Zeiss line of cine lenses for DSLR video (and stills)
Shooting high-definition (HD) video using a DSLR is an explosive trend, leading to DSLRs being used as backup cameras on major films, the recording of certain popular TV shows, independent film-makers, videos supplementing traditional photography (eg weddings), and of course, your everyday self-made videos.
Carl Zeiss is addressing this rapidly growing market by showing/introducing at NAB in April a new line of Cine lenses for DSLR video. I expect to have some of these lenses for review around that time. The optical design is the same as the existing Zeiss ZE optics for Canon EOS (which are the same optics as for Nikon ZF/ZF.2), but the lens barrel and mechanics are completely different.
See my Guide to Zeiss ZE / Zeiss ZF Lenses.
The target market for the new Zeiss Cine lenses includes independent film-makers, high end TV shows, even the big studios using DSLRs as 2nd cameras. The appeal is that the Zeiss offerings are a small fraction of the price of existing Cine lenses, such as the Zeiss Master Prime series.
There are substantive differences between the cine lenses and the ZE line:
- Each lens is hand-selected in Germany eg “cherry picked”;
- The diaphragm has 14 aperture blades, resulting in a near-perfect circular aperture (14 blades vs 10 is possible because of the larger diameter lens barrel);
- All lenses have 300° of focus rotation, with all new gearing designed for luxurious and accurate focusing for video use;
- A consistent size for each lens, with a 112mm frontal area;
- PL/EF mount for Canon EOS;
- The mount is interchangeable to future-proof the investment. (Changing mount requires backfocus adjustment and is not a field operation).
- No Nikon mount planned initially (HD video market is dominated by Canon at present);
The new Cine lenses will be available as a 6-lens kit (customer choice of lenses) for approximately US$20,000, an extremely aggressive price point for Cine lenses (the Zeiss Master Prime series costs $20K or more per lens!). They will also be available individually for approximately $3500 per lens. Final pricing will be announced in the April time frame, and will depend on various factors, including currency exchange rates. (But with the Euro looking at risk, this might mean favorable US prices at long last).
Canon DSLR users might be very tempted to choose these lenses for regular still-photo shooting: they are hand-picked and the build might prove appealing to those who want the very best. I personally will be lusting after the 100/2 Makro-Planar with that 14-blade diaphragm, but being Canon only is disappointing. Then again, until I experience the size/weight/ergonomics I'll reserve judgment.