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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Samyang / Rokinon / Vivitar / Bower 35 1.4 Lens Review : UPDATED 2X

 Lets get to something from my vintage vs new lens shoot out I did a few weeks ago - A review on the Samyang / Rokinon 35 1.4 Lens.

I've been using the Rokinon version of this lens for several months. Its become one of my favorite lenses. Lets take a look why and go into the details of the various versions of this lens that are out there. I'm also NOT pulling punches on where this lens comes up short because there are some places that it does. These areas may or may not matter to you.
Samyang is officially the company that makes this lens, but its sold under several other names and companies including Rokinon, Vivitar and Bower.There are probably a few others out there as well. 

Is There A Difference Between Vendor Brands Besides Price ?

YES ! besides price, there is one main difference. Its which direction the lens focuses in. If you shoot Nikon with its backwards ( to everyone else ) focus turn, then you'll be ok with the Samyang OEM branded version of this lens. If you shoot Canon, cine glass and most other brands, then you'll want the Rokinon version because it focuses in the normal direction. Bower may focus either way depending on the lot it seems and Vivitar focuses backwards.

The Good

Lets get right to the point, freaking awesome optical performance ! I'm thrilled with it. Even wide open its a great performer for the price. Ok, so a Canon L lens _will_ be a bit better, but 2X-3X the price better ? Thats up to you. If you make your living competing with 20 other shooters for the same shot, or get top dollar for your day rate and $ doesn't matter, go ahead and just get the Canon. For everyone else who might prefer more value for their money, this lens is a no brainer. Its sharp and contrasty wide open. Yes there is some CA / diffusion, but its very minimal compared to a lot of older glass. You'll instantly see how nice it is in comparison. This is pretty close to the L glass in overall performance without the big price.

Its Manual Focus

Yup ! no AF here to talk about. A nice 180 deg turn of the lens barrel. Smooth and silky with hard stops, this is real. Internal focus means the lens barrel stays at a constant length and the front doesn't rotate. This lens works great with a short extension tube for closer focusing. 
Focusing on this lens is a pleasure for its range and smoothness. A very big plus here. Another more expensive lens has only a 90ish degree focus turn. 

Beyond Infinity

Ok this is weird but my lens focuses past infinity. Long lenses will do this because when they get cold, parts contract, you need the extra range to focus to actual infinity. However, I can't think of any reason why this lens does so except poor factory calibration. Maybe its something due to the internal focus, but I doubt it. Seems like less than ideal QA. UPDATE I've done some poking around the web and it seems this is just how this lens is made.  Its not a deal breaker, but if you spin the lens to the infinity hard stop expecting it to be sharp, it won't be. Thats REALLY REALLY bad for people shooting stills in fast moving situations where you expect hitting the hard stop means you are at infinity. Instead you HAVE to look at the lens to set it there or use the LCD screen with magnify on to see critical focus. 
Lens Markings
This probably isn't something you'll see written up, but since this is a very much a manual lens I need to bring it up. The focus markings are really skimpy. I have no idea why because it makes no sense. Look at this close up shot. Why can't 5, 7 and 20 ft be marked ? its not like it would cost any money. It makes the well done depth of field markings next to useless for even modest work. Its this sort of stupid short coming that can make or break a product. If the optical performance of this lens was any less, this would be part of my reason to to NOT buy this lens. Seriously, DoF markings on a fully manual lens matter and cheating here is, well, leaving me speechless.
I'll also note, no IR focus mark. Ok, thats SERIOUSLY old school to talk about IR film,but some folks do mod dslr's and remove the IR filter. The mark should be there. I'll GUESS its around 2.8 to 5.6 on the RIGHT side of the focus mark. Really, it would of cost NOTHING to included it !

Something Is Shaking Inside

I've confirmed this on 2 copies of this lens. Shake the lens, something is wobbling around inside. WTF moment for sure. It seems like the floating focus elements have some play. I'm not talking about shaking this lens like a paint mixer, but just some easy up and down motion. The sort of motion you might get when shooting from a car, boat or plane. Could this wobbling mess you your image ?  I don't know because I haven't tried, yet !  


There was something wrong with the lens. I sent it to Rokinon and they "repaired" it by simply replacing it with a new one. THANKS ! that's what good service should be and without any hassle. Also note I now have the cine version of the lens and will be doing a review of it shortly.

Plastic !

The lens front is plastic. Bummer. Not a deal breaker but disappointing. Upside ? filters will tend to not get stuck as often and will be easier to get out when over done. The lens itself is constructed of plastic externally, aluminum internally. This reduces the weight of the lens.
To be sure its a big handful of glass so a I've got no complaints. We've have plastic made lenses for years and they seem  to hold up just fine. Plastic is also nicer to handle in cold conditions. I had no problems putting a focus gear on this. Also consider how much the big name lens makers also are making theirs out of plastic too.... 

Iris Ring

Its got click stops. For stills, this is ok. For Cine work, there is a DeClicked Cine version. All that really means is that a small single round steel ball isn't installed into the iris ring control. Really thats it, no magic here to "declick" an iris ring. Why do they charge extra for leaving something out ? The Cine version is available as a Samyang branded lens.
rokinon model sample example 35 1.4
Shallow enough depth of field ? wide open 60D @ ISO 160. With manual focus and DoF of about 2-3 inches, you better be on the money. Going to 2.8 might be your friend if you need a little margin for safety.

 Optical Performance

Its awesome for the price. Its Sharp where you want it, and fall off depth of field blur where you want it. At 1.4 focus carefully ! Your margin of error is about 1 inch. Ok, gory details now -
vivitar rokinon 35 1.4 lens chart resolution test
Wide Open 1.4 above. All sharp, some loss of contrast as to be expected. This is pretty minimal compared to a lot of other lenses out there and is great performance.
F5.6 What else is there to say ? Its SHARP and CONTRASTY


Another odd point of this lens. Dead center Bokeh looks great as you'd expect. Going off center, the highlights gain this odd off shape expression I'd call cat eyes. This ONLY happens wide open or close to it. Stopping down a bit makes octogons. There is also the "wooly" effect at times in the highlights. Its some sort of interference pattern most likely cause because 2 lens elements are not aligned perfectly. Its nothing that has an adverse effect on normal image quality, but it does show up the way it does in my examples.
samyang rokinon 35 1.4 bokeh wide open
The wide open "cat eyes". These are street lights far away. I'm focused to minimum distance making the effect most noticeable. Also note the 'wooly' effect.
normal bokeh samyang vivitar 35 1.4 stopped down
Stop down and the cat eyes effect goes away making much more symmetrical highlights. This shot is full frame 1080 shrunk down.
Here is a larger section showing the wooly effect again in 1080. Double click for a larger full frame image. 


Speaking of cat eyes, are you going to argue with this shot ? Yes this lens has that sort of personality that just grabs you. Its the look that defined the start of the dslr revolution with its ultra shallow DoF effects that got everyone excited. Its the lens that will change how you shoot if you have never worked wide open at 1.4 before.
This lens has some flaws to be sure. Would that stop me from buying it ? no. Its still a great deal compared to other 35 1.4's. Some compromises are to be expected, but none here will stop you from making great images. Ok, maybe the focus past infinity thing could become a pain, but once you get used to it, its not the end of the world.
I'm shooting a lot with this lens these days including some quick portrait work. For video its a great lens that's between being wide or long, yet if you go wide open has "the look" of longer glass.  I'm thrilled with it despite its shortcomings which are not major, just annoying.

Monday, March 26, 2012

NAB 1991 : More HOT D2 Excitement From Ampex

Do you even remember who Ampex is ? If you needed a hint today, here you go. Finding these things has been pretty entertaining. Meanwhile I'm making progress on the vintage vs new lens shootout. Its just a monster to edit.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

NAB 1988: Get Ready For Digital Composite Video and D2

Its NAB 1988. D2 is the hot new format. Its DIGITIAL, its LOSSLESS, Go 20 generations ! Just try that with your 1" machines. 

The KILLER Feature ? PreRead means A/B rolls without using 2 source machines. You can composite shots up all day long using just 2 D2 machines. Watch the great video.  Exciting times !

Friday, March 23, 2012

NAB 1961 : 72 Special Effects and Editing With Tape ! Its Cheap !

Actually this classic video is from KTTV LA, 1961. 72 Special effects and A / B Roll tape editing on Quad. I am not responsible for keyboard damage when you spill your coffee on this one.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ready For NAB ? The Hype Machine is on

Expect product announcement like crazy over the next few weeks as we are now less than one month out to NAB. Yes I've booked my trip, I'll be there. What I sometimes get numb to is the blinding amount of stuff that happens some years. Everyone has their favorite in cameras, glass, lights, and software. However, thats just the surface of NAB. There is audio, wireless, TV transmitters, cable set top boxes, encoders, isles of back end gear for cable co's, racks of hard drives..... and LOTS of blaring music and noise mixed with a few booth babes. Hey THATS NAB. However, just as the main vegas strip is huge and overwheling, there is also downtown vegas. Its small, its on a human scale, and you can even win their playing the slots.

I like the downtown approach to NAB. You pick whats interesting to you, find that out and just kind of ingore the rest. You scale NAB down. However, keeping your eyes open counts as often some really cool stuff does show up with out a lot of fanfare or 10 emails a day announcing it. I'm not sure what that ultra cool new item will be, or what killer new update to an existing product will take NAB by storm ... well actually I do but I can't say :) !

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Have Aaton, Will Shoot

I have to say I've shouldered an Aaton 16mm camera a few times. Its something you should experience because its a compact ( heavy ! ) and well thought out camera package. Things just work, they are rugged and reliable. Far better then the miserable bits we have as dslr rigs where stuff doesn't fit right, loosens up, falls off and is just plain crap that doesn't work right. Enter this : The Aaton Shoulder Cat. Officially blessed no less ! 

Maybe before you go after some Digital Bolex.... just get your dslr tricked out with this !

Monday, March 19, 2012

Carey Dissmore Does A Great Review on the Avid Artist Control Panel

A good review on what might well be a must have for using DaVinci Resolve. Check it out !

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Shot ! Vintage vs New

Finally shot ! My mini-epic lens shoot out Vintage vs New Lens test. Just going thru the footage and stills was great today. Some surprising and not so surprising results. I'm off to edit and get it out sometime next week.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Production:DaVinci Resolve #6 - Grade Off !

Its Live ! Show #6 where Carey and I go head to head in a grade off, working on each other's projects. Check out our best show and see what happens when you swap projects


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Vintage VS New

I finally have a shoot date set for late this week. I have a fine collection of vintage glass to do a shoot out with. I've got a couple modern lenses to compare to. If you have a canon 24 / 28 / 35 L you can lend out for the week, drop me a line and I'll work to include it. 

Meanwhile a  shot from a recent lens I picked up, a vivitar 24 F2.0

sample example vivtar 24 f2

A New In Production Show Tues

We are on track to release show #6 of the series. Its a monster of a show to of gotten done. Carey and I are both going to grade each other's projects and it will be more than interesting to see what happens. We'll both be showing you how we got it done... stay tuned !

Friday, March 09, 2012

ENG Lens on a DSLR ? Sure !

I must admit, I've handled a few ENG video camera lenses off the camera and always thought how cool it would be to have a small camera that fit on the back which was next to nothing. While folks have played around with this idea before, especially with M 4/3's cameras, no one I've seen has gotten it all together like this. The lens it mounted to the body with an adapter and the zoom is powered up and working !

ENG B4 lens on dslr gh2


You can find a B4 to M 4/3's adapters  on eBay, but getting everything else working is another story. Anthony Burokas got it working. Check out his full article here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Sony Now Giving Away S-Log with F3

As I had predicted, if Sony felt that F3 sales where lagging they could always add on the S-Log former $3k option. Anyone who sprung for the original S-Log option is probably pretty upset now. Any current owners who don't have it can uprade for $899 now. Ok better, but still pretty pricey. Should be $99 upgrade under the circumstances. I guess Sony felt the pressure from all the other cameras that have some sort of Log option from the C300 to dslr's either out of the box or with a loaded picture style.

Show #5 of “In Production:DaVinci Resolve”!

Show #5 for you viewing pleasure! Dedicated control surfaces and monitors. We've got some great info on how to select a good or great monitor for your suite.

Monday, March 05, 2012

You May Have Metamerism Failure. Whats that ?

Huh you just said ? If you look at monitors all day and have concerns about color accuracy of the monitors then check this  out.  Now what about your eyes ? They can be fooled in surprising ways. This video produced by Flanders Scientific ( the folks that make high end color monitors ) have the explanations for questions like what your screens all look different. 


A new episode of In Production is coming up tues !


What about the Canon 5D MkIII ?

I think the near universal opinion has been "Thats nice but its a good year late.... and what about clean out HDMI ?" I'd say that pretty much sums it up.

Don't get me wrong, the 5D IS a great camera. The MkIII has lots of great new features to like and will make production with it better. Its just not quite the mark every one was expecting Canon to hit after the C300. As has been pointed out, Canon has by overpricing the C300 is now in competition with itself the wrong way. We know Canon could make dslr's with video quality completely on par with the C300, but will they ? The problem is, their  competitors have no such hang ups. In the words of the late Steve Jobs "If you aren't prepared to cannibalize yourself, your competition is." Well said. 

Also let me point out that the MkII is now cheaper. If you put that antialiasing filter into the camera, its probably just as good as the new one if not better with the exception of low light performance. If you need those extra 2 stops the new camera has, well go it. If it doesn't matter, then your old camera is still perfectly good. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

New Intuos5 Tablets From Wacom

I love my Wacom. I've been using them for 15 years. My current 6X11 is the best one they have ever made - perfect size and shape. Now they have the new Intuos5.

Lets see, usually they make better products but this time I'm not so sure. The big news is its touch sensitive now - swipe, squeeze, scroll with your fingers. Reviewers report it never confuses your fingers for the pen. I have had a Bamboo touch, but never liked it. It was never anywhere near as good as a real laptop track pad. I don't want the apple one because its bluetooth - batteries, RF, one more thing to go wrong, a pain to swap around between computers. Just give me a USB wire on it and I'll buy it !

So is there a down side ? The large  MSRP is $469. The physical scroll wheel is gone for a touch one. The OLED's are gone too. There is also no 6X11 or widescreen model. The Extra Large is a 8X12 4:3 aspect ratio, wait, wasn't that the OLD large model ? 

The Medium is MSRP $349 which is $50 less... but then they took some stuff out. Draw on this one.

They are still selling the real old Extra Large 12X18 Intuos4 model with OLED displays. Me, I think I'm gonna snap up a Intuos4 while they are still in stock !

Oh ya, looks like the 5D MkIII from Canon is real and being announced in the next few hours. Wake me up when they ship them!

Weird News Of The Week : IRIDAS Sues Adobe

Huh you just said ? I bet you thought Adobe owned IRIDAS, right ? Here is a link to a report on the case which was just filed. It sounds not unlike the Apple / ProView lawsuit where one part of the company does one thing, the parent or subsidiary doing another. Reading it, my take is that the USA part of IRIDAS acted separately from the parent company in Germany. Perhaps through the long winded article the point is IUSA didn't send a check home to the German parent co. The USA IRIDAS employees are now working at Adobe. **MY SPECULATION** is that the IUSA employees took a generous compensation package at Adobe and felt happy with assimilation. Given you sue the player with the most money, guess who was target #1 ? and the parties that actually **MAY** of done something wrong or in poor judgement aren't. It'll be interesting to watch this one unfold and its a safe bet SpeedGrade being part of the next release of Creative Suite is on hold.