Shane Hurlbut tests which of these affordable lenses comes out on top.
[Editor's Note: This article has been republished with permission from Shane Hurlbut, ASC's blog.]
In this zoom lens shootout, veteran shooter Shane Hurlbut reviews the brand new Fujinon MK 50-135mm E Mount Cinema Zoom against the Tokina Cinema 50-135mm PL Mount Cinema Zoom. Right now, these lenses are falling into that $3,200 - $4,000 price range, which make them extremely affordable, lightweight, and flexible for most shooters—something that has been missing in our market with all the advancements in affordable tools and tech.
So let’s set the stage with what we are doing and how we are doing it:
- A/B CAMERA: Sony PXW-FS7 Xdcam
- RESOLUTION: 4K
- KELVIN: 5500
- ISO: 1600
- LUT: SONY-EE-Slog3-LC709A.cube
For lighting our subject, we are utilizing an ARRI SkyPanel for the Key Light. We have our SkyPanels color corrected to 5500K, which perfectly matches the Sony FS7. The key is coming in at a f/5.6 1/2. For the Fill Light, we have a Cineo HS2 punching into a 4’x8’ white bounce. The fill is coming in at a f/2. Finally, our Black Light is an ARRI M18 coming in at a f/11.
Fujinon MK50-135mm Long Lens
Now to kick things off, we are going to start with the Fujinon MK50-135mm Long Lens. Right off the bat, this lens is incredibly light and thin coming in at 2.16 lbs. It’s T2.9 and is only offered in Sony’s proprietary E-mount.
Now let’s look at the focus on the Fujinon. The minimum focus is 4’ and the focus throw is not bad! Unfortunately, when it comes to markings on the lens, they could improve this for production. From 15-20mm, it’s critical to have hard marks and there is nothing there as well as 30-60mm - it’s about only 1/10 of a turn and there isn’t much of an indication for focal lengths.
Tokina Cinema 50-135mm Long Lens
Now let’s move onto the Tokina Cinema 50-135mm Long Lens. Unlike the ultra-lightweight Fujinon, this lens comes in 3.4 lbs, which isn’t too much of a difference, but it does add up in the long run. The build for this one isn’t so thin, it’s more stout and thick, something closer to a traditional prime lens.
With the Tokina, the minimum T-stop is T3, making the Fujinon a 1/10 of a stop faster. With this lens, you get all of the markings that one would need for both the operator and the assistant. We have markings on both sides of the barrel, plus more frequent marks between focal lengths. This will make it better for production use. It still could be improved upon, but makes for a great lens operationally at this price point.
Focus and distortion
When zooming in and out on both the Fujinon and Tokina, they maintain critical focus on all focal lengths. This is essential when applied to productions and quickly changing focal lengths. You don’t want to have to refocus between takes.
With the Fujinon, you can definitely feel that there is some distortion. The black squares seem to be popping outward in the image, a prime indicator of distortion in a lens, which is fine because it’s not bad to have just a little bit of distortion in a lens. It adds character to your image in a lot of ways.
The Tokina lens has a little bit of distortion, but nothing as pronounced as the Fujinon lens. The Tokina lens has a flatter feel and will ultimately give you that flatter image. The Tokina produces a broader image which will render bigger facial features, whereas the Fujinon will render a narrower image with narrower facial features.
Now let’s see how the lens glass and elements react when flared. We are going to take a K5600 200w Joker and shoot it right across the glass and down the barrel of the lens. Both lenses present a really nice flare. The Fujinon seems to have more of a green, orange, and blue flare of the image. With the Tokina, we are getting more purplish-green into cyan tones with the flares. The flares overall are much bigger with the Tokina vs. the Fujinon. This is due to the lens being a bigger piece of glass.
Let’s break down the color rendition of these lenses. With the Fujinon, we get very neutral color tonality with a slight magenta cast. It handles the highlights very well with some nice contrast and color separation. Looking at the Tokina, the lens seems to have more of a green color tonality. It’s definitely a bit cool, and not as contrasty as the Fujinon glass. It doesn’t have the same snap. The Fujinon is a much sharper lens and the Tokina is a bit softer. What I can see is that there is a little bit better highlight control in the hair. Overall, the Fujinon for the dollar is doing really well!
When it comes to perspective, the Fujinon really pushes the background away from our subject. The image doesn’t feel compressed and has more of a 3D quality to it. Something that reminds me of Cooke glass and how dimensional it is. Looking at the Tokina lens, it feels a lot more flat and compressed. You can feel the wall creeping up behind her and how flattened it is. At times you might want the glass to be this way, but it’s nice to have that separation from your background.
Bottom line is that both of these lenses are very affordable and come ready to play. If you are looking for a sharper and more contrasty lens, go with the Fujinon MK50-135mm. It offers up a narrower perspective with some distortion that helps to push the background away for a more 3D look. It also has a very neutral color rendition which is quite pleasant. If you are looking for a softer, less contrasty lens, that has a much flatter field with less distortion that brings the background in towards the subject, then go with the Tokina Cinema 50-135mm lens. This could aid when trying to go for more of a period piece look. This lens also offers more of a professional build for both the operator and the assistant.
Equipment used in this test
- Fujinon MK50-135mm T2.9 E Mount
- Tokina Cinema 50-135mm T3.0 PL Mount
- Tokina Cinema 50-135mm T3.0 EF Mount
- Sony PXW-FS7 XDCAM Super 35 Camera System
- Sony PXW-FS7M2 XDCAM Super 35 Camera System
- RED Weapon Woven CF 6K Brain
- Blueshape BV90 Battery
- Teradek Bolt Pro 3000 3G-SDI/HDMI Wireless Video Transceiver Set
- Sekonic c-700 Color Meter
- Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR-U Light Meter
- Datacolor SpyderCHECKR
To learn more about the gear used in this test, visit Shane Hurlbut's blog.