First Impressions: Tokina Cinema Lenses

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We recently went to CineGear Expo NY to meet up with Tokina and check out their cinema lenses that we’ve previously reported on. The company is currently showing off three prototypes: the 11-16mm T3, 16-28mm T3, and 50-135mm T3. The lenses are overall built quite well and seem like that can be an interesting alternative sitting nicely between the offerings of Rokinon and Zeiss. For what it’s worth, Tokina is very clear that these lenses are the exact same as their equivalent photography lenses, but instead, the changes have to do with the ergonomics that cinematographers need.


Ergonomics

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All three cinema lenses are characterized by a couple of key changes from their equivalent photography lenses: the ergonomics were designed for the focus throw (which is longer than on the photo lenses), there is a manual zoom ring, and there is also a manual iris adjustment ring. Plus there are areas along these lenses that allow you to screw in a little knob to make turning easier if you’re not already using a follow focus and gears.

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As far as mounts go, these lenses are going to be available in PL mount and Canon EF–with the exception of the 11-16mm T3, which will also come in Micro Four Thirds mount. Sorry Nikon users; it doesn’t look like you’re loved enough.

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All three lenses have a very large front filter area that is a standard size for use with matte boxes. Tokina specifically stated this about their 16-28mm and 50-135mm lenses. All of them are designed for use with full frame cameras as well.

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The interesting thing to notice though is the cinema lens next to its photographic equivalent. As far as the optics go, they are the exact same, but the difference in the massiveness has to do with the fact that the cinema lens is designed for a better focus throw. For what it’s worth though, we’re really curious as to what else is on the inside of the lens despite its massiveness. It’s still very light, so there isn’t a ton of metal. In fact, the exterior is made of aluminum.

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When you look at the 11-16mm lens though, things are a bit more on par with one another. Additionally, we put it on the Olympus OMD EM1; and the balance and weight felt really nice when using the combination together.

Focusing

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When it comes to focusing these lenses, it will be all about using the depth of field and focusing markers–all of which are on the side as is standard with all cinema lenses. For those of you not in the know, this makes a lot more sense when you’re pulling focus on a movie set as you won’t be above or behind the camera, but instead to the side of it.

Build Quality

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The prototypes that we handled were pretty damn well built. The 16-28mm had a bit of graininess to its focus throw but that is because of the fact that it was a prototype. Tokina assures us that the production version will be smoother.

Ease of Use

If you’re a photographer looking to get into cinema lenses, we recommend that you get into reading up on the whole use and need of them first before diving into the fire. But cinematographers and those accustomed to using the lenses won’t have any issues and the use will be as standard as ever.

Image Quality

Though the optical quality of the cinema lenses is said to be the same as their photography lenses, we didn’t record any footage because they were prototypes. We mounted the 11-16mm on the OMD though, and we were quite impressed with the way the footage looked. However, we believe that the footage will look even better on a hacked Canon 5D Mk III.

First Impressions

We spent a total of around 20 minutes with the lenses, and so far we think that many folks who spring for the purchase will be in for a treat. To date, these might be the most affordable cinema zoom lenses with a constant aperture on the market. And considering just how good Tokina’s glass is, we think that potential buyers should first be able to justify the purchase to themselves and figure out how they’re going to make money from the purchase. Otherwise, Rokinon’s cinema primes may be more in your price range.

Once the production versions come out, we’ll be calling them in for review.

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