Ever since I got into video/filmmaking, I’ve been dreaming about owning a set of cine lenses, however as you’ll know, they are not exactly affordable, which is partially why I got into vintage lenses as I find them to share a lot of qualities found in cine lenses. Fortunately, the release of BMPCC allowed me to explore some of the Super16 cine lenses instead. They are much more affordable than their Super35 equivalents and this is how I acquired my set of Carl Zeiss Superspeeds!
At the time of writing BMPCC is slowly moving into the shadows after enjoying quite a bit of popularity and bringing the Super16 lenses back into action. The upcoming BMMCC & BMMSC 4K cameras though will certainly liven up the S16 market once again. Apart from these we already have the Digital Bolex and Ikonoskop A-Cam as well as a number of cameras with super16 crop modes including Sony F5/F55/FS5/FS7, JVC GY-LS300, URSA MINI.. With 4k becoming the standard feature, many more upcoming cameras will have a Super16 center crop, so if you are reading this in 2016/2017, there are probably even cameras like that available.
All of this makes me believe that Super16 lenses will stay very relevant and popular for quite some time, which is why I decided to film the video above and make this post.
Like I mentioned already, Super35 cine lenses are generally very expensive, even the vintage ones. Super16 equivalents though can be up to 10 times cheaper, which is why it’s worth taking a closer look at them even if you are not generally interested in Super16 format.
I might be a bit bias, but I genuinely believe that Carl Zeiss Super Speed primes are some of the best value for money lenses when it comes to Super16 cine lenses.
There are 3 versions of these:
MKI: (which I have) the cheapest version, but they require a few mods like focus gears and PL mounts to make them desirable and more usable in this day and age.
MKII: a bit more expensive but already have focus gears, 80mm fonts and PL mounts as well as better built quality and longer focus throw.
MKIII: the most expensive, but benefit from geared iris ring, even longer focus throw and better markings.
It can be argued though that optically these lenses are pretty much the same, so if you are on a budget, MKI will give you the desired look for less money.
Although it’s possible to find individual MKII and MKIII primes that are not much more expensive than MKI, a full set of MKI primes will certainly cost much less than the later versions. Same goes for building a set yourself as finding all individual, well priced MKI primes will be much easier than later versions. As for mods, PL mounts are now very cheap; as mentioned in the video RAFcamera PL adapter is the best value for money one I found so far; quality seamless focus gears sometimes can be found cheap on ebay, but even in places like TLS (UK) and DUCLOS (US) they are not that expensive at all. Same goes for 80mm fronts if you need them.
So let’s take a quick look at the lenses you’ll find in one of such sets. If you are not familiar with Super16 lenses, I’m including the approximate equivalent field of view when used on BMPCC/S16
- Carl Zeiss Distagon 9.5mm F1.2/T1.3 (18mm on S35 / 27mm on FF)
- Carl Zeiss Distagon 12mm F1.2/T1.3 (23mm on S35 / 34.5mm on FF)
- Carl Zeiss Distagon 16mm F1.2/T1.3 (31mm on S35 / 46mm on FF)
- Carl Zeiss Distagon 25mm F1.2/T1.3 (48mm on S35 / 72mm on FF)
- Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm F1.2/T1.3 (MKII & MKII only) (96mm on S35 / 144mm on FF)
As you can see they provide quite a nice range on a Super16 sensor, but more importantly they have the look that is very similar to their many times more expensive Super35 equivalents. There is certainly no cheaper way to get that Superspeed look without spending a fortune.
If you’d like to learn even more about these lenses, I reviewed (click to see reviews) 9.5mm, 12mm and 16mm already. I never got around to reviewing my 25mm but it pretty much identical to the other 3 in most aspects, but probably even more cinematic than the others due to its longer focal length and increased amount of super smooth bokeh as a result.
You can also check out some footage from a film I shot with these lenses below.
Conclusion: I absolutely love these little lenses and I think they are worth every penny, but if you are going to invest into something like this, then make sure that you use them. In over 2 years of owning my set I’ve only used them a few times because for my main work I mostly use zooms for speed. It’s difficult to justify such investment when it’s not being used, therefore I sold 2 of my Superspeeds to one of the members of our community and the other 2 are currently waiting for their new owner. It’s a bit sad to let them go, but has to be done to keep new content coming to this website. I’ve had my fun and now it’s time for someone else to enjoy them. If new Super16 cameras from Blackmagic will prove to be as popular as BMPCC was when it came out, then prices on super16 lenses like these Superspeeds might rise even more, so now might be the best time to take a serious look at these little gems.
I do my best to make this website a great resource for people interested in vintage lenses for video use, so I hope you’ve enjoyed this & other posts. I hope they will help you save some money on your future lens investments too. I’ve joined the ebay affiliate program to help me run this website, fund my tests & lens giveaways, so if you found this content useful and would like to help me produce more similar content, please use the ebay links in this post if you’re planning to buy one of these lenses or bookmark or use this link if you want to buy anything else on eBay.com or this link if you shop on eBay.co.uk. You will not be spending a penny more using these links, while still helping as eBay will pay out a small percentage from any purchase or successful bid, which in turn will support new content on www.vintagelensesforvideo.com. Thank you.