If proper cinema primes aren't usually expensive enough, cinema zooms are even more costly - often costing more than the camera they're mounted to. But all of a sudden, this year there's been a wave of budget cinema zooms introduced, aimed at the owner/operator market and priced accordingly.
|CN-E 18-80 T4.4 L IS KAS||XK6x20||LWZ.3||EZ-1||EZ-2||HS Zoom
|Mounts Available||EF||PL||PL, EF, E, F, MFT||PL, EF, E||PL, EF, E||PL, EF, E||PL, EF, E|
|Length||182.3mm||226mm||226mm||226mm||210mm||129.5mm (EF)||175.2mm (EF)|
(W/O Servo Unit)
|1200g||2400g||2000g||2150/2050g||2120/2070g||1445g (EF)||1885g (EF)|
|Interchangeable lens mount||N/A||N/A||User||User||User||Service||Service|
|Individual Price (plus VAT)||$5,500
The Canon CN-E 18-80 is only available in EF mount, however in this case may actually be an advantage over it's competitors. This enables it to feature both IS (image stabilisation) and autofocus. Until very recently, AF was considered a naughty word outside of photography. However, Canon have been pioneering their DPAF (dual pixel autofocus) technology in their new video cameras and actually makes autofocus a viable tool for filmmakers. At T4.4 (f/4), it is not fast, though this is a fair compromise for such a low price. This is the first lens from Canon to fill the crossover market. It's for those who're after more than what their Canon L series zooms can provide, but can't stretch to the £21,000+ needed for the Canon CN7x17 (17-120mm). Let's hope we see some more lenses from Canon in this market.
At nearly £13,000, the Fujinon XK6x20 is the most expensive lens in the lineup. It was originally designed to come in below the £10,000 threshold, though with the fluctuations in the economy this wasn't possible upon release. So what do you get for your money? Whilst not the fastest, it's T3.5 aperture is constant throughout the whole range - and the range is the longest of all the lenses in the comparison with a x6 zoom. The price also includes a servo unit, something that whilst many of the others offer, are optional extras for additional cost. Furthermore, it's surely one of the best performing lenses if we were to do a shootout; Fujinon's cinema zoom lineage is rather prestigious.
The Zeiss LWZ.3 is an interesting addition from the legendary German optics company. It's the first lens they've produced that doesn't have a constant aperture - at 21mm it opens up to T2.9 and by 100mm, it has ramped down by less than one stop to T3.9. This was done to keep size and weight down so that it lives up to it's namesake - Light Weight Zoom. For those interested, the LWZ and LWZ.2 were 15.5-46mm T2.6 zooms; the only difference between the two was that the second had interchangeable mounts (PL, EF and MTF) whereas the LWZ was just PL. They also cost significantly more than the LWZ.3 at around $29,000. The LWZ.3 is the only lens in the lineup to not only boast five different available mounts, but is user interchangeable too. It's weather sealed and, according to Zeiss, will outperform all of it's competitors, despite being slightly slower or having a shorter zoom in some cases. It has zero focus breathing and is completely parfocal, unlike some of the others who may or may not be quite parfocal, despite marketing claims. Also unlike many of the others, it doesn't have a servo zoom... yet. Telling screw holes on the right hand side of the lens suggest that Zeiss might have something in the works.
The Angénieux EZ zooms are unique in this lineup - and across all lenses for that matter - in that in their standard configuration, are Super 35 lenses, yet when purchased and outfitted with an alternate rear section, outputs a larger image circle to cover full frame. This rear group also extends the focal length by x1.5 and the aperture is slower by the same factor - which is just over one stop. The field of view however remains the same: 30mm on Super 35 is the same perspective as 45mm on full frame. In full frame mode, the lenses are T3 - which is not slow by zoom standards, however in Super 35 mode this becomes a blisteringly fast T2. The EZ lenses are available as Super 35 or Super 35 + FF group for an additional cost, pushing the price over the £10k mark. No word on whether the FF group will be available separately at a later date or as a standalone lens. Finally, the EZ lenses feature luminous witness marks for ease of operation on dark sets or for night shooting.
The Sigma High Speed Zooms' biggest selling point and most exciting spec is it's speed. At T2, this is the fastest speed a cinema zoom is currently available. This is matched only by the Angénieux EZ lenses above, for over twice the price, or two of Fujinon's premier line of zooms, their HK range - costing almost $90,000. The Sigma High Speed Zooms have also seemingly taken tips from it's competitors; boasting a filter thread like the Canon, weather sealing like the Zeiss and luminous marks like the Angies. So what's the catch? Firstly, the Sigmas do not have a servo unit. Furthermore, they have the smallest image circle of all the compared lenses - meaning they only just cover standard Super 35. For those using larger flavours of Super 35 such as the RED Dragon sensor, users will experience vignetting at 6K and some aspect ratios of 5K. Interestingly however, having a smaller image circle in fact aids in keeping the lens' size and weight down. Crucially however, the biggest catch is that the lenses are not quite parfocal. This is a big shame and may be a deal breaker for some. Being parfocal is very important for a cinema lens; it means when zooming in or out the image stays sharp and does not drift out of focus. All things considered tough, the Sigma's are exceptional value for money and ultimately some compromises must be made to make a product at such a low price. There is a reason cinema zooms usually cost so much after all!
Cinema zooms in this price range is a really significant thing. Cinema prime lenses can often cost more individually than one of these zooms, so having a whole range of focal lengths for the cost of just one prime is quite extraordinary. This stir of the market can only be a good thing; I look forward to seeing what else is introduced in the near future.