Can you tell the difference between a $150 lens and a $15,000 lens?

May 6, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Can you tell the difference between a $150 lens and a $15,000 lens?

May 6, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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When it comes to buying lenses, you often get what you pay for, but is there a certain point where throwing more money at them doesn’t bring you any real benefit?

In this video, Freddie Wong of RocketJump Film School compares some inexpensive Canon EF Primes ranging up to about $500 with equivalent focal length $5,000 RED Cine Lenses and Zeiss Compact Primes and some $15,000 Zeiss Ultra Primes in an attempt to answer this question.

YouTube video

With the assistance of DPs Shaun and Jon, along with Jamie, who knows absolutely nothing about video, photography or lenses, several different versions of sequences shot with lenses at each of the different price points are shown to see if any of them could tell the difference, and whether it even mattered,

Optically, it seems that there’s pretty much no major benefit of the super high end glass, except when it comes to the extremes.  If you’re shooting at around f/5.6-8 then it would be virtually impossible to tell which lens each sequence was shot on, especially once the images are graded.

 

What you are paying for is that edge to edge sharpness, lack of vignetting, chromatic aberration and other issues at the extreme wide open apertures, and how they handle things like flare.

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You are, however, also paying for an easier life and better workflow.  If your shot is reliant on nailing focus every single time using a follow focus, the higher end cinema lenses are designed specifically for recording footage, built specifically to work with with things like follow focus units, whereas DSLR lenses are not.

That extra few grand you spend on a given lens might save its purchase price several times over during the course of making a film due to the amount of shots you don’t have to do another take of because the focus was missed.

But, as is shown in this video, that doesn’t mean you can’t produce outstanding video with inexpensive DSLR lenses, it just takes a little more work.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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3 responses to “Can you tell the difference between a $150 lens and a $15,000 lens?”

  1. Marcus Wolschon Avatar
    Marcus Wolschon

    You forgot an IMPORTANT point.
    In Cine Primes each focal length of the same series renders colors exactly the same way.
    Also the gears and filter have the same diameter.
    Films are not made using only one focal length.

    1. Flodder Avatar
      Flodder

      and F-stops are not really working for film. switching lenses involves a lot of work in post. because the exposure will not always match.

      T-stop is way better… i would wish it would be used for all lenses.

      paying professionals to fix the issues will cost way more than buying lenses who do it right from the start.

      so there is a good reason big productions buy cine lenses.

  2. John Enricco Avatar
    John Enricco

    Can you tell thhe different of $$fast glass? Great video from https://t.co/PGHv6KwvI2