After spending quite a bit of money collecting and servicing a set of Carl Zeiss Superspeed MKI Super16 primes, I’m very pleased to share my thoughts and some footage I shot with them on my recent short film.
9.5mm: This is the widest lens in the set and although in full frame equivalent it’s not very wide at 27mm, for narrative work when you don’t want crazy wide angle perspective shots, this lens is wide enough. I’ve had my Kinoptik 5.7mm with me in case I needed it, but for my needs 9.5mm was wide enough. I really like the distortion on 9.5mm as it’s very linear and looks very good when shooting in tight spaces, like the hotel room we were using. 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’ve shot most of the film at T2/T2.8 as I don’t like to neither shoot wide open nor stepping down too much especially on super16 format. 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 really have to, you can use it at T1.3. 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.
12mm: This one would be your a 35mm on a full frame camera, which is a great focal length, but I didn’t find this lens to be as pleasant 9.5mm when shooting indoors as the distortion on 12mm is much more circular which doesn’t look great on the walls and doors. Saying that, I was really pleased with the results achieved when using it for the final outdoor scene in the video above. I even got a tiny bit of shallow depth of field, which is not an easy thing to achieve on BMPCC. As far as sharpness goes, I found to be similar and maybe even a bit sharper than 9.5mm.
Usability and build quality: I’ll go into more detail when I do a separate review for the whole set, but in short these 2 and the other 2 lenses, have a very solid construction, step-less aperture adjustment and 180 degrees on rotation on the focus ring. The original mount on these 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 easier 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 a much more for your money as these 2 upgrades would cost you further $100-200.
Some additional info on the video above: I decided to try and edit the whole thing on DaVinci Resolve 10 Lite and although it was not the smoothest experience and the edit could be smoother too, you can make simple edits with it and I’m incredibly impressed by what this free software can do. For grading I’ve used a wonderful Captain Hook Vibe LUT 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.
July 2015 Update: Here is an additional video by Hardev Singh showing off the capabilities of the 9.5mm.
Hope you enjoyed this post, feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!
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