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SLR Magic 12mm Hands On Experience
  • I need to apologize to Andrew from SLRMagic for not being able to submit this review in time. Although I got the lens in late December, I couldn't test it until late January when I actually got all my visa issues resolved and could finally go to St. Petersburg for the final shoot. My impressions of the lens are purely subjective as I'm more a filmmaker than a professional DP. But I hope my observations will seem relevant to anyone working in the same genre (documentary).

    So when I opened up the box the lens looked small and toyish, and it did resemble some of the surveillance glass which exemplified my initial fears. However from the very first moment I was charmed with the combination of wide angle field of view and quite shallow DOF. None of my lenses was giving me both.

    Next thing I discovered is that the focus ring is stiff. Especially at the end of the circle. I can't say it was a big obstacle but I didn't expect it. The very location of the aperture ring (front side) and focus ring was a bit unusual as well. It took some practice. I also quickly found out that it's almost impossible to use this lens with my follow focus system because the focus ring is too close to the camera's body (I'm sure I'm not the first one to pay attention to this). Nevertheless because you typically are not supposed to play with focus a lot at 12mm I didn't find that very frustrating.

    The lens itself didn't seem to me very sharp up until f2.5. It kind of devalues a bit the whole idea of having a fast wide angle lens, but 2.5 is still rather fast, plus after f4 the lens produces really crisp images (in my opinion). I won't speculate about the barrel distortion as I may need some math to support my assumptions and I'm really bad at math.

    I ordered a variable ND filter for SLR Magic and because its front side is wider I guess it was a 58mm attachment which resulted in some visible (albeit nice) vignetting.

    Now let me tell you why I love this lens and why I'm using it more than any other in my possession.

    — I often have to shoot handheld in extreme conditions with no rig or other support. GH2 is an amazing camera for such purposes as it has a form factor of a small amateurish camera and you can go to subways, shopping malls, railway stations — unnoticed, with no special permissions. Before SLRMagic I was mostly using my 20mm Pancake. But although I love it too, it is very vulnerable to sudden motion and shakiness. While this 12mm is really perfect because its wide angle serves as an essential stabilization tool — even with no tripod it is giving me a decently stable picture. For example I had to shoot that way in the well-guarded residence of the Russian oligarchs (pretending I'm only taking stills for myself while I was doing video of course) and after applying some AE stabilization in post my shots look as if I was there on a tripod. — I like the form factor of this lens. With the little handle screwed to the bottom and my LCDVF attached the GH2 turns into a well balanced replica of the old 16mm cameras from the 60s. — I can't explain it but I also like the representation of colors it is providing. In the poorly lit settings of St Petersburg I was getting a very truthful color range, which resulted in almost zero color correction in post. — I also need to admit that I fell in love with the circular form of the aperture diaphragm. It produces a unique and cinematic bokeh.

    I won't hesitate to recommend this lens to a filmmaker. It is fantastic for run and gun, for setting up a scene with a static wide shot, for shooting in relatively dark environments.

    those of you who are patient enough can see how this lens contributed to my new documentary "Don't Cry For Your Hair" Shots made by SLR Magic 12mm are at the very end

    password greenfire1980*

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  • 25 Replies sorted by
  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  • @GOODEMPIRE I 100% agree " I also quickly found out that it's almost impossible to use this lens with my follow focus system because the focus ring is too close to the camera's body (I'm sure I'm not the first one to pay attention to this). Nevertheless because you typically are not supposed to play with focus a lot at 12mm I didn't find that very frustrating."

  • @GOODEMPIRE What's the extension that you have spawning out of the lcd screen called? does it help with manual focusing?

  • what screen and handle is it?

  • @GOODEMPIRE, great work man! How much of the documentary was shoot with the 12mm?

  • @HillTop1 Not much. Just a few minutes at the end. I wish I could use more, but it wasn't possible because of the story arc

  • @estib It is called LCDVF. Costs about 140 bucks and although it doesn't improve the quality of the LCD screen itself it does provide an additional point of contact for handheld shooting

  • Fantastic what I've seen so far, really motivates me to get to work on my own projects.

  • @paleface LCDVF (16:9) made in Estonia:) As for the handle I bought it occasionally from E-Image. One of my greatest discoveries. Costs nothing but is extremely convenient in the field.

  • are you sure with E-Image? I cannot find it at or on eBay. Is the LCDVF like the others which have a frame glued to the camera? Who's the manufacturer of the LCDVF? What leneses did you use for the documentary? Interviews, Run & Gun, Stills, Inhouse-Shootings?

  • the LCDVF company is here: I think they distribute through B&H and other major retailers

  • @paleface Hm.... It was quite some time ago... You know what? I think I just unscrewed the handle from MK01

  • @MirrorMan exactly. It could be found through BnH. Just look for 16:9 version

  • I live in Estonia so I might just go visit the factory ;) Really interesting documentary by the way. Russia is so close but is really so far. Keep up your work.

  • @goodempire how's the flare? Good Bad Ugly?

  • @stonebat Hm. I don't have an opinion in that regard. What is considered Good? I don't see lens flare as a problem. I can even say I love it:)

  • Would the follow focus problems be the same with a belt system rather than gears? A belt might get in there closer to the camera without interacting with the flash housing or grip. I backed this kickstarter project as my first foray into follow focus, and this could be a side benefit.

  • @goodempire - your documentary is great. Id love to get a DVD or link to final film when finished. Politically its making some great points.

  • @elc Maybe. But again I found this lens to be most useful in the wild run-n-gun situations where you typically don't need a ffocus or even a rig.

  • @lefted Thank you. Full version is available through the vimeo link that I provided. It's all there.

  • I got mine yesterday and I am simply in love with this lens. Besides that, SLR Magic was very gentle and effective in managing and solving an issue which occurred with UPS. Perfect service! No problem at all with the mount.

  • @estib if you want one, I have a spare kicking around. I'd sell it to you for a very good price.

  • I'll buy it ;p

  • Anyone has one for sale? I am very reluctant to order from konijnenberg and wait for 3 months or longer...

  • I bought the newer version, the one with cine gears, and it's wonderful. But there is one problem that I oughta report.

    The lens is pretty wide-- so much so that attaching any kind of filter, such as a UV filter, create vignettes at the corners. I've tried using a wider-filter adapter-- to 77mm-- and the thin metal adapter inself creates visible vignettes at the corners. (It's a cheap Fotodiox adapter, and maybe there's one that's better. (SLRMagic makes one, but it's expensive. Maybe it's worth it.)

    So, if I use any filters, I'd have to crop my video very slightly. I hate losing resolution this way, even if it's such a small amount.