Panasonic Gh4

Feb 252015
 

I lied, the list has more than 10 lenses on it. Anyway, this is a subjective list, don’t get pissed at me! You won’t find any super expensive lenses on this list simply because the performance per dollar diminishes the higher you go. Also, to get the best bang for your buck, you gotta buy used! So, I am basing the “value” on used prices, not MSRP.

10. (Tie) Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM and EF-S Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

Cost: under $280 for the 10-18mm, under $85 for the 18-55mm

If you own a crop body, you are in luck. These two little lenses offer extreme value; they are sharp, they have IS, and they don’t cost much. These two lenses are the definition of value, offering image quality that rivals lenses that cost 4x as much. Take for instance the venerable Tokina 11-16mm. It costs almost 1.5x as much as the Canon 10-18mm, and to my eye, actually has inferior image quality (not to mention a narrower focal range and no image stabilization!). Neither of these lenses offer great bokeh, but who cares! They cost next to nothing (particularly if you buy used). I believe I picked up my 18-55mm kit used for under $80.

9. Canon 35mm f/2 IS USM

Cost: under $450 (if you are lucky)

Canon has introduced a series of IS USM lenses recently (24mm, 28, and the 35mm). The 35mm is without a doubt the best of the bunch; offering incredible low light capability, and sharpness. Many owners of the beloved Canon 35mm f/1.4L have ditched it for the 35mm f/2 IS because it costs half as much, is almost as sharp, and has image stabilization. It even arguably has better bokeh; offering rounder bokeh balls when stopped down and a less pronounced onion effect. If you can pick one up for a discount via a Canon sale or on Ebay, you are getting an extremely powerful video and stills lens.

8. 135mm f/2L

Cost: ~$750

Priced at over $1,000 new and over $700 used, “value” isn’t the first word that comes to mind when describing the 135mm. Instead, people use words like amazing, fast, bokehlicious, 3D, sharp, sexy, irreplaceable, and “the best lens Canon makes”. This lens certainly has a cult following. At f/2 it has great bokeh and low light capability. It is the weapon of choice for many portrait and wedding photographers. It has a fast AF system, and puts up an iconic image that screams pro! This lens is incredibly sharp at f/2, but still produces a graceful/cinematic look. It’s expensive because it is worth the price.

7. (Tie) Canon 300mm f/4L USM (non IS), Canon 400mm f/5.6L USM, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Cost: ~$550 for the 300mm, ~$750ish for the 400mm, ~$900 for a nice copy of the 100-400mm

The 300mm is an old lens that has been replaced by the 300mm f/4.0L IS USM. The non IS version of this lens is an extremely sharp telephoto lens that is built like a tank, has an integrated lens hood, features extremely fast auto focusing, and encompasses everything that makes Canon L series lenses truly L series. The best part is; it will only run you about $500 on Ebay. It is not the most versatile lens; at 300mm even head and shoulder portraits are difficult to achieve, in low light f/4 struggles, it is big and requires a tripod collar. But when you are working at 300mm+ you are not usually seeking versatility. If you are going to the beach, your kid’s soccer game, an outdoor wedding, or an African Safari this baby gets the job done for a reasonable price. On a personal note; it smokes the Canon 55-250mm lens in terms of everything except portability (trust me, I own both).

The 400mm f/5.6 is without a doubt the best bang for you buck if you need reach. Don’t do the whole teleconverter thing on a shorter focal length lenses; it affects image quality as well as auto focus speed. If you want sharp photos at a 400mm focal length and you can handle the bulk of this lens, get the 400mm prime. Birders and nature photographers gravitate towards the 400mm f/5.6 because it provides excellent resolution for the dollar. In broad daylight, you would be hard pressed to get better resolution without spending $2,000+. The 400mm f/5.6 is a highly specialized lens, which is why it is not as popular as Canon’s shorter telephoto lenses. It sports an incredibly fast AF; I’m not sure why on B&H people say it is slow… it is faster than the modern 300mm f/4 IS as well as the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS USM.

The Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM is an alternative option but it is more expensive and the autofocusing is sluggish compared to the 400m f/5.6. The zoom range of the 100-400mm is not so valuable because when you shoot long range tele stuff, you gravitate towards 200mm+.  I always felt that this lens should have been 200-400mm not 100-400mm. The push pull focus sucks, and in general its an old clunky lens. The truly useful features on the 100-400 zoom are the minimum focusing distance (much closer than on the 400m prime) and image stabilization. If you shoot birds and other small objects in daylight, I say go for the 400mm prime. If you shoot people, sports, nature, and other odd/unexpected things then definitely go for the 100-400mm. With the modern version of this lens being released this year, the prices are falling and great deals can be had.

All three of the lenses are big and not for the faint of heart. If you are not obsessed with shooting at the telephoto end, just settle for a Canon 55-250mm or a 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM (didn’t make my list).

6. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Cost: ~$800

Quite possibly Canon’s most reasonable and versatile lens. It is big, but not too big. It is heavy, but not too heavy. Its expensive, but not too expensive. It is a lens that can replace almost all your lenses.. Why drag 10 lenses on a vacation when you can get by with just two.. or one? The 70-200mm f/4L IS USM is an extremely sharp lens. At 200mm it is about as sharp as the Canon 200mm f/2.8L prime! Indoors and in low light is where this lens really shines. F/4 aperture generally sucks, but with the three stop IS you can shoot longer handheld than with the 20mm prime. This lens is good enough for weddings, fashion shows, outdoors, indoors, whatever, anything and everything.  The EF 70-200mm f/4L IS is truly the most versatile lens Canon makes at a reasonable price. It is the closest you will ever get to having a one lens solution for your needs without shelling out for the f/2.8 IS version. So, if you can handle the weight and size just get the 70-200mm f/4 IS and be done with it. It will be a “life long” lens providing you with lots of great photos and videos. Is it a walk-around lens? Personally I’d say it fits the bill; its almost half the weight of the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM! So unless you need to capture fast action in low light, skip the f/2.8 and get this version.

5. (Tie) Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM and Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Cost: ~$260 for the 85mm 1.8, ~$450 for the 24-105mm

Most people choose the 85mm f/1.8 over the Canon 100mm f/2. I don’t know why anyone would own both of these lenses; they are close in focal length and close in performance. They are both sharper than my Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM, even when it is stopped down to f/2. They both offer extremely fast autofocusing speed, about equal to or in some cases faster than the 135mm f/2L. They both feature some purple fringing (chromatic aberration) but the same can be said for the super expensive Canon 85mm f/1.2L. The 85mm f/1.8 has slightly better image quality; it is a tad sharper, faster, is easier to hand hold and has better contrast than the 100mm f/2. The 100mm f/2 is a fine lens but didn’t quite make the cut.

The Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM has a ridiculously low price on the used market. The reason for this is it is a kit lens for many of Canon’s 5D and 6D DSLRs. So people often buy the kit package, keep the body and sell off the lens. If you are lucky you can score this lens for around $500. Basically you get a sharp, compact lens that has good build quality. The only downside is that this lens is a bit slow at f/4. In my opinion Canon’s L series wide angle and medium angle zooms are a bit overpriced, which is why the is the only L series zoom from that focal range. If you need a great general purpose (albeit slow) lens, this is defiantly the ticket.

4. EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II

Cost: ~$120

This humble little lens is a phenomenal value if you own a crop sensor DSLR. It is fairly compact, has a smooth focusing ring, is really sharp all the way from 55mm to 250mm, and has a very serviceable image stabilization system. Why anyone would buy the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 over this lens is beyond me! The downside to the 55-250mm is that it is slow, has a cheap build quality and is not compatible with full frame sensors. If you want a telephoto lens just for the hell of it, get this! Without question the best part of the 55-250mm is its performance on the tele end. You won’t find better performance at 150mm onward without shelling out major cash. The Canon EF 70-300mm IS USM does give it a run for its money. Unfortunately the 70-300mm IS USM’s image quality falls apart beyond 250mm and so it’s not that big of an improevemnt over the 55-250mm. If I had $350 to spend on a zoom, I’d skip the 70-300mm IS USM and try to find a 70-200mm f/4L used on ebay for under $500.

3. Canon 50mm f/1.8

Cost: ~$85

What hasn’t been said about this lens? Nothing. It might be the most talked about lens of all time. Everyone either owns one or has owned one. It is cheap, plastic, flimsy awesomeness. Is it ultra sharp? No. But it is pretty dang sharp for a $100 lens. And it is perfectly suited for low light photography. The reason I favor my 50mm 1.8 over the 40mm STM is because of  the low light performance. If you ever have an itch for spending money on a lens, the 50mm f/1.8 is a fun and worthwhile investment. Don’t need f/1.8? Can afford an extra $50? Get the 40mm STM. Better bokeh, better image quality, smaller form factor, and quieter focus. The 40mm STM is a great lens, but doesn’t quite deliver the same bang for your buck that a used 50mm will (I own both).

2. Canon 200mm f/2.8L USM

Cost: you can find Mark II low $550′s, original Mark I for mid $400′s.

When you factor in cost, image quality, and ergonomics, the 200mm f/2.8 is quite possibly the best value L series lens on the market. I doubt you can find an L series lens that beats it in terms of sharpness per dollar. True, the 135mm f/2 is sharper, but it is also significantly more expensive. And while the 135mm is sharper, the 200mm will resolve more detail due to its large aperture (even though it’s f/2.8 it collects more light than the 13mm f/2). If you need a relatively cheap lens that can do a bit of nature, candid street, portraits, astrophotography, landscape, then the 200mm is an excellent option for the price conscious shopper. It is relatively light and small, and because it is not painted white it does not appear intimidating or inconspicuous. The biggest flaw of the 200mm f/2.8 is that it relies on well lit situations and lacks image stabilization. To get truly sharp photos you must either manually stabilize the lens or keep your shutter speed over 1/300.

1. Canon 70-200mm f/4L USM

Cost: ~$500

This is the ultimate bargain if you really think about it. Excellent image quality, excellent autofocus, excellent build quality and a lens that fills up most peoples’ needs at the long end of things. It is relatively light due to its modest aperture and lack of IS; definitely a lens you can take with you just about anywhere on a sunny day. What really makes the 70-200mm f/4 a bargain is its price: usually around $550-600 new, around $400-550 used. Not much else to say about this lens. If you shoot during the day you don’t need IS or f/2.8. Sure f/2.8 gives a nice shallow depth to your subject, but it is not a huge difference over f/4. So yeah, there you have it; the 70-200 f/4L is the king of value.

Honorable Mentions:

  • 40mm STM: sharp as a mother$&^$#, small, awesome.
  • 24mm STM: cheap as #&^$#, great bokeh, great maximum magnification, fairly sharp, and a very useful focal length for crop sensors.
  • 100mm f/2.8 Macro: the sharpest Canon lens you can get under $1,000, plus it does macro!
  • 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro: same as previous but with IS.
  • 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM: the end all be all lens. When u buy this lens for under $1,500 you know you have a powerful weapon that will do whatever you want it to. Weapon of choice for many professionals.

Summery of Best Value Canon Lenses

Why the absence of wide and normal focal length L series lenses? Basically, the cheaper alternatives are pretty darn good. Virtually all of Canon’s cheap lenses put up a respectable fight against the L competitors: 24mm STM, 24mm IS USM, 28mm IS USM, 35mm IS USM, Canon 50mm 1.4, 40mm STM, etc… All of these lenses are sharp and function. Many of them even have image stabilization. They all provide excellent cheap alternatives to more expensive L series zooms and primes. So while the Canon 50mm 1.2L is an amazing lens, it is most certainly not an amazing value; not when the 50mm 1.4 puts up a halfway decent fight.

In short, the real value is found by purchasing non L series lenses at the lower focal lengths. The 10-18mm, 18-55mm, 55-250mm, and all of the non L series EF primes provide a great bang for your buck. A real sleeper lens is the EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. It is somewhat sharp, sports IS, USM, and can be found for under $160 on Ebay. If you want a one lens solution it is a solid choice, as long as you stop it down a bit. The L series alternative is over tripple the price… When you want to venture beyond 85mm, that is when the L series lenses are truly worth their price. But for most casual shooters, I suggest going non L series for the sub 100mm focal lengths.

Feb 102015
 

We saw huge innovation in terms of prosumer cameras in 2014: GH4, Sony A7s, etc… This year Canon has already announced a T6i, T6s, 5Ds, and 5DsR. Let’s see what the best bang for your buck in 2015 is.

The Best Budget DSLRs for Video

Excellent video can be had fo super cheap. If you want to roll with Canon, any used rebel series camera will do, starting with the T2i on up to the brand new T6i and T6s.  Honestly, there has not been much innovation since the T3i. The T4i basically only added touch screen, and the T5i only added a fully rotating mode dial. The smart thing to do is to buy a T3i; it features an articulating LCD screen (very useful for video) and basically the same video quality as a T5i.

The Brand New Canon T6i and T6s

The T6i and T6s only give minor improvements over the T5i and T3i in terms of video features. Basically the only improved features for video are a DIGIC 6 processor (the T5i has a DIGIC 5 processor), and HDR video mode. Aside from that there are no major improvements. For photography, upgrading to a T6i or T6s has merit; the new rebels sport 24.2 megapixels, have wifi, and the T6s has a second LCD on top of the camera (similar to 70D and 7D, etc..) which is very useful for battery life conservation and astrophotography.

Or, you can roll with Panasonic. The GH2, and GH3 feature excellent video quality (better than Canon Rebel series cameras).  At this price range, I would roll with Canon. The reason I’d go with Canon is that they have more lenses as well as excellent cheap lenses. The Canon 24mm STM and 50mm 1.8 are amazing lenses that offer great image quality for a low price, perfect for your Rebel T3i or T5i. Though, if you are not afraid of playing with vintage lenses, you can an amazing look with the Pansonic GH1 and GH2. Slap on a new or vintage lens (the GH1 and GH2 are MFT mount, meaning you can adapt tons of lenses to the camera body), and you will get footage that looks better than Canon.

I recommend: T5i, T3i, GH2. The T2i does not have an articulating screen (neither do the GH1 or GH2, but their video quality makes up for it). If you are looking to shell out $750, I’d skip the T6i and get a Canon 70D. You can get a brand new Canon 70D for $750, without the standard Canon warranty (but you will get a third party warranty).

The Best Prosumer DSLRs for Video

Here are the most conventional options for a prosumer: GH3, Gh4, Canon 7D, 7D MKII, 6D, 70D, BlackMagic Pocket Camera (BMPC), Sony A7s

The best picture quality comes from the AS7, followed by the GH4. Well, technically the BMPC has the best picture quality to my eye. You get excellent dynamic range and rich color from the BMPC. But it’s limited to 1080p, while the A7s and GH4 can do 4K. Also, the ergonomics of the BMPC suck. Good luck not smashing the camera to bits and pieces in anger; battery life sucks, audio sucks, buttons suck, interface sucks, LCD sucks, etc…  But… for $1,000 you will not get a more beautiful image. The BMPC truly delivers in that respect. So if you have experience, are patient, and want to get a professional look for only $1,000, buy a BMPC, otherwise get a Canon, Panasonoic or Sony.

If you want to go with Canon; get a 7D or 70D, both are excellent “budget” cameras. The 7D is a tried and true camera; outputs 1080p video monitoring signal, has a great build quality, and is now compatible with Magic Lantern hacks. The 70D is basically an improved 60D, with duel pixel technology (extremely useful for auto focusing). The 70D is a great camera if you don’t want to manually focus your video, thanks to the dual pixel technology. For the price of a 6D or 7D mkII, you can get a much better video camera: the Panasonic GH4, which is why I don’t really recommend the 6D or 7D mkII. Also, the sleeper in this group is the Panasonic GH3: it has great build quality, is small, has a headphone output, and has better video quality than the Canon 70D and Canon 7D. The best “prosumer” camera in terms of image quality and functionality is the Sony A7s.

I recommend: Sony A7s, Pansonic GH4, Panasonic Gh3, Canon 7D, Canon 70D.

The Best Professional DSLRs for Video

Lots of options for the professionals: Sony A7s, Black Magic Cinema Camera, Panasonic GH4, Canon 5D MKII, Canon 5DmkIII, Canon C100

If you can afford to spend $3,000+ on a camera, you need to make sure you get the right body for your needs. First; ask yourself if you need 4K. If you need 4K your decision is easy; get an A7s and an external recorder (so you can output 4K), or a GH4. If you want the best bang for your buck, get a Panasonic GH4 – it does 4K in camera, no need for external devices. If you want the prettiest looking 1080p picture, get a Black Magic Cinema Camera. If you love Canon, love Canon lenses, and want excellent photography capabilities, get a Canon 5D mkIII or wait for a Canon 5D mkIV (yet to be announced).

Canon C100 vs C300

Do you want 4K from a Canon camera? I would wait and see what the upcoming C300 mkII has to offer; The C100 currently goes for $4,000-$4,500 new, $3,500 used. For its specs, the C100 produces an amazing image, and is extremely easy to work with. If you are purely a video shooter, it is logical to get the C100 over a 5D mkIII. The C300 is fairly overpriced for what it is; you get time code, an improved optical viewfinder and HD-SDI output. Aside from that, the C300 and C100 are very similar. The video quality of the C300 is better because it shoots 8bit 4:2:2 , however the C100 can also output 8 bit 4:2:2 if you pair it with an external recorder (otherwise the C100 is limited to 8bit 4:2:0). So um… why is the C300 almost 3x the price of the C100? I don’t know. What I do know is that the upcoming C300 will likely have 4K video. I’m guessing the camera will cost about $12,000.

What About The Canon 5Ds and 5DsR?

As far as I can tell these latest offering from Canon offer no improvements over the Canon 5DmkIII in terms of video features. Wait for a 5DmkIV if you want improved video capabilities.

What Are the Best DSLRs for Video?

There are no right answers. The easy answer is: Canon. Get whatever Canon you can afford. If you are brave enough to stray away from Canon, chances are you will wind up getting a camera with better video quality than what Canon has to offer. Panasonic makes great cameras, and Sony makes the best sensors (hello low light performance). If you are on a budget; go for a T2i, T3i, or GH2. If you can afford a GH4, get one; you will have a camera that will literally last you a decade. I hope this article helped you with your research.

Jan 292015
 

Canon EFS 24MM STM

Don’t want to read the entire 24mm STM review? Here is the gist: I love it, I love it, I love it, go buy one.

So why do people buy pancake lenses from Canon? Four main reasons:

  • They are cheap
  • They are small
  • They are sharp
  • They have better focusing than Canon’s other entry lenses.

In other words, for the dollar, you can’t go wrong with a Canon pancake lens. The Canon 40mm STM was a knockout success. Read my review of that lens here. The 24mm STM is, in my opinion, even more freaking amazing. It only costs $150, making it the second cheapest Canon lens available for DSLRs (only the Canon 50mm 1.8 is cheaper). The 24mm STM is the only prime you can get in the wideish/normal focal range for under $400 dollars.

So here is the lens… box…

IMG_6944Canon EFS 24MM STM Box

It will only fit EF-S cameras. So it will fit any Rebel (like the 3T, T5, T3i or T5i), 60D, 70D, 7DmkII, etc… Basically as long as you have a crop sensor and not full frame it will fit (unless you have the EOS-M, then you need an adapter).

It has the same dimensions as the 40mm STM, but is bit lighter. It makes your DSLR look smaller and also makes things more balanced, allowing most of the weight to reside in your hands.

The 24mm fills in a big gap. The only cheap way you can shoot at a 24mm focal length is via a 18-55 kit lens, getting an old used Canon EF 24mm f/2.8, or finding some other random zoom lenses. These options will generally run you over $150 (unless you get the 18-55mm used). So, the Canon 24mm STM lens fits in nicely at 24mm, providing a sharp focal length that is equivalent to 38mm on a full frame sensor (good for interior photography, close up portrait, etc…). It is not a low light monster, but f/2.8 is good enough in low light situations, I have stopped plenty of my lenses down to f/2.8 in low light situations. The 24mm is a wide(ish) prime, and so you can afford to have a longer exposure than with a 40mm or 50mm prime.

What comes in the box:

Canon EFS 24MM STM BoxCanon EFS 24MM STM Packaging

This lens is shipped in a small box. It sits in a plastic shell looking thing and is tightly packed with bubble wrap. In the box you find the 24mm STM, lens cap, an instructions manual, and warranty information.

Images of the lens:

Canon EFS 24MM STM AF/MF

Canon EFS 24MM STM Macro .52ft

Canon EFS 24MM STM Front Lens Element

Canon EFS 24MM STM Rear Lens Element

A bit on STM Technology

STM technology uses a focus by wire mechanism. With STM, the focusing mechanism is not physically attached to the lens, instead the physical focus ring and lens focusing are linked through electronic circuits, kind of like remote control. So whats the big deal about STM? Nothing really. It does provide better focusing than Canon’s other cheap lenses such as the 50mm 1.8 and 18-55mm. Manual focusing is smoother, and autofocusing is much quieter (but a bit slow). If you plan to shoot videos, STM is popular (because of the smooth focusing).

Canon EF-S 24mm STM Specs

Focal Length: 24mm
Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
Aperture Blades: 7
Blade Type: circular aperture blades
Lens Construction: 6 elements in 5 groups
Diagonal Angle of View:    59°10′
Focus Adjustment: full lens extension
Closest Focusing Distance: 0.52 ft. / 0.16 m
Filter Size: 52mm
Max. Diameter: 2.7 inches
Length: 0.9 inches
Weight:    4.4 oz. / 125 g

Notes: Good luck finding 7 circular aperture blades for this cheap. 7 blades is two more than the Canon 50mm 1.8! Plus, the blades are rounded; resulting in circular bokeh when you stop the lens down. Filter size is a good common 52mm, and the lens is significantly larger with its lens caps on; I’d say it measure to be about two inches long. Construction feels very solid. The plastic seems more solid than what you will find on 50mm 1.8 (seriously that lens feels so frick’n cheap), you get a metal lens mount, and the lens has a dense feeling. Not bad for $150.

24mm STM Sharpness Test

It is pretty sharp at the center, and loses a bit towards the edges. Wide open, it is very usable; more usable than my 50mm 1.8 and at f/5.6 it is slightly better than the 18-55 kit (at f/5.6). How do I know it is sharp? Well the first thing I like to do is shoot the night sky. If the stars retain their pinpoint shape decently well, I consider the lens to be sharp. If I see bloated stars and coma near the edges I consider the lens “meh”. The 24mm is sharp, not “meh”. Its more, “ooh, not bad”. The following image is of a star cluster called the Peliades, located at the center.

Canon EFS 24MM STM Sample Photo #5

Click on the above image to see it full size (~5,000 pixels by ~3,000). You can see how sharp the lens is at the corners. Keep in mind, this exposure was several seconds and so the stars move a bit in that time, so they are not as sharp as they could be (astrophotography without tracking results in star trails).  You might see some vignetting. This little lens vignettes fairly aggressively, though the full moon was out (on the left part of this image if I recall correctly, so this image is a bad test for vignetting). After seeing the nice results of this photo, I decided to take a picture of the moon through the eyepiece of my telescope. Basically I held the 24mm lens right up to my eyepiece and took a picture of the moon handheld:

Canon EFS 24MM STM Sample Photo #2

I have a lens resolution chart that I had printed via AdoramaPix. It’s not the real deal, and the print quality isn’t amazing, but I figured it would yield somewhat decent results in a controlled environment. So, here are the result for my crappy resolution test, the upper right corners of the images are the actual center of the frame and the lower left corner is the lower left edge of the frame (basically I cropped the original images down to the lower left quarter):

Canon 24mm STM f/2.8

Canon 24mm STM f/2.8

24mmf56

Canon 24mm f/5.6

40mmf28

Canon 40mm f/2.8

40mmf56

Canon 40mm f/5.6

kitf56

Canon 18-55mm f/5.6 II

The 40mm is the sharpest, and the 24mm and kit are neck and neck, with the slight advantage going to the 24mm (in my opinion). If you look close, maybe the 18-55 will look better to you? I don’t know. The 24mm looks a bit dark at f/2.8, I don’t know if that was my fault or just severe vignetting/poor light transmission. I’m guessing it’s a bit my fault compounded with vignetting (this lens vignettes pretty hard at f/2.8). Keep in mind these test images are the lower left quadrant crops of the full resolution images. So the upper right corners of these images are the actual center and the lower left corners are lower left corners.

Vignetting:

Pretty aggressive.

Vignetting at f5.6

Vignetting at f/2.8

Vignetting at f/2.8

Vignetting at f/5.6

Bokeh:

Truly surprising bokeh for such a cheap and wide lens. You don’t really expect nice bokeh at 24mm because lenses at 28mm and below just always seem aesthetically harsh. For a 24mm prime, the STM does fine. The bokeh is nice and round as I stop the lens down, beating the 18-55 kit and beating the 40mm STM.

24mm bokeh at f/8

24mm bokeh at f/8

40mm STM bokeh at f/8

40mm STM bokeh at f/8

Holy heptagons! The 24mm kills the 40mm in terms of circular bokeh. Which is crazy, because the 40mm STM kills the 50mm 1.8 in terms of circular bokeh. The advantage the 40mm does have is that overall, the bokeh is more creamy and less harsh. This is a natural result of longer focal lengths. here is another shot of the 24mm STM bokeh:

Canon EFS 24MM STM Bokeh

When you shoot up close with this lens you get a nice shallow depth of field. I shot the above image at f/3.5 and was very close to the grass. As you move away form the subject and stop down the lens you lose that shallow DOF and nice bokeh.

Spherical Aberration / Spherical Distortion:

Canon 24mm has a bit of barrel distortion

The Canon 24mm has a bit of barrel distortion

The 24mm STM has a decent amount of barrel distortion. When I edit my photos in Lightroom, I generally apply +6 to the distortion slider to fix the problem. Not a big deal. In the above photo you can clearly see how the table appears to be curved. Pretty aggressive for a non super wide angle lens.

Chromatic Aberration:

Not much CA

Not much CA

This image is a pretty crappy test of CA, I had a better image that I believe I deleted. Basically you can definitely see some violet fringing under the right circumstances, but as far as major chromatic aberration; this lens doesn’t exhibit any extreme false color.

Auto-focus:

Focuses  faster than the cheap Canon 50mm 1.8 and 18-55mm kit. The Canon 50mm 1.4 beats the STM in terms of focusing speed and accuracy. But take my word’ the 24mm STM focuses very well and reletively silently. If you are happy with the 40mm STM focusing you will be just as happy with the 24mm STM focusing. The STM lenses are great for autofocusing video. If you have a DSLR that can use STM for autofocusing, you will enjoy the 24mm STM. Manual focusing for video? Not very practical (though manually focusing for still images is fine), more on that later.

Auto-focus Sound:

Pretty effing quiet. I’ll upload a sample eventually.

Macro Photography with the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8?

One thing that is cool about the 24mm STM is how close you can get to the subject. This thing feels like a wide angle macro lens! I’d say the closest I can get on my Canon 50mm 1.4 or 1.8 is about 16 inches. The 40mm can focus down to about 12 inches. The 24mm STM focuses down to about 6 inches! I think I will have to buy some extension tubes to try pseudo-macro photography with the 24mm. I’ll post some close up pictures when I get around to it.

24mm STM vs 18-55mm

You may think that owning a 18-55mm fills your needs across the 18-55mm focal range, but lets be honest any modern Canon prime will outperform the 18-55 at an individual focal length. And sure enough the 24mm STM beats the 18-55mm @ 24mm. The sharpness is ever so slightly better (in my view), it can go down to f/2.8 (the lowest the Canon kit will go down to is f/4 @ 24mm), and it does not have a rotating filter mechanism. Serisously, spinning filters are the worst! and every time I focus with the canon 18-55, the filters spin. The 18-55 does have some advantages; it has IS, a wide focal range, and is about as sharp as the 24mm STM. If you own the 18-55mm kit, you don’t really need the 24mm STM. Personally, I think that with the new super cheap Canon 10-18mm, the 18-55mm is becoming a bit outdated. There are too many lenses that, when combined, form a high performance/low cost setup:

10-18mm
24mm STM
40mm 2.8 (or 50mm 1.8)
55mm – 250mm

This pretty much covers your entire range (minus something around 28-35mm), for a very modest price. The 55-250mm has good image stabilization which is vital for videos and stills throughout that telephoto range. So while the 18-55 is cheap and versatile, I think the 24mm is more fun has its place in anybody’s lens arsenal, especially if you plan to rock the setup I mentioned above.

24mm STM for Video?

Yes and no. If you shoot with auto-focusing; its great. If you shoot manual its not so great. Basically STM focusing prevents your from rack focusing effectively. You can’t mark the lens and have precise stops. You may mark a spot on the lens, focus to it and find that it is not in focus! This is because the focusing is done by a wire rather than precise gears. The result is nice fast and quiet auto focusing, but frustrating manual focusing. Definitely go for non STM lenses if you need precise manual focusing for video. For stills?! Its fine. I sometimes focus manually and it is not as frustrating as trying to shoot manual video.

24mm STM vs 24mm f/2.8 IS USM

Canon has released three lenses that are wonderfully cheap (relatively speaking) and effective for video work; the 24mm f/2.8 IS USM, 28mm f/2.8 IS USM, and the 35mm f/2 IS USM. I don’t own these lenses so I can’t tell you how the 24mm STM compares to the 24mm f/2.8 IS USM. But, judging from my personal research the IS USM lenses all focus better, are sharper, and have IS, which is why they cost 4x as much. So umm…. it’s an apples to oranges comparison. Plus, if you are into video, the 24mm IS is a no brainier; you get image stabilization plus you don’t have to deal with the clunky STM manual focusing issues I mentioned above. Image stabilization is useful at all focal lengths for video. Even at 24mm.

Personally, I think I will keep my 24mm STM and not upgrade to the Canon 24mm IS USM. I will, however, get the 35mm IS USM eventually. It sports a bigger aperture f/2, which when combined with IS is an ultimate low light/video lens. Moral of the story; as a video lens the 24mm STM is okay, nothing to write home about – it lacks IS, and the focus ring is a small but solid(ish) plastic ring  (it is a nice improvement over the 50mm f/1.8).

24mm STM vs 40mm STM

How does the 24mm stack up to the 40mm STM? It’s flat out harder to make sharp wide angle lenses. Everything below 28mm tends to get soft easily in my experience. Hell, even my Tokina 11-16mm which is considered sharp looks like a mess in the corners at f/2.8. So don’t expect anything razor sharp, especially wide open. But, the 40mm isn’t really in the same league; it is a step up. Better sharpness, no severe vignetting and it fits on full frame cameras (5D, 6D, etc..). Do you like your 40mm STM? If you do, you will like the 24mm STM.

Who Should Buy the 24mm STM

Well, this thing only costs $150 brand new so really it’s not a life or death situation. I say don’t stress over this lens. If you are curious, buy it. If it looks too mediocre skip it and save up for something better. It’s f/2.8 so it is not a killer low light lens, but you will get better bokeh and a more shallow depth of field than on the 18-55 kit. If you don’t have a 24mm lens in your arsenal you should buy this lens. You can get real close to your subject. I think it would make a fine wide angle portrait lens (I’m not into that). As a video lens, it’s serviceable. Manual focusing is doable. The ring is small, but if you have worked with the Canon 50mm 1.8 or 40mm STM you will be fine with the 24mm STM. If you want value – this lens is it. I have the 40mm STM, and I like the 24mm STM more, though that could be explained by the lack of 24mm lenses I have (I have four prime lenses between 40mm and 50mm!).

Who Shouldn’t Buy the 24mm STM

If you own a full frame camera, or own a Nikon, or Pentax, etc.. this thing won’t fit. If you demand exceptional performance, you will likely think the 24mm STM is underwhelming and should either get the Canon 24mm IS USM or an L series. It’s a $150 lens. It can shoot 24mm @ f/2.8. Its the working man’s lens. It won’t win any awards for optics, or for auto-focusing speed, or for low light performance (it ain’t f/1.4). It is what it is: good enough. If you need something more versatile, or higher quality don’t shop for $150 lenses! The 24mm STM is all about value. If you own a 18-55mm kit, you might not need this lens. But it is small cute and relatively sharp, so uh… ???

My 24mm Conclusion

I bought this lens because I needed something in the 24mm range, not because I wanted to review it on my website, or because it was cheap. I would often get pissed that I had to lug my 18-55 kit around strictly for the 24mm-35mm focal range. I own an old 28mm prime, but it is soft so I never use it. The 24mm STM fixes my predicament extremely well. No more kit lens for me (unless I can’t pack all my lenses and just want some casual shots). The 24mm is sharper than the kit, better in low light (particularly for video), is easy to pack, quieter, and only gives up IS. Better bokeh and shallower depth of field as well. I can survive without IS at 24mm.

This baby has a nice build quality to it. Like the 40mm, they are small but weigh roughly the same as the 50mm 1.8. So they are beefy and dense. The rear mount is nice – made out of metal. It means when I drop this lens only the lens elements will break and not the rear connection area. :P

This is a super fun lens. It is small and quiet, so no one pays attention to you. Being able to stick it right in the face of my subject is fun. I get so close to things that I become afraid I might bump my lens. I like the 24mm STM more than my 40mm STM, probably because 24mm is more versatile than 40mm on a crop sensor. I can take the 24mm anywhere; it’s a focal length that always finds use. If you buy this lens you will definitely put it to work.

If you are used to shooting manual videos on the Canon 50mm 1.8 (like I am), you will be annoyed with STM lenses for video. This is the only true annoyance with this lens (same deal with the 40mm STM). Because it is using focus by wire (STM), your focus points are never identical, and the speed with which your focus is not constant – pretty awful for manual focusing. You don’t get the instantaneous response of a conventional focusing system and you don’t get the precision either. (When you focus manually, the lens focuses only after you have turned the focus ring a bit, kind of like a delay). It is not a big deal for still, but is cumbersome for manual video. If you shoot video with autofocus on, then this problem does not apply to you.

Anyway, I hope you liked my totally awesome 24mm STM review. I have lots of personal gear I’d like to review but I am real slow, so check back in the future :P  Here are some recent shots with my nifty little 24mm:

24mm STM Review Sample Image 1 24mm STM Review Sample Image 2 24mm STM Sample Image 6 24mm STM Sample Image 4 24mm STM Sample Image 3 24mm STM Sample Image 5

Aug 102014
 

Yes and no.

Canon DSLRs are like your dad’s old suits. They are… “special”, a bit out of fashion, but still fit and get the job done. Wait. That’s an awful comparison. When I wear my Dad’s suits, I feel like an idiot. They are circa 1970 and about 3 sizes too big. A better example: My brother’s 15 years old Mercedes Benz; dated, but still has the aura of a car that was once considered premier. It’s crazy to think that Canon was the king of DSLR video a few years ago. If you were shooting on a DSLR, you were doing it on a T2i, 5DmkII, 7D, or 60D. Even when the 5DmkIII came out people flocked to it. I personally never upgraded my 60D because the 7D, 6D, 5Dmk2 and 5Dmk3 cost a lot for the incremental gain in performance. It seems like between the Canon T2i, and the 5DmkIII there was not a whole lot of innovation. I don’t know, the 5DmkIII is several years newer, costs 10x as much… shouldn’t the video quality and features be at least twice as good?

Magic Lantern To The Rescue

If you shoot on Canon DSLRs, you get to enjoy Magic Lantern. Magic Lantern has been around for a while; basically you hack your DSLR with software, (void the warranty) and you get tons of cool features, allowing you to customize your settings in ways that were previously impossible. On top of the this, Magic Lantern introduced a new set of hacks known as Magic Lantern RAW. This allows you to shoot high quality video (basically similar quality to RAW stills).

Using ML Raw is very time consuming and cumbersome. You have to set your camera up properly, record the footage, convert your ML RAW files into a useable (editable) format remove erroneous pink frames from the footage, and then edit. After all of this, unless you shoot on a high end DSLR like a 6D or 5D, you are left with a low resolution video file. So then you can upscale it to bring it up to 720p or 1080p.

It’s a lot of work which is why you usually don’t see entire projects done with Magic Lantern RAW.

Canon vs GH4 vs A7s

The Panasonic GH2was a game changer. It was hackable, and provided lots of video oriented functionality for a small price. The GH3 was better in all respects. It was a “serious” camera. Still, people were hesitant to shoot with GH3s: M4/3, (full frame FTW!) resulting in an aggressive crop factor, lacking lens selection, small (feminine?), and uh… well the video quality was not miles ahead of Canon. The video quality was on par/better than Canon, but if you already owned a Canon DSLR, there was not motivation for you to switch to the GH3.

Up until ~April 2014 Canon was well respected. You had HDMI video out, Magic Lantern, full frame capabilities, good low light performance, third party and built in anti aliasing filters, ML RAW, etc… But then the GH4 and A7s showed up, basically taking all your favorite features and rolling them into a nice clean (and cheap!) package. So does this make the 5DmkII crap? No. It’s still the camera that was considered to be great for video a year ago. The only thing that has changed is the bar has been raised. $2,000 gets your professional video. Canon offers high quality video that rivals Sony and Panasonic, you just have to shell out $5,000+ (C100, C300, C500).

$2,000(ish): The Magic Price for Video

For $2,000 you would be a fool to buy a Canon if all you care about is video. There are two reasons:

  1. Sony A7s
  2. Panasonic GH4

When it comes to these two cameras, Canon is really far behind. Even a hacked 5DmkIII shooting RAW will fall short. And the 5DmkIII retails for a lot more than the GH4! The only reason to stay with Canon in this price range is if you love Canon lenses, or you don’t care about sharp video. So if you shoot video, but don’t care about video quality get a Canon.

Canon, I Will Pray for You

I hope Canon catches up in the prosumer range. I’m a Canon guy. They offer a great mix of lenses, photo and video capabilities. I’d like to stay with Canon. Luckily I’m not a professional, so I don’t need to be on the cutting edge. I don’t need 4K. I need to get better at making films. So I hope when the day comes and I am ready to upgrade from my 60D, Canon will have higher bit rate video, uncompressed in camera video, minimal moire and aliasing in a sub $2,000 body. I am not even asking for 4K. Just good quality 1080p (by today’s standard), that works well out of the box.

Jul 172014
 

Disclaimer: if you know what you are getting into, and you understand the shortcomings of the BMPCC, then it is a great camera. But if you think that using this camera is headache free, read on:

I present to you the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC): a poor lcd screen, awful battery life, the worst in camera mic I have ever heard, bad moire (rolling shutter), aliasing, poor low light performance, and a clunky menu system. Oh, and great video quality..

The amazing $1,000 camera that might drive you crazy!

The amazing $500 camera that might drive you crazy!

This was supposed to be an amazing camera, but it is not a fun body to work with. I know, “$500 dollars” you say. It certainly is a better deal than it was a week ago.  But please don’t buy it if the BMPCC will be your first camera. I’d only recommend buying it as a backup to your main body. It does produce amazing picture quality in well lit situations. When you take your time and utilize the camera’s strengths, you will get the best video quality than can be had for under $1,500. Not shabby for a $500 camera. But… it takes a lot of work and patience to get a nice looking final results.

You Need a Lot of Patience to Use The BMPCC

  1. You need a tripod, the BMPCC sports a 2.88x crop factor, meaning most of your lenses will appear to be very zoomed in.
  2. Image Stabilization will only work properly with MFT lenses.
  3. To get Image Stabilization with Canon lenses, you need to buy a Metabones Speed Booster.
  4. To get a shorter focal length out of your lenses and faster f/ratios you will nee a Metabones Speed Booster.
  5. You will need spare batteries since the battery life is shit.
  6. You don’t want to pan you shots too fast because of the awful rolling shutter.
  7. There is lots of noise at high ISO, so keep your ISO low and light your scenes well. The BMPCC is not a low light camera (like the Sony a7s)
  8. The audio is maybe the worst in camera audio on the market. If you want audio, you HAVE to use an external mic or recorder.
  9. You will spend lots of time navigating the clunky non intuitive menu.
  10. Once you have your footage, you must spend lots of time editing it (I hope you have a solid computer).

Who Should Buy The BMPCC

After completing these 10 steps you should have some amazing footage. I really mean it, the BMPCC puts up beautiful footage. If you are a camera geek, or want to dip your toes in prosumer/professional filmmaking than buy the BMPCC. Buy it, shoot videos, edit the videos, upload everything to Vimeo and have a blast. If you are not a diehard camera person you will give up on this camera. Maybe wait for all the people who purchase it right now to resell it on eBay for $250 in a few months (they should have read this article).

The Future of BMPCC, Replacement on the Horizon?

BlackMagic always has something up their sleeves. No doubt they feel pressure form the GH4 and a7s. Slashing the price of the BMPCC by 50% is crazy – It tells me they want to move on. I have never seen a 2nd generation camera from BlackMagic, usually its just a whole new body. So do I expect a BlackMagic Pocket replacement? Yes. But it won’t be called the BLack Magic Pocket mkII or second generation. I think it will be called something completely different, and it will be in a different form factor. And it will be bigger. And it will cost $1,000 and be a better competitor to the GH4.  And it will not hit shelves this year. But don’t take my word for it, I’m just speculating.

Jul 112014
 

Using anamorphic lenses can be very easy or very difficult. Here is an article designed to shed light on some obstacles you might face when setting up an anamorphic system for your DSLR. [Note: I'm working on adding images and diagrams to this post, I hope to have them up soon]

Anamorphic

The Anamorphic Optical Chain

The conventional setup goes like this: DSLR, then taking lens, then anamorphic lens, then diopter (optional). If you have a heavy anamorphic lens, you may want to use a lens clamp to clamp the anamorphic lens to your taking lens. Also, you may choose to support your anamorphic lens via a tripod collar or lens support system. Here are some diagrams of typical anamorphic setups:

Attaching an Anamorphic Lens Directly to Your Taking Lens

Some anamorphic lenses have rear thread diameters that make it easy to attach the lens directly to your taking lens. If the diameters don’t match, you can buy a step down or step up ring. For instance, the Sankor 16C has a 40.5mm rear thread, to attach it directly to my 52mm taking lens thread I would need a 52mm to 40.5mm step down ring. Similarly, I could use a Redstan clamp to clamp the anamorphic lens to my taking lens.

Attaching Heavy Anamorphic Lenses

My Schneider anamorphic lens weighs about 571 grams. Attaching this lens directly to my taking lenses would be preposterous because something would most likely end up breaking (either the anamorphic lens would fall off, or the taking lens would get damaged). The rule of thumb here is be smart. If you are shooting with a cheap plastic Canon as your taking lens, you probably won’t want to mount much weight onto it. I have a vintage Olympus 50mm 1.4 that I directly attach a Sankor 16c to. I have attached the Sankor directly to my Canon 50mm 1.4 but I felt that was too much stress for the Canon. I did not bother trying to attach it directly to my Canon 50mm 1.8 (the built quality of the 50mm 1.8 is awful).

When a lens is too heavy, use additional support. The Velbon SPT-1 is my weapon of choice. It is fairly light weight, and allows me to use a tripod collar for my anamorphic lenses. You can also use a rail system. Rail systems are very popular for filmmakers because they allow you to build a custom rig; follow focusing, barn doors, lens supports, etc…

Does Your Lens Have Internal or External Focusing?

Before you attach your anamorphic lens to your taking lens figure out whether or not the front element of your taking lens moves inward or outward when focusing. Simply manually focus your lens across its focusing range (from up close to infinity). If you odn’t notice any movement, then your lens focuses internally and you are good to go. If your lens moves inward or outward while focusing you must be careful when attaching your anamorphic lens because you do not want your taking lens to hit the anamorphic lens while you focus.

Here is a picture of my Canon 50mm 1.8 with a Schneider anamorphic mounted in front of it. Notice I have a gap in between the two lenses. This is to give my Canon 50mm 1.8 ample room to extend without hitting the Schneider throughout the focusing range .

How to Align an Anamorphic Lens

The best way to align your anamorphic lens is to shine a small focused light strait into your anamorphic lens. Using your viewfinder or LCD screen, you want to rotate the anamorphic lens so that the lens flare is perfectly horizontal. In Live View I use the horizontal line overlay to help align everything. If you don’t align your anamorphic lens your footage will be skewed after you desqueeze it.

Anamorphic Lenses Can Cause Vignetting and Light Loss

Be sure to watch the exposure when you shoot with anamorphic lenses. Generally you will lose a bit of light when you place an anamorphic adapter in front of your taking less. The light loss is not much, maybe one stop of light at worst. A much bigger problem is vignetting. Basically if you shoot too wide, you will experience vignetting. There are two types of vignetting: The most apparent is a darkening of the image  (typical vignetting). The second type is soft vignetting (I made this name up). Soft vignetting is when you experience white colored vignetting when the lens is pointed at a bright light source. Here are examples of what I am talking about:

Both of these suck. The dark vignetting is easy to remedy; just get a longer focal length lens. Soft vignetting can be tougher to fix. Going with a longer focal length and stopping down the lens are common solutions.

The Cost of Setting Up an Anamorphic Lens

If you choose a light weight anamorphic lens and attach it directly to a your lens (an internal focusing lens) you don’t have to spend any money on additional gear. If the threads don’t match you will need a clamp (about $50). If your lens moves in and out when it focuses or is not strong enough to hold an anamorphic lens, you will need a support system. My Velbon SPT-1 costs about $70. A Chinese tripod collar should cost about $10. Additional step up/down rings could run you $10. If you want a lens support plus clamps, the clamps will cost you $35 to $50. A rail system usually starts off at about $50 for the cheap stuff, and can easily climb to several hundred dollars. If your anamorphic lens does not have conventional filter threads on the front, and you want to use filters, you will need a clamp. A Redstan style clamp will cost $50.

Or… physically hold the anamorphic lens in front of your taking lens. I shot a whole test video by holding a Singer 16D in front of a vintage Olympus 75-150mm. The video was a bit shaky, and the lenses were not perfectly aligned, but the video still turned out very cinematic and sharp. This is a great way too shoot anamorphic video if you can’t afford to purchase additional support equipment. Plus its a good work out! Holding a DSLR with one hand, and an anamorphic lens with the other hand builds your muscles!

Jun 282014
 

If you read Part 1 of my guide, you will know that all the anamorphic talk in my posts is for anamorphic projection lenses, not $50,000 anamorphic primes used by Hollywood. This page focuses on lens mechanics, and how to choose a good anamorphic lens. There are three main variables when it comes to anamorphic lenses: focusing type, squeeze amount, and vignetting.

Anamorphic

Focus Through vs Dual Focus Anamorphic Lenses

Strait through focusing lenses cost more. If you buy an anamorphic projection lens that can be focused through that means that you can set your taking lens to infinity and use the anamorphic lens to focus. This is a very attractive set up because it makes focusing very easy: basically you focus like you would normally focus only instead of using your regular lens for focusing you use the anamorphic attachment for focusing.

Dual Focusing Anamorphic Lenses

These are the most common lenses on eBay. Dual Focusing means that you have to focus your taking lens as well as your anamorphic lens. This makes focusing more difficult. Some people learn to dual focus quite effectively, with practice it becomes easier. Though even with practice you will often miss the focus. If you have a projection lens that requires dual focusing it most likely means that you will not be changing focus during your shot (which is fine).

Anamorphic Squeeze Ratio

A second factor is the amount of squeeze the anamorphic lens applies to your footage. Most lenses found on Ebay have a 2x squeeze. This is because older projection lenses were designed to take a 4:3 video aspect ratio and turn it into 8:3, resulting in a convention 16mm 2.67 aspect ratio. But today, our cameras shoot widescreen 16:9 video. Putting that same 2x lens attachment results in a ginormous 32:9 (3.55) aspect ratio!

Usually the 1.5x and 1.33x anamorphic adapters cost more. This is because they give a more conventional aspect ratio when paired with today’s cameras, and also because they are often focus through type lenses (conventional aspect ratio + no dual focusing = win).

Personally, I find the 3.55 aspect ratio very awesome, but a bit too awesome. I prefer something in the range of 2.67 (which is still wider than today’s standard of 2.39). If you want an epic anamorphic look, get the 2x projection lens. If you want something close to the cinema standard of 2.39, get a 1.33x anamorphic lens. And if you want the best of both worlds, get a 1.5x lens. People argue (myself included) that anamorphic lenses with a squeeze under 1.5x give a fairly boring look. The bokeh is less stretched, and the overall image looks too similar to conventional 16:9 video.

Anamorphic Lens Vignetting

The rule of thumb is this: the bigger the squeeze, the more vignetting you will experience. Also, if you shoot on a full frame sensor, you will experience more vignetting than one would on a APS-C or an MFT sensor. I shoot on an APS-C and usually experience vignetting around 50mm with my 2x anamorphic attachments.

Each anamorphic lens is built differently; for instance my Schneider Cinelux MC 2X has ~67mm barrel, and the lens objectives on it are much wider than the ones on my Sankor 16c (rear thread is only 42mm). The bigger lens objectives on the Schneider result in less vignetting (I can use 50mm lenses on the Schneider, the Sankor requires something in the neighborhood of 85mm). Lens vignetting is another reason why 1.5x and 1.33x anamorphic lenses cost more; less squeeze experiences less vignetting.

Best Anamorphic Lenses Under $300

If you are patient, you can find plenty of fun lenses to dip your toes with. All of the following models I have listed are dual focus 2x anamorphic lenses. You may be able to find a focus through or a 1.5x lens in this price range, but it is rare and it may not have good optics. The models I recommend are:

  • Schneider Cinelux MC 2X
  • Sankor (16C, 16D, 16F)
  • Kowa (8Z/16H, 16A, 16C, 16D, 16F)
  • Singer (16D)
  • ElmoScope
  • Eik
  • Sun Anamorphic
  • Proskar
  • Hypergonar

Best Anamorphic Lenses Under $500

For around $500, you can get creative. You may be able to find some focus through lenses, as well as some sharp 1.5x lenses. Personally, I would stick with the sub $300 projection lenses until I could afford a high quality anamorphic ($1,000+). Some of the lenses I listed are tough to find under $500.

  • Optex 16:9 Adapter
  • Century Optics 16:9 Adapter
  • Panasonic AG-LA7200
  • SLR Magic Anamorphot
  • Kowa for Bell and Howell 2x
  • Sankyoscope 1.5X
  • Yashica SCOPE 1.5x

Anamorphic Lenses Over $1,000

I think the best value is the Letus AnamorphX. It is huge, but it is priced very handsomely at ~$1,800 and has great optics. It’s not very well suited for run and gun style shooting. For run and gun you may want to get the SLR Magic Anamorphot which is smaller and cheaper and… crappier (ugly flares!).

  • Baby Hypergonar
  • Baby Iscorama
  • Bolex Moller 1.5x
  • Letus AnamorphX
  • Iscorama 36
  • Iscorama 42
  • Iscorama 54
  • Lomo Square Front
  • ISCO 2000

Thanks for reading. My next article will most likely focus on how to set up an anamorphic lens so that you can start shooting!

Jun 272014
 

I hope this will become a multipart series (hope I don’t get lazy). Basically shooting anamorphic video on a DSLR can be a hassle. But it is very rewarding. Here are the basics of anamorphic video:

Anamorphic

Anamorphic Lenses vs Regular Lenses

Most people who shoot anamorphically on DSLRs use projection lenses. Anamorphic projector lenses were originally used for film projectors but lately DSLR shooters have snagged them up to use for DSLR videos. The good news is that anyone with a Canon, Nikon, Panasonic or GoPro can shoot anamorphic video. Hell, if you have an iPhone you can shoot anamorphic video! All you need is an anamorphic lens.

Anamorphic Aspect Ratio

An anamorphic lens uses internal lens elements that are shaped so that the aspect ratio ends up wider. Lots of people add black bars to the top and bottom of their footage, but this reduces the video’s resolution. By using an anamorphic adapter, you get the same effect (plus other goodies I will discuss later) without affecting the resolution.

When you use an anamorphic lens the image will look squeezed. It looks as if someone took the image by its left and right sides and smushed it together. This is called “squeeze”, and in order to have normal looking footage you need to desqueeze your footage with software (like After Effects, or Adobe Premier). When you offload your footage from your camera into your editing software, you need to stretch the footage horizontally so that your footage will look normal. By stretching it, you are taking the original 16:9 aspect ratio (lets assume you are shooting on a Canon DSLR, the aspect ratio might be different on other cameras) and stretching it beyond 16:9. So your aspect ratio might eventually be stretched by a factor of 1.33, 1.5, or 2 depending on the particular anamorphic lens you are using.

Most Anamorphic Projector Lenses Are 2X

If you have a lens with a 2x squeeze, your final aspect ratio will be 3.56 (we stretch the original 16:9, footage so that the aspect ratio becomes 32:9, which is equivalent to ~3.56). This is very wide; much wider than the standard aspect ratio you fin at theaters. Today, the standard is 2.39:1. To get a 2.39 aspcet ratio, you would need to use a ~1.33x anamorphic attachment. Anamorphic projection lenses that have a 15x or 1.3x squeeze usually cost more than the common 2x lenses.

How to Use an Anamorphic Lens on a DSLR

Getting true anamorphic footage from your DSLR is very simple, just put an anamorphic projection lens in front of your normal lens (taking lens). A common setup would be to attach your favorite 50mm prime to your DSLR, and then mount a 2x anamorphic attachment in front of your 50mm prime. Word of caution: are lots of small problems that may arise, read part 2 for an in depth guide on attaching anamorphic projector lenses to your current DSLR setup.

Anamorphic Focal Length

If you shoot on an anamorphic lens, your footage will be more zoomed out horizontally. So an anamorphic lens essentially decreases the horizontal focal length. As a rough rule of thumb the focal length gets reduced by the squeeze factor of the lens. Lets say I have an anamorphic lens with a 2x squeeze factor, and my taking lens is 50mm. The horizontal focal length of this combination will be 25mm (50mm/2 = 25mm). If my anamorphic lens had a 1.5x squeeze factor and was used with a 50mm lens, the horizontal focal length would be 33.3 (50mm/1.5 = 33.3). Anamorphic lenses do not affect vertical focal lengths (unless you miss-align the lens). Anamorphic projection lenses do not affect aperture or light transmission (well, less light will hit the DSLR sensor because there is more glass in the way).

Anamorphic Bokeh

Simply put the bokeh of your footage will look slightly different. It will look stretched vertically (not horizontally). I believe this is the main reason people shoot anamorphic.

Unique Character

Anamorphic lenses are similar to regular lenses in that they can add a distinct look or character to your image. By using anamorphic lenses, you introduce more glass and it can often result in crazy looking shit. Sometimes stuff shot on cheap anamorphic lenses looks awful and sometimes it looks awesome. Part of the fun of shooting with anamorphic lenses is discovering ways of making your footage look unique.

Lens Flares

One thing that distinguishes regular lenses from anamorphic lenses is that regular lenses don’t flare as aggressively as anamorphic lenses. The flares change from lens to lens. If you get a multicoated anamorphic lens it will not flare as aggressively as non multicoated lenses. I like Video Copilot’s Optical Flares plugin and all, but it doesn’t come close to achieving the beauty and character of real lens flares.

Anamorphic Mumps

This is a unique lens breathing. When you drastically change focus from the background to the foreground (or from foreground to background), the image appears to get a bit squeezed on unsqueezed.

Everything Looks Better in Anamorphic

Basically, if you are a DSLR video enthusiast, shooting anamorphically is one of the great joys in life. Once you start, you won’t want to stop. On top of all the characteristics I have outlined above, anamorphic video gives you a more organic, less digital look. Setting up a system that works well can be cumbersome and expensive. Read my future articles on the subject where I will explain what problems you may run into as well as what specific anamorphic lenses you should buy.

Film Brute