Blackmagic Cinema Camera vs. Red Scarlet – Zeiss vs. Samyang Part 2

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.


24mm @ f4
24mm @ f4
24mm @ f4 - 200% crop
24mm @ f4 – 200% crop
35mm @f4
35mm @f4
35mm @ f4 - 200% crop
35mm @ f4 – 200% crop
85mm @f4
85mm @f4
85mm @ f4 - 200% crop
85mm @ f4 – 200% crop

Just for shits and giggles, Felix threw in a vintage Angenieux zoom.

Angy Felix

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.



Take away:

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.

Sequence 01.Still002

Sequence 01.Still003

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:
18mm f1,2
25mm f1,2
35mm f1,2
50mm f1,3
85mm f1,4

Special thanks to Felix Patzke of Heimspiel
and HD-Videoshop, for lending us the 14mm Samyang


23 thoughts on “Blackmagic Cinema Camera vs. Red Scarlet – Zeiss vs. Samyang Part 2

Add yours

  1. Always appreciate you taking the time to do these tests…can’t wait to see what you think of the BMCC 4K and Pocket Cameras….Love the idea of shooting with a super 35 sensor even though I’m not that interested in 4k for normal shooting….

    1. I don’t think corner sharpness is much of an issue with these camera’s. Both have a considerable crop factor over Fullframe for which (most) Samyang’s were designed. The Zeiss glass will probably have clean corners, the Samyang’s won’t – but due to the crop factors you’ll never notice on these sensors. My two cents! 😉

  2. Be interesting to do the same test against Zeiss ZFs instead of Super Speeds. At $7k-$8k for a full Duclos cinevised set with declicked iris and gears, and the great Zeiss look, that would be an interesting addition to the discussion.

  3. How do they resolve to the big screen? Hurlbut famously began shooting Act of Valor with EF lenses and got bitten in the arse for it! Presumably he had done tests between the EF and L series glass before hand too.

    I’d love to see just how well these do before I shot an upcoming project but cannot find any information.

    Any chance of a PART 3?

    1. Since most DPs prefer older glass, just BECAUSE it’s softer, you will more likely you end up, adding a soft filter, when your glass is eyebleeding sharp. The EF and L lenses outres all video cameras, since they are made for much higher resolutions – it’s not a sharpness/resolution problem. Most of the time ether the codecs or the OPLF is throwing things out of the window.

  4. Shooting at T4 will hide subtle differences in lens performance, since optical aberrations are most apparent wide open and are minimized as you stop down. I’d recommend reshooting your test with the lenses wide open, and then again two stops down, or T2.8. A lens test @ T4 will only show the best case scenario for lens performance, when IMO the point of a test is to see the worst case scenario so you know when your gear will fail on a real job. My .02…

  5. Thank you very much for the test! I really enjoyed it! Just one question: could you please tell me the name of the Angénieux lens? Thanks in advance! Good night, Philipp

  6. Thank you, Frank!

    The side i always lookin and read, because i get more fine Informations
    out beyound. Can`t wait to see the Samyang 35 /50(if they build it) on
    the BMC MINI, the afordabale setup for me, just work and make film.
    And hope my stone old Glasses will fit.

  7. This is totally off topic and has nothing to do with this comparison test… But I was wondering of you knew why my footage at 45 degree shutter angle would be dark lines on top then under it normal colors then dark line then normal again.
    Any reasons?


  8. Hi.

    Thanks for this amaizing review on the cinema lenses. Well structured and very informative. Have u tested the Samyang 14mm on the BMCC? If so, is it soft wide open? and does it give distortion to the final image?


  9. Samyang are great from f4 , but try to compare zeiss 85 1.4 with samyang . From 2.8 you do not see differences , The same is with other lens . Zeiss lens much better work with hard light (sun) . Of course sometimes is nice to get vintage effect with no coating old lens . But I like when I can decide about this .

  10. Great stuff. I own a set of Rokinons (same difference) and they are great for the money. I got to use some MK1 Superspeeds on a s16mm project I shot a little while back and you’re right…total lens porn. Cheers,

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