Samyang is well known for their “best bang for the buck” line of mechanical lenses, and really, you will be hard pressed to find better performance in that price range.
A while ago they started to “cinemize” their lenses, by putting lens gears on them, decklicking the iris etc. and I do a lot of work with them, inducing all sorts of commercials, short films, and even a feature film. But I was really excited when I heard, that Samyang is planning a line of real cine lenses. And I mean, not just rehoused still lenses, but totally new mechanics, new coating, unified diameter, size, positions, low breathing, dependable marking and all the bells and whistles you know from a Cooke, Zeiss or Angenieux lens.
I finally got my hands on some of the first Xeen lenses. The German Distributor New Media AV was so nice to lend me a set for a few days. The PL and EF Mount versions where not available, so they send me the E-Mount versions.
So I pulled my good ole trusty Sony FS100 out, the only E-mount camera I have.
Material and finish
The Xeen are made out of metal (aluminum I guess), no plastic anywhere, build like a tank and have a very nice black finish. The markings are spot on, and readable from both sides of the camera.
They are all the exact same size (I was really hoping for this), diameter and the gears are in the same position. So no fiddling with the mattebox, donuts or follow focus, when changing lenses.
The lenses are all housed with a 114mm front diameter and dual focus and iris scales, They cover full-frame sensors and are suitable for 4K+ (and Vista Vision) capture. All are T1.5. Also they are considerably lighter than you’d expect them to be, for such fast glass.
Focus throw is as long, as any puller can wish for (200 deg) runs super smooth and with just the right amount of damping and resistance – no play at all anywhere. Iris is decklicked of course, and runs as nice and smooth as the focus. If you are used to the older Samyang line of lenses, you can instantly feel the difference, in the mechanics – the Xeen are a totally different league.
The Xeen all have internal focus with non-rotating fronts. So no focus gear travel (which is always a pain inthe arse), and also focus breathing is greatly minimized. If you focus really fast over a big range, and you look really close, you can see, they actually breath a little bit, but nothing to write home about.
The xeen come in Canon EF, Sony E, Nikon F, ARRI PL, and Micro Four Thirds mounts.-best thing of all: the mounts are interchangeable. Buy them once, adapt as you change the camera.
So yeah, that’s all nice -but how do they look?
In a nutshell: IMHO they are spectacular, and I really want a complete set of them.
The 11 iris blades make a great bokeh, that is more creamy and not so busy.
The new 14 layer coating prevents flaring, and makes a better contrast.
The 24mm is still a bit prone to flare, but not as much as its still lens counterpart, and only wide open, from T1.8 on it’s level with the rest of the lenses.
There was also a lot speculation on the 24mm, since it was the weakest lens in the Samyang line. No worries, The 24 mm Xeen performs as good as the rest.
In my book they look pretty cinematic, since they are a bit on the warm side and organic (as in not as boring as Zeiss CP glass) – though the are pretty sharp, even open (or almost open) they don’t make any pore or imperfection in a actor’s face standing out as a sore thumb.
The Xeen aren’t exactly cheap lenses, but they fit perfectly in a gap on the market, where a lot of guys want to step up their lens game, but can’t afford to spend the amount of money, you usually pay for a set of Cooke glass. While camera specs go up and prices come down, that was not true for lenses. And yes, I know there are CP2 which are twice as expensive and Cinealtas, which are twice as heavy (noting you want on a gimbal – though Sony just lowered their Cinealta prices). The Xeen line is positioned for folks that bought high-end still lenses till now, but would rather have all the “cine-mechanic” features, instead of dealing with the shortcomings of still glass, when it comes to shoot moving pictures.
Since I only had the e-mount version, I could only test them on m FS100 – still a great camera, but the highly compressed long GOP codec really makes a real lens evaluation (especially for pixel peepers) quite impossible.
Dan Chung did some great tests and comparisons against other lenses, over at NewsShooter. Make sure you have a look,