The Best Affordable Cine Lenses for Full-Frame Sony Alpha Cameras

Cine lens options for Sony Alpha that won't break the bank. 

Full-frame Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras are popular among indie filmmakers and YouTube creators because of their compact design, low light capabilities, and Log shooting that allows you to push the quality of the image in post. Better yet, they're fairly inexpensive when comparing them to a standalone cinema cameras with similar recording formats. 

When it comes to lenses, there is a sea of options available. Wide angle, zooms, portrait, macro, telephoto, specialty... Generally, they're split into two categories: still and cine. For this article, we looked at only cine lenses that provide at least full-frame (36 x 24mm) coverage and are available in E-mount. Meaning, you don't need an adapter to mount them on the camera. Plus, we wanted to look at lenses that are somewhat inexpensive. Yes, price is always going to be a thing, and your version of inexpensive is going to be different than someone else's. This is more of a comparison of current industry pricing. Without some kind of parameters, this list could be miles long. We'll be looking at other categories too. So let's get into it in no particular order.  

Criteria

  • Must provide at least full-frame coverage (36 x 24mm)
  • Native E-mount, no adapter or expander 
  • Approx. $5,000 price tag or less

Cine Prime Lenses

Samyang/Rokinon 

If you're on a budget, Rokinon has its Cine DS and newer Cine DSX lines, which are also called VDSLR MK2 if outside the United States. The DSX primes are refreshed versions of the Cine DS lenses, providing a smaller footprint, better weather sealing, dual-sided focus marks, click-less iris, and standard focus and iris gears. The DSX has focal lengths from 24mm to 85mm with a 14mm coming in 2021. 

Though the lens housing takes its inspiration from cine lenses what makes these lenses cheaper is their plastic construction, plus, an optical performance that's based more on still lenses than its Xeen series or higher-end cinema glass. But as independent filmmakers, we know the right tools for the gig may not always be the higher priced ones.

Rokinon 24mm T1.5 Cine DSX: $749

Rokinon 35mm T1.5 Cine DSX: $649

Rokinon 50mm T1.5 Cine DSX: $599

Rokinon 85mm T1.5 Cine DSX: $499

What We Like: 

  • Compact Size with Long Focus Throw
  • De-Clicked Aperture Ring
  • Fast T1.5 for Low-Light Situations
  • Great Bokeh and Starburst Effect
  • Weather Sealing

What We Don't Like: 

  • Plastic Housing 
  • Doesn't resolve images as well for larger screens 
  • CDX line does not have many focal lengths 

Xeen CF

What made the original Xeen series well-liked among cinematographers was its inexpensive price tag coupled with a large focus throw and PL mount. If you have an eye for it, you can tell when a project uses still lenses because of the focus throw. On some lenses, it's non-existent and creates an unappealing digital look. If that's what you're going for, by all means. But you want a lens with some throw. Around 130° but 180° and higher is ideal. Xeen provides 200°. For perspective, Cooke's full-frame S7/i lenses (only available in PL) have a 270° focus throw. 

Like the DSX line, the Xeen CF series is an updated version of the original Xeen lenses with a more compact design and improved optics. The lenses provide a variable look, so when you shoot more wide open from T2.8, the lens will get softer and creamier which is great for faces, especially shooting high resolution. Better yet, each focal length costs under $2,500. If you want even more of a bargain, you can scoop up the original Xeen lenses for around $1,800 each, which are also available in Sony E-mount. 

Xeen CF 16mm T2.6: $2495

Xeen CF 24mm T1.5: $2495

Xeen CF 35mm T1.5: $2495

Xeen CF 50mm T1.5: $2495

Xeen CF 85mm T1.5: $2495

What We Like: 

  • 8K capture
  • Focus Throw, Size
  • 11 Blade Aperture, Smooth Circular Bokeh
  • Fast T1.5 Aperture 
  • Low Flare and Ghosting
  • Bidirectional Scales 

What We Don't Like: 

  • Overly used, too familiar of a look
  • Little loss in depth of field compared to the original 
  • Noticeable Lens breathing 

Laowa Zero-D 

If you're in need of wide angle lenses with little distortion that won't break the bank, check out Laowa. The company's Zero-D line comes in 9mm, 12mm, and 15mm focal lengths with stellar image performance. Similar to the Samyang Cine DSX line, the optics are based on still lenses but with cine-friendly housing that includes standard iris and focus gears.

Pairing a full-frame sensor with a wide angle lens can help recreate the feel of The Revenant. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski shot the film using the ARRI Alexa 65 paired mostly with a 24mm lens, which is equivalent to a 12mm on a full-frame (36 x 24mm) sensor. So if your story requires a similar look, but you need to dramatically scale back the cost, at least from a gear perspective, the a7S III and the Laowa 12mm T2.9 is a starting point. 

Laowa 9mm T2.9 Zero-D: $599

Laowa 12mm T2.9 Zero-D: $1499

Laowa 15mm T2.1 Zero-D: $1199

What We Like: 

  • Little Distortion
  • Super Close Focus
  • Standard Mod Gears 
  • Fast Aperture 

What We Don't Like: 

  • Different filter threads between focal lengths
  • Cheaper Housing 

Irix Cine 

Irix lenses are another affordable cine option that are capable of resolving 8K. The cine line currently has four focal lengths that feature standard pitch gears, a magnetic mount system for filters, and are weather-sealed to withstand the rigors of production. The Irix 11mm T4.3 has very little distortion which is what you want in a wide angle lens. Each lens has a nice rounded bokeh and are not overly sharp. Color rendition is natural, too, and images do not have much contrast, leaning more towards red hues than greens. Very pleasing. 

Irix Cine 11mm T4.3: $1195

Irix Cine 15mm T2.6: $1195

Irix Cine 45mm T1.5: $1195

Irix Cine 150mm T3.0 Macro: $1195

What We Like: 

  • 8K Image Capture 
  • Matching Mod Gears 
  • Color Rendition 
  • Weather Sealed

What We Don't Like: 

  • Different Apertures among lenses
  • Not many focal lengths available 

Zeiss Compact Prime CP.3 

It's hard to imagine any lens list without Zeiss appearing on it. The optics and performance of these lenses are astounding. The CP.3 models are a refreshed version of the CP.2 primes, so if you see any of those on sale or used, they're definitively worth checking out. There's not a lot we don't like about the Zeiss Compact Primes. The ergonomics, the look it produces, the robustness of the lens. The CP.3 models have shed some weight and size compared to the CP.2 but, they still tout the clean, crisp image quality Zeiss is known for. If you're working with visual effects, the CP.3 XD versions have its eXtended Data technology. Plus, there's currently 10 focal lengths to choose from in either imperial or metric giving you plenty of options on set. 

CP.3 15mm T2.9: $6090

CP.3 18mm T2.9: $5290

CP.3 21mm T2.9: $4390

CP.3 25mm T2.1: $4390

CP.3 28mm T2.1: $4390

CP.3 35mm T2.1: $4390

CP.3 50mm T2.1: $4390

CP.3 85mm T2.1: $4390

CP.3 100mm T2.1: $5290

CP.3 135mm T2.1: $6090

What We Like: 

  • Image Quality 
  • Build Quality 
  • Number of Focal Lengths

What We Don't Like: 

  • More Expansive Than Others

Schneider Xenon FF

Besides its filters, Schneider also makes cinema glass. The Xenon FF series was introduced way back in 2013 but the lenses still hold up today. And because of their age, they somewhat fly under the radar. So if you're looking for something different in terms of look, these might be it. The lenses have an excellent build quality but may be considered a tad bulky in today's standards. They have a very nice bokeh because of their 14 blade iris and a maximum aperture of T2.1. The lenses are fairly sharp even wide open. As for color, they're going to be a bit warmer... more like a Cooke lens than a Zeiss. Better yet. the lenses have a 300° focus throw, as well as a matching 100mm front diameter and 95mm thread, eliminating the need to have multiple accessory setups on set. They are what you want in a cine lens.  

Xenon FF 18mm T2.4: $6300

Xenon FF 25mm T2.1: $4795

Xenon FF 35mm T2.1: $3360

Xenon FF 50mm T2.1: $3360

Xenon FF 75mm T2.1: $3360

Xenon FF 100mm T2.1: $3360

What We Like: 

  • Fast Aperture
  • Color Rendition 
  • Matching front diameter and filter threads

What We Don't Like: 

  • Slightly Larger Lens

Tokina Vista Primes

The Tokina Vista Primes have a 46.7mm image circle, so not only does it have full-frame covered, but RED, ARRI LF, and Sony VENICE. Like the Zeiss and Schneider lenses, there's a lot to like about the Vista Primes. Now, don't get these confused with the Vista One lenses. Those are only available in a set and have a single coat that limits the flaring. We're talking the Vista Primes which are equally fantastic in terms of image quality and build. Breathing is minimal, there's little sign of chromatic aberration, and the image stays sharp through the entire range. Each focal length is available in imperial or metric markings. 

Vista Prime 18mm T1.5: $6999

Vista Prime 25mm T1.5: $5499

Vista Prime 35mm T1.5: $5499

Vista Prime 50mm T1.5: $5499

Vista Prime 85mm T1.5: $5499

Vista Prime 105mm T1.5: $5499

Vista Prime 135mm T1.5: $5499

Sigma FF High Speed Primes

A brand many of us are already all too familiar with, the Sigma FF High Speed Primes can resolve 8K resolution, have a 180° focus throw, and a fast T1.5 aperture that produces pleasing out of focus elements. Plus, standard gear positions, front diameters, and filter threads will create a seamless production on set. With plenty of focal lengths to choose from, the lenses are proven in the field and won't break the bank. 

FF High Speed Prime 14mm T2: $5999

FF High Speed Prime 20mm T1.5: $4499

FF High Speed Prime 24mm T1.5: $3499

FF High Speed Prime 28mm T1.5: $3499

FF High Speed Prime 35mm T1.5: $3499

FF High Speed Prime 40mm T1.5: $3499

FF High Speed Prime 50mm T1.5: $3499

FF High Speed Prime 85mm T1.5: $3499

FF High Speed Prime 105mm T1.5: $4999

FF High Speed Prime 135mm T2: $4999

What We Like: 

  • Fast Aperture
  • 8K resolution 
  • Large image circle

What We Don't Like: 

  • Saturated in the market, similar looks in projects

Cine Zoom Lenses

Sony FE

As you'd imagine, Sony makes its only quality glass with some great full-frame options for stills and video both prime and zoom. However, since we're sticking to cine lenses, and more importantly lenses with T-stops, it really narrows down the Sony options to just one, which will be released sometime in 2020. This is not to say lenses like the FE PZ 28-135mm F4 OSS G or FE PZ 28-135mm F4 OSS G are not fully capable of producing quality images with video. Nor are we saying T-stops are the end all be all. We're focused solely on this specific category of lenses. We will approach those lenses in a different article. 

Sony FE C 16-35mm T3.1 G Cine Lens: (Price TBD)

What We Like: 

  • Sony is expected to release three cine zooms

What We Don't Like: 

  • TBD

Tokina ATX MK II Cinema Zooms

Tokina has two cine zoom options that cover beyond full-frame. Both lenses are parfocal, have reduced breathing, and image shift along with a de-clicked, 9-blade iris that produces a pleasing bokeh. Both zooms are color matched, have industry standard 0.8 mod gears, a 300° focus throw, and a fast aperture. 

Cinema ATX 16-28mm T3.0 MKII: $4499

Cinema ATX 50-135mm T2.9 MKII: $3499

What We Like: 

  • Great Image 
  • Similar characteristics to Tokina primes 
  • Standard diameter and front filters
  • Fast aperture 

What We Don't Like: 

  • Some Breathing

Other Options

These are just some of the cine lenses that are available for full-frame image capture. There are plenty of others out there, like the SLR Magic MicroPrime Cine primes. Meike is also starting to develop full-frame cine primes for Sony E, and Sigma has an FF Zoom in a 24-35mm T2.2. There are others that are more expensive but are great for renting, like the Fujinon Premista, Leitz Zoom, Panavision Primo 70 series or Primo Artiste, as well as the ARRI Signature Primes and Zoom as well as the ALTA Switar lenses. And when you start adding adapters and expanders into the mix with vintage glass like the Canon K35...the possibilities are nearly endless. 

But we want to hear from you. What are some of the full-frame cine lenses you like shooting with? Let us know in the comments below.      

Your Comment

8 Comments

It's funny what some people think "affordable" means.

October 5, 2020 at 11:17AM

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bp
512

I know what you mean.
But when you think that pro lenses can run over $100K, $5K is affordable on the spectrum.

October 9, 2020 at 12:09AM

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Zarf
29

Meike has said that it's going to release its cine primes for full frame next year. An E mount is certain. Their APS-C equivalent cine lenses cost just $350 each, so I expect the FF ones to be affordable too.

Also, most of the lenses mentioned here are primarily PL/EF lenses, but contain the NEX "adapter" in the housing. The Meike ones would be true mirrorless designs.

The only feature I'm personally interested on though, and so far none of these manufacturers is offering it, is a fake anamorphic aperture plate (oval plate). The anamorphic bokeh would be available only when wide open, so if someone wanted to shoot spherical, they could still get it if they stop down a bit. Many Hollywood films interchange anamorphic and spherical shots these days too, so I don't see this as a problem (e.g. the new James Bond: anamorphic for the action scenes, but spherical for the romantic scenes).

October 5, 2020 at 3:05PM

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Eugenia Loli
Filmmaker, illustrator, collage artist
714

Your review of Tokina Vista Prime lenses is incomplete--no "what we like"/"what we don't like". Perhaps some text was dropped when translating article to website?

October 5, 2020 at 7:11PM

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"Saturated in the market, similar looks in projects" LOL... I guess that was the con of using panavision primo, cooke s4, and arri zeiss master prime lenses. lighting, composition, filtration, color grading, .... nahhhh

October 6, 2020 at 12:33AM, Edited October 6, 12:34AM

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I am very happy with my Sony 28-135 G on my a7Sii. It's very cost effective not having to spend tens of thousands on a set of primes.

October 6, 2020 at 9:40AM

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Dave Palmer
Retired Electrical Engineer
230

The Tokina 50-135 does not cover full-frame. Too bad because its a great lens.

October 8, 2020 at 2:31PM

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Michael Ryan
Cinematographer / Editor
86

Why didn't you list EF mounted lenses?
I ask this because you violated your own criteria of not listing lenses over $5K. So, that means that your criteria is nothing to abide by.

October 9, 2020 at 12:06AM, Edited October 9, 12:06AM

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Zarf
29