In part 2 of our comparison, Felix Patzke of Heimspiel and I, looked at the differences of famous Zeiss cineglass and pretty affordable Samyang (Rokinon/Walimex) cineprimes. As in our first article, we where quite surprised, that the differences are not as huge as we thought.
Felix just got his hands on a set of wonderful Zeiss Superspeed glass. These are the older (MKI) lenses with the typical triangle bokeh and the aperture and focus rings are oil dampened. They are famous for their special look and the way they render microcontrast.
In the other corner we had a set of Samyang (Walimex/Rokinon) lenses. When they came out, they generated quite a stir, because of their speed and optical quality for the buck.
Samyang produces those lenses in two different flavors. A traditional version for still photography and a cinevized version. The cineglass has the same optics, but comes with standard gear for focus and aperture, declicked iris and markings on the side, so your focus puller can see them. The focal lengths and speeds are 8mm/f3.5 fisheye, 14mm/f2.8 24mm/f1.4 35mm/f1.4 and 85mm/f1.4.
Why there is no 50mm/f1.4 is beyond me though. I hope Samyang comes up with that missing link as soon as possible, since it’s not a complete set without a 50mm.
Picture curtesy HD-Videoshop
So here is the challenge. How can those affordable Korean cinevized still lenses hold up against expensive professional cineglass?
We had the same setup as in our last test, all at f4, but this time only shot with the MTF version of the Blackmagic Cinema camera on a MTF to PL mount adapter from Foto-Acsesoria in Poland. My go to shop, when it comes to best bang for the buck adapters.
Just for shits and giggles, Felix threw in a vintage Angenieux zoom.
As you can see, the Angenieux is much softer, than the Samyang and Zeiss lenses, but also the moire is less pronounced, something that you can’t achieve by just blurring the image in post. A lot of famous DPs, from Rodney Charters to Bruce Logan and Roger Deakins, actually prefer older lenses, just because they are less harsh than modern glass.
So, what are our conclusions?
First of all, we where surprised, how close the Zeiss and Samyang lenses are, just looking at the optical aspects, like color fringing, chromatic aberration and overall sharpness. The coating of the Zeiss lenses is definitively better though, as you can see at the game console on the first picture.
Also though the Zeiss seems to be a bit warmer and more contrasty, the look and overall impression seem to be also quite similar.
Regarding the bokeh, there is quite a difference. The Zeiss have this famous triangle bokeh on highlights – something that isn’t a good or bad thing per se, just something that comes down to style and taste like the oval shaped bokeh of anamorphic lenses. The blurry part of the bokeh is a bit more creamy, than the Samyang, but nothing to write home about.
When it comes down to mechanics, the Samyang (of course) can’t hold a candle to the Zeiss lenses -but that was something to be expected, just look at the price difference.
Zeiss sports oil dampened iris and aperture rings, it’s full metal from top to bottom and feels like a swiss clockwork of precision and sheer lens porn.
The coating id famous and it’s build to be overhauled and serviced for decades of use. Also the focus throw is almost 360 degrees, something your focus puller really appreciates.
So how does all that add up?
I have to say that if you are into lenses (like we are) the Zeiss Super Speeds are sexy as hell in every aspect.
But not everybody has the budget for those (including me – Felix is a lucky dog and got a hell of a deal on that set).
The Samyang line of cinevized (or even not cinevized) lenses, can get you pretty close to the Zeiss results for much less money.
I use them a lot on the FS100 and the Blackmagic Cameras and I really like what I get out of them.
I had my 24/35 and 85 Samyang plus a 14mm – the 14mm was provided by HD-Videoshop in Berlin – with me on 3 week trip to Canada, where we shot avalanche control under nasty weather conditions.
I got sprayed, soaked, snowed on, buried with slush by a snowplough and almost avalanched – the whole nine yards, and they never gave any trouble.
They hold up under all temperatures and temperature changes (actually better than some of our RED lenses).
So are the Samyang worth it?
Absolute! You would be hard pressed to find a better bang for the buck lens.
For the price tag, you get some of the best, sharp and fast lenses and they come with gears, declicked iris and markings on the side on top of the optical qualities. The 8mm fisheye and the 14mm have some sort of mustache distortion. If you use them on anything less than full size sensors (s35/MFT), it doesn’t mater that much, otherwise it’s a bit fiddly to correct in post, but doable.
Would I prefer the Super Speeds?
Of course I would (if I could afford them). They are sheer lens porn. They are wonderful example of lens making craft – mechanical and optical – and exactly what you would expect from a company like Zeiss.
One thing the Samyang have over the Zeiss, they are faster, and they are sharper, when wide open.
So yeah, there are situations, like extreme low light, where you need to capture every single photon or when you need an extreme shallow DOF, the Samyangs are just what the good doctor recommends.
Felix just remembered me, that the Samjangs are NOT faster than the Super-Speeds (hence the name – Duh! – notice to myself: Don’t write articles late at night after a few beers)
For the record: Here are the speeds for the Zeiss Glass: