IF YOU’RE A PROFESSIONAL photographer taking a serious look at the increased commercial potential that comes with adding filmmaking to the mix, then you’re likely to be thinking about the kit you need to be working with in order to make the move as seamless as possible. The good news is that in this modern hybrid world there are lots of camera choices out there that can deliver top-notch stills and video, while LED lighting has likewise now come of age and can serve you well across both disciplines.

You might also think that lenses can equally do a solid job for you across the board and, of course, it’s entirely possible to shoot motion using optics that have been designed for still photography. However, if you’re looking to get involved on a professional level then you don’t just want to be working with kit that can get you by. More likely you’ll be wanting to graduate up to something that’s been designed from the ground up to do the specific job you require, especially if that consequently enhances your working life.

This is where bespoke cinema lenses come into the equation and, while superficially, they can appear to be remarkably similar to conventional still camera lenses, there are some fundamental differences that will make life for those shooting motion so much easier. The problem is that lenses of this type have traditionally carried a substantial premium, and that’s proved off-putting to many. The Samyang brand, however, not only delivers dedicated cinema optics in the form of its highly regarded VDSLR MK2 range, but they also come with a strong Korean heritage that dates back over half a century, so you can be sure that they are a reputable brand that’s been tried and tested out by generations of creatives over the years.

Spot the Difference

So, what goes into a cinema lens that makes it so different to the photographic equivalent? Samyang produces lenses for both disciplines and, optically, they’re identical. However, the six VDSLR versions aren’t just superficially different from their still cousins, they’ve been fundamentally designed from the ground up to do a specific job for filmmakers, and yet, bucking the trend, they’re still only marginally more expensive.

Let’s start with a look at the principle of cinema optics. Unlike lenses designed for still cameras there is a fundamental requirement for total consistency, since the footage you’re shooting has to have exactly the same look, feel and colour, whichever lens you might happen to be working with. Basically, you’re less likely to hold one still image next to another to analyse any differences, whereas if a film sequence suddenly changes in appearance because a lens with different qualities has been fitted, then it’s going to stand out a mile.

It’s why cinema lenses are usually offered in sets as well as single items, and the pro filmmaker will invariably stick with a specific brand to ensure everything has the same family feel. Samyang, for example, offers its line-up of Full Frame VDSLR MK2 lenses, which consists of a 14mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 135mm, in a set of three (14mm, 35mm and 85mm), five (plus 24mm and 50mm) or six, at a price that works out less than buying them separately and with a case included.

They are all super compact – the EF version of the 14mm, for example, measures just 9.6cms and weighs 650.2g, while the 50mm is even smaller at 7.47cms and 525.8g – ensuring they’re totally at home being used hand held or on a gimbal. They’re also designed so that controls such as the focus ring are situated in exactly the same places, enabling them to be switched in and out of a rig in a matter of moments.

Unlike a still lens, the aperture on a cinema version is measured in T-stops, which are more accurate than f-stops, and four of the six VDSLR lenses feature an identical maximum T1.5, the exceptions being the 14mm (T3.1) and the 135mm (T2.2). The aperture ring is also de-clicked, so there is no sound to mess up your audio track, while you can also smoothly adjust the exposure in a single take as you seamlessly move from one stop to another.

Another big difference is that the VDSLR range is manual focus, since this is the preferred way of working for many filmmakers, and a long focus throw of over 130° enables subjects to be focused on precisely. This creates a more professional feel to video footage and ensures that there are no focusing ‘pops,’ which can be an issue if AF is being used, and it will ruin the take.

Another difference allied to filmmaking is the fact that the Samyang VDSLR MK2 models have focus distance scales and the focal length visible on both sides of the lens bodies, which is to support focus pullers and assistant cinematographers on set.

Coupled to this are general overall advantages, such as a 9-aperture blade design for unified, smooth and circular bokeh, and high-performance weather sealing to protect the most vulnerable gap between the lens and camera mount. It means that the VDSLR MK2 range is well up to the highest of professional standards, while street prices start from just £399 for the 85mm, with three, five and six-lens kits being available from £1499. Seven camera mounts are catered for, namely Canon EF, M and RF, Sony E, Nikon F, Fujifilm X and MFT.

It’s a remarkably affordable way to acquire a bespoke set of high functioning lenses that will make a professional level of filmmaking so much easier. It’s all helping to ensure that cost is no longer the barrier it once was for the stills photographer who really wants to move their filmmaking credentials up a significant notch.

More information: ❚ holdan.co.uk/brand/Samyang

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