One of the most common questions we’re asked is “Will this make it look cinematic?” We try to steer people away from a gear-based view of cinematic filmmaking. There are countless details to consider; ultimately, it’s the material that determines the best gear for the job, be it an Arri Alexa or a Herocam. That being said, if I had to point to one detail that makes an image cinematic, I’d point to good glass.
Modern manufacturing has spoiled today’s low-budget filmmaker. Still lenses are better and cheaper than ever. Even the cheapest glass can resolve at fairly high resolution. Canon’s L-series still glass quickly became very popular, thanks in no small part to its line of HDSLRs, but also because they present an excellent cost-benefit ratio. This brought the Canon EF mount into common use in filmmaking. Great cameras are available in EF mount and you can also choose from one of the many low cost EF adapters on the market. There is no shortage of EF options these days, including great glass from Ziess. With these great options came a slew of adapters and devices to help these lenses behave appropriately for motion picture production. But these devices don’t compensate for a few of the drawbacks of using still lenses for the moving image. Infinitely turning focus rings, electronically controlled, and clicking apertures are not exactly convenient. You may be complacent with this at first based on the availability of high-quality and inexpensive lenses…but if at some point you want to upgrade, improve the quality of your work, and invest in quality gear. One of the best ways to improve image quality is (you got it!) good glass.
Canon’s CN-E line brings the great optics in the L-series lenses in cine-glass form. Their slightly warm image and mild contrast come straight from the L-series lenses they’re modeled after. But build is where they make themselves useful. Focus with hard-stops and smooth manual aperture with .8 pitch teeth are among the simplest features that make them worth the step up. The CN-E lenses are part of Canon’s push into the 4K arena and, from our initial test, it appears that they do resolve a higher resolution image then their still lens counterparts, which is down to the quality of the internal components.
Transmission stops also make the CN-E lenses much more at home on a set. You’ll be able to match exposures effectively with other cinema lenses. While you probably won’t want to throw these lenses up next to hand-made glass, you may find yourself mixing and matching Ziess and Red glass with the CN-E lenses. This brings me to the next thing we like about having these CN-E lenses around: they brings more variety to the middle-of-the-road lens market. If we couldn’t play Cooke against Leicas and Angenieux when picking glass for our next project, we used to have pretty slim pickings. Now, though, we have another option on the market that gives us more variety when we’re picking a lens with characteristics that are best for the project.
Perhaps the best aspect of having CN-E glass on the market is that it also brings another EF mount option. PL-mount is, in many ways, the best mount available for the rigors of filmmaking, but if you’ve invested in a camera at or below ten thousand dollars you probably didn’t receive something with a PL-mount and you’re probably looking to make the most of that investment. So, having another cine lens option in EF is welcome when you want some variety without replacing expensive gear.
We at Magnanimous Media are looking forward to the arrival of our CN-E set. For us, the CN-E lenses represent a step forward for our line and what we can offer our customers to take their work to the next level. We look forward to showing you how these lenses stack up to what’s on the market.
– Jonah Rubash, Creative Director, Magnanimous Media