I’ve been recently asked for advance on a proper vintage cine lens for around $1000-2000 that would work with a Super35 sensor cameras like Canon C100/300, Sony FS100/700 & others.
I think it’s quite a relevant question as a lot of people would love to own a proper cine lens, but a few can afford one, let alone a set, so we settle for modern or vintage photo glass, which is awesome, but it doesn’t take a genius to know there can’t be anything better than a lens that been specifically designed for video. There are many benefits a proper cine lens has over an average photo lens, which include longer focusing through (easier to focus with), step-less aperture adjustment (essential for video work, found on some photo lenses, but usually smoother on cine lenses), precise markings & follow focus gears (essential for focus pullers), minimal breathing (not a problem for photos, but off-putting on video, present even on expensive photo lenses), sturdy & solid construction (will withstand abuse of professional production, demanding working conditions like handling strong wireless follow focus motors).
So when I was asked about a cine lens that would cover a Super35 sensor, PL mount is the only option I could think off.
Now, the problem with PL-mount lenses is that they are very expensive, even vintage ones. I’ve done a lot of research and there are literally no native PL mount lenses at all that would cover super 35mm sensor with a $1000-2000 price tag.
There are literally only a few zoom options to choose from, all of which are PL converted rather than native. Considering that PL mount was only introduced in 1982 this is not surprising because both lenses below are older than that.
The main and most obvious choice would be ANGENIEUX 25-250mm F3.2/ T3.9. It’s still not cheap at comparing to photo glass, but at least it’s a proper super35mm cine zoom. These start anywhere from $2.5k in average condition and can go up to almost $10k in excellent condition. If you think about PL mount lenses in general, $2.5k is actually very little, especially for a lens with such range. The modern Angenieux equivalent will set you back about $35-50k, so it’s almost the same as it is with vintage photo glass, which is also often 10 times cheaper than the modern equivalent.
Now when it comes to image quality the 25-250mm produces, they as I expected are softer than modern PL lenses especially wide open, but according to some owners of these, they get pretty sharp at 5.6 and higher. The flare they produce is beautiful too as you would expect from such lenses, but they are far from perfect, not that you can expect anything much more from a PL zoom with such incredible range and reasonable price tag. Overall image certainly has a softer, dreamy, vintage look, which is not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of top DPs including Bruce Logan, Rodney Charters, Claudio Miranda, and Roger Deakins actually prefer older, softer lenses for certain situations. Slightly softer lenses have more organic, filming look, which often is more desirable, especially close-ups of women; and like another great DP & educator, Ryan E. Walters says they help take the edge off the digital nature of modern cameras.
Below are some videos I found that have been shot with this zoom including a music video here that I can’t embed :
One more flares example here.
All in all, I think the ANGENIEUX 25-250mm F3.2/ T3.9 is not bad, it all depends on how much you’ll have to pay for one. If you can find one in good condition for under $3k, then go for it, but anything over $6k for me is just not worth it.
The only other option and the one that excites even more is LOMO 25-250mm F3.5/T4.4 which has same range as Angenieux, (just slightly slower), but looks like a real beast and is actually cheaper than the Angenieux zoom. Although there are none of these on ebay at the time of writing, here is one that sold recently for $2.7k and even though it doesn’t seem to be cheap, Angenieux in such condition would probably generally have a price tag of $6-10k.
There is very little info about this lens on internet, but the reason why this lens is so exciting to me is this video:
To me it looks like it’s actually a nicer lens than the Angenieux and like I said, considering it’s cheaper, the value for money is much better. Flares are mind blowing, looks quite sharp too. Again, you can’t expect it to be as sharp as modern PL glass, but for such crazy zoom range it’s not bad. I personally love Russian lenses. This Lomo reminds me of Helios 44-2 which is my favorite vintage lens. I would say if you can stretch to this prize tag, there is probably nothing better that this one out there at a similar price point. If I had money I would seriously consider this for my FS100, because I really love the look this lens produces. So much character and great range too.
A great DP and fellow fan of vintage lenses, Timur Civan wrote a very nice post about the Cooke’s 25-250mm alternative, which is more expensive than the 2 lenses above, but his a lot of his thoughts about the Cooke lens will certainly apply to the Angenieux and Lomo above, so if you’re thinking about buying one of these lenses, make sure to read that post too!
Check out his video below testing out the Cooke 25-250mm T3.1
I really hope this will help some of you looking into affordable cine lenses. Do you guys think these are worth it? Any of you have any other suggestions for vintage cine lenses around $1-2k? If yes, I would love to know.
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