Still Camera Lenses for Cinematography


High Quality Still Camera Lenses for Cinematography

In response to the growing interest in high quality still camera lenses for cinematography, I have created this new section of the website.

I will be covering only manual focus still camera lenses. This means, with some exceptions, that the lenses covered here are all out of production.


Many photographers and cinematographers are drawn to lenses made in the pre-autofocus, pre-digital,  pre-globalization era of photography.

Most experienced photographers and cinematographers have noticed that the optical and mechanical quality of lenses made during that era is superior to the vast majority of what came afterward. This is particularly true of mechanical quality.

1946-1988 The Pre-Autofocus, Pre-Digital, Pre-Globalization Era of Photography

To limit scope of this section of the website to something manageable, I’ll define this era as beginning in 1946 (first year after WWII), and 1988. I chose the latter year because by that point, the major Japanese SLR camera manufacturers, Canon, Minolta, Nikon and Pentax had introduced autofocus SLR cameras.

This era last two full generations and is characterized by a gradual, non-disruptive evolution of technology. Film is the only imaging technology available during this era.

The Transition Era 1989-2007

This era represents a generation of photographic technology that took place during a time of very disruptive technological innovation. There were more technological changes during this 18 year period than the 42 year era of relative stability that preceded it.

At the start of this era, film still dominates imaging, the majority of SLR cameras and lenses are made in Japan, and the first autofocus SLR’s and lenses are introduced. Manual focus lenses and SLR’s are still in production.

By the end of this era, all manual focus SLR and lenses (except for the Nikon FM10) are out of production,  two major brands Contax and Minolta disappear. The majority of still photography cameras and lenses are made in China.

The introduction of the Apple iPhone in mid 2007 signals the end of this era. The vast majority of photographs taken today are captured with smartphones.

The Current Era 2008 –

Today, high quality manual-focus still camera lenses are still in production from a few select manufacturers. These are no longer general purpose lenses, but are made specifically for discerning photographers who prefer manual focus, and for cinematographers using still camera lenses.

Full Frame 35mm Format SLR and Rangefinder 24 x 36 mm


Canon FD

Carl Zeiss


Leitz Leica-M

Leitz Leica-R


Nikon Nikkor



Medium Format 6 x 4.5 / 6 x 6 cm

Carl Zeiss / Hasselblad


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©2017 Jorge Diaz-Amador, all right reserved


Optics and Optical Testing for Digital Cinema

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