Rokinon XEEN lenses are still one of the most budget-friendly lens options out there. The lenses are sharp and have high contrast. Despite being based on Rokinon's still photography lenses, this set is quite complete from 14mm up to 135mm and many of the lenses are as fast as T1.5.
They took a page from the Zeiss CP.2 and Canon CN-E playbook and swapped out their irises for ones with a higher blade count (11- blades). They are very well-rounded lenses that have brought cinema quality to low-budget productions.
Significant SA. Optics decentered. Cleans up around T2.8.
Significant SA throughout. Cleans up by T2.8.
The XEEN are Samyang’s attempt in 2014 to compete with the Zeiss CP.2 and Schneider Xenon prime series. They offered a revolutionary price point with generous coverage.
They are a higher quality housing version of the Cine DS series which come in at a fraction of the price. There are varying reports of these lenses having different coatings than the Cine DS series. I have tested these lenses many times and can say to my knowledge there is no difference in the coatings between the XEEN and Cine DS series lenses. You might burn through two or three Cine DS lenses with heavy use in the time that a XEEN will last without issue. Serviceability is a major factor with this series where extra parts are not readily available so they should be treated as a one-time purchase with little hope of repair if something does happen.
In my opinion, the XEEN are given a bad name that is not necessarily deserved. These are budget lenses that have their quirks but no more so than lenses in a similar price point and point in time such as the Zeiss CP.2 and Schneider Xenon FF. The XEEN were made in 2014 to compete with these other lenses which both have CA and other issues that the XEEN display as well.
The look is rather unexciting which can be a plus for simple interview or basic documentary applications where the look of the lens isn’t necessarily desired to stand out. They mix well with popular zoom lenses from other manufacturers making them a good back up and B cam lens for certain shots.To my knowledge, the newer XEEN CF version are a more attractive housing with the same optics internally.
Rokinon made a ton of these lenses and they can be had for a very reasonable price both new and used if you shop around.
Rokinon XEEN primes are one of the most affordable cine lens options available. They took a page form the Zeiss CP and Canon CN-E playbook and rehoused their still photo lenses, in proper, cinema housings. They swapped the original 8-straight-blade irises for rounded 11-blade irises, which gives bokeh a nice look when stopped down.
They perform very well, even wide open, have a nice character to their flares/ghosts, and unique bokeh that has a bit of a vintage feel to it. Since they started out as affordable still photo lenses, the resulting cinema versions are fairly compact and light-weight too.
The Rokinon XEENs are surprisingly clean and well-made. They lean well into a contrasty look, and are what I would call a versatile set of lenses – something a DP might own to cover a lot of different applications.They don’t have a particular flavor of their own – a backlight will milk out a little bit, the bokeh is nice and round – which is really great if you are imparting your style in another way, and want a bit of a blank canvas upon which to paint. Plus they are very affordable, which makes them a super-star choice for any recent film grads.
The Canon CN-E primes, while based on the Canon L-Series glass, do provide a consistent color balance across the range. Their contrast and resolution aren’t quite as consistent as I’d expect considering their price point.
The mechanical build of these lenses is decent but the lack of a PL mount option makes them a bit less attractive. Fortunately the set that we had on-hand for the test was converted to PL mount by Duclos Lenses which made the process much smoother without the need to swap camera mounts.
The widest in the CN-E line, the 14mm does suffer from pretty significant aberrations. But I can overlook that knowing that the 50mm and 85mm are a T1.3! Wide open I did observe a pretty steep drop-off in resolution but overall this gave the CN-E primes a bit of character that was missing in some of the more clinical lens sets.
Canon has a long lineage of glass from the K35s, to the FDs and their CN-Es. What I love about the CN-Es is there modern build and functionality but their glass is the same as their L-series stills lenses which almost anyone who has been a photographer or cinematographer is familiar with.
The lack of PL mount as an option is a bit of a bummer but I can understand the reasoning why.
Warmer in skin tones and sharp from edge to edge, the CN-Es are a great entry-to-mid-level lens set that offer a nod to their lineage but represent modern optics of today's cinematography standards.