Rose Colored Glass? No, Rokinon Cine Lenses.

Rokinon Cine Lenses

I recently had the opportunity to test out the Rokinon Cine Lenses. The lenses are made for digital film production by adding .8 pitch gears for focus and aperture and de-clicking the aperture mechanism. I got my hands on 3 of them:

  • Rokinon 14mm T3.1 Cine Lens
  • Rokinon 24mm T1.5 Cine Lens
  • Rokinon 35mm T1.5 Cine Lens

In addition to the 3 Rokinon Cine Lenses I tested, they offer an 85mm T1.5 and an 8mm T3.8 fisheye. Hopefully I’ll get my hands on those soon.

GH2 with 14mm T3.1 Rokinon Cine Lens
GH2 with 14mm T3.1 Rokinon Cine Lens

The lenses were mated to a Panasonic GH2 and a Sony FS700 (thanks goes to Carter Media for the FS700 and lens rentals), two very popular cameras. Although the tests were not very controlled, I was able to get a feel for how they worked in different conditions ranging from overcast morning skies to tall afternoon Winter shadows and sunlight.

GH2 with 24mm T1 Rokinon Cine Lens
GH2 with 24mm T1 Rokinon Cine Lens

My overall impression of them? They’re nice, built very solid, great fit and finish, smooth mechanics, and a clean sharp image. However, there was a little bit of blooming and chromatic aberration in the 24mm (actually they all had a little CA). I think the 35mm was the sharpest. The 14mm gave a nice wide field of view with some distortion but not that stupid, skater style fisheye look. It was just enough to give it some style and interest. Don’t get me wrong…much respect to my skater brethren (I’ve broken many a bone as a skater myself) and props to some of the zany photography that has come from the community, but I’ve never liked that overused fish eye look. The 14mm at T3.1, which is faster than the 18mm Zeiss CP.2 at T3.6, also did nicely indoors as you will see in the video (I think some of that had to do with the glow from the on camera talent though).

GH2 with 35mm T1.5 Rokinon Cine Lens
GH2 with 35mm T1.5 Rokinon Cine Lens
Something to keep in mind when viewing the video is that the GH2 is a Micro Four Thirds system with a 2x crop factor compared to the full sized super 35 sensor in the FS700. What this means is that shooting the 24mm on the GH2 yields framing similar to a 50mm normal lens (48mm to be exact) and the 35mm feels more like an 85mm portrait lens (70mm to be precise). The 14mm feels like a nice wide angle with the distortion being less noticeable. It can be a problem if you want supper stupid skater fish eye look though, because the widest most lenses go is 8mm. I plan to test the 8mm along with the 85mm on my GH2 some time soon. I am a fan of the Micro Four Thirds system though, and have used it for years. Based on the Four Thirds system developed by Panasonic and Olympus, both were developed as the first true, all digital system for still photography around the turn of the century (Ha! Makes it sound old when it was just 2000). More on that in a later post.
FS700 with 35mm T1.5 Rokinon Cine Lens
FS700 with 35mm T1.5 Rokinon Cine Lens

I have 3 vintage Nikkors that I use for digital film production, all of which are a tad bit sharper than the Rokinons but my 45 year old Nikkor S 50mm f/1.4 blooms terribly at anything faster than f/2.0. The focus mechanics (and zoom on my AF 35-70mm) are not internal so it’s a bit of a hassle to use with a matte box. Being SLR still lenses, they don’t have focus gears or de-clicked apertures. Throw in the fact that I paid the same for a used Nikkor as what a new Rokinon 85mm cine prime costs, along with the fact that the Rokinon Cine Lenses are designed for cinema use, it becomes pretty appealing to get all four lenses. Tack sharp is not the only criterion and I have a Gestalt philosophy… the whole is greater than the some of the parts. I’ve used the Zeiss ZE series on DSLR shoots in the past and the Rokinons performed better in my opinion.

Setups:

  • Panasonic GH2 (un-hacked) – 24p Cinema, Film Mode “Smooth” -2 all the way, Record Quality 24H
  • Sony FS700 – 24p, Picture Profile 1
  • Posted in FCP X with minor color grading

Thanks for reading and next time I’ll post some more about the creative process… and as always, a nugget of profundity, suitable for sharing with friends or family.

dp

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Dave Perry is a Roanoke Virginia digital film producer, editor and photographer. His sideburns are only a hobby.

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