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Take a look at how a $50,000 cinema lens actually works

How Do $50k Movie Camera Lenses Work?
Anyone who has ever dabbled in or considered taking up photography can tell you that lenses don’t come cheap, and when you get into specialty lenses for specific uses like making movies, pricing can get a little out of control. But what separates these lenses from that one for $300 you just saw at Best Buy?

The Science Channel over on YouTube has a “How it Works” video featuring a $50,000 cinema lens — or movie camera lens as they call it. The quick video (it comes in at under two minutes) covers how the lens is designed, constructed, and what is happening inside it to focus and control the light hitting the camera sensor. For anyone who doesn’t know much about lenses, or anyone who happens to like cool visuals, this is a must-watch.

The surprising part here, for those who are in the know about camera lens technology, is that for the most part, there is nothing different from this $50,000 cinema lens and a photo lens with similar specs that you can pick up for $350. In fact, the technology behind these lenses – how they focus, control light, and so fort – has not changed much at all over the years.

The difference in cost can be attributed to the build quality of the lens, the materials used for the casing (metal versus plastic), the size and coatings used on the glass, the precision of the focusing ring, and the overall craftsmanship that ensures it will work as expected every time. Most general photography lenses are not held to such high standards, and those that are still cost several thousand dollars less. Cinema lenses are also designed to work with filmmaking cameras, which have requirements that regular cameras don’t.

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Anthony Thurston
Anthony is an internationally published photographer based in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Specializing primarily in…
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