Tag Archives: lens

Sony Alpha A1 and the 24mm f1.4 GM lens.

Every January I run tours to northern Norway in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights. Over the years I have been incredibly lucky and to date, every single tour I have run has seen the Northern lights. I’ve taken all sorts of cameras on these tours, everything from optical disc camcorders (PDW-700), solid state camcorders including the original Sony EX1 and most of Sony’s large sensor video cameras from FS100 to the FX9.

All of these cameras are fairly bulky and require larger tripods and battery systems. In addition, I have always taken a stills camera to shoot timelapse of the Aurora. This year I decided to downsize the equipment I was taking, so instead of taking a full-size video camera I decided to take 2 small cameras.

I already have an FX3, which is a great camera and extremely good in low light. Being part of the Sony Cinema line, it has Sony’s very nice looking Venice based colour science as well, can shoot using S-Log3 as well as the handy what you see is what you get S-Cinetone gamma curve. I know this camera well and I knew it would be a good choice for the challenges I would encounter in Norway. To compliment the FX3 I also decided to take a Sony A1. The A1 (or Alpha 1) is Sony’s flagship compact mirrorless stills camera. As well as amazing photo performance the A1 also promises much as a video camera. It’s 50.1 megapixel sensor allows it to shoot high quality video at 8K. Like the FX3 the A1 can record using S-Log3 and offers similar dynamic range to the FX3.

Screenshot-2022-05-04-at-14.48.46-496x500 Sony Alpha A1 and the 24mm f1.4 GM lens.
Sony Alpha A1

Need for Speed – fast lenses.

For many years my main lens for shooting the Northern Lights has been the Sigma 20mm f1.4. This is a great lens, but it is quite heavy and I’ve never found the autofocus on this lens to be all that good. I already have Sony’s 20mm f1.8 and this is a great lens for the money. But for the Northern Lights you really want your lenses to be as fast as possible.So for this trip I decided to take Sony’s 24mm f1.4 GM lens to see how that performed.

24f1.4-600x411 Sony Alpha A1 and the 24mm f1.4 GM lens.
Sony 24mm f1.4 G Master lens – I really like this lens.

The other lens that I use extensively on trips like this is the much-underrated Sony 24-240mm zoom lens. This is a 10x zoom giving a huge range of focal lengths from pretty wide to nice and long. The aperture does ramp, going from f3.5 to f6.3 as you zoom in. But for the kinds of shoots I use this lens on this is rarely an issue. Todays cameras are so sensitive that f6.3 is plenty fast enough for all daytime applications. In northern Norway in the winter the temperature is typically -20c, often getting down as low an -35c. Changing lenses is not something you want to do unless you really must when it’s this cold, so a zoom lens is what I like to use when I’m out and about on the show scooters.

Shooting 8K with the A1.

Wherever I could I shot with the A1 in 8K. I recorded internally to CFExpress type A cards using the XAVC-HS codec. When shooting 8K at 24fps the file size is 7860×4320. It is 10 bit 4:2:0 and the bit rate is 400Mb/s. When you shoot 24p at 4K using the XAVC-SI codec the bit rate is 240MB/s, so you might wonder how it’s possible to record frames that in 8K are 4 times larger than 4K with a codec only half the size. The XAVC-HS codec is based on the latest H265 codec. H265 is an ultra efficient long GoP codec. Long GoP codecs can be very efficient as they record a master frame called an “I” frame and then for the next group of frames they only record the differences between the first “I” frame and the next “I” frame. The GoP (group of pictures) can be anywhere up to 180 frames long (but is typically 24 to 60 frames long). This method of compressing moving images is very effective and very efficient. But it can sometimes struggle with very complex images where there is a lot of random motion. Random motion cause issues for the motion prediction algorithms in the codec. In my own footage from Norway, I did notice some minor artefacts in the rippling water within shots across the Fjords.

mountain_1.3.1-600x338 Sony Alpha A1 and the 24mm f1.4 GM lens.
Filming water can be a real challenge for long GoP codecs, but the A1 did very well.

Moving water is always going to be tough for a Long GoP codec, But I suspect that unless you were actually looking for the artefacts most people wouldn’t notice them. When I graded the A1 footage I also found other very minor artefacts if I pushed the footage hard during the grade. But having said all of that, overall, I think the footage from the A1 looks pretty amazing.

One thing you really do need to consider if you are thinking of using the A1 to shoot 8K is that the XAVC-HS HEVC codec requires a lot of extra processing power to decode. So, your computer needs to be a fast one. Preferably one made in the last couple of years as the most recent processors and graphics cards now include special optimisations for the HEVC codec that will really help.

The sensor in the A1 uses Sony’s latest multi-layer stacked technologies. It is surprisingly sensitive and very low noise. It has excellent dynamic range, around 14 stops which is typical of most current large sensor cameras and very pleasing colour response.

dog-sled_1.11.1-600x338 Sony Alpha A1 and the 24mm f1.4 GM lens.
Frame grab from the Alpha A1.

 

The camera performed better than I expected in low light and while for me at least the A7SIII/FX3 and FX6 remain the kings of low light, the A1 isn’t actually all that far behind. This is particularly impressive when you consider that the pixels in the A1 are much smaller than the pixels in the A7SIII. Having said that, it does appear that the A7S3/FX3/FX6 sensor combines 4 photosites under a single colour filter to create a single “pixel”  – could they both be based on a very similar sensor? The A1 sensor is 8640 x 5760 while the A7S3 sensor is 4240 x 2832, the numbers are close enough to believe the underlying sensor could be the same.

For a camera with so many pixels the A1 has a very low level of rolling shutter, you are highly unlikely to encounter any significant rolling shutter issues thanks to the 16ms readout time at 8K. Again, it is interesting to note that the 8.7ms readout of A7S3/FX3/FX6 at 4K is almost exactly half that of the A1 – further pointing to sensor similarities.

Golden Hour = Golden Day.

One of the great things about Norway in the winter is that when the skies are clear the very low sun means that you get golden hour light almost all day. The A1 did an excellent job of capturing the rich colours and deep shadows, especially that deep orange light that seems to make objects glow. Rather than going for a film style grade I chose to use a high contrast and vibrant grade for the sample video. I edited the footage in DaVinci Resolve using ACES colour management. The initial grading was done in HDR and I have uploaded an 8K HDR version for those of you that have an HDR TV or monitor.

sunset_1.15.1-600x338 Sony Alpha A1 and the 24mm f1.4 GM lens.
Beautiful golden hour colours captured by the Sony A1



The days in northern Norway in January are very short and brutally cold. You only have to look at the shots of the dog sled driver to see how well wrapped up he is. It got down to -34c the day we went dog sledding. Even without a cover the A1 performed very well in the cold. There was some loss of battery life but this is to be expected. If you do find yourself shooting somewhere very cold, try to keep your batteries in an inside pocket until you need them to keep them warm.

At night I decided to use the A1 to shoot time-lapse of the Aurora while using the FX3 to video the Aurora. The A1 has a built in intervalometer so it’s very easy to shoot timelapse with it.

The 24mm f1.4 GM lens.

A1_06304-600x400 Sony Alpha A1 and the 24mm f1.4 GM lens.
A frame of the Aurora taken with the A1

 

Shooting stars at night with a wide angle lens is very challenging. You have to be very careful to ensure that your stars and in good focus. I use the cameras built in image magnification to check and double check my focus.  One thing that many wide lenses suffer from is an optical defect called “coma”. Often stars that should be a tiny round point of light will take on a slightly elongated appearance, looking like a comma sign or comet rather than a dot, especially towards the edges and corners of the frame. My Sigma 20mm has very little coma and it’s one of the reasons why I like it so much. But the Sony 24mm f1.4 has even less, in fact it is almost completely non-existent. The 24mm is also very, very sharp even wide open, there is no need to stop down to sharpen the image as with some other lenses. It is also a very compact lens and yet despite its small size and low weight it manages to fit in a proper iris ring as well as the large focus ring. Like most of Sony’s most recent lenses the 24mm GM has a linear focus ring. Linear focus means that the amount you turn the focus ring for any given focus change remains completely constant. As a result, you can manually pull focus from one object to another very easily as each time you shift the focus back to your starting point the focus ring will return to exactly the same position each time.

While not quite as wide as my 20mm the clarity and lack of distortions in the images from the 24mm GM means that this lens is now easily my favourite lens for shooting the Aurora or star fields. Of course, it is also very competent for shooting during the day as well. The autofocus is very fast and completely silent due to the use of linear focus motors. The extra assignable button on the lens body is also very handy.

trees_1.5.1-600x338 Sony Alpha A1 and the 24mm f1.4 GM lens.

Together the A1 and the 24mm GM were a delight to use. I have to admit that I am wondering whether an A1 could replace my FX3 or FX6. The richness of the 8K images from the A1 are impressive to say the least. I have done a few 8K projects for clients already, But I am not yet regularly delivering in 8K and I don’t think it will be something that I will be asked for regularly for a couple years yet. Besides, most of my clients that do want 8K are really going to want me to shoot on a Venice 2 rather than the A1. I also don’t think I can push the A1 8K images in post quite as much as I can the XAVC-S-I or XAVC-I from the FX3/FX6. Plus, when you do start to do any heavy image manipulation at 8K even my MacBook M1 Max starts to bog down (I actually find it easier to work with the 8K XOCN from Venice 2 than the 8K XAVC-HS from the A1). The FX3 will remain my main camera for my Aurora shoots for the next couple of year but perhaps I will need to start saving some pennies to add an A1 to my camera collection, it certainly impressed me and it would be nice to start shooting some of my stock footage in 8K.

NOTE: To watch the video in 8K you will need a monitor, TV or device capable of 8K playback. To view in HDR you will need to be using an HDR TV or HDR monitor. If you do not have an 8K or HDR TV/Monitor then YouTube will detect this and instead send you a standard dynamic range verison of the video at the highest resolution that your device can support. For the best viewing experience please watch using a HDR device that supports HDR10 ST2084/Rec2020.

Tokina 16-28mm t3.0 Cine Zoom Review.

DSC_0334-copy-600x450 Tokina 16-28mm t3.0 Cine Zoom Review.

After being lucky enough to have shot with the really rather beautiful looking Tokina Vista prime lenses with Sony’s Venice II (see here), I decided to take a look at the generation 2 Tokina 16-28mm wide angle cine zoom. This lens is available in a variety of mounts including PL, E-Mount and many others and is really very good value for the money.

The lens is parfocal, has minimal breathing and minimal chromatic aberration.  To try it out, I took a PL mount sample  to Windsor to test it out with my FX9 using a Vocas PL E-Mount to PL adapter. 

I often find it difficult to write about lenses because when a lens performs well, there is little to write about without being gushy. The 16-28mm from Tokina does what it should, and it does it well. I didn’t find any particular flaws in the images from the lens and overall, they look really good. At 16mm on a full frame camera the lens gives a very wide field of view with very minimal distortion. It remains sharp into the corners and there is no significant vignetting.

It is well constructed and the 300 (ish) degree of travel focus ring has a very nice weight and feel to it. The zoom ring is a bit heavier but this prevents the zoom moving when you don’t want it to.

A few people have commented about why use a larger bulkier lens like the Tokina over a more compact and lighter photo lens. I think a lot depends on the type of project you are working on. Being realistic, if you are running around on your own, trying to quickly grab footage on a lower budget production then a photo lens with auto focus might be the better option. But when you need maximum control over focus a proper mechanical long travel focus ring is what you want. If you want to zoom during the shot, the lens needs to be parfocal. So for a more controlled shoot, perhaps for drama or other scripted productions a true cine lens like this is often preferable.  so, it’s a case of picking the right lens for the type of production you are shooting. The Tokina 16-28mm t3.0 cine zoom is absolutely worth looking at for any movie style wide angle applications. 

See the video below for some example footage and a closer look at the lens.

 

A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses

I was recently given the opportunity shoot some test footage with a Sony Venice II.  A camera like Venice needs good glass, so I put out some feelers to see what lenses I could get for the shoot. I was offered the use of a set of the Tokina Vista primes, lenses I have been wanting to try for some time, so this was the perfect opportunity to try these interesting lenses on Sony’s newest cinema camera.

DSC_0298-600x450 A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses
Shooting at Tower Bridge London with the Tokina Vista 135mm and Venice 2



Lets cut straight to the point: I love these lenses and I loved using them with the Venice 2.

I guess I had some concerns at first over choosing the Tokina Vista’s. Lets face it, Tokina are not the first brand that springs into most peoples minds when you are thinking about high quality PL cinema lenses. But I had been hearing nothing other than good things about them and when I had played with them at a couple of different trade shows, they did always look nice.

There are currently 8 lenses in the Vista range starting at the very wide 18mm and going up to 135mm. All are t1.5, are beautifully constructed with all metal bodies. The focus and aperture rings (with approx 300 degrees of travel) are in the same position on every lens in the set, so lens swaps are easy. The 9 bladed iris works well to give pleasing smooth bokeh.

DSC_0299-600x450 A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses
The Tokina Vista 135mm t1.5 on a Venice 2

 

Many manufacturers claim that their lenses have minimal breathing and this is definitely true of the Tokina Vista. Focussing from near to far resulted in only a very small change of the image size on all the lenses I tried. The breathing is truly minimal.

As I was shooting using the Venice 2’s 8.2K 17:9 mode this was a good test of the lenses resolution and sharpness. In the video at the bottom of the page you will see a couple of shots where I added a slow post production zoom in to the image, reaching 2x magnification. If you watch the video in 4K you won’t see any appreciable drop in image quality during the zoom in where I am in effect expanding the original 8.2K pixel image by 200%. This to me is a clear indication that these lenses are plenty good enough for 8K capture.

wide-shot-2_1.2.4 A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses
Wide shot, taken at 8.2K with the 18mm Tokina Vista.
mid-shot-2a_1.2.2 A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses
A crop from the frame above. Even in 4K this image looks great.

 

But, at the same time I also felt that the lenses were not excessively sharp. There is a “roundness” to the images from these lenses that I really like. The Vista’s are also very slightly warm looking and this combined with the roundness of the image and very slight propensity to flare a little gives them a very appealing look. I guess I could describe it as a vintage look, but that might make them sound old fashioned. These are not old fashioned lenses, these are clearly modern, high performance lenses. But the images they deliver has a beautiful, almost old school look that I found to be very appealing.

wide-shot-1_1.6.2 A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses
The Tokina Vistas and Venice 2 deliver great colours and skin tones.
Mid-shot1_1.6.3 A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses
This is a crop from the above image. When you have 8.2K of pixels and a high resolution lens its very easy to reframe in post production, even when delivering in 4K.



Faces and skin tones looked really nice, of course this is a combination of both a great camera and great lenses, but the colour reproduction from the combination of Venice 2 and the Tokina Vistas was very pleasing.

night-singer_1.30.2 A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses
At t1.5 the Tokina Vista’s are great for low light and Venice at 3200 ISO looks great.


I did have a play with most of the lenses in the set and they all appeared to perform similarly. But for the video shoot in London I focussed on the 18mm, 40mm and 135mm lenses. 

The 18mm is very wide. It is not truly rectilinear, there is some barrel distortion, but nothing too severe. You do have to remember that this is a t1.5 lens and it’s not easy to produce very fast, very wide lenses for full frame. The 46.7mm image circle of all the Vista lenses means that they comfortably cover the full frame Venice sensor and even at 18mm there is barely any light fall off or vignetting at the edges of the frame.

One of the other things that really impressed me with all the Vista’s was the lack of chromatic aberration. Even when shooting very high contrast, backlit edges or specular reflections it was hard to spot any chromatic aberration. There is not a single shot amongst all of the material that I shot where I noticed anything nasty.

Trafalgar-day_1.27.1 A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses
Trafalgar Square, shot with the 18mm Vista. You can see that there is some barrel distortion, but it’s pretty good for an 18mm t1.5 lens.

 

The only negative I can really find about the 18mm is the size and bulk. This is a big and heavy lens. All the Vista have the same external diameter of 114mm. The 18mm is no different in that regard. But the 18mm is one of the longest lenses in the set, it’s 180mm from front to back. And it weighs almost 2.7Kg. A big part of the weight probably comes from the bulbous front element of the lens – which you will be glad to know does not protrude beyond the end of the lens housing, giving it some protection from accidental damage.

When you have an 8K camera, wide angle lenses can be used to capture a very wide frame that can then be cropped into to re-frame in post, so having that maximum t1.5 aperture which helps maintain a shallow DoF is important. 

lanterns1_1.8.2 A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses
London’s China Town, shot with the 40mm Tokina Vista



The 40mm lens is also really nice. 40mm is an interesting focal length, a shade longer than 35mm and wider than 50mm. I found it to be a very nice focal length for a lot of different types of shots with the Venice Full Frame sensor.  At 2.24kg it is a much lighter lens than the 18mm and a fair bit shorter at 160mm. Once again extremely small amount of breathing and near total lack of chromatic aberrations makes this a lovely lens to shoot with. When shooting high contrast point light sources such as street lights at night there is a bit of circular flare around the light source, but I find this to be quite pleasing. Strong light sources just out of frame can lead to some minor veiling flare on all the lenses in the set, but this is no worse than seen with most other similar quality lenses and the lens coatings give the flare a slight warmth that again, I find very appealing.

tower-bridge_1.3.2 A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses

The 135mm lens doesn’t disappoint either, shooting at 135mm and t1.5 delivers a very narrow depth of field.  As expected this is one of the larger lenses in the set. It’s 187mm long so a bit shorter than the 18mm but it is heavier with the PL mount version coming in very close to 3kg. There isn’t much more I can say about this lens that I haven’t covered with the other lenses, extremely minimal breathing, near zero chromatic aberration etc all make for a great image. The consistent look across all the lenses means this too shares that well rounded not too clinical and very slight warmth that makes these all of these lenses very appealing.

night-busses_1.31.1 A Review of the Tokina Vista Prime Lenses
Tokina Vista 40mm on Venice 2 at 3200 ISO. I really like the way the Vistas flare.



The Tokina Vista’s are not re-housed photo lenses, they were designed specifically for digital cinematography. They are available in a range of mounts including PL, Canon EF, MFT, LPL and Sony E. I had heard good things about them from other users before I tried them and now I have had a chance to shoot with them I have to say that they are lenses that I will want to use again. Perhaps in particular when the project would benefit from a slight vintage or romantic look without being soft and without giving up any resolution. For the money they are great looking lenses and would recommend anyone that hasn’t tried them to give them a go.

Will My B4 Lens Cover The FX9’s 2K S16 Scan Mode?

This has cropped up a few times in the comments and in various user groups so I thought I would go through what you need to do to use a B4 2/3″ lens with the FX9’s S16 2K scan mode.

Not all B4 2/3″ lenses will directly cover the FX9’s Super 16mm sized 2K scan mode as 2/3″ is smaller than S16. 2/3″ lenses are designed to cover 8.8 x 6.6mm and S16 is 12.5 x 7mm. Some lenses might just about cover this as is, with minor vignetting, but most won’t.

The Sony LA-EB1 includes an optical expander that compensates for this (I think it’s about a 1.35x). With the LA-EB1 all B4 2/3″ lenses should work without vignetting and in addition when an ALAC compatible lens is connected to the LA-EB1 the camera will support the ALAC function which reduces many of the aberrations typically seen with B4 lenses. The LA-EB1 needs a power feed (14.4v) to work correctly and to power the lens. It is supplied with a 4 pin hirose cable that is designed to be plugged into the 4 pin hirose power socket on the XDCA-FX9. This also provides the record trigger signal to the camera. If you don’t have an XDCA-FX9 then you will need to source a 4 pin hirose to D-Tap or similar power cable.


If you have a mount adapter that does not have any optical expansion such as the cheaper MTF B4 to E-Mount adapter (MTB4SEM approx $400), if the lens has a 2x extender you can use the lenses extender if the lens doesn’t cover without it. The more expensive MTF MTB4SEMP (approx $1,200) includes an optical expander and with this adapter all B4 lenses should cover the S16 area without needing to use the lenses extender. To get the zoom servo working you will need an adapter that can provide 12v to the lenses 12pin connector.

Whatever lens or adapter you choose, the lens needs to be an HD lens. The better the lens the better the end result, I know that may seem obvious but when you are using either an adapter with an included optical expander or having to use the lenses 2x extender to eliminate vignetting  with a straight through adapter any imperfections in the lens and any softness becomes quite obvious. Get a really good lens on a good adapter and the images are perfectly respectable, but a poor lens on an adapter will probably dissapoint.

More Anamorphic Options for the FX9 – Sirui 24mm 1.33x Anamorphic.

Here is what could be a nice option for Anamorphic on the FX9 (or any other Super 35mm capable camera. The new Sirui 24mm 1.33x anamorphic lens. I have not tried these yet, but at only $999 or $749 with the early bird offer it’s certainly an affordable way into the world of Anamorphic. 1.33x lenses are designed to provide a final aspect ratio of 2.40:1 when used with a 16:9 sensor. Here’s the info from the press release.

large-e5f243596bfbebfadb05d80a1c0e418d More Anamorphic Options for the FX9 - Sirui 24mm 1.33x Anamorphic.
large-a0779796aff6c0276f70ae6b5c0c2ecc More Anamorphic Options for the FX9 - Sirui 24mm 1.33x Anamorphic.
large-dc99f9fef16c45ad702d8d811aff5cd7 More Anamorphic Options for the FX9 - Sirui 24mm 1.33x Anamorphic.
The SIRUI 1.33x Anamorphic line-up consists of 24mm, 35mm and 50mm lenses.
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • Maximum aperture: F2.8
  • Minimum aperture: F16
  • Lens structure: 13 elements in 10 groups
  • Aperture blades: 8
  • Maximum support frame: APS-C
  • Shooting distance: 0.6m (2 ft) – infinity
  • Focus method: Manual focusing
  • Maximum magnification: 1:21.99(V),1:29.07 (H)
  • Filter spec: M72 x 0.75
  • Rotation angle of the focus ring: 189.6°
  • Max. diameter: 74mm (2.91 inches)
  • Diameter of focus ring: 64.6mm (2.54 inches)
  • Weight(g/lbs): MFT Mount: 770/1.70; E Mount: 780/1.72; X Mount: 780/1.72; EF-M Mount: 780/1.72; Z Mount: 810/1.79
  • Total length (lens cap not included) (mm/inch): MFT Mount: 124.9/4,92; E Mount: 126.1/4.96; X Mount: 126.4/4.98; EF-M Mount: 126.1/4.96; Z Mount: 128.1/5.04
preview-eb0cf788bc1720d61f3bb2319c6421ab More Anamorphic Options for the FX9 - Sirui 24mm 1.33x Anamorphic.

Guess The Lens! A little bit of fun and an interesting test.

Last week I was at O-Video in Bucharest preparing for a workshop the following day. They are a full service dealer. We had an FX9 for the workshop and they had some very nice lenses. So with their help I decided to do a very quick comparison of the lenses we had. I was actually very surprised by the results. At the end of the day I definitely had a favourite lens. But I’m not going to tell you which one yet.

The 5 lenses we tested were: Rokinon Xeen, Cooke Panchro 50mm, Leitz (lecia) Thalia, Zeiss Supreme Radiance and the Sony 28-135mm zoom that can be purchased as part of a kit with the FX9.

I included a strong backlight in the shot to see how the different lenses dealt with flare from off-axis lights. 2 of the lenses produced very pronounced flare, so for those lenses you will see two frame grabs. One with the flare and one with the back light flagged off.

I used S-Cinetone on the FX9 and set the aperture to f2.8 for all of the lenses except the Sony 28-135mm. For that lens I added 6dB of gain to normalise the exposure, you should be able to figure out which of the examples is the Sony zoom.

One of the lenses was an odd focal length compared to all the others. Some of you might be able to work out which one that is, but again I’m not going to tell you just yet.

Anyway, enjoy playing guess the lens. This isn’t intended to be an in depth test. But it’s interesting to compare lenses when you have access to them.  I’ll reveal which lens is which in a couple of weeks in the comments. You can click on each image to enlarge it.

Big thanks to everyone at O-Video Bucharest for making this happen.

Lens1-flare Guess The Lens! A little bit of fun and an interesting test.
Lens 1 with flare from backlight.
lens1-no-flare Guess The Lens! A little bit of fun and an interesting test.
Lens 1 with backlight flagged to reduce the flare.
lens2 Guess The Lens! A little bit of fun and an interesting test.
Lens 2
lens-3 Guess The Lens! A little bit of fun and an interesting test.
Lens 3
lens-4-no-flare Guess The Lens! A little bit of fun and an interesting test.
Lens 4
lens-5-flare Guess The Lens! A little bit of fun and an interesting test.
Lens 5 with flare from backlight
lens-5-No-flare Guess The Lens! A little bit of fun and an interesting test.
Lens 5 with backlight masked to kill the flare.

Which Lenses work well with the FX9’s Autofocus?

Below is a list of lenses that have been tested with the FX9’s advanced autofocus system. Generally any Sony E-mount lens will work just fine. The Sony G series lenses are good and the G Master series tend to be even better. 
For third party lenses and adapters the situation is much less clear, so I have decided to list the lenses I have tested and invite others to contribute to this list via the comments area. The list is not exhaustive at this time but I will try to keep adding to it as I am able to try more lenses and and different adapter combinations.

Inclusion of a lens on this list is not a guarantee that it will or will not work, it is simply an indication of how it worked for me or anyone else that adds information about their own experiences. I welcome updates and any further information from any lens or adapter manufacturer.

If there is a lens you have tested on an FX9 please let me know via the comments how it worked so it can be added to the list.

KNOWN TO WORK WELL:

Sony E (super 35mm) FE (full frame) lenses, G and G-Master including Zeiss ZA series. G and G Master  tend to have the best AF performance.

Tamron 28-75 f2.8 Di III RXD E-mount.

KNOWN TO WORK, BUT NOT AS GOOD AS ORIGINAL SONY:

Sigma 20mm f1.4 ART with Sigma MC11 adapter. Works, but a little slow and occasionally hunts.

KNOWN TO NOT PERFORM WELL:

Sigma 20mm f1.4 ART native E-mount (very slow AF, hunting, contrast only?).

Sigma 85mm f1.4 ART native E-mount (very slow AF, a lot of hunting).

Sigma 20mm f1.4 ART Canon EF mount on metabones, comlite or viltrox adapters. Very slow AF, not really useable.

NO GOOD, NO AF:

Tamron EF 16-300mm

Sigma EF 18-250mm

 

Thinking about new lenses for the FX9?

DSC_0421-2-1024x576 Thinking about new lenses for the FX9?
Sony 28-135mm f4 zoom on the PXW-FX9

If you are starting to think about lenses to take advantage of the FX9’s amazing autofocus capabilities then you should know that I have tested quite a few different lenses on the FX9 now. I have yet to find a Sony lens where the AF hasn’t worked really well. Even the low cost Sony 50mm f1.8 and 28mm f2 lenses worked very well. Infact I actually quite like both of these lenses and they represent great value for the money.

But what I have found is that non Sony lenses have not worked well. I have been testing a range of lenses on various pre-production cameras. Maybe this situation will improve through firmware updates, I would hope so, but I honestly don’t know. The E-mount Sigma 18-35 and 20mm art lenses I tried were not at all satisfactory. The AF worked, but in what appears to be a contrast only mode. The autofocus was much slower and hunted compared to the fast, hunt free AF with the Sony lenses. You would not want to use this which is a great shame as these lenses are optically very nice.

It’s the same story when using Canon EF lenses via both Metabones and Viltrox adapters (I have not tested the Sigma MC11). Phase AF does not appear to work, only contrast and it’s slow.

So if you are thinking about buying lenses for the FX9 the only lenses I can recommend right now are Sony lenses. Don’t (at this stage at least) buy other brand E-mount lenses or expect lenses to be used via adapters unless you can find a way to test them on an FX9 first.

Shooting Anamorphic with the Fujinon MK’s and SLR Magic 65 Anamorphot.

There is something very special about the way anamorphic images look, something that’s not easy to replicate in post production. Sure you can shoot in 16:9 or 17:9 and crop down to the typical 2.35:1 aspect ratio and sure you can add some extra anamorphic style flares in post. But what is much more difficult to replicate is all the other distortions and the oval bokeh that are typical of an anamorphic lens.

Anamorphic lenses work by distorting the captured image. Squeezing or compressing it horizontally, stretching it vertically. The amount of squeeze that you will want to use will depend on the aspect ratio of the sensor or film frame. With full frame 35mm cameras or cameras with a 4:3 aspect ratio sensor or gate you would normally use an anamorphic lens that squeezes the image by 2 times. Most anamorphic cinema lenses are 2x anamorphic, that is the image is squeezed 2x horizontally. You can use these on cameras with a 16:9 or 17:9 super35mm sensor, but because a Super35 sensor already has a wide aspect ratio a 2x squeeze is much more than you need for that typical cinema style final aspect ratios of 2.39:1.

For most Super35mm cameras it is normally better to use a lens with a 1.33x squeeze. 1.33x squeeze on Super35 results in a final aspect ratio close to the classic cinema aspect ratio of 2.39:1.

Traditionally anamorphic lenses have been very expensive. The complex shape of the anamorphic lens elements are much harder to make than a normal spherical lens. However another option is to use an anamorphic adapter on the front of an existing lens to turn it into an anamorphic lens. SLR Magic who specialise in niche lenses and adapters have had a 50mm diameter 1.33x anamorphic adapter available for some time. I’ve used this with the FS7 and other cameras in the past, but the 50mm diameter of the adapter limits the range of lenses it can be used with (There is also a 50mm 2x anamorphot for full frame 4:3 aspect ratio sensors from SLR Magic).

Now SLR Magic have a new larger 65mm adapter. The 1.33-65 Anamorphot has a much larger lens element, so it can be used with a much wider range of lenses. In addition it has a calibrated focus scale on it’s focus ring. One thing to be aware of with adapters like these is that you have to focus both the adapter and the lens you are using it on. For simple shoots this isn’t too much of a problem. But if you are moving the camera a lot or the subject is moving around a lot, trying to focus both lenses together can be a challenge.

DSC_0103 Shooting Anamorphic with the Fujinon MK's and SLR Magic 65 Anamorphot.
The SLR Magic 1.33-65 Anamorphot anamorphic adapter.

Enter the PD Movie Dual Channel follow focus.

The PD Movie Dual follow focus is a motorised follow focus system that can control 2 focus motors at the same time. You can get both wired and wireless versions depending on your needs and budget. For the anamorphic shoot I had the wired version (I do personally own a single channel PD Movie wireless follow focus). Setup is quick and easy, you simply attach the motors to your rods, position the gears so they engage with the gear rings on the lens and the anamorphot and press a button to calibrate each motor. It takes just a few moments and then you are ready to go. Now when you turn the PD Movie focus control wheel both the taking lens and the anamorphot focus together.

I used the anamorphot on both the Fujinon MK18-55mm and the MK50-135mm. It works well with both lenses but you can’t use focal lengths wider than around 35mm without the adapter some causing vignetting. So on the 18-55 you can only really use around 35 to 55mm. I would note that the adapter does act a little like a wide angle converter, so even at 35mm the field of view is pretty wide. I certainly didn’t feel that I was only ever shooting at long focal lenghts.

DSC_0099 Shooting Anamorphic with the Fujinon MK's and SLR Magic 65 Anamorphot.
The full rig. PMW-F5 with R5 raw recorder. Fujinon MK 18-55 lens, SLR Magic Anamorphot and PD Movie dual focus system.

Like a lot of lens adapters there are some things to consider. You are putting a lot of extra glass in front of you main lens, so it will need some support. SLR magic do a nice support bracket for 15mm rods and this is actually essential as it stops the adapter from rotating and keeps it correctly oriented so that your anamorphic squeeze remains horizontal at all times. Also if you try to use too large an aperture the adapter will soften the image. I found that it worked best between f8 and f11, but it was possible to shoot at f5.6. If you go wider than this, away from the very center of the frame you get quite a lot of softening image softening. This might work for some projects where you really want to draw the viewer to the center of the frame or if you want a very stylised look, but it didn’t suit this particular project.

The out of focus bokeh has a distinct anamorphic shape, look and feel. As you pull focus the shape of the bokeh changes horizontally, this is one of the key things that makes anamorphic content look different to spherical. As the adapter only squeezes by 1.33 this is as pronounced as it would be if you shot with a 2x anamorphic. Of course the other thing most people notice about anamorphic images is lens flares that streak horizontally across the image. Intense light sources just off frame would produce blue/purple streaks across the image. If you introduce very small point light sources into the shot you will get a similar horizontal flare. If flares are your thing it works best if you have a very dark background. Overall the lens didn’t flare excessively, so my shots are not full of flares like a JJ Abrams movie. But when it did flare the effect is very pleasing. Watch the video linked above and judge for yourself.

Monitoring and De-Squeeze.

When you shoot anamorphic you normally record the horizontally squashed image and then in post production you de-squeeze the image by compressing it vertically. Squashing the image vertically results in a letterbox, wide screen style image and it’s called “De-Squeeze”. You can shoot anamorphic without de-sqeezing the image provided you don’t mind looking at images that are horizontally squashed in your viewfinder or on your monitor. But these days you have plenty of monitors and viewfinders that can “de-squeeze” the anamorphic image so that you can view it with the correct aspect ratio. The Glass Hub film was shot using a Sony PMW-F5 recording to the R5 raw recorder. The PMW-F5 has the ability to de-squeeze the image for the viewfinder built in. But I also used an Atomos Shogun Inferno to monitor as I was going to be producing HDR versions of the film. The Shogun Inferno has both 2x and 1.33x de-squeeze built in so I was able to take the distorted S-Log3 output from the camera and convert it to a HDR PQ image and de-squeeze it all at the same time in the Inferno. This made monitoring really easy and effective.

I used DaVinci Resolve for the post production. In the past I might have done my editing in Adobe Premiere and the grading in Resolve. But Resolve is now a very capable edit package, so I completed the project entirely in Resolve. I used the ACES colour managed workflow as ACES means I don’t need to worry about LUT’s and in addition ACES adds a really nice film like highlight roll off to the output. If you have never tried a colour managed workflow for log or raw material you really should!

The SLR Magic 65-1.33 paired with the Fujinon MK lenses provides a relatively low cost entry into the world of anamorphic shooting. You can shoot anywhere from around 30-35mm to 135mm. The PD Movie dual motor focus system means that there is no need to try to use both hands to focus both the anamorphot and the lens together. The anamorphot + lens behave much more like a quality dedicated anamorphic zoom lens, but at a fraction of the cost. While I wouldn’t use it to shoot everything the Anamorphot is a really useful tool for those times you want something different.

Sigma FF High Speed Primes.

The main lenses I used for my recent Sony Venice shoot in Arizona were the  Sigma Full Frame High Speed primes in PL mount.

These are really really nice lenses!

20180418_110628-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Sigma Full Frame fast prime lens set.

As they cover a full frame sensor such as the one in Sony’s Venice high end digital cinematography camera these are pretty future proof lenses. They are all fast lenses with most of them opening up to T1.5. At T1.5 you have a 20, 24, 35, 50 and 85mm lenses and at T2.0 you can go as wide as 14mm and as long as 135mm.

They are of all metal construction, the build quality is absolutely first class. As soon as you pick one up it just exudes quality. They are not light weight lenses, coming in at between 1kg and 1.3kg in PL mount form, but that weight gives you the confidence that these are lenses that will last. Lenses that will stand up to daily professional use on a film or documentary shoot.  They are dust and moisture sealed, which is probably just as well as on this shoot there was a lot of blowing sand and dust. Our on set photographer was having problems with sand and grit in his lenses by the end of the shoot, but the Sigmas just shrugged it off.

The focus and aperture markings are very clear and easy to read they even glow in the dark! The focus ring rotates through a full 180 degrees and both the focus and aperture rings have standard 0.8 pitch teeth for follow focus controls etc. The gear rings are all the same distance from the mount so there is no need to move the follow focus when changing lenses.

20180418_110645-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Sigma 85mm Full Frame High Speed prime.

The lenses are available with PL, E mount or EF mounts. The set I had were fitted with PL. The mounts are not user interchangeable, but you can have the mount swapped by Sigma if you do find that you need to change it for some reason.

I shot several scenes with the 20mm lens using the Venice’s full frame 6K x 4K mode. Examining these images in post production reveals that the 20mm is really sharp right out into the corners. I also shot with the lenses wide open in some pretty dark places and even wide open they stay tack sharp. Take a look at the image below, it’s really sharp. If you click on the image you can enlarge it to view it at close to the original 6K resolution.

Horseshoe-bend_1.1.6-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Frame grab from Venice. Horseshoe bend, Page Arizona. Sigma 20mm FF prime. Click on the image to enlarge.

Shooting night scenes with the 135mm wide open also gave beautiful results. When shooting with a shallow DoF all the lenses have a very pleasing bokeh. This is perhaps in part thanks to the use in all of the lenses of a 9 blade, rounded diaphragm aperture system.

When changing focus mid shot breathing is minimal and the focus ring is silky smooth. A really nice touch is the use of a damper at the focus stops so there is no noise if you hit the end stops.

Vegas-night2_1.1.2-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Frame Grab from Venice, 2500 ISO, Sigma 24mm. Click on the image to expand.

During the shoot I used the 20,24,35,50,85 and 135mm lenses and they all performed really well. Looking at the footage in the grading suite it looks sharp and there are no nasty distortions. I did notice a touch of barrel distortion with the 24mm but this is to be expected with a wide lens on a full frame sensor. All the lenses matched really well, the colour remaining constant throughout the whole range. The look from the lenses was very neutral. Lens flare was extremely well controlled and I didn’t notice my blacks becoming washed out in high contrast situations. When shooting into the sun or at a direct light source any flare that I did see was normally quite pleasing.

The shot below was obtained shooting towards the sun when it was very low in the sky, yet the lens behaved flawlessly retaining deep blacks and a very high contrast image.

horse-riding_1.1.14-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Frame grab from Venice with Sigma 135mm FF lens shooting into the sun in a very high contrast scenario. Click on the image to enlarge.

These lenses helped me capture some truly beautiful images with the Venice camera. I’ve long been a fan of Sigmas more recent lens designs. I have several of the Sigma Art Lenses and these have always performed exceptionally well. These prime lenses take things one step further putting world class optics into housings designed for manual control and the rigours of professional film and video productions. They are very competitively priced, especially when you consider that these are full frame lenses. I really hope to be able to use them again on future shoots. They really are top notch lenses and the images I captured with them look gorgeous.