Cinema vs Photo Lens | Sirui Nightwalker Review

These are the Sirui Nightwalker lenses; these are affordable, fast, and lightweight while still having solid build quality. I’ve used these for a few shoots and have some opinions about them - so let’s do a quick overview, compare them to some photo lenses, and I’ll tell you my thoughts at the end.

Hey there, I’m Keith, a videographer and designer from Cleveland Ohio, and if you like either of those things, check out some of my other content!

Sirui Nightwalker Lens Kit

The Sirui Nightwalker lenses are small and fast lenses made for super 35 cameras. I have the set of 24, 35, and 55mm set. Sirui did send me these to review, but no money exchanged hands, They don’t get to see the video before posting, and all of these words are my own. This review is a little late compared to other reviewers, but this is the set of lenses you’ll receive if you buy the kit and the case.

Cost, Size, Weight, and Colors

The Nightwalker kit comes in black or metal gray. I chose the black version because I like the black, white and blue color. The metal gray looks cool, but not a fan of the lettering color. The metal gray lenses cost $399, while the black lenses cost $349. If you catch these lenses on their early bird campaign, you can get them for around $50 off per lens - but I’m not sure when that ends. Overall, I think this is a fair price for cinema lenses with these features, as long as you understand their limitations.

The 24mm weighs about 500 grams, the 35 is about 520, and the 55 is about 550 grams. If you're picking these up or balancing them on a gimbal, you won't notice the difference. I used all these lenses on my gimbal and didn’t have to rebalance them between lens swaps.

All of these lenses are the same size coming in at 84mm. The rings are also in the same place for easy lens swaps, and your focus motors will be in the same spot. The filter size across all three lenses is 67mm.

Material and Using a Follow Focus

The lenses are made of aluminum alloy, making them durable but not heavy. They also have gears made out of aluminum alloy, so you can attach follow focuses to the focus and iris rings for a very secure connection. I was using my smallrig wireless follow focus and the follow focus motor on my DJI RS3 Pro, and was able to have a secure connection to the lens.

When using a follow focus for photo lenses, you have to put gears on the lenses. It’s a bit of a pain, and if you try to calibrate your photo lenses, the focus rings will often spin forever, making it impossible to calibrate with a wireless follow focus. Cinema lenses have stops at their minimum and maximum focus and aperture settings, allowing wireless follow focuses to calibrate properly.

The Fast T1.2 Aperture

A unique part of these lenses is the T1.2 aperture.

These lenses are soft at T1.2 with low contrast and vignetting. The 24mm has the most vignetting. While the 35 and 55 have about the same. Surprisingly, by T/1.4 and 1.8, the vignetting is significantly reduced and gains back a lot of contrast but is still softer around the edges.

By 2.8, the edges sharpen up, and by T/4, the edges are about as sharp as the center.

The character at T1.2 is nice if you're going for a dreamy effect, but it’s also nice that by T1.8, these lenses clean up and have more contrast.

Compared to Photo Lenses

I know that comparing T and F stops isn't the same, but for example, here is a quick comparison between the Sirui Nightwalkers and some photo lenses.

Comparing the Nightwalker 24mm to the Viltrox 24mm, we can see that the Nightwalker is warmer and softer than the Viltrox. The viltrox is sharper at lower apertures, while the Sirui looks entirely different. This is the difference between photo lenses and cinema lenses. Photo lenses tend to be clinical and precise, while cinema lenses tend to have more character. One look isn’t better than the other, it depends on what you’re shooting.

Looking at the Nightwalker 35mm compared to one of my favorite Sony lenses, the 35mm 1.8, At 1.8 we can see the Sony lens has much more contrast and sharpness than the Nightwalker. At 2.8, they’re starting to both sharpen up, while the Sony still has richer shadows, and the same is true at 4. The Sony lens paired with my Sony body is applying lens corrections, so we get less distortion, while the cinema lens leans into the distortions. What you see is what you get, no internal lens corrections are being applied to the sirui. This is more apparent in the next set of tests.

The Sirui 55mm vs my Sony 50mm 1.2 isn’t a fair fight. The Sony costs about 4 or 5 times as much as the Sirui, but this will help better illustrate the differences between photo and cinema lenses. Comparing these lenses at 1.2, we can see that even wide open, the Sony retains more contrast and sharpness. The Nightwalker is very stylized, while the Sony has been optimized to give a more real-life look to the image. You can tell the distortion correction the Sony is applying here too.

While the photo lenses are sharper and have more contrast, even wide open - the cinema lenses still have a look to them. While filming a product commercial that the client wants to look as realistic as possible, I’d probably reach for a more precise lens. But for a more creative project where I didn’t need autofocus, I would choose the more stylized cinema lenses.


For edge-to-edge sharpness, lets take a quick look at some charts.

The 24mm is slightly soft in the center wide open, while the edges are soft and have some vignetting. You can see some apparent chromatic aberration in the edges at wider apertures. Even up until T4 the edges are a little soft, while the sharpen up at T8

The 35 isn’t quite as soft in the wide-open corners as the 24mm. By T2, the edges are starting to sharpen up, and T4, they're looking very sharp, especially compared to the 24.

The 55 is a little sharper still, sharpening up the edges more by T2, and by T2.8, they're looking as sharp as the 35 was at T4.

The common trend with the Nightwalker lens is that the wider the lens, the softer the edges with more distortion.

Distortion & Shooting RAW

If you find yourself shooting RAW, one thing to note about distortion is that even the Sony lenses that apply lens corrections will not apply if you are shooting RAW. RAW recording takes the image straight off the sensor before any corrections are done. That's one of the reasons RAW looks different from your internet recordings. With cinema lenses, the distortion you see is the distortion you get RAW or internally.

Stabilization on Sony Cameras

When it comes to using these lenses on Sony cameras with Active in-body stabilization, make sure to select your specific focal length to avoid any weird warping that can happen. This is true for any manual lens - but I have to make sure I update my focal length if I’m swapping between lenses while using active stabilization. Going from 24mm to 55, and not updating your focal length in camera will give you very wobbly results. If this is a problem, you can turn off stabilization altogether and use a gimbal to avoid this.

Focus Breathing

For focus breathing, the 24mm has some focus breathing. The 35 has less, and I didn’t notice any on the 55mm. Comparing these to photo lenses, you’ll notice that some photo lenses have a lot of focus breathing issues. However, newer Sony lenses that are compatible with focus breathing compensation eliminate it. While focus breathing is more distracting on autofocus lenses, it’s nice to know that the focus breathing on the nightwalkers isn’t distracting when rack focusing even at T1.2. If the subjects you're forcing between are far enough apart, you may not even notice the breathing at T1.2 on the 24mm with so much bokeh.


When it comes to flaring on the Nightwalkers, there is a fair amount of flaring happening at T1.2, but it’s not washing out the image like I thought it would. Here are some tests to see the different flaring characteristics of the 24, 35, and 55mm. When you have a small light source, you can get some optical flares, but larger sources, towards the edges of the frame, can give you a more gentle, washed-out look.


For distortion, the 24mm has the most distortion, the 35mm has some recognizable distortion, and the 55 has the least distortion. These lenses do not communicate with the camera to apply any in-camera lens corrections, so there will be some distortion here. The distortion is more dramatic towards the edges, so if you want to minimize this, you can frame your subjects in the center of the frame on the wider lenses to avoid any barrel distortion around the edges.

One Complaint, But I understand

I would have liked to see these lenses available in PL mount so I can adapt them to E mount and use them with other cinema cameras, but due to the size of these lenses, they could not make an L or PL mount. This would have been nice but would have also inflated the price as well.


The Sirui nightwalkers are an affordable set of Super 35 lenses. They have a lot of low contrast character at T/1.2, but quickly sharpen up and regain contrast by T/1.8 and even more by T/2.8. I typically use a mist filter to achieve low-contrast looks since I can control the strength, especially between different focal lengths. I rarely use manual focus at T/1.2 on moving subjects since focusing is very difficult. I’ve found I use these lenses around T/2 and can get an image with some character, while still getting the subject in focus.

When were comparing cinema lenses to photo lenses, we can see the differences more at those lower apertures. The photo lenses retain more contrast, detail towards the edges of the frame and can have less distortion, depending on the lens. If you're filming more creative work however, leaning into the lifted contrast, lack of edge detail and distortion can help tell your story in more creative ways.

What do you think of the Sirui Nightwalker lenses? Let me know in the comments on my video, and if you liked this article, you’ll probably like this breakdown where I used these lenses to shoot an interview

About Keith Knittel

I'm a designer from Cleveland, Ohio and love to shoot photos & videos. I made my first website in 2004 to show friends photos & videos (before YouTube/Flickr/Instagram were things) and have been shooting and designing ever since! I have a deep passion for making and helping others create.

View my full About Me

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