Full Frame Zooms

Cine Lens Buyers Guide

Full Frame Zooms

Cine Lens Buyers Guide December 28, 2022 0 Comments

The full frame digital cinema revolution is upon us, and the deluge of full frame cameras is proof positive. This guide will serve as a launching point for prospective buyers as they navigate the constantly shifting landscape of available cinema lenses. It's also worth noting that, as I often remind my colleagues and clients, there's no such thing as a bad lens. Just different lenses for different projects. Let's take a look at some of the best full frame zoom lenses for cinematography.

First let's look at what qualifies a zoom as "full frame" and what that means for your cinematography. In the world of digital imaging, there's really no need to stick to tight standards such as those firmly enforced in the film days. For example, if Leica came out with a new 35mm camera but the film gate or sprockets were just slightly different, it simply wouldn't accept the 35mm film that was mass produced to a specific standard. In the case of digital sensors, there can be small or even large differences in aspect ratio, width, and height of a sensor. However, the term "Full Frame" is still commonplace among lenses and therefore is widely considered the standard alongside its little sister, "Super 35". Traditionally, "Full Frame" was an area of 36mm in width by 24mm in height. There are only a few digital cinema cameras that stick to that standard (and loosely at that). And then you have Vista Vision sized sensors from RED which can be as large as 40.96mm in width and 21.6mm in height which requires a slightly larger image circle to cover the entire sensor, corner to corner. We can go on and on about all these standards, but we're here to look at Full Frame Cine Zooms. For the sake of simplicity, every lens that we'll go over here will cover a traditional Full Frame sensor. For more specific coverage questions, contact one of our Lens Geeks today! Let's dive right in! 

Canon Flex Zooms

Announced mid-2022, the Canon Flex zooms are true to their name. They check a LOT of boxes and are truly... Flexible. The Flex line is made up of two lenses; a 20-55mm and a 45-135mm, both with a constant T2.4 aperture. This gives a total range of 20mm through 135mm. While 20mm may not seem too generous at the wide end, remember that on a full frame sensor, that's pretty wide! Image quality from both zooms is really nice. The natural, smooth bokeh and flare characteristics show that Canon really put a lot of work into the optical design of these. The features are what really set these apart from other options. The interchangeable mount system that allows for swapping between EF and PL isn't anything to brag about - but the ability to maintain metadata whilst doing so is definitely an impressive trait unique to the Canon Flex zooms. While the Flex zooms aren't considered heavy, they're not as compact as some other full frame zoom lenses on the market which can be justified by their feature set. The Flex zooms are positioned comfortably between an owner-op and rental house tool at around $22k each. Overall, the Flex zooms are a really well balanced pair of lenses that should not be overlooked when shopping for a full frame cine zoom lens. 

DZOFilm Catta Zooms

A newcomer to the field of cinema lenses, DZO burst onto the scene with a couple of affordable Micro 4/3 cine zooms several years ago but quickly pivoted to higher-end solutions shortly after their introduction to the industry. In 2021 they introduced the Catta and Catta Ace - two different product lines, both for full frame cinema. At the time of writing this, the Catta zooms include a 35-80mm T2.9 and a 70-135mm T2.9 (same optical design for both Catta and Acee models). The original Catta are available in mirrorless mounts such as E, RF, L, and Z. The Catta Ace shares the same optical design but comes in Canon EF and Arri PL flavors. That's not the only major difference between the two. Because the Catta are designed for smaller, lighter mirrorless cameras, they utilize injection molded polymer external components whereas the beefier, more rugged Catta Ace features an anodized aluminum shell. Some may assume that the "Ace" name denotes the mount options and/or the body material, but in fact, the Ace name refers to the additional coverage afforded. While the Catta do in fact cover Full Frame, the Catta Ace have the added benefit of VV coverage thanks to their longer flange distance (sharing the same optical design means that thee shorter flange distance on the original Catta produces mechanical interference which causes vignetting on formats larger than Full Frame). The most attractive point of these zooms is their price. Coming in at a highly competitive $3,000 - $4,000, the Catta and Catta Ace are possibly the most affordable purpose-built cinema zoom lenses on the market. However, as is the case with all optics bound by the laws of physics, there are compromises to be acknowledged. At this price point, size, and speed, the overall image quality of the Catta zooms isn't their strongest trait. So if you're looking for a clean, accurate lens, these may not be the choice for you. Both options are extremely lightweight and compact and would be right at home on a steadicam or gimbal setup. 

Fujinon Premista Zooms

Currently, the gold standard by which professional full frame cinema zooms are measured. Fujinon has released three Premista lenses to date; 19-45mm T2.9, 28-100mm, and 80-250mm providing a range of 19mm through 250mm in three lenses. The 28-100mm is the obvious work-horse of the trio. There’s only 9mm of difference between the wide end of the 28-100mm and the 19-45mm. The three zooms are all approximately the same size and weight as each other coming in at about 8 lbs. Each and equipped with a non-interchangeable PL mount. They’re rather stout which makes them an option for Steadicam work but perhaps a tad too heavy for gimbal rigs. The Premista really shine when it comes to image quality. Sacrificing a bit of size and weight allowed Fujinon to squeeze every last drop of image quality, just as you’d expect succeeding the industry favorite Premiere zooms. The Premista zooms offer the latest Cooke /i3 which includes shading and distortion mapping - a crucial feature for virtual production and speedy post work. You can expect the usual excellent Fujinon build quality from all three zooms. 

Cooke Varotal Zooms

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Leitz Zooms

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Zeiss CZ.2 Zooms

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Curated by Matthew Duclos • December 28, 2022