Carl Zeiss Superspeed (S16) MKI 16mm

My closer look at the Carl Zeiss Superspeed Super16 Cine Lenses continues with the Distagon 16mm T1.3 (F1.2) MKI. You might have seen my previous post about the 9.5mm and 12mm. If so a lot of what I’ll say later in this post might be familiar to you.


Compatibility: Like a said already, this is a Super16 lens which makes it a perfect choice for BMPCC and Sony F5/F55 cameras (in S16m crop mode), but unlike 9.5mm and 12mm, it can also be used on cameras with slightly larger sensors. I’ve tried it with Panasonic GH4 and it just about covered the full sensor, but shooting in 4K mode improved the coverage even further. Using it on BMCC (MFT) will provide a similar coverage, not perfect, but usable especially if cropped a little.

Performance: When using this lens on BMPCC it’s equivalent to full frame camera is 46mm (31mm for those of you more used to S35), which makes it a most natural lens in the set, closest to what we see with our eyes. Mind you it doesn’t have the crazy shallow depth of filed you’d expect from a 50mm F1.2 lens of a full frame camera. In fact there isn’t that much shallow depth of field to be found especially if you step this lens down a bit. I’ve shot most of the film at T2/T2.8 as I don’t like to shoot wide open (stepping down a little improves the performance of most lenses). As far as sharpness goes, all 4 Superspeed primes have similar performance. They are not mega sharp, but definitely sharp enough and compliment the sensor on BMPCC very well. I did shoot one scene with it wide open at T1.3 (see video above) and although it gets a little milky, the lens stays fairly sharp and usable, so if you have to, you can use it at T1.3, which obviously also creates more shallow depth of field.

When using BMPCC for low light scenes, fast lenses are more than welcome, as I don’t want to use this camera at ISOs higher than 800, so being able to open the lens up to T1.3 (F1.2) makes a big difference to the amount of lighting needed for low light scenes.


Usability and build quality: Same as 9.5mm and 12mm, this is a very solid lens with step-less aperture adjustment and 180 degrees rotation on the focus ring. Those of you already using cine lenses will not be surprised by any of this, but those mainly using modern lenses would be very impressed with the build quality as well as the smoothness of the focusing and aperture rings. The original mount on these (MKI) lenses is ARRI B (bayonet) and my set currently has this mount, but in future I’m planning to fit PL adapters (removable mounts) on them for better compatibility with various cameras. Some of these lenses you’ll find on ebay will already have PL mounts fitted on to them, which will potentially save you $100-200 on removable PL mounts. My set has also been modded with 80mm fronts and metal follow focus gears. Again, if you find a lens, that has these upgrades, you’ll be getting much more for your money as these 2 upgrades would cost you further $100-200.

For the grade of the video above I’ve used a wonderful Captain Hook LUT in Resolve 11 and made minor adjustments to make it look closer to what I had in mind for these shots. No sharpness or stabilization was applied to these shots.

Lastly big thank you to Bradley Stearn for keeping the shots sharp and creating a camera report with all lens choices and T-stops and to Charlie Locke for some cool BTS footage at the end of this video.

Hope you enjoyed this post, feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!

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7 Responses to Carl Zeiss Superspeed (S16) MKI 16mm F1.2 / T1.3

  1. when i started with filming, i was impressed by those lenses. until i realized, that this ( for examples ) is on BMPCC just a 36mm f3,6 😀 ….

    • The thing is that this is equivalent to full frame focal night/depth of field, but not everyone started using interchangeable lens cameras when 5D came out, so to old time guys shooting on S16 back in the day this lens still means 16mm F1.3 and to S35 (which what most Hollywood films are shot on), this means 22mm. They is no one right meaning when it comes to lenses, they all mean different things to everyone. Besides F3.6 is the depth of field equivalent, but the lens still let’s in as much light as any other F1.2 lens, so it’s great for low light, essential for bmpcc 😉

  2. Where did you get the lens gears and fronts for your lenses? I have the Mk I 12, 16, & 25; they are my favorite lenses on my Digital Bolex and BMPCC cameras. Another go-to lens for me is the Canon 8-64 T2.6 PL S16 zoom. Whenever my camera is on sticks or in a shoulder rig, that’s usually the lens I have mounted. Beautiful filmic look to that one.

  3. Hi there – you have any idea what type of coverage I’m getting on the Red Epic Dragon?
    I love these lenses and love the price – We are thinking of shooting the project 4K Wide Screen.
    Let me know – your help is greatly appreciated…

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