In this installment of Tstops, i’m going to take a look at the Rokinon Manual Primes. A budget set of fast primes in Canon, Nikon, MFT and Pentax mount.
The first and most exciting feature of these lenses is the combination of features it has, for one they are all a F1.4!!!! Aside from the exciting stop, so rare in wide angle lenses, they are all also fully manual, Focus, and Iris. Its as if all the vintage lenses we have been collecting for years for their manual Iris/ Focus mechanisms and low cost have been complied into a new, modern lens design. Also, not to forget, just for kicks, a fast aperture was thrown in. I mean, honestly, there is nothing like this on the market.
These lenses come in two version. The standard DSLR style, and their own in house “Cine” version.
I bought a used set of the standard SLR lenses with the intention of having Matt Duclos perform his own cine adaptation. The difference between the two is subtle though they are optically identical. The standard set, aside from being cheaper, have normal rubber grips for focus and a clicking Iris that stops on the half stops. The very cool Cine versions, have factory installed gears for the Focus and Iris. In addition the Iris is smooth and infinitely variable. There is a price difference between the two sets:
Standard Rokinon SLR series: (prices from B&H)
24mm F1.4 – $649 ( compared to the Canon L 24mm F1.4 at $1649.00 )
35mm F1.4 – $499 (compared to the Canon L 35mm F1.4 at $1329.99 )
85mm F1.4 – $289 (compared to the Canon L 85 F1.2 at $1759.00 )
Rokinon Cine Set: (only available in canon or Nikon mount)
24mm F1.4 Cine – $749
35mm F1.4 Cine – $549
85mm F1.4 Cine – $349
I chose to have Matt Duclos perform the modification for a few reasons, First the Rokinon Cine lenses are not yet readily available. The still versions are available right now. Second, i can have more control over how the cinevising is done. Duclos modified lenses will have matching front diameters, my choice of gearing, and an Iris dampened to my specification.
Here is where things get interesting. There is a reason Canon L primes are twice, triple or even quadruple the cost. The optics. The L series lenses will be “cleaner”. That said, i’ve rented 35mm L series, that the Rokinon can eat for breakfast. However, when a “good” L comes your way, it can be stellar. This is not to say that the Rokinons are that far off from top shelf glass, they just lack absolute perfection at every stop. When they come into their own, a stop or two down from Wide open all of them are good for the price.
The 24mm Rokinon SLR lens:
It is pretty soft wide open. It has a Zeiss Super speed like diffusion to it. This cleans up very quickly @ F2, and is not particularly terrible. I feel when a lens has a quirk, its to be catalogued in your brain as a potential look. I dont mind that the 24 is soft wide open. I now have an instant softening “filter” on tap. The 24mm L series are better behaved wide open, but for the price the Rokinon is completely acceptable. @F2.8 the lens comes into its own. Sharp, with great contrast and clarity. The Rokinons are VERY warm, but that warmth is consistent through the different lenses. Sweet spots at a F4.
The 35mm Rokinon SLR:
Far better behaved than the 24mm wide open, reasonably sharp @F1.4 with little drama. Very Sharp when stopped down. Sweet spots at a F4
The 85mm Rokinon SLR:
The real winner of the group. Reaches good sharpness the quickest at ~F1.8, though wide open looks perfectly acceptable. F2.8 looks awesome. Its minimum focus is about 3 feet. Kind of limiting really.
They all have a decent focus roll off, are uniformly warm, and have consistent looking bokeh. Not amazing bokeh, but decent. There is a trade off, in optics between amazing bokeh and the treatment of the in focus segments of the image. Some older, truly razor sharp lenses have muddy, hazy bokeh. Case in point my 1908 Wollensak, despite its age, is razor sharp, yet has a horrid smeary, bokeh. Some older Panavision Primos are similar, they are incredibly sharp, but the Bokeh is nothing extra ordinary. Same goes for some of the older zeiss lenses. Canon on the other hand, consideres the bokeh as part of the lens design, and go out of their way to make sure the out of focus portion is as beautiful as the in focus part of the image. These additional optical considerations are a part of the higher cost. These lenses have to break somewhere optically considering the speed and cost, I think the bokeh is a perfectly acceptable place to be less than perfect.
These lenses are small and very light. The build quality is somewhere between a standard Canon EF lens and an L series, but closer to EF. More robust feeling than the EF lenses I have (50mm F1.4, 50mm F1.8, 85mm F1.8), but not quite the “dripping with quality” build that a L series will have. A mixture of high quality plastic, with the main drum, and mount being metal. The Focus is smooth and tight, stiffest being the 85mm. The other two have a lower resistance, and feel the “same”. Being still lenses they are not front matched, and have a hood bayonet on the outer front edge. The front threading on the 85mm being 72mm Thread, the 35mm and 24mm have 77mm threading. The duclos Cinevise process will make them all 80mm cine Standard.
The current focal lengths available from Rokinon/Samyang are the 8mm, 14mm F3.1, 24mm F1.4, 35mm F1.4, 85mm F1.4. Oddly they have omitted a 50mm (though I hear its coming). When i have the option to order a set of primes ala carte, like S4’s or Master Primes my favorite lengths are 25mm, 32mm, 40mm, 65mm and 135mm. I rarely use a 50mm any way. I dont really think I will miss it, and worst comes to worst, if I need it I have a 50mm F1.4 Canon. This set needs a F1.4 100mm or 135mm, and a F2.8 100 Macro. If they made a 40mm or a 65mm i’d be in heaven.
The still glass versions I have still have clicking iris’ and no gears for focus. I am far more concerned with focus gears than de-clicked focus. But thats simple enough as the focus rings only turn about 180-270 degrees, so zip gear rings are quite convenient. That said the focus marks are rather bunched up near infinity. Doing complicated focus pulls is somewhat problematic, especially if you are used to proper PL lenses.
(There used to be a music video here i shot with them, but the record label reshot it, and the link now shows the new video… sorry, cant take credit for others work!)
I will put up something shot with them soon….
Thats it for now,
Thank you for reading!!!
Coming up next: An Examination of the Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 T2.9
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