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Are Cinema Lenses that much sharper?

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    Are Cinema Lenses that much sharper?

    I know cinema lenses are "as good as it gets" for cinematography, but realistically we can only get to hire them sometimes. My question is...are these lenses THAT much sharper than the sharpest SLR lenses ? I wonder how much difference we would see if we were to compare two prime lenses (Nikon / Canon or Zeiss vs PL Mount cinema lens ) same focal length, same lighting, same camera. I know the Cinema lens would always win out, I am just wondering whether "sharpness" is a primary factor, or whether there are other, more important attributes that make a cinema lens better.

    #3
    Sometimes they are exactly the same thing!

    See the CP.2 cinematography series, and the ZF.2/ZE photography series. They all use the same glass, it is just that the CP.2 are all manual, with built in gears, have a longer rotation, and come in 5 different mounts. You can get the ZF.2/ZE cine-modded though, I believe.

    I also remember seeing a comparison of some Canon L glass, versus some specific cinema glass, and the differences were negligible, pixel peeping level differences. I can't remember what lens it was about, I will try and find it though. I remember it took place in a hotel room with a hot girl, and then part way through, they switched it for a dude who was wearing the same dress as the girl, lol.

    Here is a different one though, comparing Rokinon cine 24mm vs Canon CN-E 24mm vs Zeiss Cine 24mm, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73rxg-yxTr4 The Rokinon holds up pretty decently, IMO, for its price.

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      #4
      If you get your hands on real cinema glass, master primes, ultra's, cooks etc, you will see a difference. But not just regarding sharpness, it's an overall combo of all factors. For lots of projects still glass is fine, but for discerning clients and DP's, nothin beats cinema glass. True story. And mechanically, ridiculously easier to work with.

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        #5
        Originally posted by EDV View Post
        I know cinema lenses are "as good as it gets" for cinematography, but realistically we can only get to hire them sometimes. My question is...are these lenses THAT much sharper than the sharpest SLR lenses?
        No, they are not. They may even be less sharp.

        Originally posted by EDV View Post
        ...I am just wondering whether "sharpness" is a primary factor, or whether there are other, more important attributes that make a cinema lens better.
        There's a lot more to an image than simple sharpness.

        As to the other attributes, see Mr. Green's link.

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          #6
          The most important differences IMO are related to mechanical precision, robustness, and more consistent lens to lens image quality for things like color matching across a full set of primes.

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            #7
            As stated above, mechanics make a bigger difference than sharpness, and some cinema lenses are in fact rehoused still lenses. Not just the (boring, not that great) Compact Primes, also the Leitz PV lenses from the 80s even (also not great but at least they have character). Most good modern still zooms are much better than old cinema zooms technically, though maybe not aesthetically.

            The Cooke S4s might be the nicest "looking" lenses I know of, but they aren't substantially sharper than good high end still lenses. The lack of focus breathing, the out of focus rendition, the flare, the way skin tones are rendered, the consistency between lenses, etc. blows away any SLR lens, though. The "look" is very nice. Relative to how well a shot is composed and lit it's not that relevant, but it does enable you to achieve what's not achievable otherwise all else equal.

            Stopped down past f2.8 or f4 all good lenses are pretty darned good. That said, I A/Bed the 15-40mm Optimo (legendary) with a 17-55mm f2.8 Canon at t2.6 and f2.8 respectively... Both lenses ended up being used side-by-side at those stops, intercut from time to time. The Optimo is in another class entirely; it blows the Canon away. But they still intercut. Get the best lens you can, but don't use it as an excuse for why your footage looks bad. In terms of sharpness, it's insignificant by normal stops at 1080p. The difference is there, but only when everything else is equal and only at a very high standard in terms of all other technical and aesthetic concerns is lens sharpness a priority. The difference in mechanics, however, is enormous and immediately important on many shoots.

            That said, point an Alexa with nice lenses at something half decently lit and it will look a lot better than anything a dSLR will pump out. The "it's the operator, not the camera" fallacy ignores the genius of the engineers who make this incredible stuff.

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              #8
              Originally posted by Policar View Post
              That said, point an Alexa with nice lenses at something half decently lit and it will look a lot better than anything a dSLR will pump out. The "it's the operator, not the camera" fallacy ignores the genius of the engineers who make this incredible stuff.
              Yes! Well said. Engineers are the unsung heros of our profession. Literally.

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                #9
                IMO its the mechanics and the "non breathing" that make the big difference. But the prices are out of my league. 30k or even 80 k for a zoom lens? I would always rent them and thats what I suggest: rent cinema glass and see the difference yourself.

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                  #10
                  A while before, photographic lenses were made for the impact of the whole picture, to capture live in a more poetic decription.
                  That changed with the internet and digital - nowadays a lot of people are looking at the very far corners at a 100% magnification first... The manufactors reacted and often photographic lenses are now rendered mainly for labor analysis: high sharpness + low distorsion = a great glass, eh? :-)

                  It's funny how a Hollywood classic like the 28/2 Zeiss is debased.

                  The main problem with modern photo lenses imho is their optimation for autofocus work; you are really not able to pull fokus manuelly.
                  Apart from this, I wonder how many great movies are shot with vintage nikkors... :-)

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                    #11
                    Originally posted by wuffer View Post
                    A while before, photographic lenses were made for the impact of the whole picture, to capture live in a more poetic decription.
                    That changed with the internet and digital - nowadays a lot of people are looking at the very far corners at a 100% magnification first... The manufactors reacted and often photographic lenses are now rendered mainly for labor analysis: high sharpness + low distorsion = a great glass, eh? :-)

                    It's funny how a Hollywood classic like the 28/2 Zeiss is debased.

                    The main problem with modern photo lenses imho is their optimation for autofocus work; you are really not able to pull fokus manuelly.
                    Apart from this, I wonder how many great movies are shot with vintage nikkors... :-)
                    Hardly any. For a number of reasons, cinema lenses are still used 99% of the time on cinema productions. That is not to say you couldn't shoot a great movie with vintage nikkors, but for 99% of anything you see in a theater.... it was cinema lenses. Their benefits are too great to not be used.

                    If cinematography wasn't infinite, I'm sure I would have found the end by now.

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