04 March 2013

SLR Magic Hyperprime 12mm T1.6

Just received my new lens. I was looking for a cheap fast wide angle alternative to the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0 for my m4/3's Panasonic GH2 for quite some time. Sadly, the market doesn't offer so much.
In fact, regardless of the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 UMC Fisheye MFT - which is also not fast enough - there is little on the market, except for the above said very expensive Olympus one. So the arrival to the market of this lens (equivalent to a 24mm field of view in 35mm photography) is certainly welcome. Sadly, the reviews about it don't abound, and most of the ones existing are basically generalistic approaches (like this one) to the lens themselves.
A few technical ones that speak about this lens performance are a bit inconclusive. Some say it's a good product, some complain about its softness.
Two great reviews (one from Steve Huff and the other from The Phoblographer) were my starting points to learn a little bit more about this much needed product for the m4/3's community.
Later on, I checked also this one (from the Kanauru Productions guys). It's a very detailed review, comparing the SLR Magic with the (expensive) Olympus alternative.
All of them are good starting points to learn a little bit about this little (really!) piece of glass. The rest of it, like everything in life (even with well-proven equipment), is a leap of faith. Particularly if you are buying, on the web, a Chinese product from a commercial house in England and you are living in Portugal. Well, sometimes we just have to make the Sign of the Cross, forget the International Warranties (if they exist!) and... clear the way. Click the "pay" button and, afterwards, make daily visits to the mailbox.
Well, so far so good. I have it with me already. And what surprised me the most was that it's really a tinny piece of equipment.
You can see the box size here, near a One Euro coin. The box measures about 9.5*6.8*6.5cms and the lens is even (naturally) smaller. So if you are expecting that 540 Euros will buy you a big piece of kit... forget it. It's a little bit more like this:
On the other hand, I guess this is the main reason why we all (under certain situations) love the m4/3's format: its size. Regardless of its small size this lens seems to be a greatly built product. It's heavy (about 330grs) and as far as my eyes can see it has a full metal construction. In fact the only plastic I've noticed on it so far is the rear (bayonet) cap. The front one (screws on the filter 58mm thread) is solid metal. I can only expect that they were not cheap on the optics. But, about that, I can only tell you later. When I start using it.
As you can see, and contrary to conventional photographic lenses, the ring order is reversed. Closer to the mount you have the focus ring and closer to the front element you can see the (smooth and clickless) aperture ring. Both rings, although well dampened, are a bit to the "stiff" side. But lets not forget that this lens was designed with cinematography (videography?) in sight. So, used under these circumstances, with the already common DSLR racks and follow-focus units, this detail is, probably, not so conspicuous.
The front element of the SLR Magic Hyperprime 12mm T1.6. The words "Cine" and "T1.6" are not there by mistake. The lens was built with cinematography in mind. Regardless of that eventual future use, I bought it because I needed a fast wide angle for night landscape photography and the alternatives were either very expensive or less luminous. The obvious drawback is that this is a complete manual lens. So, forget about Auto Focus and Auto Aperture. All manually done... and with a smile on your face, because nobody forced you to love this hobby. Keep on shooting.