None of us is an expert in videography so usually we don’t review Cine lenses. This SLRmagic has very interesting specifications though, being very fast, compact and at the same time affordable. Unfortunately there is no non-cine version, so this time we have no choice it seems.
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
The SLRmagic 35mm f/1.2 Cine FE has the following specifications:
- Diameter: 65 mm
- Field of view: 63.4° (diagonally)
- Length: 72 mm
- Weight: 466g (measured without hood and caps)
- Filter Diameter: 52 mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 13 (rounded)
- Elements/Groups: 9/8
- Close Focusing Distance: 0.4 m (measured, states 0.3 m)
- Maximum Magnification: 1:8.3 (measured)
- Mount: Sony-E
You may also have a look at SLRmagic’s official page.
Handling / Build Quality
As this is a cine lens focus ring and aperture ring both feature gear racks which obviously makes them less fun to use with your bare hands.
The focus ring takes about 120° from the minimum focus distance (0.3 m written on the lens, actually 0.4 m) to infinity. Damping is quite alright, similar to Voigtlander or Zeiss Loxia lenses at room temperature.
The aperture ring (clickless) rotates about 90° from f/1.2 to f/16 and has slightly higher resistance compared to the focus ring.
The aperture ring and the Depth of Field markings seriously leave me wondering:
The spacing between different aperture values is really odd. Talking about full stops there is a 14 mm gap between f/1.4 and f/2.0, 7 mm between f/2.0 and f/2.8 and then 9 mm between f/2.8 and f/4.0. The gaps getting narrower the more you stop down is not to uncommon among lenses with not so refined mechanics, but decreasing and then increasing again I haven’t seen until now.
You also get DoF markings for f/11 which is not even to be found on the aperture ring, strange.
The markings are only painted – not engraved – so they may wear off after some usage.
There are no electronic contacts, so no EXIF data. As far as I know there also is no official lens hood.
Wide open there is light falloff of roughly 3.3 EV, stopped down to f/2.0 this improves to 2.2 EV, stopped down to f/4.0 it is 1.8 EV and still 1.8 EV at f/8.0. These values are pretty high and comparable to the Leica 1.4/35 FLE or the Voigtlander 1.4/35 classic. You can correct this in Lightroom or similar software.
There is also a slight green color cast in the corners, slightly worse than the VM 35mm 1.7 Ultron.
Many of the small rangefinder 35mm lenses I had a look at in my 35mm comparison show severe mechanical vignetting (truncation of light circles towards the corners). This is especially a problem with most very fast lenses, so I was curious how this SLRMagic will fare in this category and I compared it to the Voigtlander 35mm 1.7 Ultron for reference.
In the center of the frame almost every lens will render a perfect circle, but only lenses with very low mechanical vignetting will keep this shape in the corners.
So in the following comparison we move from the center (left) to the extreme corner (right) and see how the shape of the light circle changes.
To my surprise the SLRMagic fares quite well with only moderate mechanical vignetting. It doesn’t actually render cat’s eyes but rather circles with a smaller diameter (which I would greatly prefer).
The Voigtlander 35mm 1.7 by comparison shows severe cat’s eyes in the corners and close to it.
This comparison was done at ~0.6 m focus distance, you may get slightly different results at other distances.
Being a Cine lens I would have been surprised if this lens was optimized for infinity shooting.
At f/1.2 the whole frame has some glow (spherical aberration) to it, contrast is rather subdued and resolution not that great either.
At f/1.4 some of that glow goes away, but still very similar to f/1.2.
Stopping down to f/2.0 boosts contrast and resolution in the center, but it takes stopping down to f/2.8 for the center to look good, by then resolution and contrast are pretty nice.
The midframe and the corners never reach the same image quality as the center. There is lots of astigmatism, coma and also some field curvature (and a very wavy one).
In case you really want to take some stopped down landscape or architecture shots with this lens best use f/16. There is some loss of detail in the center due to diffraction but the midframe and corners will be okay at least.
close (0.40m, 1:8.3)
100% crops from center, A7rII
At minimum focus distance there is quite a bit of “glow” (spherical aberration) wide open and at f/1.4. Most of it is gone at f/2.0 but for really good performance in the center you need to stop down to f/2.8. Midframe and corners never reach the resolution and contrast of the center of the frame.
Because of focus shift (see corresponding section) I refocused for every shot.
Stopped down and with a light source in the center or close to it the performance is quite okay. There is a loss of contrast but not many distracting artifacts.
Wide open the performance is pretty bad though, this is an issue with many fast lenses.
The lens looks worst with a point light source close to the corner, at f/1.2 you will find pretty much all artifacts you can think of all over the frame, stopping down improves the situation significantly, as can be seen in this comparison:
Also very bright street lamps at night gave this lens lots of trouble:
Coma correction ain’t great. It is not as bad as the Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton Classic E but still not something to write home about either. If you are into astrophotography and looking for a 35mm lens to use wide open look elsewhere.
Even in very small web sized images you will see the obstrusive artifacts you get at f/1.2 and f/1.4.
100% crops from extreme corner, A7rII
There is a bit of barrel distortion and for Lightroom there is no correction profile. Dialing in +7 worked quite well for me.
I am sure bokeh will be of major interest to most looking at this lens, it definetly was for me. Most 35mm lenses struggle quite a bit and I doubt the 35mm lens that shines in every scenario already exists. This is the fastest 35mm lens there currently is for fullframe (there also is a huge Kerlee 35mm f/1.2 and the 2 Voigtlanders though) and at the same time it is surprisingly compact, so my expectations where somewhat dampened. But let us have a look at how this SLRmagic fares.
As the regular readers already know the bokeh rendering depends on the focus distance, the nature of the background and also the lighting situation (e.g. backlit scenarios). Furthermore bokeh is a matter of taste: personally I prefer a smooth rendering with no outlining, double edged structures or onion rings – but your mileage may vary here – so I will try to tackle many different scenarios in this chapter.
If you focus on something close to your camera the background rendering is quite smooth as it mostly melts away (this is true for many 35mm lenses though).
This still holds true for head and shoulder portrait distance, as long as there is no backlit foliage as in the example above. While bokeh in the center is still smooth the highlights towards the corners show some noticeable outlining.
Move a bit further away from your subject and – depending on the nature of the background – the outlining becomes more pronounced.
At full body portrait distance the transition zone is the background and the bokeh is rather harsh than smooth, this is also true for most other 35mm lenses. But as you can see from the samples above not in every scenario this will even be noticeable.
Where does this leave us? I will try to put it into perspective with other 35mm lenses: the 2/35 Sonnar in the RX1 (and successors) has the smoothest bokeh rendering among the 35mm lenses I tried, but it is also only f/2, so while the quality of the bokeh is better the blur potential (how far things are out of focus) is significantly lower.
The Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA also has a smoother rendering but I don’t like it for nighttime shooting (which I do quite a bit) because of pronounced onion rings.
When looking at the other small 35mm lenses I reviewed in my 35mm comparison this 1.2/35 is quite comparable to the Leica 1.4/35 FLE: no outlining in the center of the frame but a bit more towards the corners. The SLRmagic has no problems with the filterstack of Sony cameras though and also has much less mechanical vignetting compared to the small rangefinder lenses which has a positive influence on border/corner bokeh.
While the bokeh rendering is not perfectly smooth in every situation I was quite happy with it in many of the shots I took. Compared to the Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 (which is my go to 35mm lens) there is a noticeable gain in blur and for environmental portraits I would prefer this SLRmagis – as long as there is no backlit foliage or some other kind of “difficult” background involved.
PS: Thanks to 13 rounded aperture blades the highlights stay round even on stopping down.
With 13 rounded aperture blades coupled with the not so tight tolerances of the construction the sunstars don’t exactly look nice. Best use f/4.0 to f/16 for nightly city scapes so they will be somewhat symmetrical at least.
100% crop from extreme corner, A7rII, f/8.0
There is a bit of lateral CA in the corners, most of it is corrected with just one click though. Remember the corners never get super sharp.
At minimum focus distance at f/1.2 the whole image is rather soft which masks loCA quite well, so we will instead have a look at some crops from sample pictures.
This is a very demanding scene and you can see some purple between that globe and the background.
Usually chrome parts are a real stress test for fast lenses and while there is some purple outlining it is in fact rather unobstrusive. Considering this lens is as fast as f/1.2 and there are slower lenses that perform much worse (e.g. ZA 1.8/55).
In the end I consider this quite an okay performance.
50% crops, A7rII
This lens shows quite a noticeable focus shift. When stopping down the plane of optimal focus shifts to the back, so you have to focus a bit closer for best performance. I recommend focusing at working aperture with this lens to get best results. At close distances even at f/4.0 the difference is still noticeable.
Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art:
If neither money nor size/weight are an issue this is the best 35mm lens money can buy right now.
Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.2 (II) Nokton:
This is pretty much the only direct competitor. I haven’t tried this yet and it will suffer quite a bit from the Sony filterstack.
Kerlee 35mm 1.2:
This huge DSLR lens I also didn’t try yet.
Leica 35mm 1.4 FLE Asph Summilux:
Bokeh rendering shares some similarties, but the Leica has much higher resolution and contrast. It is really expensive though.
Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4:
Unfortunately this also suffers from the Sony filter stack and bokeh is not super smooth either, still a nice yet expensive lens.
Voigtlander Nokton 35mm 1.4 E Classic:
I didn’t like this lens too much. Except for contrast, EXIF and maybe corner resolution stopped down I would prefer this SLRmagic.
Sony/Zeiss ZA 35mm 1.4:
It has a very smooth transition zone which is very rare among 35mm lenses. Yet it also has some issues wie loCA and onion ring bokeh and it is very hard to find a properly centered one.
Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 Asph Nokton:
Still my favorite allround 35mm. If you are after subject separation for environmental full body portraits you may find the f/1.7 maximum aperture with lots of mechanical vignetting a bit lacking though.
Voigtlander 40mm 1.2 E Nokton:
For most this is probably the smarter choice, but I wasn’t super happy with the bokeh rendering in the end (onion rings, not so great corner bokeh because of severe mechanical vignetting).
I wanted to buy it and luckily got the chance to try Phillip’s sample for a few weeks, afterwards I decided against it.
This is kind of an anniversary for me as this is the 10th 35mm lens I am reviewing here. With a maximum aperture of f/1.2 it is also the fastest as I haven’t reviewed the huge Kerlee and the Voigtlander 1.2/35 (yet).
As you can see from the list of pros and cons this is by no means a perfect lens. In many ways (bad flare resistance, no floating elements, bad coma correction) it is not up to modern standards. Yet it has a few things going for it: sharpness at portrait distances is quite good at f/1.2 (close to the center of the frame), mechanical vignetting is low – so no whacky bokeh close to the corners – and longitudinal CA are corrected better than on most lenses being this fast. On top of that it is small, lightweight and comparably cheap.
Bokeh is – as always – a matter of taste. This is not the of super smooth type (which is the type I prefer), it reminded me of the Leica 1.4/35 FLE: quite nice in the center but light circles deteoriate towards the corners.
I did post some samples on our Facebook paged and asked our readers what they think, most said it was rather busy but then there were quite a few who liked it. Thing here is: there is no very fast 35mm with by all means great bokeh. This lens does not exist. Many people consider the Sonnar 2/35 from the RX1 series to offer the most pleasing rendering among 35mm lenses. While I tend to agree: it is only f/2.0. Bokeh is a matter of quality and quantity. With this SLRmagic you get lots of blur potential (quantity of bokeh) but may not like the quality. With the RX1 you get great quality but the blur potential (quantity of bokeh) might not suffice. Your choice.
I have reviewed technically nice yet – for my photography – uninspiring lenses which barely gave me any decent shots. This is technically definetly not the greatest lens but it was fun to use and gave me many shots I like.
Because of its shortcomings it is still hard to generally recommend though, but if you read til here and you think this lens might be for you give it a try.
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
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