I recently had the privilege of shooting a BTS video with the new Samyang 35mm T1.5 cine lens (on the Canon 7DmkI). As a videographer that shoots mostly on DSLR, I was delighted with the new cine-friendly features of this lens. I’d like to think that it was built to make my life easier, but since I’m not the only VDSLR enthusiast around, I’ll share…
Sturdy, chunky thing. Due to the size, it is more weighty than the non-cine versions, which I strongly prefer when shooting video, especially when it gets to the occasional free-hand shot (in need of some shock absorption). Both the focus and the aperture rings have just about the right amount of resistance for smooth focus and aperture pulls. The focus ring has a really nice, long throw from infinity to macro, which makes it pretty hard to miss your target when doing focus pulls. The two rings are quite a distance apart, so you won’t have to worry about turning the wrong one by mistake whilst keeping your eye on the viewfinder (unless you have ginormous fingers…). The T-stop calibration and distance scale sit ever so conveniently on the left of the lens which makes it easily accessible, either when you’re using a shoulder-mount, or when you’re being assisted by a dedicated focus-puller.
The main (and probably my favorite) feature is the manual, stepless (or de-clicked) aperture control. This makes smooth and silent manual exposure and depth of field pulls possible. Great feature, especially when you’re shooting outdoors or in some other uncontrolled environment where the light is constantly changing. During the BTS shoot, we were doing some product placement, and I really wanted to do a focus pull from the photographer to the logo on the studio light, but she was sitting in bright sunlight and the studio light was set up in the darker corner of the room, and slightly masked by the umbrella. Previously, I would’ve had to bring in additional light in order to more or less match the light on the logo to the bright sunlight, but by simply pulling both focus and aperture simultaneously, I was able to get the perfect shot without the extra hassle.
Also, if you’re into time-lapse photography, this feature will definitely come in very handy, since you won’t have to worry about having any play in your aperture between shots. I recently attended a time-lapse safari, and when I told the other photographers about the manual aperture feature on this lens, most of them were quite interested, especially when they heard that there were 24mm and 14mm versions available as well, as they generally need something slightly wider for the landscape shots.
The lens also has built in gears in order to easily mount a follow focus. It has a minimum focal distance of 12” (0,3m). Although this lens is manual focus only, it is compatible with most auto-focus cameras.
This lens is also calibrated in T-stops (measuring the actual light transmission of the lens) instead of than F-stops. T-stop calibration (as opposed to F-stops) calculates the actual light transmission for that particular lens. So the T-stop will always be slightly higher than the F-stop for any lens. When shooting on multiple cameras with different, simply setting them to the same F-stop won’t necessarily give you the same exposure, because the actual light transmission is different for every lens. However, setting all of them to the same T-stop will give you the same exposure. T-stop calibration is standard with all professional video cameras. Except for a few shots done wide with a Canon XA10, the Behind the Scenes video on the left was shot with the 35mm Samyang.
I am amazed at the picture quality that this lens produces. Great sharpness and contrast, even at a close focal distance at T1.5. Lovely, smooth bokeh, although not perfectly round. The lens has a slightly warmer tone than other similar-type lenses, which I find quite attractive.
On the review model that I had, the aperture got stuck a few times during the shoot. The ring would still turn, but the aperture wouldn’t open smoothly. As I turned it back and forth, it would then suddenly jump to the correct exposure. I then went to read up on the matter, but I haven’t found anyone else with a similar issue with this lens. Some individuals did comment on the miscalibration of its infinity focus. I tested it and found that it was out by about one to two millimeters. Other than that, no complaints.