May 6, 2017 at 9:07AM


Photo or Cine Lens for low budget feature film?

I know the basics when it comes to the differences between the housing of photo vs cine glass. And right now my plan is to shoot my feature film with a photo lens (Sigma 24mm f1.8 DG DF) at 1080p. The focus and aperture characteristics of cine glass housing aren't a big deal for me as I will mainly be shooting stationary shots.

So having said this will the quality of cine glass make a huge difference over a decent prime photo lens. Would it be worth it for me to invest a few thousand dollars and purchase something like the Xeen 24mm cine lens and would it noticeably make my film look better? Or if I save the money and use the lens I have and work within its limitations will I be able to achieve a comparable result? In an ideal world I would like for this film to be screened at film festivals on a large screen and would like the image to hold up.


I think you are worried about the wrong things holding up on the big screen. A well-motivated camera tends to hold a lot more interest than a sharp but stationary camera. Yes, one can choose to make film more like theater and cut back and forth between static shots on actors saying lines. But "feature film" suggests the kind of cinematic perspective that comes from moving the camera, not locking it down.

If you are looking for the lens choice to give you the permission to not move the camera ("working within its limitations") I suggest you strongly question that logic. If you really do have an idea that really will work within the constraints of locked-down shots, then certainly a photo lens will give you all the resolution you need to hold up on a 1080p production.

May 7, 2017 at 5:50AM, Edited May 7, 5:50AM


There are all sorts of films which justify all sorts of camera movements and shots. A Jim Jarmusch film comprising of mostly static master shots is not necessarily less cinematic than your standard action picture chock full of camera movement. Also different film justify certain cinematic language appropriate for the story.

May 7, 2017 at 10:32AM


Good point abut Jim Jarmusch films.

Michael Tiemann

May 8, 2017 at 4:01AM

To very directly answer your question.
No. A Xeen level cine prime will not improve the look of your shoot as you describe it.

As long as you aren't zooming in or out, or changing the lens settings during a shot you can expect the same quality of out the lens that you see in stills.

May 8, 2017 at 11:31AM


Thank you for the input! However with photos being raw and a higher resolution than video wouldn't they show the flaws of a lens more so than video? Where a softer lens for example will be more appropriate for video than digital photography?

Pavle Novakovic

May 9, 2017 at 7:35AM

Sort of.
You have more resolution to see lens flaws in a still, but moving scenes will bring out flaws differently.

I don't think softer or sharper lenses are more or less appropriate for still vs motion.
It is all the look you are going for. You are comparing a good quality photo lens to a good quality cine prime. In broad terms both will faithfully render your scene.

If you are happy with your lens and currently shoot with it you should be ok.
If you are worried about things looking to sharp, use some diffusion to soften the look.

There are a lot of things to worry about , but from the shoot you described and the choices you have lenses aren't one of them.

BTW the Xeen primes should be sharper than a photo zoom lens.

Joseph Slomka

May 9, 2017 at 10:58AM

I must say I'm a bit surprised that there has not been more opinion from the community about this topic. Whenever reading various blog posts regarding cameras most people will bring up the fact that lens/lighting is more important than camera body. However now that two lenses are pitted against each other in two different form factors and price brackets there isn't much of an opinion. Also the fact that I've been advised to stick with the significantly cheaper photo lens was not expected. If lens is more important than camera body how is it that a $2,500 cinema lens will not significantly improve an image over a $500 photo lens?

May 11, 2017 at 2:17PM, Edited May 11, 2:18PM


Hey Man, I sense your disdain based on your response to the replies to your question. I am also a little surprised with the replies you got as well. You never asked about your composition or whatever you just gave a preface to what you'll be doing and you know what you are trying to achieve so, being told to move the camera as opposed to a locked off shot, is not advice that you asked for. You asked about the lens. I Am Currently going on day five of a feature film here in Jamaica ( i am the Dp) and I think I may be able to shed some light on what you are asking. I Can't Sware for that Sigma Lens you are asking about (Never did any work on it). If it was in the Art Lens series then I could say yes definitely go without the Xeen (those lens have unimaginable clarity). If you have the money I would say get the Xeens! I have proper canon photo Lens but the company that the equipment was rented from have The Rokinon Cine DS Prime and I told the Producer and Director that I'd very much prefer to shoot on the Rokinons because I know the benefit of shooting on those primes. I'm going to say if you have the budget, get the cine primes... it will make a difference. Ah mean I could continue and go on and on but again if you can, then go get the Xeen /s... In terms of Functionality there will be a difference, in terms image quality there will also be a difference. Hope my Advice helps.

Wentworth Kelly

May 15, 2017 at 9:37PM

Thanks for your thoughts and straight forward answer! By the way how do you like the Rokinon Cine DS? That is the other lens I was considering if I was to go more of a budget route.

Pavle Novakovic

May 17, 2017 at 6:55PM

Hi Pavle, you'd be better served renting lenses and trying them out than buying. Lensrentals and BorrowedLenses have lenses to rent.
Regarding photo lenses vs cinema lenses, check out comparisons like this one:

The main reason cinema primes are better for filmmaking is the access to gears, focus marks, hard stops, and de-clicked apertures, which don't exist on photo lenses.

May 16, 2017 at 1:47PM

Sathya Vijayendran

Sathya, thanks for including the link. I have seen the video before and it includes a lot of great info. Renting lenses and trying them out is something I am considering doing and will check out both of those sites.

So in your opinion the main difference between a good photo vs cine lens is the physical aspects of the lens such as focus marks, hard stops, etc., not necessarily the quality of image and glass itself? Where with proper composition and lighting one could make an image shot on a sub $1,000 photo prime lens look as good or nearly as good as footage shot on a cine lens costing several thousand dollars? Granted the hypothetical shot would be a static shot because once you start moving the camera or racking focus cheaper photo lenses will breath and be difficult to pull focus where the cine lenses will not.

Pavle Novakovic

May 17, 2017 at 7:02PM

Palve don't think in such a black and white way. There are situations where a cine lens will produce better image quality and there are scenerios where they won't. You have to understand the difference characteristics of lenses to see where it matters and where it doesn't. How does the lens flare, whats the distortion, is it sharp edge to edge, what happens to the color when the aperture changes, what does the bokeh look like, what aberations happen wide open, color cast, is the color reproduction consistent between the whole line of primes, how about chromatic aberation during high contrast. Generalizations about photo cine won't really be useful. Talking about the actual characteristics of specific lenses is helpful.

May 18, 2017 at 1:20PM

Indie Guy

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