other EF’s, maybe, not so much.) So I’m curious if you were using it and had softness issues with it too.

Thanks again for your willingness to share!

Paul Harrill

Shane June 11, 2010 at 4:37 AM

Paul Harrill, EF lenses suck!!! If they are L series then I will tell you that they are great from a 35mm up. My tests have shown that the EF lenses will not resolve like the L series.

BigMike June 10, 2010 at 5:28 PM

Shane, thanks for sharing your experiences — it’s invaluable to us out there…

One question:

If you were to pick only 3 of the Zeiss ZE’s, which would you pick?

Shane June 11, 2010 at 4:34 AM

BigMike, ON A 5D 21m,28MM,50MM, 85MM, SORRY you need to buy four.

Marcos June 11, 2010 at 1:58 PM

Hi Shane, I recently saw “the last three minutes”, wow, astonding, really excellent job, also I have had read this article, very useful to me, thank you very much, now I am your fan.

I have to do a little film on this year, and I want shots like you did in “the last three minutes”, could you tell me what kind of grip did you used to hold the camera on a helmet? was it dificult?

I hope you can help me with this.

I have a Canon T2i, Zeiss ZE 21mm, 50mm and a Contax 28-85mm. I bought this kit thanks to you.

Thank you very much.

Shane June 13, 2010 at 3:03 AM

Marcos, I want to thank you so much for your comments about “The Last 3 Minutes.” I used a Doggicam helmet cam. They had just come out with this system and wanted to try it out. It mounts very close to the eye which I like. I am glad that I could help in any way. You are very welcome

John David Wynne June 13, 2010 at 3:25 AM

Hello again Shane,
I’m loving all of the making of videos, thanks for sharing so much with all of us shlubs. What do you think about the 21mm Zeiss still? I’m considering that or the 28mm and I’m always on a budget, what would you recommend of the two? Thanks, as always.

lawrence June 13, 2010 at 10:41 AM

hey shane have a quick question. are all the old nikon primes usuable and show great on the big screen or just the ai series. thanx.

Shane June 21, 2010 at 12:11 PM

lawrence, all Nikon lenses will work, it just seems that Nikon was making the best glass during the AI and AI-S time period. There quality control went down hill once the pro-sumer took hold in the mid 80’s.

BigMike June 13, 2010 at 12:12 PM

Thanks for the reply, Shane. Your advice is invaluable to lots of people like me!!!!

Regarding 5D, your recommendation is a 21m,28MM,50MM, 85MM…

what about for the 550D which has a smaller sensor…?

Shane June 21, 2010 at 12:09 PM

BigMike, you are very welcome, the 550D is not happening. The 5D is king, if that is out of your price range than I would go for the 7D.

Paulie June 17, 2010 at 11:33 PM

Shane, I’m going to clobber you!! Just when I thought I was done spending money on lenses, you come along with this FANTASTIC article explaining the real deal. Seriously, thanks for taking the time to write this. My 16-35mm L is fine for stills, because I can fix everying in post, but for video I’ve been dismayed. Looks like the 16-35mm and 24-70mm are hitting eBay soon, to be replaced with a couple ZE’s. I’m real happy with the new 100mm IS Macro and 70-200/2.8. ANYWAY, we couldn’t get this type of insider pro info without the big guns like you posting it, and you’re really under no obligation to take the time to write it, so a huge thanks for doing it!

BigMike June 22, 2010 at 11:19 AM

Thanks bigtime, Shane!!

Your blog rocks!!!!

Shane June 22, 2010 at 12:25 PM

BigMike, you are very welcome. Thanks for the kudos.

Andy June 23, 2010 at 8:24 PM

Shane, long time reader, 1st time posting.
Just wanted to thank you for your incredible insight and sharing your invaluable knowledge and experiences with everyone, you might not know but there are may who really appreciate your work and especially your awesome attitude.

And a quick question regarding Zeiss ZE series, noticed that you mentioned 21, 28, 50 and 85 but not the 35mm, we’re going to shoot a feature film with the ZE series on a 5DMKII and was wondering if you had any experince with the 35 and how it would hold up compared to the 28?
I’ve heard from you and others that the Zeiss WA lenses seem to have the best quality, but we can’t go any wider than the 28 due to possible distortion of the edges of the frame. Any feedback would be much appreciated.

Shane June 25, 2010 at 10:23 PM

Andy, i want to thank you so much for all of those kind words. Yes I love the 35mm lens. It is very good and will serve you well. The ZE lenses are good, but so are the Leica R mounts. I have been shooting with them on 2 commercials and love the look, they do not breathe like the Zeiss. It takes a while to acquire those babies though. If you would like a list of the best Leica lenses tell me and I will pass it onto you.

Ross June 27, 2010 at 5:52 PM

Hi Shane, I would also be very interested hear about your favourite Leicas.

Shane June 27, 2010 at 10:58 PM

Ross, I will email you all of my favorites.

Will June 27, 2010 at 7:27 PM

Which Leica primes would you recommend for the 7D? They seem to be quite a bit less expensive than the Zeiss lenses. Also, would you recommend the Leica over the Nikon AI series?


Shane June 27, 2010 at 11:23 PM

Will, I will email you the list of what I assembled as well as all the links that helped me do it.

keidrych wasley June 28, 2010 at 12:10 PM

Hi Shane,

Really interested to read your Leica list. Please could you send it to me also.?
Thanks so much for your efforts and openness.

Jeff June 28, 2010 at 2:47 PM

Shane, I would love if you could e-mail me that list of your favorite Leica lenses and where you got them as well. I have a Canon 7D and am looking at getting some high quality glass.

Kyle Nolan June 28, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Hi Shane,

Like everyone else I truly appreciate your dedication to all aspiraring film makers. I am also very interested in the leica list, could you send it to me?

Andy June 29, 2010 at 12:25 PM

Hi Shane, thanks so much for the feedback regarding the Zeiss 35mm.

If you could kindly let me know what Leica R lenses would be suitable for the big screen we’d much appreciate it.

Thanks again for all your wonderful tips.

David June 29, 2010 at 4:12 PM

Shane, also interested in your Leica list. Thanks Shane!

Jeff June 30, 2010 at 12:14 AM

I just want to say thanks to you Shane for all of the information and inspiration. I know you’re busy but I want you to know how me much we all appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience. I got your Leica list, thanks so much again.

Shane July 1, 2010 at 12:22 AM

Jeff, Thank you so much for those kind words, no problem anytime. You are very welcome.

William June 30, 2010 at 9:12 PM

Come on, you just can’t say that the Canon primes are that bad. The differences between the Zeiss and the Canon are subtle, with a slight advantage over the Zeiss. But you can’t pretend to have lore problems with color grading when using Canon L primes ! You are talking about the 8-bit compression but it has nothing to do with the choice of the lens. You won’t have a better latitude of color grading when using a Zeiss lens. That is simply not true.

Shane July 1, 2010 at 12:20 AM

William, the Canon EF primes suck, period. The Zeiss ZE kick the shit out of them. Now the L series hold up very well and I have been incredibly impressed with there resolving power even more so than the Zeiss on the big screen. The glass is everything. The better the glass, the better the image, the better the resolving power and the more latitude you will have in post. You have your point of view and I respect that.

Ivar Edding July 1, 2010 at 7:36 AM

Shane, wow that list of Leica R’s sounds like a gem. I would be real happy if you found the time to quickly email it to me as well.

Thank you!!

Shane July 3, 2010 at 2:41 PM

Ivar Edding, Because of the amazing interest in the set of Leica’s, I just posted a blog for all of my colleagues to enjoy.

Haavard July 3, 2010 at 8:49 AM

Hi Shane,

I would very much appreciate to see that Leica R-list.

Keep up the marvellous work!

Shane July 3, 2010 at 2:32 PM

Haavard, I just posted a blog about them for all of my colleagues to see. Thank for your support

David July 3, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Thank you Shane! And thanks for the blog. The best out there.

Shane July 3, 2010 at 10:02 PM

David, Thank you so much for those kind words, it means a lot. You all rock!!!

Hans July 18, 2010 at 2:22 PM

Hi Shane, I’ve become very curious for your Leica R-list. Would you be so kind to email it to me? If you’re ever in the Netherlands I’ll buy you a cup of coffee (or two)!

Shane July 18, 2010 at 8:32 PM

Hans. My list of Leica lenses is on the Leica blog below. I would love that cup of coffee. Thank you so much for your support.

Sico August 17, 2012 at 7:43 AM

In that case, ill bring the pie when your visting the Netherlands 😉
Have you ever used the Contax Zeiss series Shane?
I’ve been using them for a while now and love the feeling they produce!

Robb July 23, 2010 at 12:15 PM

Hi Shane, thanks for the great site and thanks so much for your openness and sharing your hard earned information with us! Just a quick question if I may.. I am planning on buying either the Canon 50mm f1,2L or the Zeiss 50mm f1.4 ZE and I just wanted to know if you were faced with this choice and could only choose one, which one you would choose? I am after sharpness and the best resolving power.. Cheers mate

Sage July 23, 2010 at 6:21 PM

Shane, great work on everything you’re doing in the DSLR world. I met you at NAB and you stoked me out with some amazing advice, really gave me a paradigm shift on DSLR image acquisition. I’m getting ready to move forward with a set of Zeiss primes. I keep debating between the ZE’s and the ZF’s which I would have modded at Duclos. I like the idea of the lenses being future proof and having manual control over the iris via the lens. But the added play in the lens mount via the adapter really worries me. I’ve tried both styles and I feel like the ZE’s are much more solid as they were made for Canon systems which is what I would primarily using the glass for. I notice you’re one of the few who hypes the ZE’s. Hows your experience been and why have you chosen to go in that direction rather than the ZE’s? Thanks man! You rock!

Shane July 24, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Sage, First off I want to thank you for your kind words and support. It is great to hear from you again, yes I remember you at NAB. Both sets of lens are great. The future proof thing is always good to do. I have to say that after putting together this Leica set I am all about these lenses. Their contrast range matches the Primos perfectly and they are sharp. You can check out my list in the latest Leica Blog. I am veering. In the color correction bay the Zeiss are to contrasty. Losing wonderful detail in the shadow and the sky blows out quicker. I was just on this Amphibious Assault Destroyer this morning shooting Osprey’s taking off on the flight deck. I had a wide shot with the hot kick from the sun reflecting off the ocean, and two Ospreys in the FG. That Leica 19mm was able to hold both. I sent the Leica’s to Duclos and he fine tuned and de-clicked them so that you have your manual f-stop ring. You are very welcome and hope this helps. I keep on gravitating towards still lenses that I feel have the sharpness and contrast of the cinema lenses that I have been using to shoot all of my films.

Sage July 23, 2010 at 6:25 PM

*Oops, meant to say “Hows your experience been and why have you chosen to go in that direction (ZE) rather than the ZF’s?”


matt March 28, 2012 at 5:48 PM


in this video caleb pike talks about using nikkor lenses on canon dlsr’s and has a very simple way to keep the adaptor from shifting. you may want to check it out.

Samuel Hurtado July 24, 2010 at 7:07 AM

just in case someone finds these comments section and is tempted to try out those vintage carls zeiss jena lenses that were mentioned above…

I got some of these czj “zebra” lenses, and tested them against my other kit with my One Dollar Resolution Chart:

it turns out:
* the sharpness ranges from pretty decent (50 pancolar, 135 sonnar) to totally awful (35 flektogon), with mediocre in between (80 biometar)
* it is not true that any medium format lens will be as sharp on the edges as in the center when mounted on a 1.6x crop camera (see biometar 80 at f/2.8 and f/3.5)
* they breathe
* they flare strongly, and extremely easily (hood or matte box, plus care when framing bright objects, absolutely mandatory)
* some have a powerful color cast, which is not even consistent throughout the range

on the plus side:
* they’re totally manual, which is good for the long term (they will work on virtually all cameras, present and future, just changing the adapter, as long as the flange focal distance is not a problem)
* they have a super-nice long-throw focus ring: even if they’re not sharper than my tamron 17-50, my shots come out sharper, because whith these I actually get things on focus, while with most stills modern lenses the focus ring allows so little movement that accurate manual focusing seems nearly impossible (for my very limited ability)
* they are super-cheap, you can get the full range of primes, 20+35+50+80+135+180, with fotodiox pro adapters, for under $1200 (for full frame, there’s no cheaper path; for 1.6x crop, long-throw focus and manual aperture still make them interesting)

disclaimer: this is just a hobby for me, so I’m mostly clueless and don’t have an idea of what I’m doing, but hey, the test seems ok to me

Greg Greenhaw December 8, 2011 at 12:12 PM

Its not always about sharpness its about the overall look of the image. The zebra lenses produce a look that is very pleasing and filmic. I have a set of the Leica r’s 35/2 50/2 90/2.8 100/2.8 app but love the look of the zebra 180mm (field of view of a 270mm) and 80mm (field of view of a 120mm).

tom July 24, 2010 at 9:29 AM

I have just started experimenting with some of the different screw mount lenses from the past. I just bought a 55 f2 that is an amazing lens for 30 dollars. The best part is that they are all manual and have nice focus ring action. I would love to hear peoples thought on these lenses. Oh, remember they are only good for aps-c sensors.

Sage July 26, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Wow, Leica/Ef mount lenses look stellar. I’m going to pick a few up and do some tests, there are many to choose from. Thanks once again for the kick ass advice, Shane!

Shane July 26, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Sage, you are so welcome.

Sage July 27, 2010 at 1:00 AM

Shane, as I continue to research Leica glass it seems there are many to choose from. You listed a handful of specific lenses in your Leica blog post. I’ve found variations which seem to also be compatible according to the list on pebbleplace.com. I’m looking at a 50mm Summicron f/2 and a 90mm Elmarit f/2.8. Any thoughts on these and can you fill me in a bit as to why the ones listed in your blog were chosen?

Also, what are your thoughts on the Leitax adapters compared to the Fotodiox?

Again, I cant thank you enough and I truly appreciate it. Its really cool of you to take the time to share your knowledge. Sage

Shane July 27, 2010 at 7:31 PM

Sage, On the blog there are specific links that help me build this exact kit. I pulled form many peoples expertise to find the premiere set. Everyone will have their opinion, but I have these lenses in the field right now and they are blowing me away. So filmic, period. You are very welcome. The Leitax adapters are the bomb, I am changing mine all over as we speak. I will always share, it is the only way I roll.

Joey G August 2, 2010 at 7:11 AM

Mr Hurlburt
Your work is a true inspiration to me, I cannot thank you enough for this incredible resource.
I know you must be bored stiff of people asking you which items of kit they should buy but I have been tearing my hair out recently trying to decide whether to go with Zeiss ZE or Canon L primes for my 5D Mark II. I notice you own both. Do you have a preference or does it depend on the project?
Is it fair to say that Zeiss are better at the wide angles, while the Canons are better for 50mm plus? Obviously it’d be a mistake to mix and match though – ?
My main concern about the Zeiss is that I keep reading that they are soft wide open – is this true in your opinion? If you were looking to shoot a lot of stuff between f/1.4 and f/2 (I know that would be madness by the way!) would you avoid the Zeiss for fear of mushy images? Are the Canons much better in this regard?
Finally, does the short rotation of the focus wheel on the Canons make focus an impossibility? I notice Gale Tattersall has commented that he probably wouldn’t use Canon glass again for that very reason.

Shane August 2, 2010 at 12:07 PM

Joey G, Thank you so much for those kind words. I am never bored with your questions and insight. I am pushing everyone to Leica right now. With the new Leitax mount and the quality of the still glass, I feel it is the best in the Still lens department in every way. The Canon’s are great from a 35mm and up and you can shoot them in all f-stops. The Zeiss I feel are a little to sharp and make it look more like video. The Canon short focus throw is very tough. I finally figured out how to use it on “Last 3 Minutes,” but that had taken me 13 months to perfect it. Check out my Leica blog, go on eBay and see what they are going for. You will not be disappointed. These get you as close to the Primo Primes as I have found, and they look so good on these cameras.

Ivar Edding August 8, 2010 at 10:26 AM

Hey Shane!
Fist of all – a BIG thank you for your post on the Leicas! Great info, and awsome links.
Just recently got myself a Elmarit 24mm, and I guess I kinda jumped the gun on a Novoflex, seeing that the Leitax seem to be the thing to go for. Also, on my 1.6 crop, the 24mm doesn’t feel wide enough, so I’ll probably buck up for a 19mm soon enough.
Thanks again Shane, keep rocking!

Shane August 8, 2010 at 6:20 PM

Ivar Edding, you are so welcome and thank you for your continued support. The 19mm rocks. I used that on the Amphibious Assault Destroyer in the middle of the Atlantic as the Osprey’s take off. WOW!! The way it handled the flare and the contrast with the ocean highlight blasting me right down the barrel of the lens.

Ken Goren August 12, 2010 at 3:29 AM

Hey Shane,

What about Carl Zeiss Jena Lenses?

All best.

Shane August 16, 2010 at 9:23 AM

Ken Goren, I have looked at those and liked them, especially the flare. Thanks for the input.

JUSTIN August 12, 2010 at 4:41 AM

Hi. I’ve been preparing a short film for last 4 months. It’s a 10pgs of script but I’ve been putting all my efforts into this project. I’ve got a dp who is a colleague from ACCD and we’ve been discussing over the types of lens that we will use with Canon 7D. The choice of lens is really depending on the final goal of the project and I’d like to get some advice from you.

So the type of project is a narrative short film with $1500 budget and I’m shooting only interior, which is inside an actual trailer home. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idcHMYqFGjM it’s the preproduction video that I just shot with my 5d using ef lens.

The goal of the project is to turn it into film festivals. And as you noticed, I have a very small budget.

So basically I can go with L lens or ZE primes w/ 7D. According to your article and review, it seems like ZE primes are much better than L lens series. I wish I can hear from you soon. I have about 2 weeks left before the shooting. Let me know.

P.S. Do you have any comparison video?

Shane August 16, 2010 at 9:29 AM

JUSTIN, I would try to get your hands on some Leica R glass. The ZE’s are very sharp and contrasty, I feel the Canon L series would do you well, but it is very difficult to focus those lenses. The endless focus ring is a pain. The Leica’s all around are the best still lens that you can put on that sensor. I ran a Leica blog a little while back that has all the glass that we selected. I have loads of comparison video, but not the time to present it.

Raham October 3, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Hi Shane,

This is great. I wish I had found this earlier. I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to figure out what lenses to buy so this is greatly appreciated. I looked at the prices of the Leica and they are out of my price range for brand new but am wondering about the used ones. I am also curious to know how do the contax zeiss fit into the picture as they are very cheap.

Budget being a concern – this is what I am presently looking at:

(all used) Contax Zeiss Planar T* 1.4 / vs. 85mm vs. Nikon Nikon 85mm F1.8 AIS Lens vs. Leica SUMMICRON-R 90mm f/2
– Is the image quality of the Leica worth loosing the extra f-stops?

Nikon 35/1.4 Ai-S
– the leica and zeiss are presently too far out of my budget

A new Zeiss ZE 50mm 1.4 vs. used 1970’s Leica 50mm 1.4 vs. used 1980’s Nikon 50mm 1.2.
– they are all the same price with different variables.

I know mixing glass probably isn’t the best idea but it is my only option at the moment. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks again for this blog and all the support.


Shane October 3, 2010 at 11:07 PM

Raham, You are very welcome. Buy Leica, the used ones are great make sure they are in mint condition when buying. I go a whole set off of ebay for under 5000.00. So pick the lenses you will need for your productions. I go a whole slew but you will not need that many. They are the cream of the crop, the best of the best.mmRead the Leica blog and that is all the lenses that rock out. I hope this helps.

ETA October 4, 2010 at 10:34 PM

Hi Shane, thanks for the invaluable insight, esp. for a noob like me trying to do things on the strictest of budgets.

I’ve decided to go Nikon. Beyond structural subtleties, I’m wondering if you have any preference or if there is any noticeable difference between a Nikon AI lens and a Nikon AI-S lens?

Your thoughts are much appreciatecd

Shane October 5, 2010 at 2:27 AM

ETA, I love both. They are the cream of the crop in the Nikon line. I put my Nikon lens set together with all AI and a couple AI-S. The glass is excellent.

David Berrey November 26, 2010 at 9:43 PM

To start off I would like to say that the old nikon primes are built like tanks, Im using lens that are older then I am that still function like they are new, and creates beautiful images.

I got into the nikon lens as a work around for the original 5d firmware. I first picked on the 50mm 1.4. I loved it, it was a beautiful lens. After looking at the images that I got with an $70 lens, I rethought where I should invest in equipment. I built up nikon prime set from 8mm to 300mm as well as a 2x extender. With the exception of the 8mm 2.8 which is my dads that he used for shooting the aurora borealis way back in the day, all of the other lens were under $150 and most were under $70. The image quality that you can get with a T2i and 105 2.5 still amazes me.

When I set up a friend with a three lens nikon kit I have them go for

24mm 2.8
50mm 1.4
105mm 2.5

Shane, What would you send your friends out the door with??
Also do you have any experience with the 28mm 3.5? out of all the lens that one has the least depth of field, something that I never though I would be looking for, but its a wrench I use a lot.

If anyone is interested here is a link to some of the work on done with each of the lenses

300mm 4.5 on 7d

50mm 1.4

105 2.5

16-35mm 2.8, this is a time lapse taken on the 5d mark II of the Northern Lights in North Pole, Alaska very cool

Most of the lens work with any nikon to eos adaptor on ebay, some of the wider lens (35mm,28mm,24mm possibly others) need to have a metal flange cut off the back. A few screws, and a file later your good to go.

Shane November 27, 2010 at 2:19 AM

David Berrey, I started the same way before the 5D firmware update, the only way to make the camera manual was to put non-Canon lenses on it. I went to Nikon because I had a slew of the old AI and AI-S’s laying around. They looked incredible and I have embraced them on different projects here and there. Thank you so much for sharing all of this information to our co-collaborators.

shawn January 6, 2011 at 7:03 PM

I was curious as to the Hassy lenes, and how the edge sharpness was and what
the focal length translates to on a full frame DSLR (5DmrkII in my case).
I like the idea of the added size and weight. things I don’t want when shootings stills but things
I do want when shooting vids…. thanks for all your insight.

Shane January 7, 2011 at 3:47 AM

shawn, The Hasselblad lenses were very much like the Zeiss ZE and ZF lenses. They had the same cool tone and contrast. I loved the weight and bigger barrel, but the lenses breathed a lot when racking focus. Some of the lenses felt like they zoomed in 2o millimeters.

shawn January 7, 2011 at 8:14 AM

re: “Some of the lenses felt like they zoomed in 2o millimeters.”
that is interesting.

and what about the focal lengths they don’t translate the same from 120mm to 35mm do they?

thanks again for your insight I am loving your blog.

Shane January 7, 2011 at 11:40 AM

shawn, I am so sorry I cannot remember. That test for the film Medieval was a whirlwind. Let me look at my notes.

shawn January 10, 2011 at 8:47 AM

Great thanks I am curious as to how the focal lengths translate.
At least roughly.

Marc Van Osdale April 7, 2011 at 4:28 PM

Hey Shane

I’m a student at Emerson College, I saw you speak on campus in November of ’09, and have been shooting DSLR ever since.

I shot a film with a 5D and a set of Canon L Series last spring, and I wondered if you would be willing to watch a part of it and let me know what you think.


Thanks for all of your work.

Marc Van Osdale

Sergei Franklin April 22, 2011 at 4:38 PM

I posted this about using Nikon lenses with a Red.
Most of it would apply to using a DSLR as well.

John Novotny April 25, 2011 at 4:21 AM

I have some old Nikon AI’s, I have yet to try them and now I will based on your recommendation.

Did you check out any of the old Canon FD lenses? Are they worth getting do you think?

Shane April 25, 2011 at 11:22 AM

John Novotny, The Nikon AI’s rock. The old Canon’s require an adapter that has a piece of glass and it softens the hell out of the image.

John Novotny April 26, 2011 at 12:46 AM

Glad I haven’t pick any of those up. Along with my Nikon AI’s I hope to pick up a Zeiss ZE 50mm f1.4.

John Novotny April 26, 2011 at 12:47 AM

Thanks Shane.

John Novotny April 25, 2011 at 4:56 AM

So basically the Nikon AI’s are the “poor man’s” Zeiss according to your description.

Ivan Lee May 20, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Hi Shane, greetings from Brazil!
I’d like to ask you something regarding Nikon lenses. You know that Nikon (and Pentax) lenses focuses “to the other side” compared to Zeiss, Canon and Leica… what do you think about mixing those lenses together? as a focus puller, I think that this can be critical when exchanging lenses (ex: from canon to nikon) and making focus changes on the fly.
tell me what do you think about this…
thanks a lot Shane!

Federico Schlatter May 26, 2011 at 7:37 AM

Hi Shane
first of all thanks for sharing: what you’ve done here is definitely of great value and absolutely not usual among colleagues on this side of the ocean… I’m currently preparing for shooting a HD TV movie in Italy, initially meant to be shot with Arri Alexa; than I’ve run into your work and I found it so impressive that I decided to switch to HDSRL (5D MK2 + 1D ).
Keeping in mind that :
– the HD TV movie (so no big screen, sorry maybe be OT) will be a Christmas on-the-road comedy…lots of interior though…
– the look I’m interested in is a creamy but yet shiny golden one with shallow depth of field, something like the one at the beginning of “Last 3 minutes”
I was wandering which lenses set would be better to choose between Canon, Zeiss CP or Nikon…what is your thought?!

Shane May 27, 2011 at 1:48 AM

Federico Schlatter, First off thank you so much for your kind words and support. I love Italy and I what I would suggest first would be Leica glass, then Canon. If you need the wonderful ability to have focus gears and iris gears then the CP 2’s will be very beneficial for your focus puller, especially if you are going for shallow depth of field.

Isaac September 27, 2011 at 6:41 AM

Hi… I found a Nikkor 24mm f.2 AI-S for a very good price. Do you think it is a good lense for a 5D, 7D or 60D? I heard it can damage the mirror… is that true?

Thanks for your help

Shane September 27, 2011 at 7:30 PM

Isaac, that is a great lens, as well as the 28mm AI. You might have to shave the element a bit. Not sure Duclos can do that.

Andrew October 25, 2011 at 1:14 PM

Shane, I love you work and your vision , I have lens question for you.I currently shoot on a t3i and I was wondering with the crop sensor which of the lens should I use for shooting action scenes? I also hope to send this film that is pre production to film festivals,so the lens would need to convert to the big screen. Since I shoot on a t3i and not a 5d that should tell you what my budget is like so any lens advice on the cheaper end would be greatly appreciated.Thank you so much.

Shane October 27, 2011 at 7:08 PM

Andrew, Thank you so much for the kind words. I would go with a 24mm Leica, 25mm Zeiss ZE, 24mm Canon L series

Andrew October 29, 2011 at 5:26 PM

Thank you so much,I am very impressed not only by your professionalism but how you take the time to answer your followers/fans questions.The knowledge you provide is priceless.

Ethan Adelsman October 29, 2011 at 12:58 AM

Hey Shane,
Thanks for all you do! I have a question: I was recently shooting with a Pentax K-X (I know, not the greatest camera, but I got a great deal on it and learned a lot from it) and bought a bunch of old Pentax glass. I just bought a Sony Nex 5n, which I am loving, and got a Fotodiox adapter for the Pentax glass. my question is: what do you think of old Pentax lenses? Do they hold up to the Nikon AI lenses?

Daniel W October 30, 2011 at 10:55 AM

Does anyone have a opinion on using Rokkor lenses? I know some of them supposedly share very similar optical formulas with Leica lenses from the same era. Since Minolta and Leica worked together to codevelop certain cameras and lenses. I have a way of mounting the Rokkors onto my T3i with no/slight modifications, or loss of infinity focus. No use of a glass adapter either. I have a modified Rokkor MC 58mm 1.4 that I shoot with regularly and prefer it over the Zeiss EF 50mm 1.4 . The first camera I learned to shoot on was a Minolta SRT101 w/ a Rokkor-X MC 50mm 1.4 and would love to know how these lenses generally hold up on the big screen. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Kyle November 11, 2011 at 1:46 PM

Hey Shane, I’ve been seeing a few people using the older Zeiss contax primes. The quality seems really good and they are a bit cheaper in price than the Leica lenses. What are your thoughts on the look and quality of the contax primes, do you think they are any good?

keh November 14, 2011 at 12:24 PM

hi shane
just got a 7D this weekend for a video shoot i need to do of the northern lights next month. i’ve got a 17-40L lens but although it’s nice and wide it’s way toooo slow for video on the 7D. I have a bunch of Leica M lenses from my M9 and am thinking of getting one of those adapters on ebay for the 7D. Not sure how well that will work… and if it’s no good I’m thinking about either getting a 28mm F2 ZE lens (and a 50mm ZE later to match it) or a 24mm 1.4L now (and a 50mm 1.2 later). The 7D will primarily be for video and when a Leica M just won’t do (events, sports or autofocus, zoom stuff which a rangefinder just doesn’t do). What would you do in my position?
thanks in advance!

Shane November 18, 2011 at 12:24 PM

keh, That adapter doesn’t work very well with M mount Leica’s. The Zeiss ZE are a good choice or old Nikon AI and AIS with a fotodiox adapter. For sports the Canon L series 70-200mm IS is an excellent lens.

Bragi Schut January 5, 2012 at 3:09 AM

Hi. Thanks for all the great info, Shane. I’ve been lurking for awhile and reading your blogs. I’n not a cinematographer, I’m a writer and filmmaker and am looking to build up a low budget DSLR kit. From my research it sounds like the Nikon lenses are the most cost effective choice, and you seem pleased with the quality (compared to the canon L series)…but I have to admit I’m having some trouble finding the older “a” lenses you mention on ebay. A All the lenses I have found are either AF or AI (which you cautioned against, due to their smaller barrel size and the difficulty of attaching focus pullers to them). Can you give me any more information on the name of the series of lenses you discussed in your nikon lens review? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.

Rick Doyle February 3, 2012 at 9:58 PM


I shoot with the Canon 7D in CineStyle and Neutral picture styles. Just curious, do you ever add any sharpening to the footage in post since you shoot with the Canon 5D neutral setting?



Shane February 9, 2012 at 2:03 PM

Rick Doyle, Yes we snap up the image in post a bit. Just before it starts to look funky. But do it in post, not with the camera.

Blake February 9, 2012 at 1:32 AM

Hi Shane,

Just love this article. I had thoughts of building a kit around the duclos nikon 17-35 & 70-200. Seen that some “red” users are going this route I also see you favor the ais over canon, so thought id ask you. My main motive would be to have something flexible for live shooting but sharp enough for potential theatrical projection.

Obviously as a t2i and maybe 7d user, im looking for something that doesnt break the bank, so the “optimo dp’s” are out lol.


Shane February 9, 2012 at 1:47 PM

Blake, I have to say. Leica are the way to go. When you put them up they look the most cinematic and give you some wiggle room with there lower contrast.

blake February 9, 2012 at 4:25 PM

I assume this wouldnt solve my zoom dilemma?….lol…..they don’t have leica r zooms? correct?

Ron February 9, 2012 at 6:46 PM

Hey Blake,

Check the top portion of this link.
There are links to Leica Lenses. There exists zoom Leica lenses too. I bought many Leica lenses due to Shane’s wisdom. These lenses are awesome.

Shane February 11, 2012 at 7:12 AM

Blake, yes there are many. Here are my favorites. 21-35 f3.5. 35-70 f3.5 80-200 f4. Order Leitax mounts for them and you are GTR.

Justin Phillips February 15, 2012 at 2:17 PM


I know this point is a bit old now but I am in the middle of buying some primes. As much as I would like to invest in Zeiss ZF or ZE I will need to rent for awhile, but I want a good set of in-house primes. Do you think I will be well served with a set of Nikon AI/AI-S’s. How do they stack up against the some of the older soviet primes like Helios, MIR, and the Juniper-9’s.

Shane February 15, 2012 at 3:22 PM

Justin Phillips, they are damn good. I love them.

Christian February 19, 2012 at 5:32 AM

In your movie Act of Valor, was there a certain picture profile that you used?

Shane March 5, 2012 at 10:31 PM

We used the Neutral picture profile.

Jonas March 26, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Somehow I think the image of HD is too “sharp”. I like the aesthetics of film (or even DVD). How would I go about this but still using the HD plattform? Softer and older manual lenses? Or am I not thinking clearly. I wanna embrace everything good about this new technology but still move towards the texture of film.

Thank you for sharing all the knowledge and passion of film making through this blog. truly inspirational!

Tony March 29, 2012 at 6:21 PM

Hey Shane, thanks for all you do!
I am the owner of a T3i, and was wondering if you had any opinions on the Olympus Zuiko lenses? I am looking at 28mm and 50mm ones… Thanks!

Tony April 14, 2012 at 7:46 AM

Thanks? I was asking for your thoughts about the lenses and how you think they would be in the context of using them for the big screen. 🙂

Tony April 14, 2012 at 7:47 AM

Oh, I think you may have read the word “opinions” as “options”…

Raghu June 18, 2012 at 5:50 AM

Hi Shane,

I have got a lot of precious information on DSLR Cinematography from you,
and you are really inspiring me these days into Cinematography.


Watched ¨ The Last Three Minutes¨ so many times.
I like it very much.


I request your great suggestions for the following……

1) I want to purchase DSLR lenses for my canon 5D Mark 2 for a feature film project.The focal lengths are 24mm, 50mm, 85mm and 100mm.
I have read a lot of articles in this subject, still I am in a huge confusion,
– (Now, in this June 2012, when the Canon 5D Mark2 is about 4 years old)
which brand you suggest me, Canon, Leica, Zeiss or any other?

2) I live in Kerala, South India.
Here we have rich rainy days from June to October and the atmosphere is always filled with humidity. Hence camera lenses are very easily damaged here with FUNGUS.
(Protection against dust & moisture is also an important factor for me )
Are the L series lenses EFFECTIVELY protected against dust & fungus as the Canon Company claims?

Shane June 27, 2012 at 5:21 PM

Raghu. Thanks for the kind words and support. In your case I would recommend going with the Canon L series glass because of the weather sealing on them. We used them on Act of Valor where they were doused with salt water, rained on, used in the jungle, and responded perfectly.

chris July 24, 2012 at 10:33 PM

Hi Shane,
thanks for your blog and all these answers, i learned a lot from you and its
great to hear some insides from a professional
i have a concern and i hoped u could help me
i want to get a zeiss zf 35mm distagon for my eos 650D, but i couldnt find any. manual aperture is quite good for dslr filmmaking so i thought about buying a zeiss zk 35mm with pentax mount instead and adapt it to my eos
the problem is i dont know if the zk is the same as the zf and if it really has a full manual aperture ring
should i buy the zk lense or just get the ze and set aperture over the camera?

Shane July 25, 2012 at 4:37 PM

chris, thank you so much for your kind words and support. I would go with the Zeiss ZF so that you have manual aperture then you will need to get them de-clicked.

Tuomas Sebastien August 20, 2012 at 7:31 AM

Hi Shane,
Thanks for great post and very informative blog. Keep up the good work and thanks for finding time to do it. I’m shooting with FS100. I’ve shot with old ZEISS C/Y 35mm, 50mm, 85mm primes but they are starting to have some problems due to the age. I’ve decided to sell them and replace with either Canon L or Zeiss ZE paired with Metabones adapter. You said on the blog entry that ZEs are better in resolving, but someone asked on comments which would be the dream setup of lenses between L and ZE and you went with Ls there. I have canon 24/1.4L from before which i’m going to keep and for the wide end will go with Tokina 11-16mm. Probably will add L zooms to the set too. Now would it be better for me to go with Canon L primes to keep the set having mostly same brand? I don’t know if mixing 35,50,85 ZEs with Canons would produce so much different look that it would be better to go with Canon L? You also got the impression that Ls are softer and less contrasty. For grading wise, wouldn’t the bit softer image and less contrasty L be actually better? Are the ZEs in all their greatness same time making the result look more video like? So the big question is ZEs or Ls? I don’t take still photos.

Shane August 21, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Tuomas Sebastien, you are very welcome, thank you for your kind words and support. In all honesty I would go with Leica R glass, but if you are down the Canon L road then stick with them and stay away from the zooms. Only primes. Zooms are too soft. I did a post on the Leica R glass and compared to the price of the L series primes you will get a bigger bang for your buck.

Tuomas Sebastien August 24, 2012 at 7:09 AM

Shane, Thank you for replying. I was ready to go with Canon Ls, but now here in Beijing’s BIRTV expo I met a boss of a local company who does Zeiss ZE cinemods. Basically the lens inside is Zeiss ZE and they rehouse it with results similar to CP2s. Most amazing thing is that they build a smooth aperture ring from scratch (Yes on ZE, they don’t mod ZF lenses)… A REAL APERTURE RING!!!! You can change the aperture manually on any camera that can be adapted to take EOS lenses. Since they are ZEs they also focus the same direction with cine lenses. The modification works on all primes except 50&100 macros since macro lenses have different internal design. All the modifications will have the aperture and focus gears on same place so changing lenses is quite easy, although some of the lenses are physically longer than others so matte box probably still need to be moved a bit. The lenses’ physical extending when focusing happens within the rehousing so the actual length of the modded primes doesn’t change when focusing. I tested them a bit and they felt very solid. After the mod you loose the ability to change the aperture from the camera though, so it will be manual aperture only from the aperture ring. So I guess I’m going ZE after all and will dump my 24mm L and get ZE 21mm to replace it… then starts the saving for ZE 15mm. (I was lot more excited on these lens mods than the Chinese $6000 Alexa copy Kineraw S35 that was demoed on the same booth.)

Shane August 26, 2012 at 4:29 PM

Tuomas Sebastien, that sounds fantastic. The 21mm is their best lens in regards to sharpness. I think the 15mm looks good as well.

Damon Roger September 1, 2012 at 12:58 PM


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.


Shane September 2, 2012 at 11:15 AM

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

Tuomas Sebastien September 2, 2012 at 10:52 AM

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 🙂

Shane September 2, 2012 at 11:13 AM

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 September 2, 2012 at 12:24 PM

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: http://www.dslrnewsshooter.com/2012/08/27/birtv-2012-gl-optics-zeiss-ze-cinema-lens-conversions-for-eos-mount/ ) . 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?

Shane September 3, 2012 at 9:51 AM

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

Tuomas Sebastien September 3, 2012 at 6:03 PM

Thank you

Tuomas Sebastien September 2, 2012 at 1:12 PM

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?


Shane September 3, 2012 at 9:50 AM

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 September 3, 2012 at 6:04 PM

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

Tuomas Sebastien September 7, 2012 at 7:02 PM

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

Paris Holmes September 21, 2012 at 3:20 PM

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 September 12, 2012 at 10:04 PM

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,


Viktor September 4, 2012 at 3:33 PM

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?

Shane September 6, 2012 at 8:56 PM

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 October 31, 2012 at 8:41 AM

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

Ignacio Sanchez September 9, 2012 at 9:31 AM

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.

Shane September 12, 2012 at 9:57 AM

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

Ryan Bradshaw October 8, 2012 at 5:30 PM

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!


Shane October 12, 2012 at 10:23 PM

Ryan Bradshaw, Thank you so much for these kind words. I just launched a blog post about the books because of your comment. The 24-70 will do very well with the 1DC and C300. Please contact [email protected] for details.

Manuel October 9, 2012 at 5:22 AM

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

Shane October 12, 2012 at 10:19 PM

Manuel, no I haven’t. Very sorry

Manuel October 16, 2012 at 6:39 AM

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

Shane October 23, 2012 at 10:12 PM

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

Josh November 1, 2012 at 4:42 PM

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.



Shane November 2, 2012 at 12:22 PM

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.

Hunter November 2, 2012 at 4:15 PM

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 November 3, 2012 at 9:47 AM

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!!

Sean M November 5, 2012 at 1:00 AM

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.


Shane November 5, 2012 at 6:16 AM

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

Juan B November 12, 2012 at 7:12 PM

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!

Shane November 14, 2012 at 8:58 PM

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 November 16, 2012 at 8:42 AM

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

Menno Mennes November 22, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Take also a look at http://www.lockcircle.com/primecircle_xt_lenses/ Cine-mod Zeiss ZF lenses.

Shane December 8, 2012 at 10:27 AM

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

RAGHU IRIKKUR December 1, 2012 at 9:07 AM

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.

Shane December 8, 2012 at 10:14 AM

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

Gareth December 9, 2012 at 6:09 AM

Hi Shane,

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

Great tests otherwise.

Shane December 9, 2012 at 3:02 PM

Gareth, ebay is how I got them, you need to really look for awhile. The M series doesn’t work. Here is a blog I wrote about the Leica R’s http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2010/07/leica-r-mount-lenses-for-the-canon-hdslrs/

Gareth December 12, 2012 at 3:38 PM

Thanks for the reply. The other thing I wanted to know is if the Nikon AIS lenses are as good or better than the AI lenses. And how do they compare to Zeiss ZF.2 in terms sharpness and overall quality?

Daniel Correia December 13, 2012 at 1:47 PM

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 December 14, 2012 at 6:44 AM

And Leica R as well.

Ho Zhen Jie December 14, 2012 at 12:29 AM

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?

Shane December 17, 2012 at 8:44 PM

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

Scott January 2, 2013 at 5:33 AM

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.


Shane January 2, 2013 at 3:36 PM

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.

George January 28, 2013 at 5:04 AM

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?


Shane January 28, 2013 at 8:11 PM

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 September 21, 2014 at 4:22 PM

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…

Ryan Bradshaw January 29, 2013 at 10:13 AM

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

Shane February 9, 2013 at 8:56 PM

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

Ryan Bradshaw February 12, 2013 at 10:09 AM

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

Ryan Bradshaw February 12, 2013 at 10:11 AM

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

Mendel February 6, 2013 at 12:35 PM

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!

Shane February 9, 2013 at 8:44 PM

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

beefthemovie February 7, 2013 at 5:58 PM


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?



Shane February 9, 2013 at 8:28 PM

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 February 13, 2013 at 9:36 AM

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

Geoff February 9, 2013 at 2:16 AM

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


Shane February 9, 2013 at 8:25 PM

Geoff, no I haven’t, sorry

RobG March 1, 2013 at 11:15 AM

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?



Shane March 2, 2013 at 8:43 AM

RobG. I prefer the ZF lenses to have manual control over the Aperture and have all my manual lenses cine moded from Duclos http://www.ducloslenses.com/pages/cine-mod 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 March 3, 2013 at 12:13 PM

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.


Shane March 3, 2013 at 1:11 PM

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.

Rafel March 25, 2013 at 8:05 AM

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?


Shane April 3, 2013 at 10:10 PM

Rafel. I wrote this post and it still holds true. http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2010/02/still-lenses/. Zooms for versatility and primes for speed and sharpness.

Rafel April 6, 2013 at 2:54 PM

Thank you so much, Mr. Hurlbut. This will help.


Hari April 18, 2013 at 7:52 PM

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,


Shane July 4, 2013 at 7:10 PM

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

MK April 23, 2013 at 8:19 AM

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?

Dominik Belancic April 23, 2013 at 2:12 PM

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.


Shane May 8, 2013 at 3:31 PM

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

Randy Rubin June 22, 2013 at 2:59 AM

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.


Shane July 4, 2013 at 5:29 PM

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

Randy Rubin July 8, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Cool thanks.

Tuomas July 11, 2013 at 1:48 AM

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 August 3, 2013 at 8:46 AM

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

Shane August 24, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Tuomas, yeah baby!!!!

wmease December 2, 2013 at 2:17 PM

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?

Olivia December 15, 2013 at 12:41 PM

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?


Shane December 27, 2013 at 8:49 AM

Olivia, you can find the adapter for Nikon to Canon at Fotodiox.com. 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

Sam December 23, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Hi Shane,

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

Shane December 27, 2013 at 8:14 AM

Sam, thank you for your kind words and support.

Vince February 17, 2014 at 10:52 PM

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.

Shane February 19, 2014 at 7:34 PM

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 February 23, 2014 at 4:23 AM

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.

Shane February 25, 2014 at 3:37 PM

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 February 26, 2014 at 2:32 AM

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

Shane March 3, 2014 at 12:43 AM

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 February 26, 2014 at 10:42 PM

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.

Shane March 3, 2014 at 12:41 AM

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

Shai March 3, 2014 at 7:17 AM

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?

Shane March 5, 2014 at 12:18 PM

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

mathenge March 8, 2014 at 2:46 PM

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.

Shane March 9, 2014 at 3:48 PM

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

David April 8, 2014 at 7:23 AM

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

Shane April 8, 2014 at 11:46 AM

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 April 18, 2014 at 2:20 PM

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.

Julian April 8, 2014 at 12:43 PM

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

Shane April 20, 2014 at 4:41 PM

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

Jesse April 20, 2014 at 10:33 AM

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

Shane April 20, 2014 at 3:52 PM

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 April 20, 2014 at 6:00 PM

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 April 21, 2014 at 5:22 AM

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.

rashad May 13, 2014 at 8:58 AM

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?

Shane May 25, 2014 at 8:52 AM

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.

Mark Williams May 13, 2014 at 1:41 PM

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?



Shane May 25, 2014 at 8:49 AM

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

Alan June 1, 2014 at 1:57 PM

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.


Shane June 9, 2014 at 8:23 AM

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

Shane July 15, 2014 at 2:52 PM

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.

David July 2, 2014 at 3:54 PM

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 August 4, 2014 at 8:54 AM

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 August 16, 2014 at 9:31 PM

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.

William Chandler Goodrich July 11, 2014 at 8:03 AM

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.

patrick rebstock October 28, 2014 at 12:18 PM

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 November 30, 2014 at 4:19 AM

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.

Shane December 20, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Thanks Jim for offering this advice.

Tue November 24, 2014 at 11:43 PM

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!

JP Gabriel January 10, 2015 at 10:56 AM


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

Shane January 14, 2015 at 10:31 AM

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?

Robert Sharpe January 16, 2015 at 9:19 AM

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!

sheridan September 19, 2016 at 11:22 AM

Hello Shane, do you think that the Nikon 28-70mm f2.8 has good enough resolving power to grace the big screen?

Shane Hurlbut, ASC December 19, 2016 at 6:17 PM

The zooms can be used, but they will just lack sharpness and contrast ratio.

Mike Edwards June 18, 2017 at 2:59 PM


I have been filming with the Pentax Super Takumars and have really been enjoying them. What are your thoughts on these? Thanks for all that you do for the filmmaking community.


Leave a Comment