A few days ago a test video was posted to VLFV facebook group, which intrigued me so much I decided to make a post about it!
The video above, filmed by a fellow vintage lens user Blaise Villars compares 3 very different 35mm lenses, with different mounts, speed, prices, age, type & status.
These lenses are:
For those unfamiliar with them, let’s take a quick closer look at each of them.
Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm F2.4 is a vintage photo lens, which was made in M42 screw mount. Popular and very respected in smaller circles. It’s the slowest out of 3, but also the cheapest!
Rokinon (Samyang) Cine DS 35mm T1.5 (F1.4) is a popular modern photo/video hybrid, featuring the follow focus gears and de-clicked iris. Being a modern lens, it’s made in most common modern mount including Nikon F, Sony E, M4/3 and in this case Canon EF. In terms of speed and price it sits right in the middle!
Carl Zeiss Super Speed MKI 35mm T1.4 (F1.3) is a legendary vintage cine lens, still respected and used by serious DOPs. Even though it was designed specifically for video/filmmaking, being the first in Super Speed series, it lacked the super long focus throw and follow focus gears cine lenses are known for. Originally this lens also had the ARRI B mount, but as with most of these out there, a PL mount and Focus Gears were added at the later stage. It’s the fastest out of 3, but also the most expensive!
Moving on to the test video above, while it’s not very scientific, it shows the differences between these lenses really well!
In Blaise’s own words: I’m really impressed with the little flektogon, especially its amazing close focus capabilities. I’m in love with m42 lenses on high end cinema cameras like the Red Dragon. It’s a really good mix and you can do a lot of stuff with it. The only problem is using them in real production environment. The size of the lenses and the fact that they are all different in terms of front diameter makes them difficult to use a mattebox. They also extend when focused which doesn’t help either the matte box or a follow focus use.
The Rokinon has a different color rendition than the Zeiss’s, maybe due to the coating. Below T2 it has a strong green shift and is very soft too, but rokinon works well for the value. It’s a cheap lens and well made for its price; you can shoot extreme low light with it, so it’s a good option when you don’t have the money to rent a PL set. They are all manual, that’s what I’m all about as I don’t like to shoot with electronic canon EF lenses, with their rough focus rings and short focus rotation.
The Super Speed MKI is a lovely piece. I’m in love with the triangular iris blades. It’s very unfamiliar, but I’m liking it! These lenses are very sharp even at T1.4 and look at those beautiful flares, very glossy! I really want to test a set of Contax Zeiss AEG to see how they compare to Super Speeds. I think Contax lenses would make pretty sweet combo a Dragon!
Back to me: I used to have a very good opinion of Rokinon/Samyang lenses. I’ve previously owned & reviewed the first edition of Samyang 35mm and also reviewed the 85mm, both of which I absolutely loved, but after watching this test, I’m not liking the Rokinon colors at all (which I guess is subjective) The closest focusing distance is not great too, although it’s no worse than super expensive Super Speed. It’s really not too bad at 0.25mm, but looks average in comparison with the Flektogon. I’m very honest when I say Zeiss Jena Flektogon looks like best value for money lens here, not because I own one, but because it has that Super Speed for 1/20 of the price. It’s nice to hear that it also holds up well on a 6k sensor! It’s fair to say that Rokinon also offers plenty for the money, but if money is no object, Zeiss Super Speed is of course the best unless you really dislike that triangular bokeh and flare shapes when this lens is stopped down. The interesting fact that this lens actually has 9 iris blades, so the Zeiss made such shape on purpose and I actually like it, because same as anamorphic lenses it adds something unique into the overall look this lens produces.
To round up this comparison, let’s take a look at pros and cons of each lens in relation to each other:
Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm F2.4
- Metal construction
- Best close focusing ability
- Easily adaptable to most modern mounts
- Great performance wide open
- Great character and flares
- Slowest at F2.4
- M42 screw mount is not as sold as bayonet mounts
- Extends when focused
- Aperture adjusted in click-stops (not great for video)
Rokinon Cine DS 35mm T1.5
- Very fast at T1.5 (F1.4)
- Focus gears
- Click-less aperture adjustment
- Available in most modem mounts (except PL)
- Soft wide open (according to Blaise)
- Green shift below T2
- Not as rugged as vintage alternatives ( a lot of plastic parts)
Zeiss Super Speed MKI 35mm T1.4
- Fastest at T1.4 (F1.3)
- Sharp wide open (at least in comparison to Rokinon)
- Amazing character and flares
- Super solid, all metal construction, made to withstand professional use
- Click-less aperture adjustment
- Super expensive (in comparison to the other 2 lenses, but not other cine lenses)
- “Triangular” might not be to everyone’s taste
Conclusion: Every one of these lenses has it’s place on the market and someone who will prefer one of these over the other 2. Personally I’m happy enough with the Zeiss Jena Flektogon. I’m currently working on turning it and the rest of my Zeiss Jena lenses into “Mini Cine Primes”. A post about that conversion is coming very soon!
Lastly big thank you to Blaise for doing this test!
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