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Review: Sigma Cine Lenses

This review looks at two zoom lenses and one prime from the Cinema lens line, tested with a Blackmagic URSA 4.6 Mini Pro 4.6K.

In this review, we’ll look at the Sigma line of cinema lenses. I have three of these lenses that I've used recently on a real-world shoot with this Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K. Two are from the high-speed zoom line, the 18-35mm wide (on the left in Figure 1, below) and the 50-100mm (center, Figure 1), as well as a prime lens, the 135mm (on the right, on the camera in Figure 1). Each of these lenses is a T 2.0 F-stop, so that's why they're called the high-speed series, and all of them have all the features that you would typically expect and want in a cinema lens.

Figure 1. The Sigma Cine Lens 18-35mm (left), 50-100mm (center), and 135mm (right, on the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K). Click the image to see it at full size.

The lenses have geared rings for focus, iris, and zoom (Figure 2, below), and they have a huge glass and a lot of weight, and a lot of expense to go with it. They range in price from $4,000-$5,000 each, but you get what you pay for, and if you want something better than your DSLR lenses, or even kind of a mediocre broadcast lens or a standard built-in lens that comes with your kit camera, then these are the way to go.

Figure 2. The 18-35mm Cine Lens up close. Click the image to see it at full size.

As I said before, these lenses are not light. They range from 3-4 lbs. each. The 18-35 and the 135 are both around 3 lbs., and the 50-100 is a beefy 4.2 lbs. Don't expect to be using these on a lightweight run-and-gun setup. Although you could, it's going to make it pretty challenging and you'll get worn out from running around with all this glass on the front end.

Mounting the Camera and Lenses for Use in the Field

Also, don't make the same mistake that I did. I was going to be shooting with this Blackmagic on a MoVIi Pro motorized gimbal. I thought for sure I could use this 18-35 as my go-to lens when using that setup, because a lot of the stuff I was going to do was moving towards or away from a subject, shooting from a moving vehicle, and lots of stuff where there was a whole bunch of movement, walking through doors and through hallways, down trails, and so forth. I didn't want to have to be messing with a follow focus, either remote or on camera, because it's virtually impossible to do that with a one- to two-person setup like I was doing.

When I got the MoVI Pro, I decided, let's get this thing balanced, so I put the URSA on there. I also have the SSD reader on the back, and it makes for a pretty large camera package. It's already very long, and the MoVI Pro doesn't have a lot of room front to back. Most people that shoot with MoVIs are shooting with a small package, like a RED camera, which is very compact, and then a short cinema lens or maybe not even a cinema lens.

I thought, I'll get this Blackmagic on there, and I'll balance it with the 18-35. The problem is with that three lbs. hanging off the front of this, it was way too much weight on the front end, and I couldn't get the MoVI to bring it back up. I decided to put a V-mount battery on the back, that will help counter balance it. Well, that still wasn't enough. Then I got a CineMilled counterbalance kit--basically, a big plate that goes on the bottom of the camera--and it has optional weights that you can screw into the back of it that will bring some more weight to the back of it.

For one thing, this started to make the kit extremely heavy, and also it still wasn't enough to balance for this lens. I ended up having to scratch that idea and go with a 17-40 Canon L-series EF lens. Thjis was fine; it did what I needed it to do. I just hoped that I could shoot the whole thing with these nice cinema lenses.

Now, the resulting footage is great. There's really no obvious difference between what I was shooting with the gimbal set up with the 17-40 and what I shot with these Sigma lenses. That is in part because I didn't shoot one place or one scene with this lens and the Canon lens. I chose to use either just the Canon lens or just the Sigma lenses together on each individual location, so the resulting footage will blend fine, because I'm going from one scene to another and you're not going to see very similar footage to where skin tones or skies will change slightly in coloration.

Because I was shooting with a Blackmagic camera that had a Canon EF mount, of course I chose the Canon EF mount for these lenses, but you do have options available for that. The EF mount on these Sigma lenses also has the rubber gasket around the seal, so the Sigma lenses have the same features that the Canon L-series has, which is a rubber gasket that keeps dust, moisture, sand, or anything of that nature from getting in between the lens and the body of the camera where the sensor is.

Related Articles
In this tutorial I'll look at two new cameras from Blackmagic Design: the URSA Broadcast, a 4K camera; and the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K, which is an update to the previous URSA Mini 4.6K.