This post is aimed at people shooting with S16 cameras and/or S16 crop modes.
A few days ago I’ve met up with Edward from EKOEcamera to test the mighty Angenieux 12-240mm F3.5 that he just finished working on. This post wasn’t suppose to be an in-depth review, but I guess I just have a lot to say about this lens!
Before we really get in to it, I want make it clear what this lens is not. The 12-240mm, which was released in 1972, was designed for 16mm cameras, so it’s not a proper Super16 lens, but nevertheless it’s quite usable on Super16 cameras/crop modes.
How USABLE is it?
In past I’ve reviewed the Angenieux 17-68mm and 9.5-57mm, and while they have their own strengths and weaknesses, their main difference to this lens is their weight and size. The 12-240mm, weighting just under 2kg is an absolute beast, not exactly a run&gun lens and yet it feels very much at home on bmpcc, provided that you support it properly and balance the whole rig on your tripod correctly. The weight and length of this setup gives it a much more confident performance when compared to lightweight primes and zooms, which transfer every little shake to the sensor. Of course you can still get camera shake if not careful, especially at 240mm, but remember that 240mm on BMPCC is equivalent to almost 700mm on a full frame camera, so keeping such shot even remotely steady is quite an achievement it its own right! Focus throw is around 200 degrees, which certainly helps to hit that focus point at 240mm and then there is a joy of parfocal zoom! Edward is a master of parfocal adjustment, so he made sure this lens is perfectly parfocal with the MFT adapter and it’s such a great feature to have, something that many of us never get to experience with modern zooms.
With its a massive 20x zoom range, 12-240mm can cover almost any situation possible. Considering that it’s 16mm zoom though, there is of course some vignetting, but good news is that the most noticeable vignetting is found between 15mm and 50mm focal range, with the lens set the closest focusing distance. Even at 2.5m focusing distance, vignetting is very manageable throughout the zoom range and if you focus towards the infinity, you could almost mistake this lens for a Super16 zoom as vignetting becomes very mild even at the most difficult focal lengths. Most importantly though, there is almost a perfect coverage at 12mm, which is something many big 16mm zooms struggle with. For the instances where vignetting is visible, a 5-10% timeline crop or 2.35:1 bars will sort out most problems, so overall this lens is quite usable on S16 if you know how to get the best out of it.
So what should one expect from a 20x vintage zoom in terms of sharpness, CA, distortion, speed? If you know a little bit about lenses, then your answer would probably be – NOT A LOT, but I wouldn’t actually say that it performs much worse than the very popular 16-78mm or the underrated 9.5-57mm. In fact at the wide end I think it performs better than both. It’s surprisingly sharp at 12mm without having to step down too much (all the tests above were shot between F3.5 and F4.8). Yes, the edges are very soft at 12mm, but 16-78mm doesn’t even go that wide and 9.5-57mm vignettes much more at 12mm, so that is a win for the 12-240mm.
As you zoom towards the telephoto end though, images become more dreamy with glow in the highlights and overall lower contrast & sharpness. This is where CA is the most prominent too, but I can’t say I hate the this look. Sometimes all sort of imperfections create the most magical look (Helios 44-2 is perfect example). The shot from 0:50 looks so old-school and organic that if I didn’t know this was shot on bmpcc, I could swear it was film, so if you are after that kind of look, 12-240mm is perfect that it, but if you prefer clean and crisp images, then this lens is not for you.
One of other common weaknesses of big zooms is a barrel distortion. Surprisingly 12-240mm exhibits very little distortion at 12mm and pretty much none from there on.
Lastly the speed, or lack of it. There is no going around it when you have a 20x zoom. Yes, it’s slower than both 16-78mm and 9.5-57mm, but F3.5 is still very impressive for such massive zoom range, except that it’s not really F3.5 thought-out the range, or at least that’s what I think. Basically if you want to rotate the zoom ring all the way to 240mm, your f-stop has to be set to F4.8. I’m not quite sure why Angenieux didn’t market this lens as variable aperture zoom, but from my understanding, it is one; not really a big deal for me, but something to keep in mind.
So it is a good or bad lens? Let’s try to figure it out with its pros and cons.
- Massive focal range
- Very good build quality
- Step-less aperture adjustment
- Approx. 200° focus throw
- Plenty of old school film-like character
- Big and Heavy (good for stability)
- Vingetting and soft edges at certain focal lengths
- Rare, therefore might take a while to find a one under $1k
- Soft wide open, especially at the telephoto end
- A lot of CA, especially at the telephoto end
- Big and Heavy (if you want to run&gun lens)
I guess deciding if it’s a good or bad lens depends of your preferences and the look you prefer. If you need clean images, this is by no means a competitor to modern lenses. However people often choose vintage lenses for the “look” they bring and this is one of such lenses. It’s been reported that Stanley Kubrick used this lens on A Clockwork Orange. If true, that is a massive compliment to the 12-240mm, especially knowing how selective he was about his lenses. Does good enough for Kubrick = good enough for anyone? That is for each of us to decide! It’s not a cheap lens, which makes such decision even more difficult, but if you find one under $1k, it’s well worth looking at!
Angenieux 12-240mm F3.5 Ebay Links:
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