A week ago I got on test a new contender in the fastest lens category. SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 50mm T0.95. I always wanted a lens that was faster that f/1.0 and this one is even faster. It is supposed to be the fastest 35mm format (full frame) lens as T0.95 translates to f/0.92. It is produced by a Hong Kong lens maker SLR Magic. This is not the only fast lens they offer, but the only HyperPrimes they made so far were designed for Micro Four Thirds and Sony NEX format. As I am a NEX system user with Sony NEX-5N and Sony NEX-FS100 (at work) I was secretly eying their other HyperPrime 50mm F0.95 but never decided on purchase. So as soon as I found out that they are preparing a new lens that is even better and more suitable for video applications, with full frame coverage and with option on choosing different mounts (this was before they decided to loose NEX mount and Micro Four Thirds mount and only offer Leica M mount) I wanted to have this lens. Andrew from SLR Magic offered to send me a Concept version of the lens to do some testing.
It came to Slovenia from Hong Kong (8950 km) in one day which is another proof of it’s great speed.
I’ve been using it now on all NEX systems that I could get my hands on (NEX-5N, NEX-7, FS100) with the help of Metabones Leica M mount to Sony E-mount adapter. I tested this adapter few weeks back with a few Leica lenses shooting swans on the river Drava.Leica lenses preformed perfectly on the adapter and I thought that there would be no problems with the HyperPrime lens. But this is one heavy lens. 968g compared to 500g of the heaviest on the test, APO-Summicron-M 90 mm f/2 ASPH. Enough to make adapter behave less sturdy than on lighter lenses. There is some wiggle room at the locking pin and the leaf springs that hold the lens in place are not so stiff as I would like to. Of course I’m just exaggerating so that you can picture the flaws yourself. Real world use of the adapter for the lens is good enough and not bothersome at all. But I wonder if this would also be the case on other adapters, Leica cameras or SpaceCam Leica M mount for Red Epic and Scarlet. I can guess that original mounts are better than adapters because adapter, at least the one that I have, is probably a bit thinner than it should be so that it definitely works with every lens at infinity but that can cause the lens focus beyond infinity which brings a new set of problems.
But enough about adapters and let us continue with the lens. It has a built in sun hood and a screw on metal lens cap. Unscrewing the cap every time you want to use it can be bothersome, especially if you are also using an ND or any other filter on the lens cause it can happen that you don’t only unscrew the cap but the filter too.The lens can present some purple fringing wide open (I don’t know how else would you shoot with this fast lens than wide open) but it depends on the camera and capture mode (photo or video).
I have tested it on Sony NEX-5N, NEX-7 and on NEX-FS100. At first I got a little scared when I saw the fringing on the 5N but then I found out that it is only pronounced on the back LCD when previewing. It is not so noticeable when you look at the photos or videos on a computer. NEX-7 and FS100 also have less fringing. I also heard from other testers that there can be even more fringing with the Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH. but I haven’t tested it yet. Maybe later this month.
And now to the last rant before I start to praise this lens. There is one word in the lens name that bothers me. CINE. I don’t think this name quite fits this lens. I would expect a few things for the lens to be named that. Gears on the focus and aperture ring, focus radius larger than 90° and some kind of option for lens support. O.k. You can solve that last one, but the first two are a must.On the positive side, aperture is declicked and both focus and aperture rings have firm rotation and the stay where you left them.
As I said before this is one fast lens and its bokeh is very creamy thanks to 12 aperture blades. Object in focus really stands out and you get this 3D effect that is often mentioned with Leica lenses. You may think that I wrote about many more flaws than praises. But in the end I really like the lens and it has become my go to lens. I just don’t take it of the camera. My little NEX-5N looks like a lens cap on it but it stays on all the time.You can see from the photos below the beauty of its image rendering. They were all taken with the 5N. Only exposure, saturation and white balance were adjusted where needed but no sharpening, vignetting or cropping. Click for better resolution.
First think I wanted to do is shoot stars. It is perfect for this. If you wanted you could even do it handheld. It would be better to have a wider lens for this kind of work, as I did some of my best night time lapse work with Nikon 24mm f/1.4, but having aperture wider for more than one stop sure helps a lot too.
Sometimes it is just too difficult to know what you have in focus and to nail it like this grass in wind. Depth of field is really narrow. At a distance 70 cm (27,6 in) the depth of filed is 0.73 cm (0.29 in) at aperture f/1.
Shooting at day requires a ND filter. If you would like to use the built in hood than you need to have a set of 62 mm filters. I bought an ND4 which is enough for photography. When shooting video I will use Fader ND with step up rings.
Of course this lens is perfect for low light portraits. The focal length, wide aperture. Faces just stand out from the background. Bokeh is creamy, out of focus highlights are rounded with faded edges.
Magnification factor of this lens is only 1:14 as it only focuses to 70 cm, but this is normal for fast lenses. You can still get some nice still life photos if you get the focus tack sharp as it is very difficult as mentioned above. You can also see some purple fringing in the foreground highlights.
CINE lens is also great on set locations. This is a shot from recent commercial. I was a director of photography and this was just a quick shot behind the camera. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to use the lens for the shoot as the rental Sony F3 didnt have an M mount but I sure would like to have a lens like this on the set.
More to come. I also did a short clip Where is my bike? with Tjaša Kokalj, the prettiest European on Miss Universe 2007, so the sooner I finish writing here the faster I will upload the clip. Two frame grabs below with color grade applied (click for full resolution).