Ever since I bought the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera I’ve been very keen to try out some vintage lenses from old s16/16mm video cameras. My opportunity came when I bought a 16mm camera which came with the Angenieux 17-68mm lens. Many of you will know that Angenieux is a legendary brand. They’ve been making cine lenses for nearly 80 years and still make some of the best lenses in the world. No wonder I’ve been so keep to try out some Ange glass.
There are things I really like about this lens and things I don’t, so let’s take a closer look.
Starting with the good points:
- 17-68mm is a very solid lens; all rings are really smooth and the black version of this lens even has a click-less aperture adjustment, which is a massive bonus for video.
- The focal range of 17 to 68mm and constant aperture of f/2.2 is very impressive when compared to a similarly priced vintage 35mm SLR zoom lenses.
- The images this lens produces bring you a step closer to the old school film days. I particularly like how it performs at 68mm. Subjects pop out very nicely and bokeh is very unique, although some might think it’s strange.
- This lens also produces pretty nice lens flares which add an extra touch of character to it.
Now the bad points:
- It’s not very sharp wide open, although closing it a little helps a lot.
- Minimum focusing distance is not impressive at all at 1m, which limits the close up shots considerably.
- Chromatic aberration is clearly visible in certain lighting conditions.
- 17-68mm f/2.2 would be an amazing focal range/fstop combo on a Super35 camera (equivalent to 25-102mm on full frame camera) but this lens will not cover S35 sensor and on S16 sensor it’s equivalent to 49-197mm, which makes it a bit of a telephoto lens rather than an all rounder.
- It does vignette a little on BMPCC with vignetting being the most obvious at the 17mm with the lens focused to the minimum focusing distance. The corners also show some softness, all of which indicate that this is not a true S16 zoom as often advertised on eBay, but rather a 16mm zoom.
Overall on paper there are more negatives that positives, so would I recommend one? All depends on the price and the look your are after. Personally I do like the old school look, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you can get one fairly cheap, at around £200/$400 price tag, then get it as they are not getting any cheaper, but some sellers on eBay are asking up to $2000 for one of these which is quite frankly a rip off.
When it comes to vintage lenses I hate being negative as all of them will have quirks & imperfections, which might not always be a bad thing. I always concentrate on what results can be achieved with any lens I pick up. The only difference is that it’s much easier to justify imperfections on a $10 lens than it is on a $1000 lens, but at the end of the day, opinions are subjective, so take a good look at the video above and other similar videos online to see if this lens is for you.
P.S. There is some confusion around the difference between the black and silver versions of this lens. Well I tried both and optically they appear to be pretty much identical with identical close focusing distance and identical amount of sensor coverage. Mechanically they are slightly different, but the only distinctive difference is the aperture ring; black version is click-less one and silver has clicks as commonly found on photo lenses, so personally I prefer the black version.
Some of the lenses on eBay are also sold with the Retro Focus Wide Angle attachment which sound like a great idea, but unfortunately vignettes heavily at the wide end. The only camera that could utilize this attachment is Digital Bolex and that’s only on HD mode which uses a smaller sensor area. If planning to use this lens with a pocket cam, don’t waist extra money on this pretty but otherwise useless attachment.
Hope you found this review useful. Feel free to share you opinion regarding this lens below.
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