Comparing the Cooke S4 and Mini S4 Cinema PrimesBy Bokeh Rentals | April 11th, 2022
Cooke, arguably the top optical designer and manufacturer throughout filmmaking history, has released another set of S35 lenses called the S4/i and Mini S4/i.
These two series have a lot in common—but there are clear reasons for going with one over the other. The Mini S4/i primes were based on the original Cooke S4/i series and built as a lighter, lower budget alternative. In the grand scheme of things, the Mini S4s are incredible lenses, but compared to its top-of-the-line counterpart, there are measurable differences. Visual Look
Cooke describes the MiniS4/i primes as “smaller, light-weight lenses that offer the same resolution, optical quality, and reliability as the S4/i lenses at T2.8 speed”. In fact, the company went through the effort of color balancing the MiniS4/i primes to match all Cooke /i lenses, including the 5/i and Anamorphic/i set.
Both the MiniS4 and S4 lens series showcase “The Cooke Look”. With different physical characteristics and components, however, it’s impossible for the Mini S4 to look totally identical to the S4. Both series are built with moderate control over flares and distortion, opting for a modern look with character. The S4’s subdued look differs from Cooke’s Special Flares package, which prides itself on exaggerated flares, noticeable distortion and enhanced aberrations. For users who are looking for loud flares but don’t want to get the SF packages, there is still another route to a vintage-inspired Cooke look. See, Cooke offers optional, uncoated lenses for the Mini S4/i primes that you can use to replace your original, coated optics. Be warned, however: this is not an easy task, and it requires planning beforehand and an authorized lens technician to accomplish.
Check out the palpable difference in flare management between the Mini S4/i primes and the Mini S4/i primes with specially uncoated optics.
Even though the Mini S4/i primes were built as a lightweight companion to the regular S4s, they are still capable of shooting Super35 format with full coverage of the frame. Therefore, you can still capture the Cooke Look in Super35 without much negotiation.
Additionally, both prime sets come in a PL mount and can be outfitted with an LPL mount, alternatively. If your desired camera body uses a different mount system, you can use mount adapters to enable compatibility. Aperture
The aperture capabilities are the most notable technical distinction between these two Cooke lens series. The Mini S4/i primes have a universal maximum aperture of T2.8, compared to its counterpart’s faster T2.0. While having a universal maximum aperture is an accomplishment in the first place, this disparity in light handling could be the dealbreaker for anyone who wants to shoot with the newest Cooke but, say, is shooting in lower light scenarios. Or, a Director of Photography that’s aiming for an extremely shallow depth of field may side with the wider aperture.
In addition to consistent aperture, the Mini package is outfitted with almost universal front diameters, which comes in handy when swapping filters without matte boxes. All lenses in the Mini S4/i line have an 87mm front diameter, except for the widest, 18mm lens, which has a front diameter of 110mm.
Although there are countless combinations of focal lengths being sold and rented, the total size of the Mini S4/i line pales in comparison to the regular S4.
The Mini S4/i T2.8 primes are comprised of ten focal lengths: 18mm, 21mm, 25mm, 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, 65mm, 75mm, 100mm, and 135mm.
The Cooke S4/i primes, on the other hand, have a more comprehensive range of focal lengths. Its 19 lenses include: 12mm, 14mm, 16mm, 18mm, 21mm, 25mm, 27mm, 32mm, 35mm, 40mm, 50mm, 65mm, 65mm (SF), 75mm, 100mm, 135mm, 150mm, 180mm, and 300mm.
The Cooke Mini S4/i primes were built as a lightweight, smaller companion to the original S4s.
Despite its small size, the Cooke miniS4 lenses feature large numerals on both sides of the focus barrel to help focus pullers get the most accurate pulls. Markings are in feet and inches. Even though many focus pullers may be doing it remotely, these large focus markings in addition to a wide focal rotation make the job remarkably easier for operators.
Both the Cooke Mini S4/i lenses and the original S4/i primes have a scratch-resistant hard, anodized polytetrafluoroethylene finish, giving users a durable lens suitable for extreme shooting scenarios.
Cooke’s /i tech makes a superior professional workflow compatible with a wide range of cameras and accessories. This metadata capture goes a long way in post-production, especially as the Cooke S4 and Mini S4s log information each frame. Lens information captured by Cooke’s /i system includes focus distance, aperture, depth of field, hyperfocal distance, serial number, owner data, lens type data, and focal length (in both meters and feet).
The Cooke S4/i and Mini S4/i are two remarkable sets by the world’s leading cine lens manufacturer. Despite their minor differences, these are spectacular lenses at the end of the day.
If you want to take a closer look at footage shot on these lenses, there are thousands of options to choose from. Cooke’s official site even has a searchable library for all projects shot on Cooke and the exact lens series used. You can search by Title, Topic, Director, or DoP to learn what famous projects were shot with Cooke glass.
However, there’s still one more difference between these lens packages to look at—which is price.
The biggest reason to get the MiniS4/i lenses over the S4 is its significantly cheaper price. A Cooke 35mm T2.0 S4/i prime costs $17,900 retail on B&H, whereas the smaller, 32mm T2.8 MiniS4/i has a retail price of $7,650. This price disparity remains consistent along both lens series, and may be a determining factor.
If you want to avoid these large price tags, however, your best bet to use these cine lenses is to rent from a professional rental house!
Considering renting? Why not check out Bokeh Rentals’ Cooke packages!
Rent the Cooke S4 or MiniS4/i Prime Lenses
Rent the Cooke S4/i T2.0 Prime Lenses from Bokeh Rentals
Rent the Cooke MiniS4/i T2.8 Prime Lenses from Bokeh Rentals
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