Talking Cooke lenses with DFS’s Michelle Fuksa

Cooke lenses are renowned worldwide for producing quality cinematic images, and indeed, clients at Digital Film Studios often request them. But how are they good lenses, and in what ways?

Michelle Fuksa, freelance 1st AC and lens tech with DFS, sheds some light on these mythical, movie-making mechanisms:

Michelle with a 35mm Cooke S4/i

What do you, specifically, like about using Cooke lenses? Is there really such a thing as the “Cooke Look?”

I would say there is. And what I like about them is that they look like film.

How so?

Cooke creates up-to-date lenses with a unique look unto themselves. They are a little warmer and feel “less sharp” than other lenses. With their saturation and color, they represent a “film look” in the digital medium. The image out of the camera looks great even before coloring it yourself.

Can a softer lens sometimes be an advantage?

Actually the Cookes aren’t “soft,” but the way that they fall out of focus is different than any other lens, and that gives them a softer, more natural look. On that note, it should be said that they resolve as well as other lenses in their price range, like the Zeiss Ultra Primes. Many of today’s lenses are catered to the digital age, where everything is shot at 4K or 6K, and when you’re making a techno thriller, with lots of visual effects, it can be helpful to have a really sharp image. But in other genres, you’re often going for a specific “look,” like in a western or a period piece, and that natural feel can be really pleasant. The Cooke S4 and S4/i lenses can do both. It’s a way to give a film-like quality to your image without actually using vintage glass.

But Cooke lenses have a reputation for being really expensive, right?

That’s correct.

That being the case, can independent directors and cinematographers still get their hands on Cooke glass?

Yes! Fortunately, indie filmmakers don’t have to actually put down $120,000 to buy a set of Cooke lenses if they want the “Cooke Look” – at DFS, we have a beautiful set of Cooke S4/i lenses that we’re always happy to send out. One of the most important things that indie filmmakers can learn is that the glass you use can be just as important to creating the final look of a film as the camera body. The more we can spread the word about that, the more great-looking films we’ll see, everywhere.


Cooke lenses are available to rent at Digital Film Studios.

See those, as well as our other lenses, at