What Is a Cine Lens?

What Is a Cine Lens featured photo

Nothing is more frustrating than recording a video with a normal lens. Nailing the focus is a struggle, not to mention you have limited aperture control. Consider using a cine lens when shooting a film.

A cine lens is specifically designed for cinema or filmmaking. It can record continuous and high-quality videos. It also offers more creative controls to help you achieve your vision as a filmmaker. 

A cinema lens has many other benefits, which we will explore below. This article will also cover the types of cine lenses you can buy. But first, let us teach you the in-depth definition of a cine lens.

What Is a Cine Lens?

A Cinema Lens

A cine lens is short for a cinema lens. It is designed to meet the needs of filmmaking and videography.

Cine lenses enable you to record continuous motion. They also produce stunning video and image quality that suits professional film production.

Cine lenses even feature smooth manual controls. They let you adjust the focus and iris or aperture while zooming. Hence, they can help you achieve your creative vision. 

Cinema lenses differ from normal photo lenses in several aspects, which we will cover later. But for one, they tend to have a larger and heavier build. They may require rails and lens support during usage to prevent image sensor damage.

What Are the Benefits of A Cine Lens?

Now that you know the answer to “what is a cinema lens,” you may be curious about its advantages. Cinema lenses offer several benefits you will enjoy as a videographer or filmmaker. 

Professional Design and Durable Build

Right off the bat, you will notice that a cine or cinema lens looks sleeker and more professional than a normal lens. It offers manual adjustment rings for focus, aperture (iris), and zoom.

It also has a standard or fixed diameter. It allows you to use different accessories, such as lens filters and matte boxes.

Plus, cinema lenses feature an all-metal construction build to ensure durability. They can withstand daily use and harsh weather conditions.

Accurate Focus Control

A cine lens has built-in focus teeth. It can lock into a follow-focus ring on your camera accessory or rig for accurate focus control.

This focusing ring helps you maintain focus on moving subjects. It also lets you switch focus from one subject to another when needed. Simply rotate the ring to follow the object. You can use the visible markings and hard stops on the cinema lens as your guide. These features are not available in a normal photography lens.

Plus, cinema lenses are parfocal lenses. That means they can keep the focus locked on the subject when zooming in or out. Non-parfocal lenses, such as still photo lenses, change the focal point as you zoom in. They ultimately require you to refocus the shot, which could be a hassle. 

Light and Aperture Control

Cinema lenses allow manual control over the aperture and video exposure. They have built-in iris with T-stop markings instead of f-stops in normal photo lenses. They provide the exact amount of light that enters the sensor rather than describe the lens opening. 

This iris ring in cine lenses is also clickless. It lets you adjust the aperture smoothly without a noticeable jerk. Hence, it helps your audience remain focused on the story of your film.

High-End Optical Quality

Cinema lenses use high-end glass to ensure outstanding video and image quality. They can record clear footage even when under difficult lighting conditions. These include shooting in the dark, under direct sunlight, or in high-contrast scenes.

Cine lenses also deliver sharpness across the frame. They can effectively reduce barrel distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting, which can ruin videos.

Finally, these specialized lenses offer stunning bokeh and light flares when using a shallow depth of field. They can make the scene look more artistic and cinematic.

What Are the Types of Cine Lenses?

A cine lens comes in either prime or zoom styles. It is also available in different types, which we will explore below.

  • Standard 50mm – This cine lens is known as the nifty fifty. It offers a natural field of view that minimizes the distorted effect. It also delivers a shallow depth of field with a stunning bokeh effect. It is ideal for capturing people and objects. Canon, Rokinon, and Tokina are popular brands producing standard cine lenses.
  • Wide-Angle – It is a type of cine lens with a 14 to 20mm focal length. It can fit a large object or group in the frame. It can also show greater scope or movement within the scene. Hence, it can help you establish the setting in films. Canon, Fujinon, Sigma, and Sony Zeiss are among the wide-angle lens manufacturers.
  • Anamorphic – It features a wide aspect ratio (2:39:1) and an ultra-wide field of view. It can capture epic, larger-than-life scenes. Hence, it is a popular cine lens among filmmakers. Popular anamorphic lens manufacturers include ARRI and Cooke.
  • Telephoto – These zoom lenses usually have a 75mm or greater focal length. They can compress the scene and magnifies details in the scene. They are ideal for shooting close-up shots or extensive sets. Notable telephoto cine lenses come from Panasonic, Tamron, and Sigma.

Cine Lens vs. Normal Lens: What Are the Differences?

Both cine lenses and normal photography lenses allow you to record video. However, they capture video differently.

Below are the main differences between a cine lens and a normal lens. 

Aperture or Iris

Aperture or Iris

The primary distinction between a cine lens and a still photo lens is the aperture control.

A cinema lens has an iris ring with T-stop markings instead of f-stops in a normal lens. It lets you control the amount of light entering the lens. The iris ring is also clickless for smoother aperture adjustment.

A normal lens lacks this feature and requires you to change the aperture through the camera.

Focal Length

Most cine lenses are primes. That is because manufacturers have to think about the optical constraints. It is challenging to achieve a consistent T-stop value across different zoom settings. They must also consider the parfocal lens quality, which lets you zoom in without changing the focus. Hence, cine lens manufacturers usually stick with a single focal length (prime).

That said, zoom cine lenses with an internal zoom control are still available. That means they remain the same length when adjusting the focal distance internally. It is a great advantage to filmmakers using stabilizer rigs because they do not have to think about balancing the lens. Note that a slight change in focal length requires you to fix the lens on a rig.

In contrast, professional photo lenses come in many shapes and designs. Feel free to choose between zoom lenses or prime lenses based on your needs. But you cannot achieve internal zoom control with these normal still lenses.

Focus and Optical Performance

Cine lenses have fewer optical elements than normal lenses. That means light rays would not bounce as much on the internal mirrors before reaching the sensor. Hence, they deliver sharper and more focused images compared to still lenses. Cinema lenses can also reduce chromatic aberration, barrel distortion, and vignetting. 

Size and Construction

A cine lens is considerably larger and heavier in size than a normal lens. It usually features an all-metal design for a solid and professional look. It also has a fixed front diameter compatible with several cameras, lens adapters, and other accessories. These include matte boxes, manual follow-focus systems, and servo controls for more creative shooting.

Meanwhile, a normal lens could also be bulky and heavy, especially if it is a telephoto lens. In general, though, it is compact and lightweight. It also accepts multiple accessories. But the choices are limited due to the variable diameters of the lenses.


A cine lens tends to be more expensive than a normal lens. That is because a cinema lens has a superior build and video quality. It also offers other features that are not available in a photo lens.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you take photos with a cine lens?

Yes, you can capture normal photos or stills with a cine lens. Although this lens is designed for cinematography and filmmaking, it can offer several benefits to photography. First, it gives you sharper and more detailed images due to its superior optical elements. It also allows for more creative control.

However, before using a cinema lens for photography, ensure your camera is compatible with the PL mount through an adapter. It is the standard lens mount for cinema cameras and cinema lenses. You might also want to change how you shoot the subject because a cine lens has manual focus and aperture ring control. So if you do not often shoot in manual focus mode, you may need some time to adjust.

Why are cine lenses so big?

A cine lens is noticeably bigger than a normal camera lens because it uses larger glass elements. It also features an all-metal casing to survive a day of film shooting. Plus, cine camera lenses may seem bigger due to the accessories surrounding them. Just imagine all the gears and filters that filmmakers may use to capture the perfect scene.

Are cine lenses sharper than still lenses?

Cinema lenses have higher-quality optical elements than still photography lenses. They are also parfocal, so they remain in focus when zooming in or out. Hence, cinema lenses can capture sharper and more detailed images compared to photo lenses.


Shooting video can be challenging with a still photography lens. Consider a cine lens to achieve your creative vision. Filmmaking on a budget? See our favorite cameras for making films that won’t break the bank.

A cine or cinema lens is a type of lens suitable for filmmaking and videography. It has superior optical elements, construction materials, and creative controls than a still lens. It gives you several benefits, which we covered above.

Do you have more questions about cine lenses? Contact us today, and we will get back to you soon!