This is probably one of the fastest in its price range of wide-angle lenses you can get. It’s a 12mm (equals 24mm on full frame sensor) Micro Four Thirds lens at f1.6 and costs around 550 USD + vat. My most used lens is propably my Canon FD 24mm f1.4L (equals about 50mm on GH2) lens, second up is my Canon FD 50mm (equals about 100mm on GH2) f1.4. Although this 12mm is still a speciality lens I have been using it quite a lot already.
Pros and cons
First of all some quirks and the negatives. The lenses focus and aperture ring are in reverse order from what I’m used to. The focus ring is closer to the body and the aperture ring is the outer away from the camera body. This makes use of follow focus difficult as the focus ring is so close to the camera body. In my case with the Panasonic GH2 and DFocus it’s impossible. There’s just not enough room. But on the other hand it’s such a wide-angle lens that chances are you’ll rarely need to pull focus. I absolutely love how smooth the aperture and focus rings are! It’s fantastic as there are no clicks on the aperture ring like there are on still lenses.
I really don’t like the caps that come with the lens. The lens cap itself is metallic and you need to screw it on and off which it doesn’t do smoothly. Also it’s very thin so if you’re wearing mittens or gloves it is even harder. The rear cap on the other hand is made of very soft plastic. Mine is already falling apart and every time I take it off little pieces of plastic fall off from rubbing with the lenses metallic parts. It’s slowly being eaten away in use.
SLR or Noktor?
I find it very confusing that if you do a google search for SLR magic hyperprime the SLRMagic.com website is nowhere to be seen in the search results. What you need to know is that there are two websites that have exactly the same content. Noktor.com and SLRMagic.com. There’s also two types of lenses pictured on their website, some with Noktor logo’s on the lenses and some with SLR Magic logos. This is due to the fact that a company called Nokton required them to change their name from Noktor as it was too similar to theirs. So although understandable that they want to cater to their Noktor brand customers this adds a little bit of unprofessional and confusing feel to their site(s). You’d wish they’d at least re-direct from one site to the other and create a unified web presence.
Working with a variND
It says on the small manual pamphlet that “Due to the wide-angle of view 77mm filters has to be used”. That’s absolutely true. I have a 72mm VariND and when you connect it with the necessary step up ring you see clear vignetting on the image. You can use it if you hold the variND directly on the lens rather than using a step-up ring to connect it. It’s a bit of a workaround but it does the job and I was able to get good shots like this with no vignetting. The lens itself of course is not to blame but it’s a good thing to know before you go on a shoot.
The lens is really small yet quite heavy. It’s got a very nice robust feel to it I must say and the most important part is that the image that comes out of this lens is fabulous! I really like it. It has a very cinematic quality to it. It’s seems that compared to my Canon FD lenses it’s less sharp, it has a little bit more contrast and the color reproduction is different. I can’t say exactly how yet but it seems that there is an ever so slight warm, yellowish tone. It does need a little bit of tweaking to match with my Canon FD lenses. The SLR Magic lens is way way better then the GH2 kit lenses (which I have not used even once since I purchased the camera, they are absolutely useless to me).
There’s a bit of distortion on the edges that is noticable if you are shooting buildings or other objects that should have straight lines. All in all the build quality (mind the caps) seems very good and the images are lovely! This is the first time I own a lens that has no clicks and I really like it! SLR Magic website says the lens is $549 plus vat and shipping and is “available 1 month after order date”. I have a feeling I’ll be using it quite frequently.
Here’s a short ad I made with the 12mm lens. Below that a music video shot for Seremonia, the shot on the bridge with the golden head, rehearsal room scenes and the steady cam shots are with the 12mm lens.