Francis Ford Coppola once quipped, “There’s nothing creative about living within your means.” You could have fooled Rokinon. Over the past year, they’ve been busy filling out their Cine DS lineup of low-cost cinema prime lenses aimed at DSLR filmmakers whose creativity can thrive even in these austere times.
The Cine DS lineup now includes a total of 10 lenses with focal lengths spanning from 10mm up to the newly introduced 135mm T2.2 optic. Our frequent co-tester, David Patiño has put in quite a few hours with Rokinon cinema lenses, and was excited to take the new one for a spin with us.
The 135mm lens—like all the models in Rokinon’s revamped Cine DS portfolio—is a manual-focus lens for full-frame cameras with a de-clicked aperture for smooth operation during filming. The aperture is calibrated in the more accurate T-stops, not f-stops, as is standard with cinema lenses. You’ll enjoy an aperture range from T2.2 wide open down to T22.
All lenses in the Cine DS family are color-matched by Rokinon so they’ll provide consistent color reproduction across focal lengths. They also share a common design, with the focus and aperture rings in identical positions so you won’t have to reposition a follow focus after changing lenses. The aperture and lens rings have industry-standard gearings, too, so they’ll fit follow focus accessories from a variety of vendors. Focus distance and T-stop scale markings are duplicated on either side of the company’s Cine DS lenses, so operators on either side of the camera can get their bearings.
The 135mm lens has 11 elements in seven groups, with nano-crystal coating to reduce ghosting and flaring. It’s capable of focusing on subjects as close as 2.6 feet away. In addition to an EF mount, which we tested, the 135mm T2.2 Cine DS is available in Nikon, Sony A and Sony E mounts.
At 1.8 pounds, this 135mm cinema prime lens is considerably lighter than its peers. Canon’s 135mm T2.2 lens weighs in at 3 pounds, while Zeiss’ 135mm T2.1 lens tips the scales at 3.5 pounds. Unlike those two lenses, Rokinon’s lens doesn’t offer weather- and dust-sealing, so it’s not going to be as useful in the field as its heftier competitors. However, the lens’s aluminum alloy chassis doesn’t feel flimsy. Aficionados of bokeh take note: The Rokinon 135mm has nine aperture blades; fewer than either the Zeiss’s 14 or the Canon’s 11.
In the Field
Patiño used the 135mm to film two episodes of “Beer Snob,” an episodic series chronicling the craft beer craze in the U.S. It was also pressed into service to film a conference, where its telephoto reach came in handy. Patiño told us the lens performed well, with no visible flaws jumping out at him. It was relatively sharp on the EOS 5D Mark III, and consistent with other Rokinon Cine lenses already in his kit.
Both the focus and aperture rings turn smoothly, working well for “cinematic rack focuses,” Patiño noted. The aperture gear is fairly close to the camera mount, though, and our fingers would frequently brush up on the camera body when stopping up or down—nothing that interfered with the operation of the lens, but nonetheless noticeable. As noted above, the aperture is de-clicked, so it opens and closes smoothly, but the blades make a fair amount of noise as they do.
Since it’s a third-party lens, you’re unable to view T-stop settings through the viewfinder or display, or in the metadata of your footage.
We opened this review with the wisdom of Francis Ford Coppola, and while he may have scoffed at living economically, we should also remember his experience on Apocalypse Now, where he memorably recalled “having access to too much money, too much equipment” and going “insane” as a result.
We trust that owners of the 135mm Rokinon will keep their heads, confident in the knowledge that they’ve secured a pretty darn good deal. Canon’s CN-E 135mm T2.2 lens carries a $4,950 price tag, while Zeiss’ 135mm T2.1 lens costs a cool $5,700. At just $699, Rokinon’s 135mm lens is in an entirely different universe. Indeed, you could assemble four or five Cine DS lenses for the price of just one of Rokinon’s competitors.
Will the lens prove as durable over the long term as its higher-priced competitors? We suspect not, and certainly not in any inclement weather. Will it help the indie filmmaker in need of an affordable lens get the job done? Absolutely.
PROS: Image stabilization; excellent sharpness and resolution; great value.
CONS: Large and heavy; can’t accept threaded or drop-in filters.